Nelson Kloosterman and Brad Littlejohn have been tag-team reviewing David VanDrunen’s recovery and defense of two-kingdom theology. Apparently, VanDrunen is deficient because he does not follow Abraham Kuyper (according to Klooserman’s pious desires) or Richard Hooker (by Littlejohn’s Anglophilic standards). Never mind that VanDrunen may have historical, theological, or biblical reasons for arguing the case for natural law and two-kingdom theology.
Recently, Littlejohn reviewed VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms and summarized the two-kingdom perspective as follows (with a little instruction in Latin from Kloosterman):
1) Christ has fulfilled Adam’s original task.
2) Therefore [Latin, ergo], Christians are not called to fulfil that task.
3) Christians do not need to earn eternal life by cultural labours; they already possess the eternal life that Christ has won for them.
4) Our work does not participate in the coming of the new creation–it has already been attained once and for all by Christ.
5) Our cultural activity is important but temporary, since it will all be wiped away when Christ returns to destroy this present world.
Sounds pretty good to me (except for number 5 which is a bit of a caricature), but it also makes sense theologically since you wouldn’t want to argue the opposite of these deductions, would you? Do you really want to be on the side of affirming that Christians earn eternal life through cultural labors?
Such a question does not appear to be sufficiently troubling for Littlejohn or Kloosterman who regard VanDrunen as betraying the genius of a culturally engaged Christianity. According to the former, with a high five from the latter:
. . . for VanDrunen, the suggestion that we are called to participate with Christ in restoring the world suggests synergism, suggests that Christ is not all-sufficient—if we have something to contribute to the work of redemption, then this is something subtracted from Christ, something of our own that we bring apart from him. Solus Christus and sola fide must therefore entail that there is nothing left to do in the working out of Christ’s accomplishment in his death and resurrection, that we must be nothing but passive recipients.
Here we find, then, that Puritan spirit at the heart of VanDrunen’s project–the idea that God can only be glorified at man’s expense,** that it’s a zero-sum game, and that thus to attribute something to us is to take it away from Christ, and to attribute something to Christ is to take it away from us. If Christ redeems the world, then necessarily, we must have nothing to do with the process. But this is not how the Bible speaks. He is the head, and we are the body. We are united to him. He looks on us, and what we do, and says, “That is me.” We look on him, and what he does, and say, “That is us.” He invites us to take part in his work—this is what is so glorious about redemption, that we are not simply left as passive recipients, but raised up to be Christ-bearers in the world.
Sorry, but I missed the ergo after union with Christ. We are united with Christ, ergo, we take part in redeeming the world? How exactly does that follow?
Actually, God’s glory is not a zero-sum game but redemption is. Somehow my blogging may glorify God. Somehow my cat, Isabelle, doing her best impression of a rug, is glorifying God. Somehow John F. Kennedy, as the first Roman Catholic president of the United States, glorified God. Which is to say it is possible for the glory of God to be differentiated and seen apart from the work of redemption. Since the heavens declare the glory of God and Christ did not take human form in order to redeem the heavens, such a distinction does not seem to be inherently dubious.
But to turn cultural activity into a part of redemption does take away from the all sufficiency of Christ or misunderstands the nature of his redeeming work (not to mention his providential care of his creation). And this is the problem that afflicts so many critics of 2k, even those who claim to be allies for the proclamation of the gospel. You may understand the sole sufficiency of the work of Christ for saving sinners, but if you then add redeeming culture or word and deed ministries to the mix of redemption, you are taking away from Christ’s sufficiency, both for the salvation of sinners and to determine what his kingdom is going to be and how it will be established. Maybe you could possibly think about cultural activity as a part of sanctification where God works and we work when creating a pot of clay. But as I’ve said before, the fruit of the Spirit is not Bach, Shakespeare, or Sargent; if you turn cultural activity into redeemed work you need to account for the superior cultural products of non-believers compared to believers.
To Littlejohn’s credit (as opposed to Kloosterman who fails to notice that Littlejohn has anything positive about VanDrunen), he does see merits in VanDrunen’s position:
In short, I really do salute VanDrunen’s intention to liberate Christians for cultural engagement as a grateful response to Christ’s gift, but I have a hard time seeing how he can give any meaningful content to this, given the theological foundations he has provided.
Actually, VanDrunen supplies plenty of theological justification for his view of Christ and culture since he sees important layers of discontinuity between Israel and the church (which many Kuyperians, Federal Visionaries, and theonomists fail to see and refuse to concede any ground to Meredith Kline). It does not take much imagination to see that the Israelites, even the ones who trusted in Christ during his earthly ministry, were completely unprepared for the new order that was going to emerge after the resurrection. They were still committed to Jerusalem, the Temple, the sabbath, and eating kosher. And Paul, who set the Gentiles free from those obligations, even submitted to the old arrangements for the sake of unity. But the new order of the church was completely unprecedented in the history of redemption to that point in time.
I see no reason why the next age of redemptive history will similarly exceed any expectation that we have based on our experience of this world. In fact, it strikes me that those who can’t imagine a very different order in the new heavens and new earth — what, after all, is it like to be male and female without marriage or reproduction? — are so tied to the arrangements and attractions of this world that they cannot set their minds on things above.
27 thoughts on “At Least He Has An Ergo”
I am glad I stumbled on this blog. Although I have spent most of my life in the Evangelical Free and Baptist churches, these ideas and arguements resonate as tru and right. I have never been comfortable with the way evangelicals engage with the world, especially politically.
As an aside: have you read “Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony” by Stanley Hauerwas? If so, what are your thoughts?
DVD has a bit in his 2k book about both the freedom from having our conscience unnecessarily bound in a number of cultural endeavors and yet having to take responsibility for actually living by faith and not always getting it right. This being human is filled with tension and less than perfect solutions and options, much less grandiose expectations of what our cultural work amounts to. Kinda makes you want for Jesus’ return and a new heavens and new earth.
Dr. Hart, you write:
Here I think you get a glimpse of what is at stake. It is, in the end, a question of whether love for God and neighbor (which is the content of how God is sanctifying us here and now) can be restricted to a non-cultural sphere (if there such a sphere can even be isolated). Your suggestion that if one turns cultural activity into redeemed work one needs to account for the superior cultural products of non-believers compared to believers is answered simply by pointing out that non-believers likely behave morally better than believers, yet no one believes sanctification does not involve moral behavior, whether lying, vanity, lust, etc. Sanctification likewise involves cultural matters because culture is about how we live and love together. The relevant points are 1) recognizing common grace in both cultural and moral matters, and 2) that the redemption of Christ means not that you will be morally or culturally superior to non-believers, but that you will be on a trajectory towards holiness compared to your dead old self without Christ, recognizing that God works in us to love Him and our neighbors more and better, and he gives us the grace to grow. It’s less about where one is than where one has been and where one is going–despite the truth that God neither guarantees in this life you will achieve any particular level of morality or culture. If this sounds odd, it may be because we train ourselves to see love as somehow divorced from cultural pursuit if not divorced from morality, as if it were possible that love does not permeate our whole life.
Secondly, it is fruitful to think about why some unbelievers produce excellent cultural goods. Part of it is that even they are recipients of a cultural inheritance they did nothing to build; some achievements we have today simply would not have been possible apart from earlier cultural achievements. To the extent that Christianity has influenced Western civilization (and there’s plenty of argument about that), one could say that even unbelievers have been blessed by earlier generations of Christians sanctified by special grace and not merely common grace. David B. Hart writes a bit about this in his Atheist Delusions book.
This should read: “is answered simply by pointing out that non-believers likewise behave morally better than believers”
Thanks for offering a response to Brad Littlejohn’s critique of 2k. You’ve made some astute observations. Please help me out with this troubling claim: “Solus Christus and sola fide must therefore entail that there is nothing left to do in the working out of Christ’s accomplishment in his death and resurrection, that we must be nothing but passive recipients.” VanDrunen says nothing remotely similar to this in his book “Living in God’s Two Kingdoms.” The lack of nuance results in a misunderstanding of 2k. It’s true that solus Christus and sola fide entail that there is nothing left to do in the working out of Christ’s redemption. But it’s not true that solus Christus and sola fide entail that there is nothing left to do in culture. In the former, we are passive recipients insofar as we don’t contribute to our own redemption (or the redemption of others) but in the latter we are active participants insofar as cooperate with God in the preservation (not redemption) of culture. Am I on the right track here? Littlejohn, like so many 2k critics, leaves one with the impression that 2k theology encourages quietism or public disengagement. Not true. VanDrunen asks, “The Christian life is one of waiting, but what is our identity in this world while we wait? We are citizens of heaven, but how do we relate to earthly activities and institutions?” He offers three points to summarize the New Testament perspective on how Christians should pursue cultural activities: (1) with “a spirit of love and service” toward our neighbors; (2) with “critical engagement” of human culture; and (3) with “a deep sense of detachment from this world and of longing for our true home in the world-to-come.” Throughout VanDrunen’s book, he insists that individual Christians (as opposed to the institutional church) should pursue the shalom of society, as the Israelite exiles did in Babylon. That doesn’t sound passive to me, so Littlejohn needs to be corrected.
I disagree with what you say is “at stake” here: “It is, in the end, a question of whether love for God and neighbor (which is the content of how God is sanctifying us here and now) can be restricted to a non-cultural sphere (if there such a sphere can even be isolated).” No – it is, in the end, a question of whether God is redeeming the cultural activities and institutions of this world or preserving them through the covenant he has made with all living creatures through Noah in Genesis 8:20-9:17. Where the transformationalist vision insists on God’s redemption of culture, 2k theology insists on God’s redemption of a people for himself.
Albert, I don’t understand your first point. Plus, I don’t think that unbelievers behave better than believers, though outwardly it may look that way. For an act to conform to the law of God, it needs to adhere to God’s law, be done from faith, and for God’s glory. It’s hard for me to see how an unbeliever can do that.
As for your second point, I don’t think you’re doing justice to the contributions of the Greeks or Romans upon which Christians tried to build, sometimes quite awkwardly.
Christopher, I think you’re right and Littlejohn’s phrasing is a caricature. I believe the key here is how we think about the kingdom of Christ. The Westminster Divines could identify it almost entirely with the visible church. Littlejohn, with his love for Hooker, thinks of the kingdom in nationalist terms, while Kloosterman has a thing for the every square inch of Kuyper. If you don’t distinguish redemption from creation in thinking about Christ’s lordship, you end up with Kloosterman praising Keller.
“In fact, it strikes me that those who can’t imagine a very different order in the new heavens and new earth — what, after all, is it like to be male and female without marriage or reproduction? — are so tied to the arrangements and attractions of this world that they cannot set their minds on things above.”
Amen!! 2k definitely takes our eyes off the backward-thinking trajectory and places them firmly fixed on a New Creation, the new heavens and new earth. Quite on point, for me!!
Christopher, I disagree with your divorcing of love from cultural activity. The key idea, of course, which is not engaged or argued, is what redemption entails. Is redemption merely about saving individual souls, or does it include sanctification understood individually and communally? And does sanctification involve our whole soul and body in all we do? Or do we restrict the Spirit’s influence to just a cognitive or emotional sphere we call spiritual?
Jesus Christ fulfilled the Noahic covenant, as he fulfilled the Adamic and Mosaic. The old has been replaced by the new: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Everything belongs to Christ now; there are no divisions in space where Christ is not owed worship as Savior. The Noahic covenant does not carve out some space where nature does not have to submit to Christ.
Dr. Hart, my first point was that common grace extends to moral and cultural matters which is why unbelievers often have superior cultural products. Is this what you were referring to?
If so, of course unbelievers are unable to please God inwardly as they do not have faith. Yet it is nonetheless moral when unbelieving kings do justice, unbelieving doctors save lives, unbelieving volunteers help the homeless and destitute. Frankly, many unbelievers do more for the poor than some Christians do for people in their own congregation. Would you deny this? One might call it outward morality or incomplete morality, but it seems one may call it morality–unless you would really call an unbelieving friend’s refusal to commit adultery itself immoral.
Similarly, unbelievers will also make better cultural achievements by common grace, though of course cultural achievements done by faith will be more completely excellent than the same outward achievement done without faith because all of Creation and cultural works are meant as culture to glorify God in love for him and neighbor and fall short as culture if they are not done by faith in obedience to God’s commands. And of course, the content of the Christian faith sometimes develops different cultural forms than that of paganism as well. There were no leper asylums or orphanages in pagan culture.
So common grace does account for better cultural achievements in unbelievers. Your original point I was responding to was:
And I think common grace accounts for it well.
One small point on Albert’s post that may bear on the argument.
“There were no leper asylums or orphanages in pagan culture.”
There were something very similar to the former in the shrine to Aesculapius at Epidaurus.
Hey Darryl (if I may),
I was just listening to a lecture by you on Monday (2008 ETS)…perhaps at the very moment you were typing up this post. What a delightful coincidence!
First, a couple odd little claims you made at the beginning of your post need to be corrected. I’m not sure why you say that Dr. Kloostermann and I have been “tag-teaming” anything. While gratified to learn of his favourable citation of my post, I had not been at all aware of it before your post, nor was I aware that he’d been posting about VanDrunen at all recently (I don’t get around on blogdom very much, you see). About a year ago while I was busy reviewing VanDrunen’s previous book, he emailed me to share similar reviews he had been writing independently. But there has been no “tag-teaming,” and I’m not sure why you would say there was, except to imply that 2K’s opponents are all in some kind of secret and sinister league–I assure you that the opposite is the case.
Then, you say that I find VanDrunen deficient because he doesn’t measure up to Richard Hooker. Amusingly, this has got it precisely backwards. I didn’t know Hooker from the man in the moon (Ok, slight exaggeration, but you get the idea) last year when I encountered and started critiquing VanDrunen’s work. When I discovered him during the winter, one of the main reasons I was so attracted to his thought (though hardly the only one) was because he finally helped me understand what the roots of VanDrunen’s mistakes were, and that they were nothing new. Not, of course, that I simply plundered him for ammo against VanDrunen; discovering his work forced me to completely rethink my own previous approach to political theology and alter it in significant ways. But, in short, Hooker isn’t the reason I dislike VanDrunen; VanDrunen is the reason I like Hooker.
I’m also not sure what the whole “ergo”/”instruction in Latin” business is about, but presumably sure there’s some joke or pun I’m missing.
I would love to interact with your substantive critiques, however–I think you bring up some good points for further clarification and discussion, and I would love the opportunity to get a better handle on where you and VanDrunen are coming from on some of these issues. I’ll try to dive into some of those points tomorrow, if time allows, though my time for engaging is likely to be limited, given the frenetic pace that blog-comment discussions tend to go at.
That’s not exactly what I had in mind, though I guess they had similar intentions.
One might also add that Christianity gradually defeated the demonic superstitions of paganism, which the Romans and Greeks certainly did not do. Dave, do you have examples of orphanages? Alms collection for the poor? The ending of blood sacrifice and gladiatorial combat? Did the Greeks and Romans do these culturally revolutionary things?
I think the cultural consequences of the spread of the Gospel are pretty vast. And it makes sense because the Holy Spirit does not stay away from supposedly secular spaces since it is not loving to do so.
VanDrunen never divorces love from cultural activity. Who put that hairbrained idea in your head? 😉 Consider this quotation from LGTK:
“Both the common kingdom and the redemptive kingdom exist by God’s ordination and under his moral government, but God rules them in different ways and for different purposes. IN BOTH KINGDOMS CHRISTIANS OFFER LOVING SERVICE TO GOD AND NEIGHBOR. As they live in two kingdoms, however, Christians must remember that only one of these kingdoms is destined to endure. They live in the common kingdom as sojourners and exiles, waiting eagerly for Christ, the last Adam, to return and to usher in his redemptive kingdom in the fullness of its glory” (p. 128).
As I mentioned in my comment above to Dr. Hart, VanDrunen offers three points to summarize the New Testament perspective on how Christians should pursue cultural activities: (1) with “a spirit of love and service” toward our neighbors; (2) with “critical engagement” of human culture; and (3) with “a deep sense of detachment from this world and of longing for our true home in the world-to-come” (pp. 124-128). Throughout VanDrunen’s book, he insists that individual Christians (as opposed to the institutional church) should actively pursue the shalom of society as the Israelite exiles did in Babylon without attempting to turn it into another Jerusalem.
You’ve asked good questions about what redemption entails. Let me take each one in order. First, “is redemption merely about saving individual souls, or does it include sanctification understood individually and communally?” I think a distinction needs to be made between redemption – a word that draws on the image of the marketplace in which Christ serves as a ransom for our debt of sin – and sanctification – the lifelong process of Christlikeness that occurs subsequent to our redemption. I sense that you’ve collapsed these two ideas. Second, “does sanctification involve our whole soul and body in all we do? Or do we restrict the Spirit’s influence to just a cognitive or emotional sphere we call spiritual?” To the first part, I answer “Yes” sanctification involves our whole soul and body. To the second part, I answer “What?!” Herein lies some confusion, either on my end or your end – or perhaps both. Nowhere in VanDrunen’s book do I hear him restricting sanctification to “a cognitive or emotional sphere we call spiritual.” Your spatial language is utterly foreign to his articulation of 2K. The best I can do is say that God redeems a people for himself and they, in their capacity as individuals rather than as an aggregate (church), serve society and make culture. “We desire to make the common kingdom better when we can,” writes VanDrunen, “but we should not try to ‘transform’ it into something other than the common kingdom. We rejoice when our cultural activity contributes to making the common kingdom more just and prosperous, but we are not called to ‘redeem’ it, as if God is saving the common kingdom rather than simply preserving it temporally” (p. 170).
You seem to think the Noahic covenant has already reached its expiration date. Not so. VanDrunen says: “To be sure, this covenant is going to last for a very long time, but it will come to an end at some point: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22). God will not destroy the earth again with a flood (9:11, 15), but the present world will be terminated in some other way (by fire, at Christ’s second coming, according to 2 Peter 3). From its outset, therefore, God ordained the common kingdom to serve temporary purposes until the return of Christ brings it to an end” (p. 81). So, how long does the Noahic covenant last? Answer: “while the earth remains…”
Regarding the accomplishments of the Greeks and Romans, it is not correct to say that
“Christianity gradually defeated the demonic superstitions of paganism.” Such superstitions prevail today in different shapes and forms. People may not worship Hera and Zeus but they are no less idolaters and worship other sorts of gods and demons, or the same ones in different forms. What is correct to say, in my opinion, is that Christ defeated the demonic superstitions of paganism in the hearts of his elect. Paganism, the desire to transact business with god in a give and take way, do ut des, lives and thrives everywhere else. It lives on, for example, in the many shades of Pelagianism.
The Greco-Roman ritualistic system ended only by political fiat, not because everyone was converted to Christian faith. It is not clear that the gradual spread of the Christian faith extinguished the old ritualistic system. Some to whom it spread appear to have converted merely for expedience, Constantine himself perhaps being exhibit A.
There are many examples of pagan charity and self-sacrifice, great and nobly heroic acts, though on an organized scale like you’re suggesting perhaps not. Does that make a difference? Is one Scaevola, Socrates, or Horatius Cocles less praiseworthy than an orphanage? The seeds of the demise of slavery, respect for individual persons, respect for private property, and a host of other important cultural aspects of the west are present in Cicero and many other pagans just as some of these are in the Scriptures. If we count the contributions of the Greeks and Romans as less than they are, we are in danger of disparaging God’s common grace through them.
The effect Christianity or Christendom has had on Western culture (which existed as a unified cultural whole before Christ’s advent) is profound indeed, but I don’t think it is as easily separable from the Greco-Roman inheritance as you seem to be suggesting. And why should it be? Christ’s purpose in establishing his kingdom, the church, was not to transform the culture but to redeem persons for himself.
I have tried not to stray from DG’s original post too far (it’s all about him and his blog). I wonder if we’re talking past each other on this.
Brad, I didn’t mean to suggest that you and Kloosterman were following the instructions of a common coach, but I did find it remarkable that both of you would not let VanDrunen go.
As for Hooker, I’m quite befuddled. You and Steven Wedgeworth seem to think that Hooker fixes most problems in political theology. That strikes me as historically puzzling since I don’t know of Hooker societies that might rival Vogelin equivalents. Be that as it may, I find it odd to think that Hooker’s responses to the Puritans will work on VanDrunen since DVD is not exactly following the Puritan play book. Klinean, yes. But the Puritans would have strung Kline up.
The ergo came from Kloosterman, who is invariably pedantic.
Similarly, unbelievers will also make better cultural achievements by common grace, though of course cultural achievements done by faith will be more completely excellent than the same outward achievement done without faith because all of Creation and cultural works are meant as culture to glorify God in love for him and neighbor and fall short as culture if they are not done by faith in obedience to God’s commands.
Albert, I know it’s common to compare the superior cultural work of the unbelieving and believing and crown the latter as “more completely excellent” by virtue of faith attending it. I’m not sure how excellent work can really be more excellent. I get the impulse to somehow portray provisional works done in faith to be superior, but can it really be said that my gifted Muslim doctor is lacking? Forgive the uninspiring bluntness, but I can never help but wonder if it is just a form of religious arrogance to suggest that eternal status improves upon temporal ability.
Nevertheless, what do you make of the more common instance of the believer who turns out mediocre cultural achievement? Has he glorified God less? This seems to be the implication of your words when you tie the glorification of God to cultural works. My understanding is that God is glorified the same way we are justified, by faith alone. Which would seem to preclude any idea that cultural works have anything to do with it, which would seem to mean that the believer who turns out excellent or mediocre or even poor cultural work still glorifies God. The unbeliever never glorifies God; he only does cultural works of whatever degree. Moreover, it seems to me that when we tie God’s glorification to the excellency of cultural works we give quite a lot of ordinary believers reason to think they glorify God less, which isn’t very assuring. Wouldn’t it be more comforting to know that when Joe Unbeliever outpaces us that God’s favor still rests upon us in a way it doesn’t him because we are in Christ who has already achieved every form of provisional excellence on our behalf?
Dave, I think you are straying from the main point of Dr. Hart’s which I was addressing…
Christopher, I’m not sure Dr. Hart appreciates this conversation on his blog, so I’ll say this and read your response and that’ll be it for me.
Yes, I suppose DVD does indicate we love our neighbors through culture. But that love for him is informed only by natural law, not by the Gospel and natural law. And that is why that love is not Christian love and why I indicated he divorces love from cultural activity. Sure, he means we can love our neighbor. But it’s clear what he means by that is not what I mean.
Perhaps a more accurate way of talking about it is that this new 2K approach creates two loves. I love my neighbor through culture only according to natural law, and I love my neighbor through evangelism and other “kingdom work” through special revelation. Special revelation, the new covenant, the Gospel has nothing to do with our cultural activity because for new 2K it is ordered by natural law apart from the Gospel. Please correct me if I’m wrong about this particular point. If I am then we have no disagreement.
If our cultural activity is merely ordered by the Noahic covenant and natural law, our love will be deficient because the Gospel has tons to say about cultural activity and we are not permitted to consider it.
As for redemption, I appreciate your engagement. You say:
But if sanctification occurs subsequent to our redemption, what are we to make of Romans 8:23 where the redemption of our bodies only occurs at the eschaton? Does sanctification only happen after the eschaton? Surely not.
The problem of course is a too univocal an understanding of redemption. Redemption is a metaphor deriving from the marketplace, as you note. But it means salvation and Scripture uses the marketplace metaphor to illustrate how that salvation happens. But it means salvation, which is why Scripture uses it in a number of ways that don’t make sense (e.g. calling Christ our redemption–not just our redeemer–or eschatologically, etc.) if you’re right to insist on your distinction invalidating my usage.
The assertion that redemption must occur prior to sanctification makes me think you are confusing redemption with justification (in the sense of systematic theology). Yes, justification (in the systematic theology sense) occurs prior to sanctification. Redemption, however, is a bigger concept Scripturally that often means salvation (as well as payment or debt forgiveness). It can be linked to justification which has happened in the past (as when Ephesians calls it “forgiveness of sins”), or it can simply mean saving in the present day as in multiple Psalms, or it can mean God’s final act of deliverance in the eschaton. Or it can refer to the One who in a real sense comprises our salvation–though we should not think then that because redemption is Christ in one sense, it does not include glorification of our bodies. It is all connected.
I’m going to stand by my claim that for DVD sanctification is about the “spiritual” realm not about the cultural realm. Whether he uses spatial language or not, he means what I indicated. He is dividing (more spatial language?) life.
Here’s another way to look at the problem. Is there actually a “common kingdom” biblically? Or are there merely kingdoms which to a greater or lesser extent follow God or rebel against Him? Or to put it another way: does nature intrinsically have a supernatural telos? How does the Noahic covenant establish a common kingdom? It seems to me all kingdoms are called to submit to Christ–even with Noah. You didn’t address the quote from Acts: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Is there a kingdom that does not have to submit to Christ? No.
Lastly, fulfillment of a covenant is not a complete abolishing of it but a recapitulation in Christological form. My point wasn’t that God’s promises to Noah are nullified (“I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it” applies here as well), but that neither the Noahic covenant nor the New covenant abolished the earlier promises and commands of God to all men which involve cultural activity; they renewed them according to the stage of redemption (there’s that word again :D). God didn’t mark out some “common kingdom” with Noah. Where is that in Gen 8-9? God recapitulated his Adamic commands and promises to the follow-up Adam (Noah) and promised not to destroy everything with water. But cultural activity was and still is commanded in love to the triune God and ordered by his special revelation, i.e. his words to man. Now, there is a New covenant binding on all which reveals even more of who God is through Christ, and therefore how we should order our lives (all parts).
Where is this “common kingdom” guided by natural law apart from special revelation (God’s words) in Gen 8-9? Where is that marked out? I’m curious. Where is this Noahic covenant held up in the New Testament as establishing some legitimate common kingdom apart from Christ’s redemptive rule as the Savior-King (rather than Savior / King)? I can’t find any support for that (and no, render to Caesar ain’t it since Caesar was called to repentance leading to good cultural works of justice and mercy as well); isn’t it possible we just unintentionally import such beliefs into Scripture because we’re American?
Christopher, have at it 🙂 I’ll read and consider what you write, but I’ll keep from making the load time even longer on Dr. Hart’s blog. He’s been patient enough.
Albert, you have tripped the special revelation/gospel switch and violated a fundamental distinction of 2k — namely, the authority of Scripture. You say that 2k denies that the gospel applies to cultural activity. But you assume the gospel speaks to cultural activity. In fact, the Bible does reveal the gospel but does not speak about art or politics. So what other standard would there be except for the light of nature? You may wish to say that the Bible speaks to art. But I think that sounds more like Albert than God’s word.
Albert: In order to avoid another lengthy comment, I’ll focus on only one point of yours. When DVD says “in both kingdoms Christians offer loving service to God and neighbor” the love is the same and not different: it’s agape love. Nowhere in his book LGTK does he say as you do: “I love my neighbor through culture only according to natural law, and I love my neighbor through evangelism and other ‘kingdom work’ through special revelation.” Nowhere does he say our cultural activity is “merely ordered” by natural law. DVD deserves the last word:
Christians are Christians seven days a week, in whatever place or activity they find themselves, and thus they must always strive to live consistently with their profession of Christ. At the same time, we should be careful about how we use the term “Christian” to describe our education, work, politics, or other cultural endeavors. While Scripture has significant things to say about all of our cultural endeavors, it does not tell us everything about any of them. Scripture provides a general, big-picture perspective about these endeavors but does not ordinarily provide specific instructions about how to pursue them in an excellent and socially beneficial way. God therefore leaves much to the wisdom and discretion of Christians as they make their way in the common kingdom and interact with unbelieving colleagues. Every Christian has the obligation to make morally responsible decisions about his cultural endeavors. But Christians must also be on guard against condemning other Christians’ decisions about matters for which Scripture does not bind the conscience. We should be modest about claiming our own decisions and views about such things as the Christian view (p. 162).
Ah! Guilty as charged, except that I don’t assume Scripture speaks to cultural activity. I conclude it Scripture speaks to cultural activity from Scripture itself, albeit at the level of principle and less so (on a gradient) as you get to specifics. It does so because Scripture speaks to anthropology, power, creation, etc. all of which have to do with cultural activity. I don’t see it as a binary Scripture speaks/doesn’t speak to X as you might.
I’d also characterize it less as “Albert” and more “many traditions of the Church” including much of our own Reformed tradition, e.g. John Frame, Kuyper. Not that this is a popularity contest or that I think I’m invoking authorities you agree with; it is just to say it’s not just me 🙂
I do appreciate your sincere and patient interaction here. But Dr. Hart knows new 2K has the light of nature (i.e. natural law) informing cultural activity rather than special revelation and natural law seen through the lens of special revelation and the Gospel (which I believe). He knows it. I know it. I believe DVD knows it. I hope you come to see that as well. Thanks again for this discussion.
My apologies. I was so happy that Dr. Hart got me right that I forgot I wrote I’d stop commenting.
Darryl says Scripture does not speak to cultural activity. Albert says it does. If both of you examine the quotation above, DVD is closer to Albert’s claim that “Scripture speaks to cultural activity from Scripture itself, albeit at the level of principle and less so (on a gradient) as you get to specifics.” DVD writes: “While Scripture has significant things to say about all of our cultural endeavors, it does not tell us everything about any of them. Scripture provides a general, big-picture perspective about these endeavors but does not ordinarily provide specific instructions about how to pursue them in an excellent and socially beneficial way.” Therefore, can’t we we all agree that God “leaves much to the wisdom and discretion of Christians as they make their way in the common kingdom and interact with unbelieving colleagues”?
Albert: I’m afraid you remain deeply mistaken about DVD’s account of 2k. When he says we should pursue cultural activity with love and service toward our neighbor, the love he has in mind is agape love. Nowhere does he say that there is one kind of love for believers in the redemptive kingdom and another kind of love for unbelievers in the common kingdom. Yes, there is spiritual antithesis between believers and unbelievers. But believers are still charged to love nonbelievers with gospel-centered love, period.
As far as the substantive points in your post, I typed up a response, and decided it was too long to put in the comments section when there’s already 25 of them. So I’ve posted it here (still never figured out how to do trackbacks).
Here, I’ll just reply to the ad hominem issues, and then to a couple things raised in the comments thread:
If you don’t mean that Kloosterman and I were in cahoots, then don’t write it that way.
Regarding Hooker, yes, I do think he solves a great many problems in political theology, though I recognise that’s quite an ambitious claim, and one I hope to substantiate in my dissertation. You are of course right that the Puritans and Klineans seem like rather odd bedfellows. But as a historian, you should be readily familiar with the practice of seeking to uncover common threads of unity among parties that appear at first glance to be rivals. I’ve seen you do this, quite effectively in fact, in some of your own work. So while some of the links may not be immediately apparent, I think they are unmistakably there; again, I hope to substantiate this fully in my dissertation. In the meantime, some of my blog posts touch on this, and Wedgeworth has argued it effectively as well in my opinion.
I would also like to point out another amusing mis-accusation, where you say in one of the comments that “Littlejohn, with his love for Hooker, thinks of the kingdom in nationalist terms.” Hardly! I am despised and rejected among so many of my conservative Christian friends for being thoroughly anti-American! Hooker certainly cured me from my more radical tendencies to pit the Church against nations, but I would hardly say I think of the kingdom in nationalist terms. Nor, if you get right down to it, did Hooker, who was perhaps no more patriotic or committed to the ideal of a national church than was Cartwright.
Now, for a couple things in the comments section. Chris Benson, you think that I make VanDrunen out to be a quietist, and don’t recognise how he calls for active Christian engagement in culture as a grateful response to our redeemed status. No, I don’t think I’ve made that accusation. Or if I have, point me to it. What I would say, and what I did say in my post, is that I do recognise he is calling for active Christian engagement, rightly understood, but that it’s not clear to me that he provides a compelling theological ground for that engagement, or a coherent account of what it should look like–so I salute his intentions, but think they ring rather hollow. I’ll be posting on this at more length when I get to reviewing the last couple chapters of LGTK.
Likewise, Chris, in your engagements with Albert, I think you might be being overly charitable to DVD. If he is calling for a Christian engagement in society and politics that is animated by agape, and that applies Scripture in a big-picture, general way, but leaves it to us as individuals to work out the details, well then, great! Let’s all embrace in a big group man-hug! The problem is that while he occasionally says things like that, he makes other arguments and statements–particularly when he’s laying his theological groundwork–which seem to undermine this model and present a much more dichotomous one, in which our life in the world is lived in complete abstraction from our Christian identity. Again, I hope to elaborate on this in an upcoming post.
And sure enough, it appears that this is what Darryl, DVD’s chief advocate, seems to be after, as you noted–“Darryl says Scripture does not speak to cultural activity.”