Authors, Editors, and Readers

One of John Frame’s implicit complaints about two-kingdom theology is that its proponents are not as forthright as they should be about the Lordship of Christ or even about their own Christian profession. In his new book, he writes:

Too often, in ethical debate, Christians sound too much like unbelievers. They reason as if they and their opponents are both operating on the same principle: human rational autonomy. I believe they almost inevitably give this false impression when they are reasoning according to natural law alone. Only when the Christian goes beyond natural law and begins to talk about Jesus as the resurrected king of kings does his witness become distinctively Christian. At that point, of course, he is reasoning from Scripture, not from natural revelation alone.

A recent post by Peter Leithart for First Things‘ “On the Square” reminded me of Frame’s lament. Leithart was writing about empires in a positive light, hence his title “Toward a Sensible Discussion of Empire.” For the politically challenged, a sensible discussion of empire may be necessary since folks on the Left and the Right are not fans of the tyranny and overreach that usually comes with imperial administrations. Paleo-conservatives particularly lament the loss of the United States’ salad days as a republic and its emergence as the helicopter-mom nation-state. Among Leithart’s “sensible” thoughts are these:

6) American hegemony is not an undiluted evil. In some respects, it is a good, and preferable to many of the conceivable alternatives. America is the linchpin of a global economic system that has improved the lives of millions. We are still a beacon of liberty, our military has effectively defeated evil regimes and delivered the weak, and we continue to be an asylum for the oppressed. The world reaps more favors from American hegemony than it wants to admit. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and the neoconservatives are right. . . .

8) America has often acted very badly. Noam Chomsky is right too. Native Americans have many legitimate complaints against the U.S., as do Latin American countries.While we Americans congratulated ourselves for our Christian charity in civilizing the Philippines, other Americans were killing Filipinos or herding them into concentration camps. For decades, we have deliberately dropped bombs on civilians and slaughtered hundreds of thousands. Sometimes we are merely foolish or short-sighted, as when we propped up Saddam Hussein or spread Islamicist propaganda to inspire the mujahedeen to fight the Soviets. And culture warriors should worry more about our export of domestic pathologies: If violent and sexually explicit entertainment, abortion, and an aggressive homosexual lobby threaten our culture, they aren’t good for the rest of the world either.

9) The benefits from empires do not excuse the behavior of empires. We cannot give ourselves a pass on international folly and injustice by congratulating ourselves on the good things we do.

As much as I may debate Leithart’s thoughts about empire — they are not surprising, after all, from a fellow who wrote a positive biography of a Roman emperor — the point here is whether the Federal Visionist (which means some kind sympathy for the Christ-is-Lord form of public argument) is as forthrightly Christian as John Frame thinks believers need to be. Notice that Leithart says nothing about Christ as king of kings. Notice also that his criteria for judging the American empire all come from non-biblical criteria.

Now, the additional point is not that Leithart is a hypocrite or that Frame is selective in the writers whom he throws under the Lordship of Christ bus. It is instead that authors write for editors and audiences and need to couch their language and arguments in terms acceptable to the editors and plausible to the readers. This isn’t a matter of the right apologetic method or a consistent epistemology. It is a case of either getting published or not, of being understood or not. If Leithart had come to the editors of First Things with arguments in a distinctively neo-Calvinist idiom, they would likely not have published him.

Perhaps that means that Christians should not write for religiously, epistemologically, or the-politically mixed publications. Indeed, it does seem that Frame’s arguments run directly in the fundamentalist direction of not having anything to do with associations where a believer might have to hide his faith under a bushel (NO!). But if Christian authors, even neo-Calvinist inclined ones, are going to write for publications not edited by Andrew Sandel or Ken Gentry or the faculty of Dort College, they may need to use rhetoric and arguments that are not pedal-to-the-metal Christian.

For this reason, I am surprised that John Frame can’t appreciate why 2k writers sound the way they do, or appeal to natural law arguments the way they do. He himself lauds the book reviews of secular publications as a model for his own engagement with the so-called Escondido theology:

To me, a review was, when possible, an occasion for careful analysis of an author’s thought and an exchange of views between the author and myself. My models here came from publications like the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and National Review. The Christian magazine Books and Culture is another source of reviews that thoughtfully interact with a writer’s ideas.

If Frame is used to reading non-Christian sources, and even finds in them a model of intellectual engagement, then I am surprised that he can sound so condemning of 2k writers for apparently betraying Christ’s claims upon all of life. Then again, I am surprised that a man who uses the New Yorker or Atlantic as models for book reviewing numbers the paragraphs in his own reviews.

55 thoughts on “Authors, Editors, and Readers

  1. dgh: “Indeed, it does seem that Frame’s arguments run directly in the fundamentalist direction of not having anything to do with associations where a believer might have to hide his faith under a bushel (NO!).”

    mcmark: They don’t even call themselves “theonomists” anymore. And for good reason, since they don’t want to be associated with some others who also call themselves “theonomists”. Some of those old “theonomists” still even taught a law-gospel antithesis, and taught that justification was not by works we do. They had not yet learned from Shepherd and Gaffin that the law-grace antithesis has been overcome for those “united” to Christ.

    Of course I am still very curious about the word “fundamentalist”. But again, some few of the fundies are separationists, other fundies sound “theonomic”, and other fundies sound like 2k pragmatists (Bob Jones for Romney). This is not to say that all 2k folk are alike, but rather it’s to say that even fundamentalists don’t want to be called that, for fear that you might think they are like some other fundamentalists.

    That some of us “want nothing to do with” that place you have up on the hill (with Mike Gerson) is NOT necessarily “hiding our faith under a basket”. Indeed, separation (coming out) can be a very clear way of expressing the faith. Methinks Machen was doing that in the creation of the mission board.

    But some would say it’s only being “fundy” when you “excommunicate yourself” by separating from them. Machen was put out, so therefore not a “fundy”. But he provoked them…. the debate goes on.

    Ever since I read Gundry’s book on John and sectarianism, I have very much wanted to be known as a fundy. But I don’t believe in freewill, I am not premill, I am not even Zionist, I like to read novels and watch movies. And like DGH, all my debates are not really with fundies but with “evangelicals”. But it’s ad hoc and I won’t admit that I need for there to be “evangelicals” for me to know where I am.

    Well, we all say that Jesus is Lord. For some of us that means that “the Ten Commandments tell us what to do and we do it better than you do.”. For others of us “Christ is Lord” means that Christ is identified by the doctrine taught by Christ Himself, so that he is Lord of our doctrine and this means that we agree with Him that He only died for the Sheep. And then I suppose, for others of us, “Jesus is Lord” means both things. Jesus is Lord in the church, but if you want to have some influence then you need to translate even what the Ten Commandments say into something that unbelievers can understand. And if you don’t think it’s your job to move history in the right direction, and you say that out loud, then you’re hiding what you could be doing under an over-realized eschatology.


  2. I guess it’s hard to be epistemologically self-consistent.

    But I am surprised you numbered one of your paragraphs with an emoticon. (8 plus right parenthesis equals Mr. Sunscreen.)


  3. One reason I am not a reformed is that I don’t believe in an apologetic approach which translates God-talk into democracy-talk in order to “get more influence” or to “have a ministry to them”.

    If you get in a pot with boiling Arminians, you will get burnt before you cool them down. You will also begin to defend the Arminianism that you tolerate.

    I will not be voting for Obama or Romney, just like I was not voting for Obama or McCain. This is the best possible political statement to make when there is nobody to vote for, and everybody is worth voting against.

    Luther got the help of the magistrates, slowed down the iconoclasm and some other reforms, and waited for the peasants to stop getting themselves killed and instead come to the means of grace.. If we don’t take the gradual approach, Luther argued, we won’t have a church at all. No magistrate, no church. Not that the magistrate gets to tell us what to believe anymore, but we need to confess stuff to him in such a way that we can gain his support and he will give us our liberty. I mean, it’s not realistic to be taking up the cross all the time, before the time for that kind of thing.


  4. Frame’s comments are one thing entirely, and frankly he is just being Framean here, nothing too terribly alarming here. But Leithart’s advocacy for Imperialism is more than a little disturbing, even if it isn’t shocking. Rome also brought incredible advance, but typically for a smaller segment of society as a vast majority bore the burden of Rome’s advances in blood, sweat, and tears.The FV’s infatuation with Constantinainism seems to neglect the rejection of Empire throughout scripture. While these institutions do exist under God’s providential rule, and Christians owe appropriate measures of submission to the magistrate, the centralizing and ubiquitous impulse of Empire is a problem in Scripture as the Empire and her rulers eventually end up usurping (or attempting to) Divine prerogatives and destroy the ethical framework held up in the Law that is intended to protect individuals, especially those without means to defense or other material recourse, from undue oppression. Empires historically, in Scripture and thereafter have always made worship a difficult prospect amongst those who wish to faithfully and quietly live out their lives, as accounts from Daniel to the persecution that the churches in Revelation encountered. Why would the advance of Pax Americana be any different – and how does it escape the critiques offered in Revelation?

    Maybe it is the rampant post-millenialism that is present in the FV that assumes that it is the role of the Church and Christians alike to transform the empire, so to speak. But from the outside, it sure looks a lot like showing up to the shores of the Pacific with a card of matches with the sincere attempt to boil the entire ocean. The fact is, America has long been an imperfect nation, and nowhere has our imperfections been more glaring than in our own impulses for Empire, just ask the Native Americans under Manifest Destiny, or Southeast Asians under the Truman Doctrine, or the multitudes of Arab oil producing nations subjugated to American rule directly or indirectly under the Carter Doctrine (i.e. the worlds oil and energy resources are under the custody of America). The fact of the matter is we have never needed Christianity to exercise this Imperial thrust, it has grown out of human greed and will to power…and the FV, and Leithart included want their bumper sticker on that bus??? Oh, but only the good parts. As if they are divisible from the dark side of the American Imperial project. Will the handful of FV advocates, or whatever similar iteration exists be lauding Empire when the day comes where the Imperial impulse of the West, or East infringes on the most basic rights that they too enjoy?

    It is absolutely mystifying that FV, and their imperial fawnings still recieve safe harbor in parts of the Reformed world, and 2k is treated as a cancer. As an Escondido native, with roots in the community going back to the 1920’s, I can firmly say one of the best things to come out of Escondido is it’s theology (with proud roots in Geneva, Dordt, and Westminster Abbey)- even if only a handful of Escondidoans even know about it, much less care.


  5. Mark,

    I really do not know all the ins and outs of Luther’s dealings with the magistrates but that certainly would be an interesting study for someone to pursue more indepthly. The same with Calvin. I do not think David VanDrunen’s intent was to make judgments about the mistakes or benefits which can come from dealing with magistrates on a regular basis. Both Calvin and Luther did make it a point to develop relationships with the governing powers that be. From a 2K perspective that would make an interesting study for someone. We could all probably learn from the mistakes they both made and whether it should be a strategy for local churches to take in their local communities.


    I am curious now about the Escondido community. Since your family has such deep roots their can you tell us a bit more about it and how the seminary is involved in the community. I have a interest in how local churches should be functioning in their communities and what type of things they can do for the benefit of the communities they find themselves in. Or, if they should just center in on the kindgom of God and not put much effort or involvement in benefiting their local communities in any way they can.


  6. John,

    In terms of community involvement, I am not sure if the Seminary has any official involvement, but the seminary students are engaged in outreach programs to the local colleges, and the great contribution of the Seminary has been in strengthening and planting Reformed churches in the area. I actually grew up only a few blocks from WSC, but attended the large independent evangelical church in Escondido. Most Escondido churches aren’t Reformed by any means, and do not follow what is happening at the Seminary. Michael Horton and WHI seems to have a broader impact in the evangelical world, since it aims to do so.

    The Dutch have always had a large presence in the community, dating all the way back to the earliest days, stemming from the land boom of the 1880’s I believe. They owned a good deal of land, running prominent dairies and ag businesses to start. As the city grew, they prospered through land sales, and many of Escondido’s prominent citizens and local politicians are Dutch. Anyone who lives in a town with a large Dutch contingent knows how interesting it can be, since they maintain hemogony more than the average WASP, but in general they have been a backbone of Escondido commerce and culture – without being obnoxious cultural warriors. Many of these family’s go to the local URC, which was originally a CRC. They have a day school in town, and growing up I had many friends that attended this school. The Dutch community has strong ties into the seminary, and many of them could tell you better than I how much the Seminary means to the town. I am sure the only complaint that the Dutch community has about WSC is that it wasn’t founded earlier. There are some sizeable Dutch communities in CA, especially in agurucutlural areas, and they probably would have appreciated not having to send their seminarians all the way to Grand Rapids or the East Coast.

    As far as the students and faculty, they have always had a pleasant presence in the community. My family was neighbors of one WSC prof, and I would run into students at local restaurants or the pub on Grand ave, where they would be discussing theology over a pint. Their contribution to the town has been in being good neighbors and citizens as much as I can tell, which reflects their 2k theology quite well. All of my interactions with the seminary have been pleasent to say the least. But I wouldn’t say they make a big “splash” in the civic life of the community – just a pleasent ripple, that is best enjoyed under the teaching of some of their alumni in the local churches.

    How Reformed churches are active in Escondido varies from church-to-church. I am not sure if they are involved with the interfaith charity in town or not, but this org does a lot of deed ministry to the needy in the community. But as a general rule most churches in town, even non-Reformed ones keep a pretty low profile officially, not doing more than basic outreach ministry. On the other hand, most of the community leaders are church members. Escondido is a large town with 140k+ in population, but in a lot of ways it’s a bigger town that never stopped behaving like a small town even with the influx of Latino’s who are fairly evenly split between Catholic and charismatic congregations – but the good news is that there is an effort to plant Reformed spanish speaking churches in the area as well.

    I know that was a bit incoherent, and rambly, but I hope that helps.


  7. Jed, as a localist and having lived in Edo for three years, I appreciate your perspective.

    But unless you’re referring to the Irish pub that opened within the last three years on Grand, where did you ever find an establishment serving pints? When I was there we had to go over to the fish restaurant near Trader Joes for a decent “beverage, man.”

    My sense is that Edo lost its charms when it became a suburb of San Diego. Now it is an odd mix of ag town and suburban sprawl. Too bad. It has its charms even if hard to find.


  8. Jed, you’re right, living in city with a large Dutch contingent is certainly interesting. And when it’s neo-Calvinist the 2k peso has a pretty shabby exchange rate. Nevertheless, one fortunate upshot of the misguided notion that heaven implies earth seems to be that earth can be done pretty darn well, even if not any better than any other place on earth. Who says paleos can’t give credit to neos when it’s due? But only one day school in town? Wow, if numbers mean what the big box churchers think then my Dutch beat yours.


  9. Zrim,

    But only one day school in town? Wow, if numbers mean what the big box churchers think then my Dutch beat yours.

    Maybe the West Coast mellowed them out a little, but if you are a Dutch kid in Esco, you are attending Calvin Christian K-12. Actually, a lot of non-reformed sent their kids there too.


  10. I know that dgh was not advocating a more narrow God-talk in the public square but only exposing the generic First Things language as being inconsistent with the triumphalism espoused by those with imperial visions they want to make “public”. But it would be interesting to see
    if we could take what Leithart says to the “church catholic” ( the Romanists on the Supreme Court?) and re-translate them into something more sectarian and/or confessional.

    1) Whether the sword is good or evil depends on its use. So it’s better to have a sword than to be weak in Christ, because being weak is tempting God, it’s like jumping over the mountain and thinking the angels will save your…. It is better to have the power of making them blind instead of being blind yourself, better to starve them out than ever have your own dna covenant children go hungry. You cannot leave “government” to God alone, because God would rather not use bad nation-states to achieve His purposes. So it’s necessary to take at least two swords if you can, and to turn the nation into an empire if you can. And pacifists who claim not to want this power are really dishonest liars and insincere because pacifists are filled with ressentiment and want the power too, as Nietzsche has taught us, but they tell themselves “not yet” because they are too
    cowardly to take enough swords to get the job done now.

    2) Some people have more swords than others, and you really can’t ever have too many swords, and we have seen in history that two are not enough. The power of the Roman empire to put Jesus Christ to death is a necessary corollary to the restraint of evil and to even have a life together.
    Because even if the earth is the Lord’s, you should see the earth if we don’t take dominion of it. And the only way you can do anything of any value now is if you have somebody with a sword backing you up. War is simply politics by other means.

    3) Being an empire will keep your people alive. Except when it doesn’t, because there are exceptions when individuals act on their “theonomic” impulses. But in these situations, you need to be careful not to think of them as non-nations but instead call for a war, just as if everything was still normal.

    4) Those who kill by the sword will live by the sword, and the one and only solution to being weak and threatened is swords because we can’t simply know what providence might bring us, and we don’t want to ever show any weakness. If your neighbor is too loud, sword. If your neighbor is a practicing homosexual, sword. Better for your response to sometimes be “disproportionate” than for you to be abused in any way. Forget those antiquated notions of “just war”. You can’t afford
    for your people to ever become victims, and if it takes genocide to prevent that, you do it, even if the majority disagrees with you, since of course you are doing it for their own good, for their sake.

    5) Never fail to remind the pacifists that they owe you for their right to be pacifists. Tell them they wouldn’t have any freedom to privately object if you had not killed many outsiders as the
    necessary means to that end, so therefore they should shut up. The roads they walk on?– the sword built them. The plays of Shakespeare– the sword made them possible. Smart phones?– there simply would be no “culture” without the sword. If you vote, you agree with the sword.
    If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain. The earth that used to belong to the Lord has now been conquered, and if you accept any benefits from the earth, then you have the empire to thank.

    6) Hitler is better than nothing, and everything God has predestined is legitimate and good, because nothing evil is in God’s sovereign plan. So it is your responsibility not only to submit to but to
    collaborate with the lesser of two evils, because what looks evil is not evil because it is necessary if we are going to have hot showers. We didn’t use to be an empire. And also we didn’t use to have hot
    showers. We didn’t use to have a wonderful magazine like First Things, which is always right, even when it advocates pre-emptive wars on non-military targets.

    7) Of course mistakes were made. Constantine did kill his children. Constantine did wait to get sacramental baptism until just before he died. But we have learned from these mistakes, and we won’t make the same ones again. And never forget that Constantine stopped calling war
    and the death penalty “sacrifices” for the imperial cult. The killing continued, but it was no longer described as sacrifice but seen as more of a practical 2k necessary thing.

    8) Violence is our life, and therefore should not be seen as entertainment in video games and movies. Greed also can be a bad thing, but if we do it together it can work out for us all. Greed is
    more of a matter of the heart, and therefore nothing yet that the empire can do anything about, but we can get rid of homosexuals.

    Skewed yes, and also not exactly the language of Canaan (or of the New Testament) on my part. I agree. The strategy here, that I seem to share with Leithart—if I admit what I am doing, then it’s ok for me to do it.

    I would be interested in the way others would skew things. Hey, Leithart gave us numbers to go by.


  11. Mark,

    Besides the sarcasm that is dripping and drolling all over from your post, I find it hard to decipher exactly what you were trying to say. My point, not that your response was directed towards my post (or, maybe it was), was that both Luther and Calvin made mistakes in their relating to the local magistrates in which historical and social forces made it a necessity for them to decide how best to deal with them. As an Anabaptist and pacifist you obviously do not agree with how anyone in Christiandom has dealt with the state in the past- especially Luther and Calvin who made grave errors in their dealing with the Anabaptists. At least that is the way I would read it but I say that without really knowing what really went down between the warring factions. I get that you do not agree with how the magisterial reformers dealt with the issue but refresh my memory in how a Anabaptist and pacifist believes that Christians should relate to the state.


  12. Jed,

    That was interesting about Escondido. I did not realize it was inhabited by so many Dutch decendants. Was Clowney a former local who had his eye on the land they are on for a long time? Do you know the story of how they got the land and why they picked the location they are on?


  13. My friend John!— read some of those anabaptist history books I sent you. You are correct that my sarcasm was directed to the federal visionist employee of Doug Wilson, and not at all to you.

    George H. Williams wrote the biggest and most complete book on all the varieties of the “Radical Reformation.” But I like Don Durnbaugh’s (Believers Church) quotation from Martin Luther ( 1526):

    “The third kind of service should be a truly evangelical order and should not be held in a public place for all sorts of people. But those who want to be Christians in earnest and who profess the gospel with hand and mouth should sign their names and meet alone in a house somewhere to pray, to read, to baptize, to receive the sacrament, and do other Christian works. According to this order, those who do not lead Christian lives could be known, reproved, corrected, cast out, or excommunicated, according to the rule of Christ, Matthew 18. Here would be no need of much and elaborate singing. Here one could set out a brief and neat order for baptism and the sacrament and center everything on the Word, prayer, and love….”

    Luther changed his mind later. He kept thinking, you know, as some of us do. One would hardly expect Luther to say out loud in sixteenth century Europe that there were any non-Christians among those who had been baptized as infants and who populated the magisterial church(es) of his day. But no matter what Luther had in mind when he made this distinction, the notion of two “classes” of Christians would never be acceptable to the anabaptists Luther had banished and killed.

    Luther later concluded that his vision of churches comprised entirely of believers “was an impractical dream, and that to be realistic, given the mixed multitude, he would have to turn to the prince in order to get on with the task of securing the Reformation.”


  14. Despite the fact that Robert Gundry is an Arminian with a false gospel who denies imputation and strict substitutionary atonement (the sins of the elect only charged to Christ), I would recommend his very interesting book “Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian”

    His three underlying theses are: 1) Jesus is the Word to the world in spite of itself; 2) the Gospel of John is primarily for believers as the elect (p.52, 56); 3) The love of God is not universal (pg. 62-3).
    Gundry argues that an exegesis of John and his vision of the Christian community naturally flows from a view of Christ that is separatist toward the world. Gundry states, “The Fourth Gospel is unalterably countercultural and sectarian.” (p 64)


  15. John, I quoted Schleithem before, but I don’t remember which thread. Don’t forget that I affirm the First London Baptist Confession on the gospel. And remember that Schleithem does not represent all anabaptists everywhere. There were some in Munster who baptized only those old enough to be willing to use the sword to secure and bring in their “theonomic” (and sabbatarian) kingdom. Baptist reconstructionists with a vision of how to stop being “weak in Christ”. Remind you of anyone?

    schleithem IV. We are agreed (as follows) on separation: A separation shall be made from the evil and from the wickedness which the devil planted in the world; in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them (the wicked) and not run with them in the multitude of their abominations. This is the way it is: Since all who do not walk in the obedience of faith, and have not united themselves with God so that they wish to do His will, are a great abomination before God, it is not possible for anything to grow or issue from them except abominable things. For truly all creatures are in but two classes, good and bad, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those who (have come) out of the world, God’s temple and idols, Christ and Belial; and none can have part with the other.

    To us then the command of the Lord is clear when He calls upon us to be separate from the evil and thus He will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters.

    He further admonishes us to withdraw from Babylon and earthly Egypt that we may not be partakers of the pain and suffering which the Lord will bring upon them.

    From this we should learn that everything which is not united with our God and Christ cannot be other than an abomination which we should shun and flee from. By this is meant all Catholic and Protestant works and church services, meetings and church attendance, drinking houses, civic affairs, the oaths sworn in unbelief and other things of that kind, which are highly regarded by the world and yet are carried on in flat contradiction to the command of God, in accordance with all the unrighteousness which is in the world. From all these things we shall be separated and have no part with them for they are nothing but an abomination.

    Therefore there will also unquestionably fall from us the unchristian, devilish weapons of force – such as sword, armor and the like, and all their use (either) for friends or against one’s enemies – by virtue of the Word of Christ.

    V. We are agreed as follows on pastors in the church of God: The pastor in the church of God shall, as Paul has prescribed, be one who out-and-out has a good report of those who are outside the faith. This office shall be to read, to admonish and teach, to warn, to discipline, to ban in the church, to lead out in prayer for the advancement of all the brethren and sisters, to lift up the bread when it is to be broken, and in all things to see to the care of the body of Christ, in order that it may be built up and developed, and the mouth of the slanderer be stopped.

    This one moreover shall be supported of the church which has chosen him, wherein he may be in need, so that he who serves the Gospel may live of the Gospel. But if a pastor should do something requiring discipline, he shall not be dealt with except (on the testimony of) two or three witnesses. And when they sin they shall be disciplined before all in order that the others may fear.

    But should it happen that through the cross this pastor should be banished or led to the Lord (through martyrdom) another shall be put in his place in the same hour so that God’s little flock and people may not be destroyed.

    VI. We are agreed as follows concerning the sword: The sword is ordained of God outside the perfection of Christ. It punishes and puts to death the wicked, and guards and protects the good. In the Law the sword was ordained for the punishment of the wicked and for their death, and the same (sword) is (now) ordained to be used by the worldly magistrates.

    In the perfection of Christ, however, only the ban is used for a warning and for the excommunication of the one who has sinned, without putting the flesh to death – simply the warning and the command to sin no more.

    Now it will be asked by many who do not recognize (this as) the will of Christ for us, whether a Christian may or should employ the sword against the wicked for the defense and protection of the good, or for the sake of love.

    Our reply is unanimously as follows: Christ teaches and commands us to learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly in heart and so shall we find rest to our souls. Also Christ says to the heathenish woman who was taken in adultery, not that one should stone her according to the Law of His Father (and yet He says, As the Father has commanded me, thus I do), but in mercy and forgiveness and warning, to sin no more. Such (an attitude) we also ought to take completely according to the rule of the ban.

    Secondly, it will be asked concerning the sword, whether a Christian shall pass sentence in worldly disputes and strife such as unbelievers have with one another. This is our united answer. Christ did not wish to decide or pass judgment between brother and brother in the case of the inheritance, but refused to do so. Therefore we should do likewise.

    Thirdly, it will be asked concerning the sword, Shall one be a magistrate if one should be chosen as such? The answer is as follows: They wished to make Christ king, but He fled and did not view it as the arrangement of His Father. Thus shall we do as He did, and follow Him, and so shall we not walk in darkness. For He Himself says, He who wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. Also, He Himself forbids the (employment of) the force of the sword saying, The worldly princes lord it over them, etc., but not so shall it be with you. Further, Paul says, Whom God did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, etc. Also Peter says, Christ has suffered (not ruled) and left us an example, that ye should follow His steps.

    Their citizenship is in this world, but the Christian’s citizenship is in heaven; the weapons of their conflict and war are carnal and against the flesh only, but the Christian’s weapons are spiritual, against the fortification of the devil. The worldlings are armed with steel and iron, but the Christians are armed with the armor of God, with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word of God.

    VII. We are agreed as follows concerning the oath: The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making promises. In the Law it is commanded to be performed in God’s Name, but only in truth, not falsely. Christ, who teaches the perfection of the Law, prohibits all swearing to His (followers), whether true or false – neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by Jerusalem, nor by our head – and that for the reason He shortly thereafter gives, For you are not able to make one hair white or black. So you see it is for this reason that all swearing is forbidden: we cannot fulfill that which we promise when we swear, for we cannot change (even) the very least thing on us.

    Now there are some who do not give credence to the simple command of God, but object with this question: Well now, did not God swear to Abraham by Himself (since He was God) when He promised him that He would be with him and that He would be his God if he would keep His commandments, – why then should I not also swear when I promise to someone? Answer: Hear what the Scripture says: God, since He wished more abundantly to show unto the heirs the immutability of His counsel, inserted an oath, that by two immutable things (in which it is impossible for God to lie) we might have a strong consolation. Observe the meaning of this Scripture: What God forbids you to do, He has power to do, for everything is possible for Him. God swore an oath to Abraham, says the Scripture, so that He might show that His counsel is immutable. That is, no one can withstand nor thwart His will; therefore He can keep His oath. But we can do nothing, as is said above by Christ, to keep or perform (our oaths): therefore we shall not swear at all

    Further some say, Because evil is now (in the world, and) because man needs God for (the establishment of) the truth, so did the apostles Peter and Paul also swear. Answer: Peter and Paul only testify of that which God promised to Abraham with the oath. They themselves promise nothing, as the example indicates clearly. Testifying and swearing are two different things. For when a person swears he is in the first place promising future things, as Christ was promised to Abraham. Whom we a long time afterwards received. But when a person bears testimony he is testifying about the present, whether it is good or evil, as Simeon spoke to Mary about Christ and testified, Behold this (child) is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against.

    Christ also taught us along the same line when He said, Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. He says, Your speech or word shall be yea and nay. (However) when one does not wish to understand, he remains closed to the meaning.

    The Seven Articles of Schleitheim
    Canton Schaffhausen, Switzerland,
    February 24, 1527


  16. John Frame always has more than one frame for everything. Usually three, even if sometimes the difference between the three seem to self-deconstruct.

    For now there are many kings who attempt to oppose King Jesus, but in the end (not yet) they will be as the dust, less than nothing.

    1 Corinthians 15: 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.


  17. DGH,

    Excellent pints were always served at the San Marcos brewery (still there). Now there is the best beer in the world in Escondid: Stone brewery.

    I was going to jump right in with a “Wendell Berry would not agree with Leithart’s reasoning” comment, but you allayed my concerns.

    It is also interesting that as a Van Tilian, Frame is willing to adopt unbelieving methodologies for the purpose of promoting Christianity.


  18. Chris,

    Excellent pints were always served at the San Marcos brewery (still there). Now there is the best beer in the world in Escondid: Stone brewery.

    Truth must be extolled when it is told my friend. There’s also a pub in San Marcos that has one of the finest beer menu’s around, and the food is good too. If WSC-ers want to make the 10 minute drive to talk over a quality pint at an old world style pub, Churchill’s is a great place to go – tell them to say hi to the owner (Ivan), from his old regular Jed, I am sure he will get a kick out of that.


  19. McMark,

    Loved the sarcasm – maybe it takes a dark (very dark) sense of humor to track, but I got a belly laugh out of it. Just think, if we all pool our efforts, we can be proud contributors to such a lovely dystopia! Who says Empire’s aren’t the province of Christians?


  20. Darryl,

    I have not read Frame’s book, but I appreciate the issue that he describes concerning the way some Christians interact with the unbelieving world in the following quote:

    They reason as if they and their opponents are both operating on the same principle: human rational autonomy.

    I do not think you are engaging with Frame’s argument when you cite a quote from Leithart who uses “non-biblical” language or Frame who uses “non-Christian sources” as examples of how they too tone down their language so that they can be published for larger audiences.

    My concern (not sure if this is Frame’s point or not) is not with the terms that are being used, but with the reasoning that is being used by Christians who assume that God’s telos for the created world (natural law) is autonomous from His telos for the Kingdom of God. If Christians reason biblically, that is that they are truly pilgrims in this present created order, their reasoning with regard to how they interact with created things will consider a purpose that transcends the purely temporal purpose that a non-Christian is constrained to consider.


  21. So Don, where exactly does Leithart do what you say a Christian does when he is reasoning biblically?

    For that matter, where is Frame reasoning biblically when he says that all reasoning must reveal its dependence on biblical teaching? I even suspect that you do not talk or think this way all the time. When you say to your wife, “I love you,” do you say, “I love you as Christ loves the church, and oh, by the way, honey, I expect you to be submissive so please take the laundry in tomorrow as part of your being the body of Christ?”

    Who lives this way? But it’s fun to hold others accountable to ideals we don’t follow.


  22. DGH,

    All I meant was that a significant feature of Van Til’s thought was that Christian content without Christian methodology was fatally handicapped. Perhaps I’m being too hard on Frame, but borrow from the Atlantic would be something he would fault a 2Ker for, because it wasn’t using a Christian methodology.


  23. Darryl,

    It seems to me that Frame is simply echoing what Paul commands, that we be not conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds. I don’t see why I have to tell my wife I love her like Christ loves the Church, but I know I’m supposed to do it because the Spirit commands me to. How I do it is up to the Spirit operating in the diversity of redeemed human kind renewed and being conformed to the image of Christ. God and the Bible do not provide nice, neat formulas but do expect us to walk in the Spirit.


  24. Don, do then how do you know that a Christian author who doesn’t talk about Christ as king of kings and Lord of Lords while he’s writing about politics is not operating according to what Paul commands? You seem to want me to be explicit (as Frame does) when I write about politics, but you don’t have to be explicitly Christian when you call her “honey.” What gives?


  25. Not all legalists are insincere. Some of them actually live up to the extra-biblical ideals they have invented for us. Thus they set an example, so that we won’t do our own thing individually. Also, not all legalists are keeping their rules in order to maintain their justification. How could we have public proof of our justification if we don’t do what the community has agreed must be done?

    This is why we must pray out loud in public, giving thanks when we go out for beer. If we do this, other people will see that we are NOT in bondage to our emancipation from rules against beer. And they will see our witness and/or self-righteousness.

    Sorry. I seem to be stuck in sarcasm mode this week.


  26. But, Don, do you see how if you want to marry up the creational and redemptive teloi that you can’t just leave it at a simple profession of love for dearie? You really do have to tell her you love her as Christ loves the church. To leave it at a simple and common sounding profession of love is to live like a defamed 2ker whilst you demand others speak and live epistemologically self-aware. Why do you guys get to live according to 2k theory but when we do it’s called thinly veiled rational human autonomy?

    But try another, less loaded example. Do you really think there is a vital difference between the believing cashier giving you correct change and the unbelieving cashier? Doesn’t only really matter that when you buy something for $5 and you hand over $10 that you get $5 back instead of $4? All 2k is saying is that as long as everyone plays by the common rules authored by God then does it really matter if the unbelieving cashier can’t theorize all the way back to the triune God for why she didn’t cheat you? Again, my guess is that every day you pocket correct change without caring two whits about how the vendor theoretically arrived at just dealings, only that she did. Where it starts to matter is when she wants to meet you at the Table. But even then, all that really matters is that she confesses the triune God and rejects all others.


  27. Just my usual complaint: you keep using the word “Neo-Calvinist”… but in the case of Frame and Leithart you should say “biblicist” and “theocrat,” neither of which/whom are Neo-Calvinist.
    Neo-Calvinism represents an alternative to Frame’s biblicism and Leithart’s theocracy.
    For example Neo-Calvinists don’t think one has to reference Scripture or Jesus to argue Christianly; one doesn’t need to speak “beyond” natural revelation to be speaking from a Christian perspective.
    (And one could get this much from VanTil without much trouble).


  28. Baus, so if biblicists and theocrats don’t distinguish between the creational and redemptive spheres, and if neo-Calvinists don’t either (since you reason Christianly from creation without Christ), what exactly is the difference? Kuyper or Berkhower?


  29. If Tim Keller or Mike Gerson were invited to engage in public prayer before a televised Republican sporting event, should they do it? If we are permitted to make prayers before others in the church, are we also encouraged to “leaven” the political process with public address to a generic deity? And what should these prayers say?

    “I address the God the Father, the one who does NOT have a wife and who did NOT become God”?

    Do those who want math taught to their children from an epistemologically self-conscious Reformed position, do they also want a brain surgeon who spends a lot of time keeping up with the latest apologetic literature? Or would they prefer the Mormon surgeon who has experienced a certain amount of success in the operating room?

    Can’t we have both, all, and everything, and right now too?


  30. Mark, haven’t you heard? Epistemological self-consciousness only counts when it comes to the shaping of the mind but not when it comes to the nursing of the body. So our kids have to learn math from a Reformed world-and-life view but when they need their tonsils out it’s all 2k. (Your sarcasm seems to be catching.)


  31. Darryl,

    Again, you are not engaging with the essence of the argument. The key words in the argument are “autonomy” and “reason” in the statement “They reason as if they and their opponents are both operating on the same principle: human rational autonomy.”

    If you maintain that the goal or purpose of creation is not transcendant, that is to admit that it is autonomous as to its purpose — it must then have a purpose in and of itself. It makes no difference if you argue that it glorifies God because He created it, because, ultimately, it’s purpose cannot transcend its eschatological end, destruction rather than renewal. As a Christian, we are, according to Scripture, required to reason that creation and the Creator can never be separated for it is the Creator “from whom, through whom, and in whom everything exists (Rom 11.36). If we reason otherwise, we are forced to locate the creature and creation’s significance — its truth, goodness, and beauty — in itself. C.S. Lewis makes this point brilliantly in the following quote from “Weight of Glory:”

    The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.


  32. Don, fundamentalism alert. Just because I don’t say it the way you do, I’m guilty of rational autonomous thought? Nice air tight world if you can get it.

    I never said that creation exists independent of the Creator (which by the way says nothing about about the fall, redemption, and glorification). And when you add the categories of sin and salvation creation and the creator, as well as destruction and renewal take on a different look. I am not sure, for instance, what excrement says about the glory of God or how it will be renewed. I am also not certain what to make of the March of the Penguins in the over all scheme of God’s glory. It sure looks like those birds could have used a hotel for the winters and not had to go through such death-defying efforts simply to reproduce. But I am pretty sure that the human body will be destroyed because of sin and its renewal will only come through a miracle — either resurrection or Christ’s return.

    I still don’t see where sin and salvation fit into your view of creation and what happens to the creation that is not saved. What do you do with hell, or with Peter’s instruction that the world will be destroyed by fire? Could it be your thinking more like an autonomous reasoner and not submitting to Scripture? See, I can play the biblicaler than thou card too.


  33. Zrim,

    I believe my last post to Darryl is relevant to your point I would add however, that the argument is not about whether an individual Christian or non-Christian provides better service or products. To even think think this way presupposes a temporal rather than an eternal outlook. The point is whether humanity and creation can be oriented properly if we assume the radical autonomy of the natural world. As I argued with Darry, that is what we will inevitably do by ascribing a telos to the natural world that does not transcend temporality.


  34. dgh: April 21, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink… “as T. David Gordon was saying to me after my talk at Grove City, worldviewism is a good theory but it doesn’t help much with the practice. To take one example we probably know well — eating. My worldview of eating tells me to do all to the glory of God. So before a meal I ask the Lord’s blessing. Does the Bible speak, however, to whether we use hands or utensils for eating, for sitting at a table or sitting on the floor, whether we eat vegetarian or not, whether we buy local and organic or consume fast food. I fear if we start making the Bible speak to the details, we have turned the Bible into something it is not.”

    mark: but if you assume that the orientation of the knives and forks is a matter of indifference, that could be heard as saying that you doubt that the world exists for the sake of God’s glory in the church. You can go to Wall Mart or not, but whatever you do must be done a tad more self-consciously, or you will be seen as denying that there is an age to come. But you don’t have to quote Bible verses, because the idioms of new-Calvinist liturgy enact God’s reign in the various spheres.


  35. Darryl,

    Your penchant for using laels serves no purpose but distraction. It makes no difference to me whether you accuse me of fundamentalism or biblicism. I very clearly defined what I meant by rational autonomous thought. Instead of simply labeling and thereby dismissing the tenets of my argument, you will be more convincing if you actually dealt with them. How about beginning with the first tenet: how/do you maintain that the goal or purpose of creation is transcendant if creation will be destroyed, as you (not the Bible as the analogy of faith, which I assume you subscribe to, clearly reveals the purpose of fire is to refine, not destroy) want to maintain?


  36. Don, and, while it may be an implication of it, my point had nothing to do with the relative abilities of un/believers to do common tasks. It had to do with the fact that both have an equal opportunity to do them because both are creatures of God, so what is the importance of being able to theorize about doing the right thing? But I do agree with you that humanity only benefits by seeing its duty to God. What I disagree with is the idea that just because some of us also see the benefits of that uderstanding being implicit is to be complicit with the doctrines of radical autonomy. You and Frame are sounding like Kloosterman, who seems to think 2k denies that “Jesus Christ is King of the cosmos today. Here and now. In this world, and in today’s history.”

    You may not like the suggestions of Biblicism and fundamentalism, but now you know how 2kers might feel when it is suggested that we deny the Lordship of Christ. With aspersions like that, fundamentalism doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.


  37. Mark, who said anything about the sexual orientation of the utensils? Have you been reading the Baylys’ again (Kidding)

    But seriously, where did I say anything about the orientation of the utensils, their telos? What about the good Christian who needs a meal, lives in a culture that uses forks and knives, and doesn’t know the first thing about teleology?


  38. Don, please get comfortable with agnosticism. Sometimes the good Christian answer is I don’t know and the reason could be that God hasn’t revealed it. I don’t know how creation is transcendent. But I wish you could take some of the particulars of general (excrement and penguins) and special revelation (Peter) into account when you make the claims you make about creation’s transcendence. Unless you do, you sound like you’re sloganeering and incapable of answering hard questions.

    You’re the one who allegedly has the answers. I never said I had them and 2k is an effort to do justice to the limits and specifics of revelation.

    See? No labels.


  39. Zrim,

    I am not trying to suggest that you deny the Lordship of Christ. What I am questioning is the meaning or significance of that Lordship over a kingdom that is purely temporal, i.e., having no eternal destiny. Pardon my biblicism, but I can’t square that with the teaching of Scripture that declares that all things were created through, for, by and in Him. I believe Darryl would like to qualify “all things” since we know that marriage will not exist into eternity. But, when you apply that exception as a rule, or use that exception to justify agnosticism, it seems to me that it becomes impossible to ground truth, goodness, and beauty in God — they can only be grounded in the autonomous mind of man.


  40. Don, please explain the relationship of an elm tree, which I agree is created through, for, and by God, to the cross of Christ. Did Jesus die for that tree? Is the history of redemption dependent on that tree? Will elm trees grow in paradise? Or was the cross made of elm wood?

    Or could it be that we don’t know the relationship. We don’t know why God would create the planet and the universe the way he has in order to save a people for himself. In other words, it could be that Christ’s rule over the elm tree is different from his rule over his people. Christ knows the relationship between the two spheres, but do you really have the nerve to say that you know as well?

    It seems that the more sweeping your claims are, the slimmer your evidence is. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?


  41. Don, I don’t think the point is that created beings don’t have an eternal destiny. Rather, it’s that we inhabit a passing age. I don’t see how the fact that all things were created through, for, by and in Christ means the creative and redemptive teloi need to coalesce. And if it’s the Bible you want to use to justify the marriage then I don’t know what you’d make of all the New Testament bids to abdandon the things of this world and to anticipate better things, things which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has conceived. And so I can never help but think that this neo-Calvinist impulse to lend eternal weight to temporal life is nothing more than a pious sounding way to cling to this world.


  42. sorry, dgh, i was in my sarcasm mode. “You will be seen as”….I was attempting to make fun of those who think of “Christian principles” for everything. The new covenant has quite enough imperatives without any need for James K Smith and other neo-Calvinists to tell us other things to do. Especially when renewing the civilization comes to mean ignoring what Jesus Christ told us to do until He comes back, we need to rethink the idea that God’s sovereignty over His creation means “responsibility” to do whatever’s necessary to make history come out better.

    Two k is “merely” another worldview?

    Well, there’s also the worldview that the gospel revelation about who Jesus Christ is and what He did is not a worldview.

    Anybody who says that “you guys have a worldview but we have the truth” must be a fundy?


  43. Darryl,

    Christ is the evidence and He is the relationship between the Creator and creation. This is not something we know in a Cartesian way as you seem to wish, but it has certainly been revealed. There need be no relationship between an elm tree and the cross to substantiate this relationship. The relationship cannot cease to exist because all things have their existence IN Him as well as through, by and to Him. How do you explain that with your finite reasoning? For that matter, how do you explain your own existence? You can’t, but you cannot deny it either.


  44. Zrim,

    We need to be careful with how we use the word “world” as it is clear that Scripture uses the word in quite opposite ways — God so loved the world in John 3, but He hates the world in 1 John 2. We cling to Christ in Whom alone the world that God loves will continue in such a wonderful way that no eye has seen or ear heard.


  45. Don, what I have in mind is something closer to Hebrews 11: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

    So when I say the neo-Calvinist impulse is a pious way to cling to the world, I mean that I don’t see in it any way to look forward to a better country because it is unduly fixated on this one which is passing away.


  46. Don, you’re still not taking into account the fall and redemption. Christ’s relationship between the creation and the creator is different before and after the fall. You seem to think that the way we know Christ now is the way it was before the fall when the creation and creator had a relationship without a redeemer.


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