Vossians and Neo-Calvinists Together?

I have puzzled often about the lack of support in Vossian circles for two-kingdom theology. Many Vossians I know — and I consider myself to be one — find the spirituality of the church agreeable but balk at 2k. Why 2k is distinguished from the spirituality of the church is anyone’s guess, or why Geerhardus Vos’ distinction between this age and the age to come do not put a kabosh on tranformationalism is another of those brain-teasers you see in the back pages of World magazine (NOT!).

With this perplexity in mind, Jim Cassidy’s post about Vos, Van Til, and Kline and their implicit rejection of 2k’s dualism is instructive.

On the one hand:

I want to once again reiterate my deep appreciation for the work done by 2K theologians. I believe their insights are important and essential for the church to hear today. In particular, in so far as they desire to highlight the spiritual nature of the church’s ministry, I am all on board. Furthermore, I am in general agreement and in sympathy with their critique of social transformationalism. I am also deeply indebted to their redemptive-historical hermeneutic for understanding the difference between what parts of God’s Word are applicable to the church or state today, and which are not.

On the other hand:

. . . where I disagree is on a fundamental, deep-structural level with regard to their covenant theology. And I disagree with them because of Geerhardus Vos, Cornelius Van Til, and above all M.G. Kline. . . .

That brings us to Kline. Kline dedicated his great work The Structure of Biblical Authority to his professor, Cornelius Van Til. That was appropriate as the work was thoroughly Vosian and Van Tilian. But while he hints at how God’s Word and creation relate in that book (thinking here of chapter 2), the full development of his thought would have to await his Kingdom Prologue. In that book, very early on (i.e., pp. 14-41 of the W&S edition), Kline introduces the concept of God’s “covenantal fiat” in the act of creation. This means, in short, that God’s act of creation IS covenantal. . . . this means that there is no place for Thomas’s nature/grace dualism, nor is there any place for German idealism’s dualisms as well. The very Word which God spoke at creation, testifies to God who spoke it through the things that have been made. At no place and at no time is creation silent. It always and everywhere speaks. This eliminates any and all notions of natural theology as understood by the Thomistic tradition, or as modernized by German idealism. Creation does not need to be perfected by grace. It is quite adequate for the knowledge of God, thank you very much.

Whether Jim believes 2kers disagree with this point is not entirely clear. But he should be aware of how important covenant theology is to both David VanDrunen (see his piece in the Strimple festschrift) and Mike Horton (see his dogmatics) at least in part because they studied with Kline. In other words, 2k is not opposed to Jim’s point about the covenantal context of creation. I suspect that most 2kers affirm it, especially of those who studied with Kline.

Where 2kers get off the Vos-Van Til-Kline-Cassidy bus is with Jim’s application:

. . . our call as Christians is to point the unbeliever to that reality and call him to repentance. Indeed, God’s common grace allows the unbeliever to function and even thrive in cultural endeavors, and we praise God for that fact. But such grace is only a restrainer. It is never to be confused with common ground. There is no safe territory upon which the unbeliever can stand and do right by one kingdom, but not right by another. In every kingdom he is wrong. Even his own cultural endeavors testify against him. And if we, as Christians, do not (lovingly!) point that out to him, who will? I am afraid that the 2KT may in fact cause Christians to lose their greatest apologetic and witnessing opportunities.

First, where does the Bible require believers when interacting in the public square to engage in apologetics? When Joseph, Daniel, Jesus, and Paul engaged pagan rulers, did they first explain the covenantal context of creation before carrying out orders or answering questions?

Second, the public square may presume a covenantal context, but do we need to go to first principles for everything we do with unbelievers in our neighborhoods and communities? Do we need to explain the covenant or creation before we explain to city council the need for a new stop light at a busy intersection? Do we need to appeal to the creator of the universe before opposing a pay raise for public school teachers? Do we even need to give a covenantal account of the universe before declaring war on Iraq?

I don’t mean to make light of Jim’s point. But I do sometimes wonder how folks who live and breathe the antithesis live side by side in this age with unbelievers upon whom Reformed Protestants depend to stay in their lane, keep up their yards, and cheer for the home team.


50 thoughts on “Vossians and Neo-Calvinists Together?

  1. Kline’s point of intersection between creation and the word, beside the creational fiat, was the legitimate use of non-biblical resources,think ANE treaty form, as a tool for the exegete to understand the text. In Kingdom prologue, he actually highlights the Dooeywordian (sp?) contingent, that though being good intentioned, had effectively eclipsed the category of common grace in pursuit of their transformationalism, and this was a serious misstep that has unfortunate ramifications for the bi-covenantal structure.


  2. Cassidy—“At no place and at no time is creation silent. It always and everywhere speaks. This eliminates any and all notions of natural theology as understood by the Thomistic tradition, or as modernized by German idealism. Creation does not need to be perfected by grace. It is quite adequate for the knowledge of God, thank you very much.”

    mcmark: I tend to agree with DGH that we don’t have to do apologetics with lost people, and also that when we do, it can be “ad hoc apologetics”. But DGH could perhaps appreciate a little more the great diversity within “covenant theology.” Should we say that both David Gordon and John Murray taught “covenant theology”? I can imagine both sides of the spectrum thinking “what they are saying is not even covenant theology”.

    It is one thing to say with Barth and John Murray (and Herman Hoeksema) that “covenant” is always and from the beginning about “grace”. It is quite another to say with somebody like Mark Karlberg (a faithful disciple of Kline) that before sin, there was no need for grace and what we had was “covenantal law”.

    I agree with what I take to be Cassidy’s point. Neither end of the spectrum of theologians who follow in the wake of Vos and Van Til should be quick to embrace “natural law”. DGH, can you think of a person (before or after DVD) who has a law-gospel antithesis, who is two kingdom, and who does ‘NOT approve of the idea of “natural law”?

    To me, natural theology still looks like a Roman Catholic idea. (Stan Hauerwas likes it. Therefore I don’t.) “Natural law” looks like an attempt to speak to everybody for everybody. Sure, the new covenant commands everybody in the name of Jesus Christ, but talking in that narrow way won’t make you famous and influential….


  3. Totally agree, Dr. Hart. I believe Rev. Cassidy has been opining on this lately because he’s been going through Dr. Van Drunen’s book on natural law and 2K. A lot of 2K’ers (including myself) weighed in on his prior post, and I think that now (as it appears he’s finished reading Dr. Van Drunen’s book) it would be helpful for him to read his essay in the April issue of Ordained Servant. Dr. Van Drunen addresses the relationship between covenant and creation very well and, in fact, points to the divergence between the two kingdoms being post-fall and established in and through the Noahic Covenant, a point which Rev. Cassidy appears to miss entirely.


  4. “Dr. Van Drunen addresses the relationship between covenant and creation very well and, in fact, points to the divergence between the two kingdoms being post-fall and established in and through the Noahic Covenant, a point which Rev. Cassidy appears to miss entirely.”

    Good point Ashwin. Actually there ends up being common ground but it’s on the ‘city of man’ side not the cultic ‘city of God’ side.


  5. We just need to get back to the Bible, and forget all these theological debates. Besides, we need to do more naval gazing and feeling of exasperation in the pursuit of holiness… Where is Richard Smith when you need him? and this post matters in the light of such things? Boo.


  6. Yes. Like all transformationalists believe as well. The kingdom is here now and wherever believers empowered by the Spirit the now/already is at work. The age to come that is already is the same age to come that is not yet. The judgment puts an end to the old age and brings the age to come, which is already here, merely awaiting its fullness. Most transformationalists that I know and read admit the not yet. But they also admit the already. I always get the sense that 2K folks minimize the already and expect the not yet to be a radical discontinuity with the already. My reading of Paul/Vos/Ridderbos/Gaffin/Kline is that the more radical discontinuity is with the coming of the Messiah/cross/resurrection/Pentecost than with the Parousia. I’m all for spirituality of the church and sphere sovereignty but this Vossian sees more of Kuyper than Van Drunen in Vos.


  7. Terry, when the sun is replaced by Jesus and our marriages are dissolved doesn’t that seem like a radical discontinuity? Besides, the fact that no mind has conceived what awaits those who love God seems to suggest that if we cannot fathom the not yet even in the age of the already the description fits. And admitting the not yet isn’t the same as living as if there really is one. 2k wants to take seriously what it admits, even if its critics call boo for not being inspirational enough. I always get the sense that transformationalism is the social version of prosperity gospel: not yet is ceremoniously admitted but the rhetoric betrays a less than robust and credible belief.


  8. Think as you may. Don’t be such a literalist about the sun. I’d guess we’re being apocalyptically figurative there as well as the reference to being no sea or melting elements. As for how radical no marriage is… I guess of there’s no more pro-creation then it makes some sense. The kingdom is a bit like leaven and the mustard seed. Now to be totally honest I’m not nearly as bothered by 2k as I am the lousy eschatology that it embraces. The eschatological dimension of Kuyper/Vos/Gaffin/Kline/Ridderbos are advances over the Reformed confessions and John Calvin. I am loathe to give up those advances as I see 2k do when they revert to the 16th and 17th centuries.


  9. I meant to add that I’m not too bothered by 2k in general because it comes very close to saying the same thing as common grace/sphere sovereignty in a transformationalist view. I’ve said in other contexts that transformationalist/common grace without antithesis/Gospel proclamation is nothing but social gospelism. I suspect that we’re closer than we want to admit given heat of the debate.

    I think that the principled pluralism of the Association of Public Justice and Jim Skillen becomes in practice similar to the 2k political view. APJ might stress pillarization rather than the common because of “all of life/24-7” sentiments, but both would readily admit to a common public justice that prevents undue intrusion of the state in matters of religion and undue intrusion of the church in matters of the state.

    I hope all will appreciate my conciliatory gesture here.


  10. Terry, on the matter of continuity, it strikes me as a real case of lack of imagination to think that the best of this world will be something like the world to come. If you read the worlds that C.S. Lewis concocts in his tales, it seems plausible to imagine the new heavens and new earth a world quite different from this one. Plus, has it ever occurred to you that Jesus is now somewhere in a body? That has to be a fairly odd place where there are no other bodies and who knows what he does for food. Plus, he says something in John about going somewhere to prepare a place. And don’t forget what Peter says about the heavens and earth being destroyed.

    One more point on discontinuity that should appeal to a man of science is what the Confession says about resurrected bodies:

    At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever.

    “Different qualities” sounds like discontinuity to me.


  11. Terry, this is being damned by faint praise. I respect the folks at APJ, but I sure wish they would do a little more to defend the American form of government than to search for a biblical model.


  12. I don’t know, Terry, having spent the last 14 years in the transformationist CRC I can’t say that 2k and it are as close as you’re suggesting. And while the URC is more robustly 2k by comparison, I also can’t say that all the neo-Cal worldview from whence it came has been shaken off. (I think this is the part where Baus tell us to relative confusion that the neos of Little Geneva aren’t real neos.) And while I do appreciate your conciliatory gesture, I wonder if you could expand on just why amillennialism is “lousy.” I always thought it was the eschatology of the Creed.


  13. Rest assured, Zrim, I too am an amillenielist. You are mistaken if you think transformational ism requires post-millennielism. That may be true in theonomic renditions, but not so in Kuyperian versions. Anthony Hoekema would be an example. One is an amillennielist who admits that millennium is the time between the first coming and the second coming and that the so-called peaceable kingdom passages refer to the eschaton and not some premillennialessianic kingdom.

    Dr. Gaffin has pointed out that the distinction between amil and postmil is a
    late 20th century invention and that the were one view in historical reformed confessionalist. He distinguishes between optimistic amils and pessimistic amils. Transformationalists would optimistic amils.

    I would agree with Baus that the CRC is not the most faithful heir to Kuyper and Dooyeweerd and some of the most recent directives come perilously close to social gospelism and even liberation theology. We’ll see what we do with the Belhar this year.


  14. Darryl, I guess we’ll have to wait and see on the matter of continuity. I do agree that there are discontinuities. However, I think it’s more accurate to speak of a renewed heaven and a renewed earth rather than a totally new creation. The Peter passages use appcolyptic purging/refining imagery so I don’t really think that gets you too far. If Jesus can feed the 5000 I’m not too worried about where he gets his food in his heavenly dwelling. Besides I’m not sure Jesus’s walking through walls is a communicable spiritual body attribute.

    Perhaps you should read Kline more carefully about the where of heaven. Wasn’t it Elisha that prayed for God to open the eyes of his servant so he could see the heavenly hosts all around him? Perhaps the where that Jesus went to actually here but our old age eyes don’t see it yet, except by faith. Come to think of it, we enter that here reality in corporate worship on the Lord’s day. We even invite those heavenly hosts to join us when we sing the Doxology. No doubt we are being drawn into heaven
    In that worship moment, but perhaps in the same way that Elisha’s servant was drawn into heaven.

    Real praise intended. Methinks you are making a mountain of a molehill. I think you unfairly criticize the Kuyperian project but giving some legitimate critique to some contemporary expressions of transformationism and theonomy. While I may not agree with all of Skillen’s proposals, I do think that the disestablishment clause is incorrectly interpreted and ought to allow for the full expression of religious views in the public square.


  15. Terry, where exactly is the Kuyper project? Calvin? Free University? North America? Netherlands? Where exactly is it going well (except in Baus’ head)?

    Who is saying that people can’t express their religion in public life? Americans do it all the time. They don’t seem to like it when other Americans don’t like religion in public life. So is the point simply that we need to be able to express our faith in public life and we need to be affirmed and empowered? What kind of suffering is that?


  16. Terry, I’m still wondering what’s this “lousy” eschatology 2k allegedly embraces. Maybe you have in mind this thing called “pessimistic amil.” But there is an alternative to Gaffin’s taxonomy: realistic amil, where the human condition is neither deteriorating nor improving as history either progresses or retreats and neither is the sky is neither falling nor the horizon too sunny. Is this what is so “lousy”? If so, I suppose one man’s lousy is another’s sanity.


  17. By lousy I don’t mean pessimistic, but I mean not fully Biblical. I reject as unBiblical an eschatology that doesn’t embrace significant continuity with the original creation. Yes, I affirm an eschatological fullness that’s never been seen–that’s where the discontinuities come in, but I also affirm that redemption involves a restoration of the former order, especially in its structural components (to use Dooyeweerdian and Al Wolters’ language. Some of this comes from the OT prophets. You end up with an earthly premillennium if you take the prophets seriously but don’t see their earthiness as part the New Heavens and the New Earth. I think scripture speaks of the goodness of creation
    And of human culture in a way that, purged of sin (one of the more significant discontinuities), it reflects God’s intentions for humanity and creation that continues into the age to come.


  18. Terry, I’m not clear on how the eschatology that 2k embraces doesn’t affirm significant continuities with original creation. We may not be marrying anymore (radical discontinuity) but we will seem to retain all the physiology to do so (significant continuity). And 2k is all about the very goodness of creation (you forgot the “very”). When transformers want to transform the city I have to wonder, if creation is indeed very good, then why does anybody think it needs to be transformed? Transform the city? Why, what’s wrong with it? It’s just fine. In point of fact, transformationism strikes this 2ker as being afflicted with much too low a view of creation. Speaking of “lousy” and “not fully biblical.”


  19. Zrim. There’s plenty wrong with it. We call it sin, consequences of the fall, etc. Transformation has to do with pursuing justice and righteousness and bringing the truth and righteousness of the gospel to the broken world in all areas of life, i.e. we are to be about doing good to all men and especially those of the household of faith. You are correct…there is nothing wrong with the creational structures of this God-created world. Transformationalism does not seek to change the God-created structures of this world, but the sin-tainted direction that has resulted from the Fall. We’ve discussed before to no satisfactory conclusion, I fear, that transformationalism is just sanctification writ large. As we seek to obey God as individuals, we seek His ways wherever we have the ability to influence.

    I am very pleased and surprised to hear you admit to the continuities. With such a strong stress on the discontinuities that I hear from you all, I didn’t know. Van Drunen seems to say that the only continuities are individual souls and the church.


  20. But, Terry, the cosmos didn’t sin. The imago Dei did. This seems like the blind spot of transformationism, namely the inability to distinguish between the two. But human beings are the target of redemption. The cosmos groans for the sons of God to be revealed because it knows that its plight is contingent upon ours. The only thing that can be sanctified is a human being. And how does a sanctified human being transform anything? Does grace leak from our fingertips? To say nothing of the implication that transformationism isn’t so sure that God alone sanctifies and transforms. Yikes.


  21. Terry, if the gospel is about forgiveness, and if you’re about bringing the gospel to the fallen structures of this earth, doesn’t that mean forgiving murderers and debtors (like Greece?)? Justice and righteousness are not really part of extending a message of forgiveness.

    I wish the neo-Cals would think this one through? Do you want justice or grace? (BTW, I know that grace rests on the justice executed at Calvary, but loan officers in banks and justices of the peace can’t administer that kind of grace because they don’t have access to that kind of righteousness.)


  22. Darryl. Baus’s head is a perfectly good place for the Kuyper project. Why does there have to be a successful implementation in order for it to be true? That seems strange to me. I would say, that individuals and perhaps some voluntary associations successfully work this out. Calvin College is not fundamentally Kuyperian or else they would not be owned and operated by the CRCNA. That’s a fundamental violation of sphere sovereignty. Dordt, Redeemer, ICR, MARS (or whatever it’s name is now) perhaps come closer as educational institutions, APJ perhaps fare better.

    You are confusing the is with the ought. Transformationalists are not, by and large, post-millennielists. We never think that the Kingdom will be established in its full eschatological glory here on earth as long as the old age remains unjudged and unpurged. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be a general direction of progress, as in personal sanctification, or seasons and places where there are successes. But, yes, until the old age goes there is always brokenness, resistance to truth and righteousness, suffering, persecution.

    But I do buy in for the most part to the APJ model and the Kuyperian/Van Tillian perspective in general that in the USA, the state has established Secularism as a religion to the exclusion of all others. I know you oppose this idea. State support is only given to those schools that embrace the Secular religion to the exclusion of all others. It seems to me that the more just educational policy is to recognize the fundamental religious character of education (its worldview rootedness) and to publicly support all religions not just Secularism.

    Such a solution is just and appropriate for this common grace age and the role of a just government is provide for such a free exercise of religion (even in the educational sphere). The line that we are free to practice our religious conviction via private Christian schools, homeschooling, etc. will not fly. Don’t tax me twice and call it just and free.

    Do I expect such justice in a fallen world? Not necessarily. So we suffer as you note. But as I work toward God’s ways in the world, toward justice, where the church and Christians can live in peace and pursue the work of the kingdom, I will pursue such ends.


  23. Darryl, I don’t really disagree with you. That’s why I cringe at all the talk of justice in church. But this highlights the uniqueness of the church. I think it also speaks to why there is sphere sovereignty. The civil magistrate not the church is where we pursue justice. I don’t want justice, I want mercy when it comes to my relationship with God. Yes. Justice and mercy have kissed on Calvary. And the look of the new heavens and the new earth will have justice and mercy together in perfection.


  24. Zrim, we’ve been down this path before. Even personal sanctification is synergistic and cooperative. Just because I’m working doesn’t mean it’s not from God. (Ever lift thy face upon me as I work and wait for Thee, Resting ‘neath thy smile, Lord Jesus, earth’s dark shadows flee…Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art.) Does grace leak from our fingertips? Not sure I’d put it that way, but by the grace of God, I can do good works, pursue justice and righteousness, follow God’s law, love my neighbor, worship according to His revealed will. God works through my obedience to transform the world more into what Christ would have it be and more like what it will be in the end.

    In the Kuyperian/Dooyweerdian framework structures includes societal structures. Their fallenness stems primarily from their fallen humanness. This is what we’re transforming. No one is advocating changing the laws of physics.

    I’m glad to hear that you don’t believe that carnivory is a result of the fall. Many argue that the very structures of creation were altered by the Fall and that Romans 8 passage that you cite points that way.


  25. Terry, yes, we can do good works. But HC 114 (at least to me) has a way of severely moderating any idea that our personal works translate into societal transformation. If even the holiest of men make but small beginning of obedience while in this life then it seems fantastical to suggest that those works transform the world more into what Christ would have it be and more like what it will be in the end. It’s been two thousand years already and one would think that if the transformer theory was right we’d see a more transformed world. Maybe you think it is, but then I’m not sure there is much room left for longing for a better country if it’s possible that this one has gotten one iota closer to it. It could well be that human beings are the same creatures they were when they were sent packing east of Eden, and saved ones are still much more sinful than not even after Pentecost. All of which seems pretty stacked against transformer theories.


  26. Zrim. I don’t want to go too far out on this limb, but I think you’re mistaken about the impact of the gospel on society. Don’t get me wrong. There is still lots of evil in the world and there will always be, but the expansion of the church (especially!), but also the attention to human rights, democracy, science, technology, education, women’s rights, care of the sick, poor, elderly, general prosperity. Some, of course, will attribute these to humanism, but every one, in my opinion, is a consequence of Christians being salt and light in their world and doing good works. And, of course, sinful humanity has twisted these very side benefits of Christians in the world to their own idolatrous ends. Is Christianity the only source of these benefits? Not sure I’m willing to say that, but it seems that where the church has gone this sort of fruit has followed.


  27. Terry, it’s not uncommon for transformers to point to whatever westerners esteem as evidence that Christianity has improved the world. But as I see it, the problem isn’t in attributing supposed improvements to secular sources as opposed to sacred ones. The problem is in downplaying the reality of human sin and the limitations of this age to such an extent that one is unable to see the downsides to the examples of improvement.

    Add to this the fact that much of what you vaguely point to existed before Jesus descended, so how can Christianity really be credited for any of it? Frankly, I find opinions like yours to be examples of religious fantasy that may do a fair amount to make Christians feel superior but do even more to erode any sense of human depravity or foster moderate expectations for this age.


  28. Zrim, is this the part of HC Q&A 114 that you’re talking about?

    “Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose, they do begin to live according to all, not only some, of God’s commandments.”

    Sounds like progress to me.


  29. Terry, but neo-Cal’s don’t ever consider the history of the movement or the consequences of ideas. It may not be simply that we live in a fallen world where ideals always exist in tension with faulty execution. It could be that there is something flawed in the ideas — such as W-W, the purpose of education, and even the nature of the kingdom. Neo-cal’s can talk sphere sovereignty all they want, but it never seems to make a difference when it comes to “kingdom work.”

    As for education, why wouldn’t a reduced view — just teaching the three R’s — make more sense. Once you begin to add W-W and morality, you open yourself up to Heather has Two Mommies and all the social engineering that goes with it. It also means conflict — “orthodox” vs. secular education. The people fanning the flames of culture wars are neo-Cals. Sometimes the antithesis just doesn’t have much to do with learning English grammar or politeness.


  30. Terry, sorry but your your assessment of society and its blessings is a tad too cozy for Christians since most of the matters you list came after the Enlightenment, not after the rise of Christianity. I get it. You’re a neo-Cal. Nothing good can be said about the Enlightenment (or France). But if you are a Christian telling the truth should matter and you’re going to find a lot more about women’s rights in French and American egalitarian radicals than you are in Christ or Paul. (Do you want to go to Gal. 3:28? Then join the women’s ordinationists.)


  31. Terry, my point wasn’t that personal sanctification doesn’t progress so much as the stuff about “even the holiest” and “small beginning” not only suggests severely moderating our understanding of that progress, but how personal transformation translates into social transformation. I know neos assume it, but the forms don’t say anything about it.


  32. Darryl, I do agree that the self-identified neo-Calvinists today tend not to pay attention to sphere sovereignty. For them the “all of life” is for the church as well as for individual believers. This is not a faithful expression of neo-Calvinism. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out John Bolt’s essay in the recently published translation of Kuyper’s Our Worship. There’s a great test case coming up in the CRC where there’s been a major denominational study on Climate Change. The synod mandate a Biblical and theological study. They study committee turned it into a scientific study with all sorts of activist recommendations. There’s considerable pushback from what I can tell. We’ll see if Synod recalls the spirituality of the church and sphere sovereignty or continues down the path of social gospelism.

    As for women…please don’t tell me that you don’t agree that both Jesus and Paul were counter-cultural (both Hebrew and Graeco-Roman) in their view of women. Do you think Jesus and Paul thanked God that they weren’t Gentiles, tax-collectors, or women like the Pharisees did?

    I don’t disagree about your assessment of Western civilization and the Enlightenment–I did qualify my general statement and said that I don’t want to go too far out on that limb. The same could be said about science and technology–there are Christian roots and influences, but there is also a huge humanist and Enlightenment impetus. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the WCF framers had some sense of Presbyterianism vs. Anglicanism that transferred to democratic/Constitutional reforms vs. monarchy. Literacy and education is spurred on by a desire to read the Bible and to teach the faith. Much of journalism has Christian apologetic and evangelistic roots. While it’s good for us to be suspicious of specious claims–Christian American and the like, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    3R in education might just work, but that’s obviously not where we are today. I doubt it’s where we’ve ever been. Melting pot/American civil/Enlightenment religion were the goals of public education from the get go. Social engineering to the nth degree is taking place through our schools and the media. The secular/PC worldview is institutionalized. The very structure of education where multicultural history/philosophy/literature can displace western history/philosophy/literature is profound. You can’t tell me that the secular state is sticking to the 3R’s. I have 5 kids in their 20’s (4 still living at home). All but one attended public high school after been home schooled or Christian schooled through 8th or 9th grade. Of course, we talk through all these issues and we try to think about them from a Christian perspective, but the sensibilities are profoundly different. This is one reason I think natural law breaks down. There are fewer and fewer things to which we could argue “even the pagans don’t do this”. I also know the attitudes on the college campus, both of Christian and non-Christian students and faculty. There’s no neutrality here. Neo-Cals may be fanning the flames of the culture wars, but without the fan there’s a slow burn going only in one direction. Your example of Heather has two mommies is a striking example. The transition from general agreement that homosexuality is immoral to now being an accepted part of a diverse society to now there being debate in the church as to whether or not it’s immoral has occurred in virtually one generation. Granted, it’s part of a longer term general sexual ethics revolution, but it’s reinforced by schools and media through and through.


  33. I am somewhat new to the whole 2K discussion. Frankly, I found some of the comments here almost as informative as the main blog post itself. 🙂

    Could someone point me to an article/blog/book that concisely sums up and contrasts the different positions on this subject (i.e. 2/K, Neo-Cal, etc.)?

    I just started reading DvD’s book, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms.

    Thanks, Andy


  34. For whatever it’s worth, I posted the following thoughts in response to Rev. Cassidy’s post. He had stated: “There is no safe territory upon which the unbeliever can stand and do right by one kingdom, but not right by another. In every kingdom he is wrong.”

    But doesn’t this way of stating things confuse the holy with the common (and the Covenant of Works with the Noahic Covenant)? After all, the common realm is temporary, non-holy and provisional. It is empowered by common grace and designed to operate according to natural law (i.e., God’s moral law inscribed in the conscience) and reason (what the WCF calls “the light of nature”). (I’m not intentionally saying anything here inconsistent with Kline’s elaboration of these themes.) Civil justice (unlike eschatological justice) is not brought to bear on all sins, but only those that directly threaten the external peace and order of society. So what can it mean to say that the unbeliever can’t do “right” by the non-holy standards of a provisional temporal kingdom? The unbeliever’s problem, it seems to me, is not that he fails in the common grace arena established in the Noahic Covenant, but that he has failed under the terms of the Covenant of Works, and is therefore in need of a Mediator to fulfill those terms on his behalf. In other words, his problem is not civil justice (which will bless him if he is law abiding), but eschatological justice (which will curse him unless he repents). So I’m just not sure it’s intelligible to say that one can’t “do right” according to the terms of a covenant designed to simply preserve the created order—unless you think the Noahic Covenant can be broken. Or perhaps you [Rev. Cassidy] disagree with Kline’s elaboration of the Noahic Covenant?


  35. Speaking of the Noahic Covenant. Here’s a question for all you 2K’ers. Where is the Noahic Covenant in the Reformed confessions? While I don’t necessarily disagree with Kline’s or Van Drunen’s analysis, it seems to me that it’s a real confessional novelty. Has anyone commented on that or thought about that before? Hard to believe that Old Lifers would appeal to extra-confessional theological novelties.


  36. Terry, Noah doesn’t get a sniff in the Standards. But boy do the neo-Cal’s give the creation mandate a workout even when the creeds are virtually silent about it. No 2kers is making Noah confessional the way that neo-Cals make the creation mandate a norm.


  37. Terry,

    It may not feature prominently in the Standards, but it’s far from a theological novelty to trace the common grace arena back to Noah. Check out Berkhof, for example:

    2. THE COVENANT WITH NOAH. The covenant with Noah is evidently of a very general nature: God promises that He will not again destroy all flesh by the waters of a flood, and that the regular succession of seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night will continue. The forces of nature are bridled, the powers of evil are put under greater restraint, and man is protected against the violence of both man and beast. It is a covenant conferring only natural blessings, and is therefore often called the covenant of nature or of common grace. There is no objection to this terminology, provided it does not convey the impression that this covenant is dissociated altogether from the covenant of grace. Though the two differ, they are also most intimately connected.

    a. Points of difference. The following points of difference should he noted: (1) While the covenant of grace pertains primarily, though not exclusively, to spiritual blessings, the covenant of nature assures man only of earthly and temporal blessings. (2) While the covenant of grace in the broadest sense of the word includes only believers and their seed, and is fully realized only in the lives of the elect, the covenant with Noah was not only universal in its inception, but was destined to remain all-inclusive. Up to the days of the covenant transaction with Abraham there was no seal of the covenant of grace, but the covenant with Noah was confirmed by the token of the rainbow, a seal quite different from those that were later on connected with the covenant of grace.

    b. Points of connection. Notwithstanding the differences just mentioned, there is a most intimate connection between the two covenants. (1) The covenant of nature also originated in the grace of God. In this covenant, just as in the covenant of grace, God bestows on man not only unmerited favors, but blessings that were forfeited by sin. By nature man has no claim whatsoever on the natural blessings promised in this covenant. (2) This covenant also rests on the covenant of grace. It was established more particularly with Noah and his seed, because there were clear evidences of the realization of the covenant of grace in this family, Gen. 6:9; 7:1; 9:9, 26, 27. (3) It is also a necessary appendage (Witsius: “aanhangsel”) of the covenant of grace. The revelation of the covenant of grace in Gen. 3:16-19 already pointed to earthly and temporal blessings. These were absolutely necessary for the realization of the covenant of grace. In the covenant with Noah the general character of these blessings is clearly brought out, and their continuance is confirmed.

    (pp. 294-295)


  38. Darryl, I’ve wanted to comment before on this general issue of confessional. Most of the neo-Calvinist worldview discussion is not confessional. Why should it be? I’ve always been puzzled by this objection from you. Neo-Calvinism (at least the transformationalist part–there was a confessional Calvinist reform that is associated with Kuyper/Bavinck/Dooyeweerd and others–Kuyper and Bavinck were Docs in addition to being Kuyps) is a philosophy, a worldview. It actually goes outside the church’s Biblical/theological confession. To make it confession is to violate sphere sovereignty. What does the church know about philosophy? What does the church know about the natural sciences? What does the church know about media and aesthetics? Etc.

    The Biblical confession is “all of life” and “24/7”. I think you get that out of Q&A 1 of the Shorter Catechism. But working out what that means is the task of the individual believer before God and groups of believers in various other societal groupings (the state, educational institutions, media outlets, charitable organizations, the medical community).

    Granted, in the CRC there is now the Contemporary Testimony which is quasi-confessional, but except for a few unfortunate phrases the Contemporary Testimony is an expression of Biblical truth around the Creation/Fall/Redemption motif.


  39. Terry, if neo-Calvinism is not confessional, why do so many neo-Cals call 2k outside the bounds of confessionalism for the precise reason of not being W-Wish and transformationalist? Odd, no?


  40. Darryl, it’s not all that unusual to have one’s views judged by extra-confessional commonly held views. ;-( Majority rules. Doesn’t make it confessional.

    As always, don’t judge the theory by its practioners.


  41. Of course, that’s a possible explanation, but inconsistent practice is also possible. Consider that some of us transformationists criticize others for many of the same problems you point out–mostly dealing with the spirituality of the church.

    Your comment reminds me of those who might judge American political conservatism by what GW Bush did while in the White House just because he was right of Al Gore and John Kerry and called conservative by some people. To a Goldwater conservative GW was no conservative!

    But keep in mind here our agreement that the culture, most of what Kuyperianism is worried about, is outside of the theological confession of the church.


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