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.
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.