Say Hello to Nelson Kloosterman, James Jordan, Tim Keller, and David Bayly

Theonomy and R. J. Rushdoony have never been so popular. Ever since Ryan Lizza’s piece on Michele Bachman in the New Yorker appeared, bloggers and columnists had been taking shots at the journalist for allegedly writing a hit piece on the congresswoman from Minnesota. The latest to weigh in is Michael Gerson, George W. Bush’s speech writer, and a columnist for the Washington Post. According to Gerson:

The Dominionist goal is the imposition of a Christian version of sharia law in which adulterers, homosexuals and perhaps recalcitrant children would be subject to capital punishment. It is enough to spoil the sleep of any New Yorker subscriber. But there is a problem: Dominionism, though possessing cosmic ambitions, is a movement that could fit in a phone booth. The followers of R.J. Rushdoony produce more books than converts.

So it becomes necessary to stretch the case a bit. Perry admittedly doesn’t attend a Dominionist church or make Dominionist arguments, but he once allowed himself to be prayed for by some suspicious characters. Bachmann once attended a school that had a law review that said some disturbing things. She assisted a professor who once spoke at a convention that included some alarming people. Her belief that federal tax rates should not be higher than 10 percent, Goldberg explains, is “common in Reconstructionist circles.”

The evidence that Bachmann may countenance the death penalty for adulterers? Support for low marginal tax rates.

Since theonomists recently dismissed me and other 2kers as infidels for not supporting the death penalty for adultery, Gerson’s words have a certain poignancy. As I argued at Front Porch Republic, the word Dominionism is proving to be a real distraction from a much bigger issue for Protestants who may not be as obscure as the Dominionists (wherever they are — do they have a website, journal, or institution?). Theonomy or Reconstruction may be acquired tastes among Reformed Protestants who hold neo-Calvinism dear, but a wide swath of conservative Calvinists — some whom Gerson knows — defend the Kuyperian view of the antithesis in ways that make the world safe for Michele Bachmann and many evangelicals who also see the social world in black and white categories. The reason for this convergence owes to a rejection of appeals to the light of nature in favor of special revelation and regenerate interpretations of the Bible alone (to be interpreted by regenerate people, mind you) for arriving at Total Truth. Such conservative Protestants may not follow theonomists in supporting the death penalty for disobedient adult covenant children, but they do believe the Bible should be the basis both for the public square and arguments about how the best way to run the public square.

As I pointed out in one comment at Greenbaggins:

. . . there are at least three different critiques of 2k but those critiques are also at odds:

1) the 16th century view of the magistrate and his duties to promote the true religion is one critique. (But this critique is marginal to contemporary Reformed communions because all the Presbyterian and Reformed churches of which most of us here are members have repudiated those views and revised our confessions).

2) the generally Kuyperian view that Christ is Lord of all things which reads the relationship between general and revelation in a particular way against 2k. (This is generally Kuyperian because this view is only implicit in Kuyper who also rejected the 16th century view of the magistrate and who also held up the ancient philosophers as models of political philosophy despite their lacking special revelation.) If someone could actually explain the Kuyperian view it would be very helpful and I have ask Mark many times for it and he keeps avoiding an answer.

3) there is the theonomist critique which is a reading of the law of recent vintage (though it may pull from earlier Reformed thinkers) and which has no standing in any of the Reformed churches represented here (as in people asking for the magistrate to execute adulterers).

These three critiques are not in agreement and the third would actually have to take as much issue with the first two as with 2k because those other positions don’t follow the law any more than 2k does (as theonomists understand the law).

So with all of this hostility, it would be useful for the critic to identify himself and what the model or standard is for which he stands. The first two critiques hold up part of a historical example and use that against 2k to show that 2k has departed from a certain standard. But the entire Reformed world has moved from those earlier expressions. So the first two critiques need to explain what the new model is now that Reformed churches have moved on.

Theonomists don’t really need to identify themselves. I generally get their objection. I just don’t see why theonomy is as much a problem for Calvin as it is for Kuyper.

In other words, the one position available to conservative Protestants for demonstrating that they do not hold a view of biblical law comparable to sharia — the 2k theology and its use of the order of creation and the moral sense that all people have — is anathema or nonsensical to many who call themselves neo-Calvinists, evangelicals, and theonomists. As I (the one in all about me) have also argued, at least the theonomists are consistent. But what folks like Gerson seem to be in denial about is the working assumption that prevents most evangelicals folks from embracing 2k — that God’s truth only comes from the Bible and the regenerate who alone have the capacity, through the lens of Scripture, to understand the created order aright.

This doesn’t make Bachmann or Keller, or Kloosterman, or the Baylys dominionists — the Federal Visionaries are another matter. But they are all using the same play book — an understanding of worldview that relies on the basic distinction between the redeemed and the lost. For that reason, outsiders like Lizza and others outside the Christian camp, may have trouble knowing when a Christian entering the public square is going to follow Scripture or not. I am still waiting to hear the argument that says we will follow biblical teaching for civil laws on marriage, sex, and murder but not on idolatry, blasphemy, or the Sabbath. Until the critics of 2k start to criticize each other — sort of the way that conservatives were wondering when feminists would turn on Bill Clinton for his dalliance with Monica — knowing how to distinguish Dominionists from the rest of the Bible-onlyists will require a special playbook.

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104 thoughts on “Say Hello to Nelson Kloosterman, James Jordan, Tim Keller, and David Bayly

  1. So you’re here criticizing the Kuyperianism/Neo-Calvinism view as holding –in common with Theonomy and ‘National Confessionalsim’– that “God’s truth only comes from the Bible and the regenerate who alone have the capacity, through the lens of Scripture, to understand the created order aright” ?

    Well, neocalvinism does hold that regeneration and Scripture provide direction for understanding the created order aright. But neocalvinism certainly doesn’t hold that “God’s truth only comes from the Bible” or that the regenerate alone can understand the world.

    If you can quote some neocalvinist to the contrary, I’d be interested in seeing it. Thanks.

    you write:
    Until the critics of 2k start to criticize each other…

    See here: http://amzn.com/0875524486/
    and here http://amzn.com/0310524512/
    Surely you’re familiar with these two books, right?

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  2. Baus, I do know those books. Ah, those were the days, when people actually identified different positions among Christians. The trouble is, all of the groups started from the premise that I mention in the post — we begin with the Bible. And as I recall, none of them are saying of the others what they say of 2k — that it is wrong and unfaithful.

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  3. But they mean quite different things by “we begin with.” Even VanDrunen and Horton have said they begin with the Bible in working out a Two Kingdoms theology.
    You criticism is too sweeping to avoid including yourself.

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  4. Thanks Darryl. Wondering if some of these folks will pay attention to the criticism, or simply discount it as unbelief?

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  5. Darryl,

    I’ll take a stab at responding to your challenge. Though I do not like labels, I think my basic thought patterns would align with Biblical Theology qua Geerhardus Vos. I say that with some hesitation because I have not read nearly everything he has written, but, God willing, I still have time.

    You have probably read his inaugural address, but some of the thoughts he expressed really stood out for me, so, if you don’t mind, I’d like to quote a couple, and then respond more specifically to some of your practical concerns expressed in this and many of your posts.

    Vos maintains that “The specific character of Biblical Theology lies in this, that it discusses both the form and contents of revelation from the point of view of the revealing activity of God Himself. In other words, it deals with revelation in the active sense, as an act of God, and tries to understand and trace and describe this act, so far as this is possible to man and does not elude our finite observation. In Biblical Theology both the form and contents of revelation are considered as parts and products of a divine work. In Systematic Theology these same contents of revelation appear, but not under the aspect of the stages of a divine work; rather as the material for a human work of classifying and systematizing according to logical principles. Biblical Theology applies no other method of grouping and arranging these contents than is given in the divine economy of revelation itself.”

    Later in his address, he says, “The deeper ground for the historic character of revelation cannot lie in the limitations of the human subject, but must be sought in the nature of revelation itself. Revelation is not an isolated act of God, existing without connection with the other divine acts of supernatural character. It constitutes a part of that great process of the new creation through which the present universe as an organic whole shall be redeemed from the consequences of sin and restored to its ideal state, which it had originally in the intention of God. Now, this new creation, in the objective, universal sense, is not something completed by a single act all at once, but is a history with its own law of organic development. It could not be otherwise, inasmuch as at every point it proceeds on the basis of and in contact with the natural development of this world and of the human race, and, the latter being in the form of history, the former must necessarily assume that form likewise. It is simply owing to our habit of unduly separating revelation from this comprehensive background of the total redeeming work of God, that we fail to appreciate its historic, progressive nature. We conceive of it as a series of communications of abstract truth forming a body by itself, and are at a loss to see why this truth should be parcelled out to man little by little and not given in its completeness at once. As soon as we realize that revelation is at almost every point interwoven with and conditioned by the redeeming activity of God in its wider sense, and together with the latter connected with the natural development of the present world, its historic character becomes perfectly intelligible and ceases to cause surprise.”

    Though I suspect you disagree with Vos, for me, it is this sense of the interwoveness of new creation and natural development of this world and the human race that justifies the involvement of Christians in every realm of that development, not as Christians exclusively, but as human beings who are being more and more perfected by God over time. So, as to your concern with “we begin with the Bible”, I would say yes, but in the sense that the Bible is our orientation whether we are believers or not. I believe Vos would say that the Bible, as special revelation, cannot or should not be separated from His act of Creation which, taken together, lead progressively to the New Creation. Under this assumption, I believe it is obvious that Christians ought to participate in the provisional government of this present state of Creation — not in a supercilious way as you seem to imply, but as those who recognize that all of creation (including Christians) is being progressively redeemed.

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  6. Don, I too consider myself Vossian. I even have a photo of him in my office, along with Warfield and Hodge. But Vos could occasionally go off the reservation in favor of Kuyperian organicism like this. I don’t think you need to follow Vos in this Kuyperian cosmic vision of salvation and still have a two-age construction of salvation history.

    Be that as it may, if the divine and the human, the redemptive and creational, are so interwoven, are there activities that I should avoid on the Lord’s Day? Is the Lord’s Day even distinct from the other days of the week?

    I get it that salvation involves creation — after all, the redeemed are created beings, and Christ, the uncreated, took created form. But if you see interwovenness everywhere, what prevents winding up with John Frame’s view of worship?

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  7. Darryl,

    I believe Frame is a bit too dualistic in his thinking. I would say the same thing about Meredith Kline who supposedly follows and builds on Vos and whom Frame describes as the most impressive biblical theologian of his lifetime. I believe the Suzerain-Vassal way of thinking deviates dangerously from the thinking of Augustine and Aquinas as summarized in an article by Reinhard Hutter titled “St. Thomas on Grace and Free Will in the Initium Fidei: The Surpassing Augustinian Synthesis.” In it, he cites Ferdinand Ulrich in saying that because nature is the “way of being,” grace always comes “on the way of being.” Further, he states that “the instantaneous unfolding of the actus essendi into the order and hierarchy of beings entails that everything is generally ordered to God, who is the universal good. This ordering comes about by way of the ordering of each being to its own proper ends.”

    What prevents us from winding up with Frame’s view of worship based on Augustine/Aquinas via Hutter is that when we rethink worship in every generation as Frame would urge us to do, we cannot do that in isolation from every generation of saints that has gone before and worships with us, ordering us to our proper end. Ulrich’s “way of being” keeps us mindful of the aseity of God, but helps us avoid the dualistic tendencies of the Suzerain-Vassal distinction.

    In light of the above, and in that sense, assembling for worship on the Lord’s day is for the benefit of man, i.e., that Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, should President Obama or even Michele Bachman refrain from political activity on the Lord’s day? Yes, if possible. But if my house is on fire on the Lord’s day, I would hope the firemen come to put it out. Unfortunately, since we now live in a post-Christian society, it will likely be necessary for Obama and Bachman to perform political activity on the Lord’s day. This is a consequence of the fallen world that has not yet been fully redeemed.

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  8. “What prevents us from winding up with Frame’s view of worship based on Augustine/Aquinas via Hutter is that when we rethink worship in every generation as Frame would urge us to do, we cannot do that in isolation from every generation of saints that has gone before and worships with us, ordering us to our proper end. Ulrich’s “way of being” keeps us mindful of the aseity of God, but helps us avoid the dualistic tendencies of the Suzerain-Vassal distinction….”In light of the above, and in that sense, assembling for worship on the Lord’s day is for the benefit of man…

    Don, you have infinitely more Suzerain-Vassal and Hutter resources than I do, assuming that the ratio of any number to zero is infinity. But, really? This is how you determine what to do on the Lord’s Day?

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  9. Don, I’m not sure what is so unfortunate about a post-Christian society. It could be that where faith doesn’t find social and political favor is where it gathers strength, in a counter-intuitive and biblical sort of way.

    But if you’re suggesting that it’s a sign that the world is closer to “fully redeemed” when there are no worldly activities (e.g. politics) performed on the Lord’s day then 17th century New England would be closer to the eschaton than 21st century America, which seems to pose problems for the neo-Calvinist notion that the human condition gets more godly as time marches forward. But to my amil mind, “fully redeemed” only comes with the second coming. Until then, what politicos do on Sunday doesn’t indicate much about the relative redemption of the fallen world.

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  10. Daryl,

    We have been discussing as a church staff some of the issues arising in our city from a 2K v. theonomic POV. One issue that has arisen is how our city has rejected a creational view of sexual ethics in favour of affirming every kind of sexual activity imaginable. They seem to agree that there is a kind of ‘natural law’ – but their law of nature is defined by evolutionary theory and socially constructed ethical views. Therefore, for example, gay marriage is ‘right’ by the light of nature.

    I generally follow Van Til’s understanding of apologetics, I think – he is hard to read and fully grasp. I would take Van Til’s approach to how our city is interpreting sexual ethics as correct: they have interpreted ‘natural law’ in light of their own atheistic presuppositions, and created a completely different beast.

    At issue here are the Christians who have grown up in this milieu and breathe this air. They want to know how to act publicly on the issue of gay marriage. When we ask them to look at the light of nature, all they understand that to mean is what the city tells them it means – and they conclude that, inter alia, gay marriage must be fine. The only place they ever hear that it might be wrong, is in Scripture.

    So from a pastoral point of view, how do I advise them? I am trying to understand how a 2K response pastorally would differ from what you call a theonomic one, to this pastoral issue.

    Thanks

    Dan

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  11. Don, so it would seem that the distinctions among the holy, the common, and the profane, the ones that inform the Westminster Standards’ teaching on the Lord’s Day, are not sufficient to withstand your (and Vos’?) opposition to dualism? What I’m pointing out, is that the interwovenness of redemption and creation that you admire is at odds with earlier expressions of Reformed Protestantism, both in doctrinal formulations and in practice. Oh well.

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  12. Dan, first it seems some instruction on what Natural Law is would be beneficial for your church members. You could read any number of people but Russ Hittinger is very good. Here’s a link to an interview with him and it mentions one of his books on NL.

    But what is crucial is to see that NL is not what public opinion says. It goes to the order that is inherent in creation and human nature. So on sex, it is hard to see how, if it is supposed to lead to reproduction — the order of things, homosexual sex could conform to NL.

    A different issue is how Christians should act in the public square, no matter what the issue. 2k lowers the stakes since it recognizes a difference between the covenant community and the broader public. In which case, the moral standards of believers need not be those of the state. They may. But is it required? I don’t think the Bible teaches that civil laws must conform to biblical law.

    But this does not mean that Christians can throw up their hands and go with the relativistic flow. Important questions for the good of our common life surround such issues as gay marriage. It is possible to oppose it on non-biblical grounds. And NL would be one way to do so.

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  13. Good question Dan, and nice link about natural law. Reading about natural law does get very confusing. Along with an implanting of a moral sense by our Creator we also have an implant of sin which muddies the waters of clarity about the issue. Any more suggestions out there in internet land about good books on natural law. I need more clarity on the issue since I still have a hangover from worldview and transformationalist type thinking. This seems to be an ongoing process which needs to be thought about diligently.

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  14. Dan,

    I would also suggest Dr. David VanDrunen’s book “A Biblical Case for Natural Law”
    http://bookstore.wscal.edu/collections/vandrunen-david-m/products/916

    Dr. VanDrunen also gave a 5 part lecture series on A Biblical Basis for Natural Law

    Session 1 – Natural Law: What is it, and What’s the Point?
    Session 2 – Natural Law and the Creation Order: Genesis 1, 2 and 9
    Session 3 – The Importance of Natural Law for Unbelievers
    Session 4 – The Use of Natural Law for Believers: Old Testament
    Session 5 – The Use of Natural Law for Believers: New Testament

    I have the mp3’s of the conference posted on my blog
    http://pilgrimagetogeneva.com/2011/05/09/the-natural-law-what-is-it-and-whats-the-point/

    Links to Lectures 2 – 5 listed at the bottom the page

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  15. For natural law, one can’t do better than the Stoics. Though they are of course deficient in many ways (their view of righting what’s wrong with the world is thoroughly Pelagian, to speak anachronistically), nevertheless they have many important insights on human nature, specifically their explanations of self-preservation, philogenitiveness, and the unique human propensity for speech and reason.

    Cicero’s On the Boundaries of Good and Evil (De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum) is an excellent place to start. You can find it in the public domain, Rackham translation.

    Cicero himself claimed not to be a Stoic but he is the main conduit to us of Stoic thought. Calvin (1559 Institutes, I.III.1) called Cicero an ’eminent pagan’ (ille ethnicus).

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  16. Dave,

    I am aware of Calvin’s admiration of Cicero but have not read anything by Cicero since my college days. I will try to see if I can locate On the Boundaries of Good and Evil. I am assuming it is probably similiar to Plato’s ideas of reason controlling our passions.

    I suppose I could look up what philogenitiveness is but I will ask you to explain first. Also, I am with MM about giving some examples in order to further this discussion. Does philogenitiveness have something to do with our sense of affection towards others?

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  17. I am not sure if Neitszche was more accurate than Plato and Cicero in describing our human natures- especially after taking in the first five episodes of Breaking Bad this season.

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  18. Here is the classic passage on philogenitiveness, from De Finibus 3.62:

    “Moreover, they [Stoics] determine that relevancy requires that it be understood that it arises from nature for children to be loved by their parents. From this starting point we advance to a complete and intimate fellowship with the human race. This consanguinity is evinced first and foremost from the shape and features of human bodies. These very features proclaim that the rationale of procreation is granted by nature. And these propositions are indeed mutually exclusive, that nature should desire that something be given birth and not take measures that her offspring be loved. In fact, this generative force of nature can be discerned even in beasts, for when we see their efforts in nurturing and guidance, we seem to hear nature’s own voice. And so as it is clear that by nature we recoil from pain, so it is evident that from nature herself there is an impulse upon us to love those whom we have begotten. From this it happens that there is a shared and natural attraction (commendatio) of human beings among one another. The result is that one person from another, for the very reason that they are human, does not seem a stranger.”

    This seems to me to contain an important corollary to the complentarity argument against homosexuality. Men and women are biologically complementary, clearly designed for procreation. In that sense homosexuality is unnatural. Love of offspring, philogenitiveness, is witnessed even among beasts. There are no offspring and thus no philogenitiveness in homosexual activity.

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  19. Michael, sorry if you think I was being pompous. That was not my intent. I was citing those authors because they were and are instrumental in my present thinking. I have also read Kline and O.P.R. on covenant which were of great benefit to me. I just think that there is something missing in their epistomology based on my appreciation of the thinking of Vos and others on how God interacts with His Creation.

    Zrim, I get what you are saying, but I don’t see it the same way. It is not social/political favor or the lack of it that determines the Church’s outcome, but God’s original purpose that as Vos suggested, does not divide or isolate His general revelation from His special revelation. You may not care much about political activity, especially on Sunday, but do you really think that God, Who turns the heart of the king as He wills, and Who declares that political rulers are His ministers, doesn’t care. How can you read the Old Testament and see one of the first things that God cares about, after carefully documenting a new king’s earthly heritage, is whether or not His ministers trusted God or did what was wicked. Now that all authority has been given to Christ, we are commanded to make disciples of all the nations — I don’t see where He has restricted that commission to simply sending out missionaries to set up churches especially given that He has declared that political power is ordained by and designated as a ministry of God. I just don’t see how we can view the second coming of Christ as an abrupt termination of, in Vos’ words, “that great process of the new creation through which the present universe as an organic whole shall be redeemed from the consequences of sin and restored to its ideal state, which it had originally in the intention of God”, rather than a fulfillment of it.

    Darryl, I don’t agree that Vos’ idea of interwovenness of redemption and creation is at odds with earlier expressions of Reformed Protestantism. The Westminster Divines understood that duties of necessity and mercy may intervene on the Lord’s day. After all, they wrote the WCF in obedience to the English Parliament. Do you think the Divines would have said, oh well, I guess we can’t participate in politics because we may have to perform a political activity on the Lord’s day?

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  20. Don, it’s true that civil power is ordained of God and that civil magistrates are ministers of God. But Romans 13:1-7 isn’t the Great Commission. Matthew 28:16-20 is, and it does indeed “restrict that commission to simply sending out missionaries to set up churches.” I am not sure what else we can get from, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” I’d want to read you charitably, but it almost sounds like you think the GC is as political as it is spiritual. Maybe you do; if so, I am saying it’s completely apolitical and only spiritual.

    But my point wasn’t to say that politics don’t matter (if I had a dime for every time). It’s that politics are earthly and temporal pursuits. As such, they are inappropriate on the one day set aside for heavenly and eternal preparations. Which is what chaffed me yesterday about a “Right to Life” petition in the narthex, because nothing says Sabbath rest like baptized political activism.

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  21. Zrim, Have you ever read “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe? I suggest that, if you do or have, you will not be nearly as pedantic about dividing body and soul, religion and politics, earthly and spiritual, temporal and eternal, etc.

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  22. Don, but the duties of necessity and mercy and not the same as the means of grace. Do you really propose that Calvin needs to learn from Achebe? What wing of the Reformed faith is that?

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  23. Yes, Don, I have. I think it was a World Lit class as a college freshman. But you lose me. How would “Things Fall Apart” undo the spirituality of the church?

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  24. Don,

    If I may, it is not a question of dividing body and soul, but rather of distinguishing between this age and the one to come. The other divisions you speak of are biblical I think. I don’t read those quotes from Vos as saying that redemption is co-mingled with creation, but rather he is saying that God’s acts of revelation and redemption are tethered to history (as opposed to being abstract and timeless).

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  25. Dan,

    When it comes to matters of public policy, I’m not so sure that the Van Tillian rubric proves to be too helpful. Apologetics is one thing; whether it makes sense to extend the benefits of civil marriage to same-sex couples is another. After all, the Van Tillian rubric is geared toward proving something of which general revelation provides little direct proof.

    Law, in contrast, largely reflects pragmatic concerns, i.e., concerns that ought to be explicable by references to general revelation. When evangelicals advocate for certain public policies by appealing almost exclusively to special revelation, it seems to me that they implicitly suggest that those policies cannot be supported by appeals to general revelation.

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  26. Don,

    You’re inspiring lots of responses on this list, and I don’t want to appear to be piling on. But you asked a factual question I’d like to answer, regarding how the OT serves as a model for our cultural activity:

    “You may not care much about political activity, especially on Sunday, but do you really think that God, Who turns the heart of the king as He wills, and Who declares that political rulers are His ministers, doesn’t care. How can you read the Old Testament and see one of the first things that God cares about, after carefully documenting a new king’s earthly heritage, is whether or not His ministers trusted God or did what was wicked.”

    I presume you are speaking about the kings of Israel? As a reader of Vos, I hope you’d appreciate that the significance of their trusting in God was that they were acting as types of Christ, and serving as rulers over Christ’s kingdom on earth as it was expressed in the civil state of Israel. Their covenant fidelity was a part of the special-revelation record of God’s dealings with his saints of old, which as Paul tells us in Galatians, didn’t violate the promise to Abraham, but rather illustrated the ability of God’s Law to save.

    I.e., those kings simultaneously pointed AND drove us to Christ. They are a positive and negative type at the same time, teaching us positively what we need, and negatively how badly we need it to be granted from above.

    So I’d answer that God’s concern with the Kings of Israel is almost entirely “other” than a contemporary concern with politics and public policy.

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  27. Darryl, I don’t even know if Achebe was a Christian, but the experience he relates in his book demonstrate clearly how interwoven are (and thus how sensitive Christian missionaries must be to) God’s redemptive work and His creation works. (I suggest that God’s first redemptive act was His ordering of what was without form and void.) My point in mentioning Achebe’s book was simply to show by example or experience how difficult/impossible (even foolish?) it is to separate (I’m not saying we should not distinguish) between redemption, etc. from creation, etc.

    Again,in your last comment, you seem to consistently separate, rather than merely distinguish, God’s redemptive work from His creative work when you only seem to recognize God’s special grace (what you refer to as the “means of grace”) and totally ignore His common grace. John Murray (I assume you have read his collected works) answers your question about what wing of the reformed faith I am talking about in the following lenthy quote from an article he wrote titled “Common Grace” originally published in Westminster Theological Journal 5, no. 1 (Nov. 1942):1–28 (I highly commend this entire article to the reading of your audience):

    “Though it is true that the glory of God is the ultimate end of common grace, as it is of every other phase of God’s providence, yet we have to inquire as to the more proximate and specific ends promoted by common grace in subordination to the final end, which is also the final end of all things, namely, the manifestation of the perfections that constitute the divine glory. The specific ends cannot be reduced to the simplicity of a single purpose. There is, however, at least one proximate purpose that is immediately apparent and has already been shown in some of the texts discussed. It is that common grace serves the purpose of special or saving grace, and saving grace has as its specific end the glorification of the whole body of God’s elect, which in turn has its ultimate end in the glory of God’s name.

    The redemptive purpose of God lies at the centre of this world’s history. While it is not the only purpose being fulfilled in history and while it is not the one purpose to which all others may be subordinated, yet it is surely the central stream of history. It is however in the wider context of history that the redemptive purpose of God is realised. This wider context we have already found to be a dispensation of divine forbearance and goodness. In other words, it is that sphere of life or broad stream of history provided by common grace that provides the sphere of operation for God’s special purpose of redemption and salvation. This simply means that this world upheld and preserved by God’s grace is the sphere and platform upon which supervene the operations of special grace and in which special grace works to the accomplishment of His saving purpose and the perfection of the whole body of the elect. Common grace then receives at least one explanation from the fact of special grace, and special grace has its precondition and sphere of operation in common grace. Without common grace special grace would not be possible because special grace would have no material out /p. 23/ of which to erect its structure. It is common grace that provides not only the sphere in which, but also the material out of which, the building fitly framed together may grow up unto a holy temple in the Lord. It is the human race preserved by God, endowed with various gifts by God, in a world upheld and enriched by God, subsisting through the means of various pursuits and fields of labour, that provides the subjects for redemptive and regenerative grace. God could raise up children to Abraham out of the stones. As a matter of fact He does not follow this method but rather perfects His body the church out of those redeemed from among men.

    If we view God’s redemptive purpose from the viewpoint of the church we find that the latter does not exist in abstraction from the context of the wider history of this world. The church is not of the world but it is in the world. The church, whether we regard it from the standpoint of the individuals that compose it or from the standpoint of its collective organism, exists in relation to what is not the church. The members of the church do business with unbelievers, they often derive their sustenance from pursuits and employments that are conducted by unbelievers. Even the most segregated communities of believers who attempt to separate themselves from the life of the world are unable to isolate themselves from dependence upon the relationships and institutions of common grace. Their existence and even the segregation in which they live are guarded by the state. The food they eat, the clothing they put on, the material out of which their houses are constructed, are derived from the earth blessed with rain, sunshine, verdure, and flocks that benefit the ungodly as well as themselves. It is divine wisdom that speaks of the tares and the wheat, “Let both grow together until the harvest”. And it is by divine inspiration Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to keep company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:9, 10).

    Even when we deal with the individual who is to become a subject of saving grace, we must not think of his regeneration as effecting a complete rupture with all that he was and was /p. 24/ made to be prior to his regeneration. A radical moral and spiritual change there must indeed be. He is translated fromm the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. And that change affects all of life and every relationship. All that he was undergoes transformation by the regenerative influences of God’s Spirit. But all that he was is not nullified and discarded. His personality is not changed, and the various endowments and qualities, gifts and possessions, with which he had previously been blessed of God are not destroyed. In other words, though spiritually he became as a little child, yet he did not have to become psychologically an infant all over again. He enters the kingdom of God and exercises his membership and place in it as the person formed and moulded as to his distinct individuality by the antecedents and processes that fall outside the sphere of saving grace. We need but remind ourselves of Paul as the student who sat at the feet of Gamaliel or of Moses learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Long lines of preparation in the realm of common grace, designed in the plan of God’s all-comprehending providence, have fitted the most blessed of God’s servants for the particular rle they were to play in the kingdom of God.

    Furthermore, when we come to the point of actual conversion, the faith and repentance involved in conversion do not receive their genesis apart from the knowledge of the truth of the gospel. There must be conveyed to the mind of the man who believes and repents to the saving of his soul the truth-content of law and gospel, law as convicting him of sin and gospel as conveying the information which becomes the material of faith. To some extent at least there must be the cognition and apprehension of the import of law and gospel prior to the exercise of saving faith and repentance. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). But this apprehension of the truth of the gospel that is prior to faith and repentance, and therefore prior to the regeneration of which faith and repentance are the immediate effects in our consciousness, cannot strictly belong to the saving operations of the Spirit. They are preparatory to these saving operations and in the gracious design of God place the person concerned in the psychological condition that is the prerequisite of the intelligent exercise of faith and /p. 25/ repentance. In other words, they place in his mind the apperceptive content that makes the gospel meaningful to his consciousness. But since they are not the saving acts of faith and repentance they must belong to a different category from that of saving grace and therefore to the category of non-saving or common grace.

    We may thus say that in the operations of common grace we have what we may call the vestibule of faith. We have as it were the point of contact, the Anknüpfungspunkt, at which and upon which the Holy Spirit enters with the special and saving operations of His grace. Faith does not take its genesis in a vacuum. It has its antecedents and presuppositions both logically and chronologically in the operations of common grace.24

    Both in the individual sphere and in the sphere of organic and historic movement, the onward course of Christianity can never be dissociated from the preparations by which it is preceded and from the conditions by which it is surrounded, preparations and conditions that belong not only to the general field of divine providence but also to the particular sphere of beneficent and gracious administration on God’s part, yet gracious administration that is obviously not in itself saving, and therefore administration that belongs to the sphere of common grace.”

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  28. David R.,What I’m saying is that the distinctions are Biblical, but not the division (i.e., separtaion, mutual exclusivity, no continuity, etc.) Christ Himself, in His glorified body had nail holes in His feet and hands, and ate fish on the shore with His disciples.

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  29. Brian Lee, You seem to be arguing that the types are merely provided for spritually intellectual purposes only to “drive us to Christ.” I don’t disagree that the types indeed had that purpose, but, Biblically, types and anti-types have a much tighter connection than simply to illustrate something to our spiritual minds. (I think this is one of the problems with the enlightenment.)

    Look at how Paul interprested Gen 17 in Rom 4:13 when he said Abraham and his seed would be the heir of the world (kosmos). Paul, I believe, has thus far exceeded your interpretation that all the nations would simply come to a spiritually intellectual belief in Christ, but rather that man in Christ (the Seed) would again be given dominion over God’s creation/new creation. Then go to Rom 8:19 where Paul tells us the creation itself (sometimes translated creature) eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. I have trouble believing that there is no “physical” continuity between the type and anti-type as though God, or the sons of God will rejoice in the complete annihilation of the creation which is eagerly awaiting our revealing.

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  30. Don, instead of showing how Achebe’s work dismantles the spirituality of the church, it seems to me you’ve ironically enlisted Murray to make the case for the sorts of categorical distinctions that doctrine entails (i.e. special grace and common grace or providence, creation and redemption, law and gospel).

    But if you think it’s foolish to sharply distinguish between creation and redemption—which, by the way, is quite different from the kind of anti-material Gnostic separation I suspect you may be suggesting—I wonder what you make of Jesus’ own words that his kingdom is not of this world? Is that just pious speech? Or what about in Luke his telling us to hate our parents, and even our own temporal lives if we would obtain eternal life? It seems to me Jesus is making a fairly sharp distinction between the temporal order and the eternal one, such that even that highest temporal good, life itself, and that highest temporal institution, the family, are set in stark contrast to gaining eternity.

    All of this isn’t to cast aspersions on creation. In point of fact, I know of no other system that has such a high view of creation as Reformed doctrine of the spirituality of the church and two-kingdom theology. Rather, it’s to highlight the proximate and temporal character of the natural order which gives way to the enduring and eternal character of the supernatural order.

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  31. Don,

    I’d like to push you on a couple of your responses here:

    Look at how Paul interprested Gen 17 in Rom 4:13 when he said Abraham and his seed would be the heir of the world (kosmos). Paul, I believe, has thus far exceeded your interpretation that all the nations would simply come to a spiritually intellectual belief in Christ, but rather that man in Christ (the Seed) would again be given dominion over God’s creation/new creation.Then go to Rom 8:19 where Paul tells us the creation itself (sometimes translated creature) eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. I have trouble believing that there is no “physical” continuity between the type and anti-type as though God, or the sons of God will rejoice in the complete annihilation of the creation which is eagerly awaiting our revealing.

    With all due respect, it seems like you are muddying the eschatological waters here, and I see this happening in a few areas:

    1) There is a sense in which Satan has been given dominion in the current age over the affairs of men, this can be seen in Paul’s epistles – [2:1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV); [8] To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, [9] and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, [10] so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10 ESV) ; and [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.(Ephesians 6:12 ESV)

    In these verses we see a dominion given to Satan over the sons of the earth, yet through the gospel, God’s wisdom is being manifested in calling a particular people to himself (contra the ‘sons of disobedience’). The church, in this present age, or present darkness, is at odds with the world system that is given to Satanic control, and their weapons are spiritual, aiming to accomplish spiritual ends. This would logically result in the further building of the Church and the strengthening of believers, so we don’t see the concept of redemption and spiritual war in Ephesians, or anywhere else in Paul’s epistles, aiming at achieving political or temporal gains, but rather spiritual and lasting ones.

    2) Your argument in Romans 8:19, misses the rich biblical context of a “groaning creation”, we see similar concepts going all back to Deuteronomy – [19] I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, [20] loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”(Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ESV) (cf. Deut. 4:25-26); the heavens and earth is a Hebrew merism describing the cosmos as a whole (cf. Gen 1:1). These are active agents, witnesses party to God’s redemptive work, often being turned against God’s people as a testimony to the curses ensuing from Israel’s breached covenant (cf. Deut. 28: 20-24, Isa. 1: 2-3). The groaning creation is one that has been in upheaval, witnesses to a sinful race, and the failures of Israel to realize cosmic redemption. We expect such groaning to be a hallmark of the inter-advental age (cf. Matt 24). What must happen before we see a physical restoration of the cosmic order is the return of Christ to judge the wicked and call the righteous to take their place at last in his everlasting kingdom.

    3) The point at which the kingdoms of this world are brought under the direct rule is yet in the future – [15] Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”(Revelation 11:15 ESV) Greg Beale comments on Rev. 11:15 –

    “The heavenly voices can proclaim that ‘the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ has come’ because the enemies of the kingdom have all been defeated and judged (so 11:18). God now takes to himself the rule that he has permitted Satan to have over the world. The seventh trumpet, like the seventh seal and the seventh bowl, narrates the very end of history.” (G.K. Beale; The Book of Revelation, p.611)

    So, it’s not that there is no physical component to redemption, after all we all believe we will reside in resurrected bodies at the end of the age. However, to assert that there is a physical component to redemption in either the world’s power structures (temporarily under Satan’s rule), or to the physical cosmos, is to confuse the order of eschatological redemption, and to confuse the already with the not-yet. In the present age, the church is not to change or alter the fundamental structures of this world, even if this is the setting in which the work of the church takes place. We are to be different, set apart, but the work of redemption, and transformation, on a cosmic/physical/social-political scale lies after final judgment. I am not sure how we can conclude otherwise.

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  32. Jed,

    I don’t have the time to respond fully to your points, though I don’t think we are that far apart. I agree that we still remain on the temporal side of judgement, and that we are in a quasi already and not yet state.

    What I’d really like to know is how do you do that cool thing with setting off your quotes.

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  33. Jed, don’t give away the secret to Don until he becomes 2k.

    Don, I don’t disagree with a thing that Murray says. What I have trouble understanding is how you think that quotation supports your contention that culture is being redeemed. Culture serves the large end of redemption. That’s not the same thing as saying it is holy, saved, or redeemed.

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  34. Jed, I have not been arguing that there will not be an end to history as we now know it, or that the world system (as opposed to the created order) referred to in 1 John 2:15-17 is not evil, or that the end is not in the future when Christ comes again. Everything I have been arguing and quoting other reformed theologians for support is about what we as Christians are to be doing until Christ comes again.

    I don’t think it is Biblical or reformed to answer, “It doesn’t really matter (as long as you pursue a moral lifestyle), since we are just passing through.” This sentiment will inevitably lead to an attitude that we should distance ourselves from the created order as though it is simply temporal and has no continuity whatsoever with the new creation. Rather, I believe the Biblical and reformed attitude should be to treat the created order with awe, as the Bible does, and throw ourselves into it as restored human beings delighting in the created order as God does, and striving, as restored human beings to be among the best artists, musicians, craftsmen, or even politicians.

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  35. Zrim, you misquoted me. I did not say it’s foolish to “sharply distinguish” between creation and redemption but rather that we should not treat them as though they are completely separate, having no points of intersection. As you point out, I have no problems with distinguishing between them.

    With regard to Jesus’ own words, I think many, if not most good reformed theologians would agree that He meant that His kingdom is not from this world, not that it has nothing to do with this world. His words regarding hating our parents could not obviously contradict His command to honor our parents, so you need to understand His words as meaning that we are to let nothing interfere with our pursuit of eternal life.

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  36. Don,

    for the blockquote stuff just run a search on html tags, that should help, much to the chagrin of one DGH.

    I don’t think it is Biblical or reformed to answer, “It doesn’t really matter (as long as you pursue a moral lifestyle), since we are just passing through.” This sentiment will inevitably lead to an attitude that we should distance ourselves from the created order as though it is simply temporal and has no continuity whatsoever with the new creation. Rather, I believe the Biblical and reformed attitude should be to treat the created order with awe, as the Bible does, and throw ourselves into it as restored human beings delighting in the created order as God does, and striving, as restored human beings to be among the best artists, musicians, craftsmen, or even politicians.

    I am not sure who is arguing that any Reformed Christian answers “It doesn’t really matter…”. 2Ker Michael Horton often speaks of God not needing our service, but our neighbors do (from Luther I think). I have no problem looking on the created realm with awe, but I strive to excel at what I do simply because I think this honors God, and I enjoy it. I don’t approach my work with a sense that I will be transforming the deep structures of society, but I certainly hope my strife for excellence will give rise to the opportunity to further testify to the hope I have in Christ.

    There’s a difference in these paradigms, neo-cals think that we are somehow engaging in redemptive work when we go about our vocations, 2kers simply assert that we are participating in the goodness of the created order, fulfilling in some small way our creaturely mandate to steward the current creation. None of this gets worked out perfectly this side of glory, but that doesn’t make it not good or worthwhile. Making the world a better place is all fine and good, and for the sake of my kids, I certainly hope we are all working in some small way toward this, but God is the one who has the ability to redeem, and for now that happens through the church, on a spiritual plane in the lives of idividuals who have been called out from the world. Otherwise we end up dislocating redemption from its primary locus which is the church (where the covenant community is established and nourished, and improperly locate it in the world in vocation, politics, economics, etc.

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  37. Don, it’s not that I thought you were pompous. It’s just that I was taken aback at how prominent pure theological theory was in your determination, as if biblical data was an afterthought. People criticize philosophy as if it’s the only discipline that can overwhelm, neglect, or distort biblical data, but a theological perspective can do so as well.

    We don’t need to revisit that particular issue, but there seems to be some tension between your predominant theological theory and some of the biblical data Jed has put forth. Paul recommends the following attitude:
    “From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”

    I see this as quite consistent with the idea of hating one’s parents, letting the dead bury their dead, being sojourners, Christ’s Kingdom being not of (I think your “from” is too narrow) this world, Paul’s desire to reach the end of his days, and our yearning for Christ’s return. Does your perspective fit will with the above passage from I Cor. 7?

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  38. Darryl, I did not think I was saying that culture is holy, saved, or redeemed, but that Christians should thoughtfully engage in culture (as opposed to deliberately separating themselves from it because cultural engagement can have no redeeming value.) I agree with much of James Hunter’s thinking that human flourishing in our world begins when God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, reaching every sphere of social life to include the creation of hospitals, the flourishing of art, the best scholarship, the most profound and world-changing kind of service and care — not only for those of faith but for everyone.

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  39. Don, what you said was: “My point in mentioning Achebe’s book was simply to show by example or experience how difficult/impossible (even foolish?) it is to separate (I’m not saying we should not distinguish) between redemption, etc. from creation, etc.” That sounds like you were saying it’s foolish to sharply distinguish between creation and redemption.

    I agree that we are “to let nothing interfere with our pursuit of eternal life.” But if that’s true then it requires more than merely distinguishing creation and redemption. It requires sharply distinguishing. I really don’t know how a theology of merely distinguishing, or one that weds creation and redemption the way you have been, could really come up with Jesus’ own sharp words about hating family and life. Indeed, those are offensive ideas and the kind I would think would get a man killed. Who dies for saying things like, “…human flourishing in our world begins when God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, reaching every sphere of social life to include the creation of hospitals, the flourishing of art, the best scholarship, the most profound and world-changing kind of service and care — not only for those of faith but for everyone”? That sounds inspiring and all, but where does Jesus or any of the apostles speak this way?

    But I also wonder, whenever I hear these sorts of platitudes, what of the larger balance of believers who are not so awesomely awesome and simply put in an ordinary day’s work? Are they second, third or even fourth class Christians? I can’t help but think this sparkly doctrine of excellence is Calvinism’s version of prosperity gospel.

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  40. Zrim, I suspect you have come out of a revivalist or charismatic form of thinking, and now have become a “son of thunder” for the reformed faith. I’m fine with “sharply distinguishing” creation and redemption, but not sharply separating them.

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  41. Don, “son of thunder” sure beats another term. But to your mind, what is the difference between “distinguishing” and “separating”? They seem synonymous to me. My guess is that you think the latter term suggests something almost Gnostic. But doesn’t Jesus sharply separate natural birth from supernatural birth to Nicodemus who was so confused that he actually thought Jesus wanted him to climb back into his mother’s womb?

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  42. Those in reformed circles might have heard stories – apocryphal or not, it doesn’t matter – about Arminian preachers or Bible study leaders getting to certain parts of the scripture (say, Romans 9) and just skipping them. The idea is that their theological paradigm simply couldn’t handle certain passages, and the inability of their paradigm to handle the passages should be a clue that their paradigm should changed.

    Paul’s idea of “do as if you do not” (1 Corinthians 7, above) is a problem passage for those committed to saving this world. For those who have high hopes of political solutions or otherwise have high expectations of results in this world, it is a problem. For anyone who cannot easily embrace that passage, there should be an examination of whether his theological paradigm is inadequate to explain the biblical data.

    For 2ks, it is not at all a problem passage. One can enjoy the world without white knuckles from gripping too hard. One can receive simple creational pleasures without being disappointed when they are not as steady as we would wish. And, recognizing the limits of this present world, one can appropriately look forward to a better one.

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  43. Jed, I believe your thoughts intersect significantly with my own. Please allow me to push you a bit, especially on this quote: “God is the one who has the ability to redeem, and for now that happens through the church, on a spiritual plane in the lives of idividuals who have been called out from the world.”

    I think that Hunter, with whom I often agree, would also agree (in his latest book)that it is the church through which God is redeeming [His world]. Hunter would say/has also said that the way He does this is that while we were “other” (i.e., unreconciled), He baecame fully and faithfully present to us (via His incarnation), that we might become fully and faithfully present to Him, not only individually, but also in the [covenant] community of believers. In that relationship, we become fully present in our tasks, in our relationships to others, and in our various spheres of influence. The greatest obstacle to this happening is the lack of leadership in the church which precludes it from becoming an institution that encourages Christians to engage in culturally enlivening ways, instead seeking to make it either a power base (i.e., the Christian right), or an insular,Christ- motivating institution that only gets involved on the cultural periphery. Lacking this leadership, American Christians have been profoundly formed by the larger post-Christian culture.

    I think (as does my brother-in-law, Ken Myers in MHAJ volume 101) that Hunter would say that the local church is the basic unit of counter cultural witness and action. If the local churchs are to fill this function, they need more than merely “ideas” of living faithfully. The culture of local churches has to inculturate its members in ways that adequately address the deepest challenges of late modern culture. Faithful presence that Hunter describes is not individualistic, but communal and institutional. The church must exhibit distinctive ways and a life as well as the truth.

    Peter Leithart, in his book “Against Christianity” says that “the church is not a club for religious people. The church is a way of living before God, a new way of being human together. What Jesus and the apostles proclaimed was not a new idealogy or a new religion in our attenuated modern sense. What they proclaimed was salvation, and that meant a new human world, a new social and political reality. They proclaimed that God has established the eschatological order of human life in the midst of history, not perfectly, but truly. The church anticipates the form of the human race as it will be when it comes to maturity. She is the already of the new humanity that will be perfected in the not-yet of the last days. Conversion thus becomes turning from one way of life, one culture to another. Conversion is the beginning of a re-socialization into the way of life practiced by the eschatological community.”

    Leithart also suggests that “In the new testament, we do not find an essentially private gospel being applied to the public sphere as if the public implications of the gospel were a second story built on the private ground floor. The gospel is the announcement of the Father’s formation through His son and Spirit of a new city, the city of God.”

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  44. Don, first you tell me that Christians must engage culture. And now you’re saying the church needs to be set apart as an eschatological community with a distinct culture. That sounds like some sort of holy or redeemed culture, by the way. And it also sounds pretty confusing, which is generally where transformationalism leads. First, we want to transform NYC, but hey wait a minute, those symphonies performed at the Lincoln Center sure sound good, so maybe transformation means attending New York Philharmonic concerts.

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  45. Daryl, you’ve misread me again, though I would suggest a NY Philharmonic concert is more likely to position me for the transforming work of the Spirit than a Snoop Dogg rap concert.

    Being set apart does not require isolation, but rather just the opposite if the One who is setting you apart is God. That’s the first step we need to agree or disagree on. If you disagree with taking that step, then you will never get to the next step which is how are we to be non-isolationist. That is what I was trying to address.

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  46. Don, a dictionary helps cultivate the mind, but only Word and sacrament are means of grace to create and sustain faith. Maybe you think that is an untoward sharp distinction, but the latitude you allow for and interplay between creation and redemption seems to imply that we can add dictionary readings to juggling routines in worship (Frame on line two).

    By the way, I’m a Hunter fan as well. But it’s a tempered fandom, since the first part of his book decimates the naivete resident within transformationalism, redemptive or non-, that should warm the heart of any 2ker (who says we lack emotions?). But the second part, coupled with a caricature of 2k, leaves me cold.

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  47. Rzim, did you say Word? How does God communicate His Word. Without a dictionary, you might have trouble understanding it correctly.

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  48. Don,

    In some respects we might be close, but where we go practically from this is quite different.

    I think that Hunter, with whom I often agree, would also agree (in his latest book)that it is the church through which God is redeeming [His world]. Hunter would say/has also said that the way He does this is that while we were “other” (i.e., unreconciled), He baecame fully and faithfully present to us (via His incarnation), that we might become fully and faithfully present to Him, not only individually, but also in the [covenant] community of believers.

    The language here is probably looser than either you or Hunter would state if pressed further. God isn’t redeeming the world, yet at least, he is calling saints out of it. The typology of the Noahic flood shouldn’t be lost here, redemption is what puts us on the boat when judgment is finally doled out upon the earth. Like 2 Peter 3 depitcts:

    [2] that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, [3] knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. [4] They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” [5] For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, [6] and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. [7] But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
    [8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
    [11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [13] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
    (2 Peter 3:2-13 ESV)

    The dividing line between us here is how we view continuity between the new cosmos and the current cosmos. My contention is that the most important issue at hand is to be “on the ark” which will ensure safe passage to the shores of the new cosmos, when the current order is destroyed on account of God’s wrath. So the notion that God is redeeming the ‘world’, the same one that he will destroy to a greater degree than he did with the flood, seems to be a misnomer to me. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care for the current order, or strive to have a meaningful witness in it, but I don’t think the eschatological thrust of Scripture allows us to maintain that we are even capable of the structural transformation of culture that many transforationalists claim is their role on earth.

    This is why the older Reformed understanding of vocation is so vital. We are obedient to our vocational call because it is God who calls us. We don’t know how our faithful service will be used in God’s hands, but that is in his Providential hands to do with it what he will. Good art, for art’s sake is pleasing to God, good politics is pleasing to him as well. However, most of us occupy vocations that aren’t cutting edge such as construction, food service, engineering, sales, et. al. These jobs need to be done well because they are all subsumed in a larger functional system that helps the world work they way it is supposed to. A better functioning world is a place where the church can flourish. Of course the church can flourish in adverse conditions, and to varying degrees it always has, but the role of the secular kingdom is to provide the setting in which the spiritual kingdom can grow.

    My interest in freedom and equality don’t stem from a hope that society as a whole will be transformed, it stems from a sense that these are good for the church to flourish. Working for a more livable world is truly in the interests of all, and the church has no mandate do determine how the affairs of the world are ordered. Christians of all vocations need only to be faithful at doing their jobs, and let God fit together how these work together for the ordering of his world, since he rules it all by his own Providence, and not the great ideas of the church.

    As to your Leithart quote, he and I are a million miles apart:

    “the church is not a club for religious people. The church is a way of living before God, a new way of being human together. What Jesus and the apostles proclaimed was not a new idealogy or a new religion in our attenuated modern sense. What they proclaimed was salvation, and that meant a new human world, a new social and political reality. They proclaimed that God has established the eschatological order of human life in the midst of history, not perfectly, but truly. The church anticipates the form of the human race as it will be when it comes to maturity. She is the already of the new humanity that will be perfected in the not-yet of the last days. Conversion thus becomes turning from one way of life, one culture to another. Conversion is the beginning of a re-socialization into the way of life practiced by the eschatological community.”

    Sorry Don, but Leithart and I are so far apart on this you could drive a 10-mile wide convoy through that gap. Insofar as Christ is reconstituting a new humanity to himself through his finished work on the cross as mediated through the church (3 true marks – Belgic Confession 29), I think we can agree, however that is where the similarity between Leithart and I ends. Leithart states, “What they proclaimed was salvation, and that meant a new human world, a new social and political reality.” The eschatological message of the church was “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand…”, however, even in the NT, these new socio-political realities were assigned to the consummated kingdom, and for now the kingdom is expressed as a pilgrim people, awaiting entry into the eschatological promised land, which Christ would usher in at the end of the age. In the inter-advental age, the only political expressions of the kingdom are ecclesiological as the church governs itself through elder rule until Christ returns. Leitharts sociological constructs muddy the eschatological waters, and are IMO guilty of imitatizing the eschaton.

    What this practically means, if I can restate my case, the gospel is proclaimed by the church, and testified to through the vocational calls of individual believers. Our vocational calls don’t have transformational or redemptive power in an age that has been consigned to the rule of Satan, who rules in opposition to God. Any societal transformation that does providentially take place for good still isn’t redemptive, it is simply God upholding creational norms, so his program of building an everlasting Kingdom can take place.

    If there is a failure in church leadership, it certainly isn’t seen in an inability to mobilize Christians for social action, as this has predominated the Western church experience post-enlightenment. The failure of church leadership has been demonstrated in an abdication of minesterial responsibility to ground Christians in the gospel through the ministry of word and sacrament in the context of the local church. Christians have a woefully anemic vision of who they are in light of the promises of God, little sense of where history is headed, and what that means for them as participants in a Kingdom that will outlive history. Calls to take vocation seriously, as an earthly means to glorify God and support his work financially is one thing, but maintaining that Christians must be busy about earthly affairs as agents of change is lacking in any clear biblical imperatives.

    Christians are responsible before God for their own actions, and how well they did with the little responsibilities he has entrusted them. They will not be accountable in judgment for failing to enact structural societal change. I would liken transformationalists to those who try to boil the ocean, instead of tending to their own little pot of water. Enabling the church to grow deep roots as a covenant community that transcends generational lines is the impetus for outward growth, sadly, we grow impatient with God’s own providential work in history and seek to wrest his responsibilities and prerogatives from him while we let go of our own simple calling. Plumbing, teaching, city planning, banking, and providing medical care needn’t be transformational to have real value, and it is through faithful work in these areas that we can testify to the work of Christ, inviting friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers into our churches to see what a reconstituted humanity looks like while we await the consummation at Christ’s return.

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  49. Don, if a dictionary helps to understand the gospel then what does this mean for believers who lived in a pre-literate age or those even now living as illiterates? Are you saying literates understand the gospel better than illiterates? But the disciples were uneducated men who grasped it better than their educated persecutors. So I think there is good reason the Bible uses the category of hearing instead of seeing to convey the gospel, as in faith comes by hearing and we live by faith and not by sight. Sorry, but I am skeptical of making the modern virtue of literacy an implication of Christianity—too transformationalist-y. But, at the risk of being cheeky, have you noticed that you’re ironically transposing the “Z” and “r” in my name?

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  50. Jed, alas it does appear that our ways must part, and I still don’t understand how you do that quote thing.

    Suffice it to say for now that I think you put far too much reliance on 2 Peter 3. I suspect you are aware that you also deviate from Calvin’s thinking on this passage.

    “Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same, as it may be easily gathered from Romans 8:21, and from other passages. “

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  51. Zrim, I got it right that time – sorry. I agree with you that hearing excels seeing. What does that say about our present culture that can’t think without the media, computer graphics and Power Point. Prior to the printing press, the attention span of people could last for hours in listening to arguments and preaching. Even in the time of Lincoln, I understand that the Lincoln Douglas debate lasted 3 hours and common people listened with rapt attention.

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  52. Don,

    I realize I depart with Calvin, but I am also in line with a good deal of amill scholarship, who are inclined to more of a destructive end of the current cosmic order prior to the eschaton, as opposed to a premill stance that opts for renovation. If that’s where you stand, I am fine with that, as many in the Reformed camp land there. However, it does influence how we view ‘Christian’ activism in the current order. I don’t opt for renovation, so my concerns are more geared to seeing as many ‘in the ark’ as possible, versus a transformation that I don’t see coming.

    Part of the problem is that there is a lack of serious premil scholarship out there to refute the Beale’s of the biblical studies world, who are winning the debate, IMO. As a show of 2k charity, blockquotes are utilized this way

    insert blockquote between the and and the text between the blockquote , /blockquote arrows… and your replies will look a lot sleeker, we’ll just have to work on those transformationalist parts!

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  53. Don, it is hard not to misread you since it is not clear what you affirm. First you say creation and redemption are interwoven, and that the Bible is the basis for cultural engagement. Then you say the church needs to be a distinct community but engaged culturally. Then you say that an orchestral piece is more pious than hip-hop. Along the way, you’re quoting Vos and Murray and Hunter and Myers and Leithart.

    Anyway, where in the NT do you get the idea that the church is called to be engaged culturally or to transform the culture? And if you appeal to those “all things” passages, be careful. Calvin interpreted the “all” to refer to men plus angels. I have no sense that Calvin believed Purcell was redeemed.

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  54. DGH:
    You said it’s hard to see how homosexuality can be right IF sexuality is meant for reproduction, which you see as its point because of your take of NL.
    But that’s an IF that you have to convince non-heteros of. From their reading of “natural” it does not. Maybe it should and maybe it shouldn’t lead to reproduction. Maybe it’s just for pleasure and self-fulfillment.

    Also, IF it is meant for reproduction, then you must also rule out unnatural birth control, don’t you?.

    You really do have to use the Word of God as your authority. Your take of NL and someone else’s is not plainly evident in the case of sexuality. Or abortion. Why is it wrong to kill fetuses? Or little babies, for that matter? The Romans didn’t think so. Why didn’t they see NL and act by it?

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  55. But, Eliza, what you say of sexuality could be said of justification, baptism and Christology. There are many who read it and come away denying sola fide, paedobaptism and the deity of Christ. Our take and someone else’s (Catholics, Baptists and JWs) of the Bible is not plainly evident in these matters. Of course, the problem is human depravity and not the perspicuity of the Bible. And in the case of morality, it is human depravity and not the clarity of the light of nature. So your solution of opening the Bible to solve moral questions still has as much human depravity with which to contend as does solving the questions of soteriology, sacramentology and Christology. Which is to say, the if the Bible doesn’t diminish theological erros amongst men then what makes anyone think it will make homosexuality and abortion disappear?

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  56. Jed,
    Thanks for telling me your secret. I will strive for greater beauty in future posts. In return, I am giving you the last word regarding this thread.

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  57. Darryl,

    The reason you can’t read me is because you are too anti-Vossian in your perspective. You have bought too uncritically into the post enlightenment notion that we can sever religion and politics, humanity and culture, creation and redemption, body/mind and soul/spirit, or God and all the foregoing. In reality, the only true severing is done by God when He will judge and destroy/purge the evil that has invaded His creation. That’s what the fire of 2 Peter 3 will do.

    Remember what Vos said (and here I hope to demonstrate what Jed taught me)

    It is simply owing to our habit of unduly separating revelation from this comprehensive background of the total redeeming work of God, that we fail to appreciate its historic, progressive nature. We conceive of it as a series of communications of abstract truth forming a body by itself, and are at a loss to see why this truth should be parcelled out to man little by little and not given in its completeness at once.

    Thus you ask me to treat God’s revelation in an anti-Vossian way when you ask where in the NT do I get the idea that the church is called to be engaged culturally, as though the total redeeming work of God can be applied progressively to His creation (as Vos maintains in quoted paragraph below) without being applied to culture.

    It [revelation as God’s active work in creation] constitutes a part of that great process of the new creation through which the present universe as an organic whole shall be redeemed from the consequences of sin and restored to its ideal state, which it had originally in the intention of God.

    What really amazes and puzzles me about you though, is that while you are so willing to sever creation and redemption, you seem totally unwilling to separate, or even distinguish between the beauty of holiness in which we are to worship God, which even a non-believer like Ralph Vaughan Williams could do in the following hymn:

    1. For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
    who thee by faith before the world confessed,
    thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
    Alleluia, Alleluia!

    2. Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
    thou Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
    thou in the darkness drear, their one true light.
    Alleluia, Alleluia!

    3. O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
    fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
    and win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
    Alleluia, Alleluia!

    4. O blest communion, fellowship divine!
    We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
    yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
    Alleluia, Alleluia!

    5. And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
    steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
    and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
    Alleluia, Alleluia!

    6. From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
    through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
    singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
    Alleluia, Alleluia!

    from the ugliness of the following lyrics from Snoop Dogg:

    Its impossible, to stop a ho
    So let her go, and get the dough
    Lead the way, or step aside
    Break a bitch till the day I die

    Which do you think is more pious? Are you really telling me that I should not even try to distinguish?

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  58. And 5-4-3-2-1 queue sex talk. Sheesh, its like clockwork, next we should have Bayly spewing abortion talk, with lots of heat and pressure, kind of like Old Faithful – you can almost set your watch to it. If only NL had contemplated sexuality beforehand, we could avoid the discussion entirely.

    But there is a whole field of bioethics, even Christian bioethics, that utilize NL arguments against the validity of homosexual expressions of human sexual design, and against abortion – gasp without using the Bible to frame their arguments. VanDrunen has done some work in bioethics, if you are so concerned with the soundness of NL arguments, that would be a good starting point.

    Frankly the champions of proper sexual and reproductive ethics should be paying more attention to NL arguments if they are going to make any headway whatsoever in the legal system, since because the Bible says so, isn’t going to cut the mustard in a courtroom that must uphold the distinction between church and state.

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  59. Don,

    We can make a distinction between good and evil without appealing to special revelation, Scripture even affirms this in Romans 1:18ff. Through NL, we do have to make evaluations about the nature of a human being, and what the teleological implications of human nature are, in order to determine if certain actions are coherent or incoherent with the human teleology (purpose). Aquinas argues for a robust NL along these lines, and it would help in providing an objective measure of the goodness of For All The Saints and the badness/crassness of Snoop’s ho’s and dough

    2k advocates are not unconcerned with the good of the civil kingdom, we just don’t apply a redemptive basis for “seeking the good of the city”. The good of the city can be a proximate goodness in itself, something doesn’t have to be redeemed or even redeemable to be good. Even the exiled Jews weren’t seeking to redeem Babylon in seeking its good, they were seeking its good for a resulting good – namely their own prosperity and ability to be fruitful even in the tragedy of exile. We aren’t altogether different than the exilic community in Babylon, so doing good doesn’t always have to have a religious or spiritual angle.

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  60. Since Zrim and dgh believe that the Bible is equally as worthless (yes, that’s what you’re saying, not “as equally helpful”) then what the point of reading the Bible? We’re all going to come up with our own views anyway. They’ll always be Baptists, Unitarians, and atheists.

    The question, Zrim, is not “trying to making these (errors) disappear”. It’s seeking to witness to truth. I think the clear teaching of Scripture on homosex behavior is a lot clearer than you let on. Fortunately there are people out there who are taking Scripture more seriously than NL proponents do. One is Rob Gagnon.

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  61. Eliza,

    Hogwash!!! You can’t camp on Scripture as if you alone are it’s champion and all NL-ers see the Scriptures as ‘worthless’. First, the magesterial reformers upheld both natural law and the primacy of Scrupture, are you going to take them to the woodshed for utilizing NL arguments.

    You never back up your responses here with anything but bluster and bravado, and the same old tricks are tired. Take a cue from some of the better argued 2k dissenters here and at least have some sort of substance to your words.Your posts are a lot of bark and absolutely no bite Eliza, so unless you are going to take the time to demonstrate how NL and Scripture are incompatible, and how to hold to one is to deny the other, you should do us all a favor and not pollute the internet with even more garbage, and vacuous nonsense.

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  62. Jed,

    I agree that NL or general revelation, distinguished from special revelation, allows us to discern between good and evil. That’s why I used the example of a hymn written by someone who does not believe in special revelation. What I am trying to demonstrate, using Vos, is that Revelation, while it can certainly be distinguished between NL and special, cannot be severed from one another because together, they constitute the

    total redeeming work of God.

    Similarly, goodness, while it also can be distinguished between proximate and eschatological, cannot be severed from one another because together, they constitute the

    total redeeming work of God.

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  63. Eliza, please answer the question (which you never do). Will the Bible be more effective than NL with homosexuals? Or does your use of it simply put you in the pious cat bird’s seat?

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  64. Eliza, the blindspot for you and all who would that the Bible settle matters is the category of human sin. But the argument here is similar to Paul’s in Romans 7. The point for Paul isn’t to deride the law, as his own hypothetical interlocuters suggest. Similarly, the point here isn’t to suggest the Bible is worthless, as our real interlocuters accuse. In both cases it’s to highlight the reality of human sin and how that reality makes the reading of both special and natural revelation much more complicated than you let on. Both books are clear, but when the reader is straddled with total depravity it’s not as easy.

    So it could be that your team needs to return to the drawing boards with regard to sin, because from over here it sure looks like your notion of it is less-than-Augustinian-Calvinistic. And, sorry, but with all the hyperventilating anti-2kers do over certain errors, it sure seems like you guys want more to diminish or even eradicate them than “witness to truth.”

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  65. Don, Vos is not talking about culture. He’s talking about revelation. I’m as Vosian as you.

    I do not sever creation and redemption. I am trying simply to follow our Lord when he said that his water gave eternal life. There is a difference between the water the Samaritan woman would have drawn from the well, and the living water she would drink of Christ. If you can’t appreciate that difference, I don’t know what biblical theology you are reading. Even the resurrected Lazarus died. The earth fades. The gospel abides.

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  66. “Frankly the champions of proper sexual and reproductive ethics should be paying more attention to NL arguments if they are going to make any headway whatsoever in the legal system, since because the Bible says so, isn’t going to cut the mustard in a courtroom that must uphold the distinction between church and state.”

    Jed, I’m not going to argue about your comments as a whole and I’m not going to escalate the proper formatting war any further but, FYI, natural law isn’t going to cut it much in the courtroom either. To the extent that courts are furthering homosexual rights, they will say something like the following:

    ‘The framers of the Iowa Constitution knew, as did the drafters of the United States Constitution, that “times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress,’ and as our constitution ‘endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom” and equality.”
    – Iowa Supreme Court

    Even in Bowers vs. Hardwick, in which the US Supreme Court upheld an anti-sodomy statute, the majority opinion did not rely on natural law. However then-Chief Justice Burger had a little something for everyone in his concurrence:

    “As the Court notes, ante, at 192, the proscriptions against sodomy have very “ancient roots.” Decisions of individuals relating to homosexual conduct have been subject to state intervention throughout the history of Western civilization. Condemnation of those practices is firmly rooted in Judeao-Christian moral and ethical standards. Homosexual sodomy was a capital crime under Roman law. See Code Theod. 9.7.6; Code Just. 9.9.31. See also D. Bailey, Homosexuality [478 U.S. 186, 197] and the Western Christian Tradition 70-81 (1975). During the English Reformation when powers of the ecclesiastical courts were transferred to the King’s Courts, the first English statute criminalizing sodomy was passed. 25 Hen. VIII, ch. 6. Blackstone described “the infamous crime against nature” as an offense of “deeper malignity” than rape, a heinous act “the very mention of which is a disgrace to human nature,” and “a crime not fit to be named.” 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *215. The common law of England, including its prohibition of sodomy, became the received law of Georgia and the other Colonies. In 1816 the Georgia Legislature passed the statute at issue here, and that statute has been continuously in force in one form or another since that time. To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”

    But even someone like Scalia, a conservative Catholic, shies away from natural law.

    I don’t pretend to have a comprehensive view of this subject. If others can show where natural law has had a role in the recent judicial decisions, I would be interested to see that.

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  67. Michael,

    To a degree, I’d agree, however, NL (and related ethical) arguments are key in establishing notions of personhood and potentiality for personhood. Even though NL has fallen out of fashion over the last 150 years, after the takeover of Kant, the fact is it is in our constitutional legacy. I realize that Hobbes and Locke’s version of NL looks a lot different than say Thomistic formulae, we can’t deny its place in American jurisprudential history.

    The fact that older constitutional arguments have fallen out of fashion is more of a commentary on the impact of progressivism than it is over the validity of NL arguments. FWIW, I have had similar misgivings over the pragmatic implications of attempting NL arguments in today’s legal system. It is an uphill battle, however, with the rise of constitutional originalists among Libertarians, I don’t think we can simply dismiss NL argumentation simply because of the current ideological environment. We are seeing the breakdown of progressivist and relativist programs even now, and I do think this leaves the door open for NL arguments to resurface. NL prospects are looking a whole lot better than dominionist programs that want Scripture to norm the secular sphere. But, that’s not saying much.

    I’d be happy to hear your thoughts here, and invite further pushing.

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  68. BTW, NL advocates will have to balance notions of which portions of NL ethics should norm society, and which ones shouldn’t. Personnally, I think the framers got it right in the simple rubric of life, liberty, and property rights. I am not a adamant advocate of legislating sexual norms that do not deprive a person of these higher order ideals (life, liberty, property). This would mean that while NL would claim that homosexuality is immoral, it might not be in the best interest of the state, whose mandate is to protect liberty, to jump into those waters.

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  69. Darryl, you don’t sever creation and redemption meaning that you agree that God is redeeming or restoring, as opposed to destroying and completely replacing, His creation (what I see Vos saying)?

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  70. DGH:
    Please answer the questions I posed first.

    Jed:
    I never denied the existence of natural law. It is what all people who have never seen Scripture or heard it will be held accountable for. Please. I don’t deny it. But as John Frame says, eventually, when people will not accept your take on natural law (“No,” says the homosex person, “there is nothing unnatural about it”) you won’t have much else to say. Somehow the fact that not all Christians believe the same things (there are Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, etc.) is supposed to show me the pointlessness of using the Bible to show anybody anything. That is, of course, what I meant by the Bible being “equally worthless”. I thought you would understand that.
    Per your remark about “sex talk” and how NL always seems to get on to abortion and homosex behavior, it’s probably because these are hot issues in our society right now (as opposed to tattoos or facial hair). Why does it bother you that people bring up such topics? I know duct tape works on a lot of things, but it doesn’t work on heart problems, so when duct tape is proposed as the given solution, why cry Unfair if someone says it just doesn’t work for cardiac arrest?

    Zrim: Who are “my team” and why do you characterize it as “hyperventilating”?

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  71. Jed:
    To avoid misunderstanding, I’m trying to provide a little illumination on what “is” rather than what ought to be. You probably know the current dynamic in the higher courts: those who seek to interpret the constitution as it was originally intended vs. those who insert their values into a living, breathing document. It’s the latter that are the bane of evangelicals and, ironically, it’s the latter who have a notion closest to natural law – not in content, but insofar as their is some appeal to higher, enduring principles that must be read into the constitution. So you have the original intent jurists suspicious of imputing values into the constitution, and those who impute values doing so on a basis quite different than natural law. In short, if you’re hoping for a judicial shift to natural law that hope will be more sustainable if you’re a postmillenialist.

    Can natural law ever be a potent judicial force in a modern pluralistic society? I don’t think so.

    Here’s a segment from Roe vs. Wade:

    “There has always been strong support for the view that life does not begin until live’ birth. This was the belief of the Stoics. It appears to be the predominant, though not the unanimous, attitude of the Jewish faith. It may be taken to represent also the position of a large segment of the Protestant community, insofar as that can be ascertained; organized groups that have taken a formal position on the abortion issue have generally regarded abortion as a matter for the conscience of the individual and her family. As we have noted, the common law found greater significance in quickening. …The Aristotelian theory of “mediate animation,” that held sway throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, continued to be official Roman Catholic dogma until the 19th century, despite opposition to this “ensoulment” theory from those in the Church who would recognize the existence of life from the moment of conception….” ”

    In light of this kind of overview, the skeptic might say “if there is a natural law, wouldn’t it have been the consensus for a pretty long stretch of history?” If certain truths are transcendent, universal, and accessible by all why is there a relatively small number of people saying so instead of a large number saying so? Now, you can say the same is true of attitudes toward the Bible but I thought one of the advantage of natural law is its persuasiveness in the common realm.

    Really, I’d like to be persuaded.

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  72. Iowa is a great place to view the good, the bad, and the ugly of evangelical politics. Above I quoted from a decision of the Iowa Supreme court that legalized gay marriage in Iowa. In Iowa, justices are appointed but then retained by popular vote. Retention is normally won with about 70% of the vote. After that decision the evangelicals rallied behind unsuccessful gubernatorial aspirant Bob Vander Plaats and voted out three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court. I was surprised when this story got so little national publicity. Since then we’ve had to endure one of the justices going everywhere he can get invited to play the martyr card. I know him a little bit, and I can only say “blech!”

    IMO there was a valid reason to oust them: defective judicial philosophy. But more than likely the results were dictated by reasons visceral, not philosophical.

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  73. Eliza, yours is the team that, to whatever degree, thinks that the Bible will either diminish or even solve the reality of social and political ills, the reality of the human condition be damned or at least quite ignored. But if it doesn’t even do that for the ills for which it is ordained (doctrinal), how will it do so for those for which it isn’t ordained? And I characterize that team as hyperventilating because it’s usually the one, for example, picketing abortion clinics and accusing those who refrain from such behavior for principled reasons and thus show insufficient moral indignation (because that’s what it’s really about) as “unfaithful,” etc. And it’s usually the one fixated on a perceived ubiquitous effeminacy.

    And to add to your exchange with Jed re “sex talk,” your team seems to think that these two issues are the only things going on in the wide world. You call them “hot issues going on in our society right now,” but actually they are only hot amongst your team where each other is mutually built up as being on the right side of righteousness (because that’s what it’s really about). The default setting is moral outrage and, for whatever particular reasons, these two issues are the ones your team hangs its hat on. Other members of your the-Bible-will-tell-us-how to-govern-the-world team choose different issues, of course, and then you all bicker about how the other baptizes his own moral-social-political hobby horses. It can be a fun show up here in the 2k rafters, but most times it just really bums me out.

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  74. Eliza, I did answer your question. I said homosexuals are wrong. What exactly don’t you understand about “wrong”?

    Since you read this blog you know many of the answers. Your questions are meant to be assertions. So why not answer mine? Could it be you don’t have an answer?

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  75. Eliza, btw, after you’ve exhausted NL with an unbeliever and you follow Frame’s advice and open the pages of Scripture, will you be surprised when you look up to see that the unbeliever is no longer in the room?

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  76. Zrim said ” your team seems to think that these two issues are the only things going on in the wide world.”

    And, here’s the thing, Zrim: I don’t know how much longer anti-abortion will be able to unify the team. The fact is that Roe v. Wade is not going to be reversed. The window of opportunity for that closed in the 80’s (if I recall correctly). So there are single issue voters whose single issue is largely moot, but they are insisting that others also be single issue voters nonetheless. Really, political evangelicalism has needed abortion to be unified. It will interesting to see if they can stay together after they realize abortion is moot.

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  77. MM, agreed. In a word, it seems to me the issue has simply become fodder for identity politics. And my own concern is how a political movement continues to go unchecked and baptized as orthodoxy even in otherwise conservative Reformed circles. I often wonder if we understand that even the highest temporal good, life itself, can be idolized. Many conservative Reformed show an ability to see through something like the family values movement, which tends to idolizes the highest temporal institution, but somehow when it comes to this one everyone turns all eeeevangelical.

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  78. DGH:
    Your answer to the homosex person who doesn’t agree with your take on NL, is well, it’s wrong! Can’t you tell him how you know that? Mention the Bible teaching? You’re afraid he/she will be out the door? No one comes into the world believing the Word of God (except the Word of God Himself).

    Your question that you say I won’t answer: will the Bible be more effective than NL? Very possibly. The Word will not return void. Maybe it will be convicting, maybe not, that’s God prerogative. Don’t you think that means it ought to be employed to help people come to a knowledge of the truth? To be convicted of their sins? (These are indeed rhetorical questions which I do not expect you to answer). Since we know Scripture, and since it is the rule of faith and life for all people (not just Christians), I think we should use it. No one becomes a Christian by trying to give up his/her sins, but people generally come to Christ because they see they are lost and in need of something other than their feeble efforts.

    MMann: I like Helen Thomas’s courage. So thank you. But I’m not Jewish or elderly. Yet.

    Zrim: Please stop the “team” business. By no means do I think abortion and homosexuality are the only two issues in our society. Unjust war is another biggie, for example. I’d love to see it discussed on this and other blogs. And I’ve never picketed an abortion clinic but I would encourage others to do so, as long as they are polite and totally nonviolent. I applaud men like Rob Gagnon who is spending huge amounts of time and effort to uphold Biblical teaching on homosexuality and who seems to have an amazing faith in the Bible to change people’s hearts.

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  79. Eliza, but your prerogative living here and now is to calculate what may be more persuasive, not for the ultimate ends of heaven and hell, but for the sake of order and stability and living lives of tranquility. So you may want to raise the stakes with unbelievers, but why do you have to do that? And don’t you see that by doing so you are making your self a pain in the neck? Think Good Samaritan, not David Bayly.

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  80. Darryl, if I can merge a couple thoughts here, it will actually be very interesting to see how evangelicals deal with abortion once they have realized that political strategy is futile. That approach is all about rhetoric, lobbying, strategy, and raw power; in short, the tools of “the world.” If the political avenue is closed off, will evangelicals even be able to be the Good Samaritan to those they have vilified and fought for political ends?

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  81. MM, at the same time, the flip side is the question of why evangelicals feel compelled to treat public policy matters as forms of evangelism or apologetical confrontation. Why isn’t citizenship a viable posture for conservative Protestants? Could it be the collapse of 2 kingdoms into 1? Hey, I think I’m on to something there.

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  82. Eliza, I wouldn’t encourage someone from public behavior I consider unbecoming and obnoxious and finally ineffective, even if perfectly lawful. But I also wouldn’t accuse those who do of being unfaithful. Your continued accusation that this side of the table thinks “the Bible is useless” comes pretty close to the kind of blustering against those who have another view of public comportment as unfaithful.

    I’m glad to hear you think there’s more than the politics of sex. But, at the same time, the point isn’t to simply expand the repertoire of culture war but to question it categorically as a function of being too tied to the cares of this word. Richard Gaffin’s term is a fully detached involvement (or a fully involved detachment), which basically means we do care about the goings on in the world, but it’s a care tempered by a sober and realistic assessment of both human ability and just what the temporal order can really afford. Which means sometimes your opponents win the day and things don’t shake out the way you’d prefer. Oh well, come back another day. I don’t know much about Gagnon, but by the way you describe his work I’ll take Gaffin.

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  83. Darryl, You answered my question with a another question — pretty cagey. I have thought about it. What Jesus did was to affirm the goodness of His creation using water, bread and wine as the means through which the knowledge and certainty of the gifts of cleansing, regeneration, and renewal (living water, and the body and blood of Christ) are received. He did the same thing when He turned water into wine and ate fish with His disciples in His resurrected body. When heaven and earth are one in the eschaton, Scripture tells us that the corruptible and perishable will become incorruptible and imperishable.

    Are you saying that this will only happen to the dust of the earth that constitutes man, but the remainder of creation which as God’s gift to and very context for man will be destroyed and replaced by something with which there is no continuity?

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  84. MM,

    I’ll put a few more cards on the table, I think you are assuming political continuity in the US, which has been in place for the last century, and especially post-war (WWII), I do not. I think that the economic realities that have surfaced since 2008 aren’t easily remedied, and this will cause no small amount of social upheaval in the coming years. This will open new avenues for social and political dialogue as the social contract deteriorates, and there are going to be continued opportunity for citizens to take a hard look into our history for answers for tomorrow.

    With the rise of libertarian and constitutional ideals, there will be a whole segment of society that will be pushing for older political ideals. Some interesting ideas are being floated over at the financial/political blog zerohedge, while some of the commenters are beyond crass, there is a rising young segment of society that is calling shennanigans on the whole notion of relativism in the political system. While there may not be a straight line from these guys to Thomistic NL, I do believe that the work of newer and old NL theorists represent an ideology that might be a viable counterbalance to the status quo. Here’s an extended quote from Mr. Cheney’s Victory Lap – –

    In today’s America—where egalitarianism was once considered to be the cornerstone of our society—the application of the rules and regulations decreases as you go up the pyramid.

    See, it’s not that the rules have vanished as you rise up the pyramid—the rules and regulations are still there: It’s just that they’re not applied to those closer to the top of the pyramid, as Mr. Cheney knows so well.

    Why is this? Why have we lost our egalitarianism? Why have we lost our equality before the law?

    I think it’s because we have lost our moral self-confidence: The confidence which gives us the ability to say out loud and with a firm voice, “This here is right, while that there is wrong.”

    Starting with the 1970’s, our society has marinated in the notion that no one has a right to judge how you live: You can do your own thing, to borrow the phrase from the time. Not only does society not have the right to judge the way you live as to its rightness or wrongness—society does not have the right to judge you.

    But of course: Judgment is the necessary ingredient for making moral decisions. You need judgment in order to decide what is wrong and what is right. Without moral judgment, all decisions are reduced to either a hedonistic calculus (how much pleasure will I get from this action, as opposed to how much pain, nevermind if it’s right or wrong), a cost-benefit analysis (how much would it cost me to do this as opposed to that, nevermind if it’s right or wrong), or to a political decision (whose support would I win or lose if I did this or that, nevermind if it’s right or wrong).

    Without moral judgment, our decisions ultimately turn us from citizens with a common purpose, into nihilistic actors looking out for ourselves and no one else.

    More troublingly, without moral judgment, our lives become untethered from fixed principles, and therefore constantly reactive to the people around us. We become dependent on what others think of us—slaves to public opinion.

    (As a parenthesis: We shouldn’t be surprised, if our culture has turned so many of us into raging narcissists. Without a fixed moral benchmark from which to render judgment, we are as untethered as free-floating balloons—and therefore must gauge our place in society not by what we believe, but rather by what other people believe about us. Thus we have to constantly, obsessively examine and re-examine the registry of what others say about us. No surprise, then, the popularity of the social networks, such as Facebook, etc.: They give us feedback as to what other people think about us, and thereby help us gauge and measure our place in our ever-shifting society. Think of it as a school of minnows, everyone swimming in the same, ever-shifting direction, everyone constantly terrified of swimming against the school.)

    Since we don’t allow ourselves to tell right from wrong—since we don’t allow ourselves to make moral judgments—we cannot make fine-tuned moral distinctions: We lose proportionality, and moral perspective. We cannot discern that a minor shoving match at a bar is not an “assault”, while shelling people with radioactive munitions is in fact a war crime. We cannot tell the difference—or see the similarities—between robbing a hundred bucks with a gun, and robbing a $1,000,000,000 with a lawyer.

    It is thinking like this that has opened the door for NL type thinking to gain traction in the public sphere. Unlike transformationalists and theonomists, I don’t see pursuing this sort of social project as redemptive, but it might help make the world a better place for my kids and grandkids, than the current scene. I think that NL can accommodate certain kinds of pluralism, and needs to for a free society to flourish, but I also think that the current state of affairs is untenable over the long haul.

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  85. Interesting stuff, Jed. Please work in your economic studies whenever possible.

    Now, yes, I do assume continuity because it’s hard to talk about these things if there are apocalyptic wildcards in the deck. That’s not to say I discount those possibilities. Personally, I have serious doubts that my apparent future security in the form of retirement benefits and social security will be there when they are supposed to be. In addition, since the Rodney King riots I am inclined to think our civilized veneer could quickly disappear in a time of deep financial crisis. But people look at you funny when you talk like this, so I don’t. (Lest anyone think this is a personality trait of mine, I didn’t jump onto the y2k bandwagon, didn’t buy into Camping’s fortunetelling, don’t hang out with conspiracy theorists, and don’t think Obama is about to stamp our foreheads with “666”.)

    But given the wildcard as you have played it, doesn’t NL need a fairly long gestation period before it takes a significant place in the USA? A time of drastic upheaval, insecurity, and uncertainty seems more likely to result in a quick trade of liberty for security and a grant of power to anyone that can convincingly promise those or simply seize the reins. But we’re pretty deep into speculation here. In terms of future possibilities, I’d gladly take NL over theonomy or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

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  86. Don, what I’m saying is I don’t know. And what you seem to be saying is that you do know when it seems to me you cannot know. Imagine this — a world of men and women and no marriage or sex (apparently), since Jesus said there will be no giving or receiving in marriage in the new heavens and new earth. That sounds like discontinuity to me.

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  87. MM,

    ‘People’ tend to cast funny looks when 2kers assert that the church should stay out of the affairs of the state, so funny looks aren’t a deterrent as far as I am concerned. I am not here to say what apocalyptic future lies ahead, but as an amill with a fairly dim view of the confluence of politics and human nature, I do believe there will come a day when it all hits the proverbial fan and never recovers. I don’t pretend to know when that day comes, but I can always hope that it portends the return of our Lord.

    However, from an economic standpoint, we certainly aren’t immune from the upheavals that resulted from the Great Depression. It seems that capitalism, every couple of generations needs a re-set in order to clear the toxicity out of the market. While the Great Depression was, as an event in itself a very bad thing that devastated our economy for a decade, there was a whole lot of social good that came out of the ‘greatest generation’. Some workable policies from a socio-politico-economic standpoint came out of this as well, but all human political/economic dogmas have inherent flaws that they cannot properly anticipate, that will plague it down the line. The welfare state, fractional reserve banking, fiat currency could be some of these sort of ideas that had short term benefits to the system (or at least perceived benefits), that in the end aren’t sustainable. Hence the reset. Could this lead the public to simply surrender the social contract in order to obtain security and bread? Sure, absolutely, and it has happened in the past. However, historically it has gone the other way as well.

    I do know this though, we (especially those of us that were born after the boomers), have been incubated in a culture that has bred unparalleled social complacency and narcissism. This cannot always innoculate us from the happenings in the world. There have been plenty of epochs of upheval and radical social change, and we are simply foolish if we believe that such events are incapable of reaching our doorstep.

    As an American, I have a fundamental commitment to political and economic freedom. I refuse to baptize these as Christian ideals, or to try to imminentize the eschaton based on my own notions of what that age will be. However, as a citizen of this world in this small slice of time, I do believe it is worthwhile to aim for a social contract that maximizes freedom, as opposed to minimizes it. It is a worthy temporal good. If I were a pastor, I might have a more laissez faire attitude to the happenings in the political arena, since that is inherent to the call. However, as a dual citizen, I think it’s a good thing to at least attempt engaging the civil square in efforts for a more equitable system – knowing full well that I have no unequivocal biblical mandate to back my political and economic theories, and that they might be just as suceptable to long term flaws as any other ideology is. That, IMO is the transitory nature of life in the temporal realm, but for now we all must live in it.

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  88. MM,

    But given the wildcard as you have played it, doesn’t NL need a fairly long gestation period before it takes a significant place in the USA?

    Probably, but like any ideology, it rarely takes the world by storm immediately, it starts a a few thinkers coalesce around similar ideals, and then grassroots movements, and then popular acceptance. If it doesn’t move into the realm of popular acceptance, it may never stick as a broad movement, but it will still have some impact on social discourse. It isn’t as if National Socialism, or Communism, or Constitutional Democracies appeared out of thin air, neither would a return to something more rooted in NL. It might not ever take, and if that is how it plays out, so be it, but it is worth putting out there as a viable alternative, IMO.

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  89. James Jordan : “The Noahic Covenant was not addressed to man as man, but to covenant-man, to the Church. The benefits and duties of the Noahic Covenant are not addressed to all mankind, but only to believers.

    JJ: God says that His people may eat the flesh of any animal, clean or unclean, except that they are not to eat the blood with it (9:3-4). Of course, unbelievers after the Flood ate meat also (and perhaps before the Flood as well), but this grant is not specifically made for them. The unbelievers are not entitled to eat meat except insofar as they are under the “spillover” of the Noahic Covenant.

    JJ: God says that He will require the blood of His people from the hands of those who slay them, specifically from the hand of “every man’s brother” (9:5). This is a direct allusion back to Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. God did not require Abel’s blood at the hand of Cain, and protected Cain. God allowed Cain and the unbelievers to remain “inside” the covenant grant before the Flood, but now things are going to be different. No longer are murderers protected. Instead, they are to be cut out of the world, removed from it by means of execution. Now, in a Christian theocracy we would also put to death anyone who murdered an unbeliever, but this is part of the “spillover” of the covenant. The covenant and its provisions are actually addressed only to believers. God says here that if the courts do not act to avenge His saints, He will do so Himself: “I will require . . . I will require . . . I will require”!

    JJ: The reason a Flood won’t be necessary in the future is that believers will take care of problems as they arise, and unbelievers will never again be able to control the world. “Whoever sheds covenant-man’s blood, by covenant-man his blood shall be shed” (v. 6). This is the only possible way to read this verse in context: The only “men” in existence at this point are covenant people. God has not given to the heathen the “right” to bear the sword and execute capital punishment. What makes it clear that the wicked are not given the right to rule is that they are designated “slaves of slaves” in verse 25. They are removed from rule.

    http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/biblical-horizons/no-19-who-rules-the-land-the-meaning-of-the-noahic-covenant-part-1/

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