Dr. K's Two K's

One of the odder aspects of Nelson Kloosterman’s objections to 2k is the way he blows hot and cold on Reformed Protestantism. On the one hand, he bangs the drum of Reformed particularism, invoking Kuyper and Van Til to argue that 2k is not sufficiently Reformed. This is a version of “if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much.” And because 2kers differ with Dutch Reformed worthies, they are suspect.

On the other hand, other American Protestants get a pass. When it comes to Rick Warren or Chuck Colson (and I don’t mean to dishonor an admirable man who recently died), Dr. K. forgets the standards of Kuyper and Van Til and lifts at least one thumb if not two — to match with his own version of Dr. K’s 2k’s. I understand that Colson claimed the influence of W-Wism as outlined by Kuyper. But sometimes W-W loses sight of the churches’ confession and leads Protestants to join forces — even in the name of the gospel — with Roman Catholics.

In other words, Dr. K. is at times provincial, never moving outside the orbit of Dutch Reformed sources, and at other times treats celebrity American Protestants like the Indiana farm boy who visits Yankees Stadium the first time.

Recent praise for Warren and Colson notwithstanding, Dr. K’s recent quotes from Dutch scholars have me wondering if even the Dutch Reformed are the most reliable guides to Christ and culture.

First, he cites the work of J. Bouma on ethics and says, “Here you will find a substantive, competent, and classically Reformed analysis of one of the issues lying at the heart of the current NL2K discussion. It deserves—and will repay—careful study and reflection.” If you read the attached chapter, you’ll see Douma make a point that is pretty basic to the 2k position:

Nobody can deny that after proper reflection we can reach shared conclusions about many issues. If that were not the case, we wouldn’t be able to speak of living together in a civic community. Often such issues involve the arena of what is legal and illegal. Everybody has some notion of what unfairness and discrimination are. Numerous human rights are clearly formulated and can be accepted as universal claims in the struggle against gross injustice. Everybody knows the rule of thumb, “what you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others.” That rule belongs not only to the Christian way of life, but appears in other cultures as well. Sometimes we have the experience that non-Christians armed with this rule of thumb will expose injustice more effectively than Christians have. Removing poverty, developmental assistance, organ donation, and many more issues provide examples that show the outworking of “universal” arguments.

Within our pluralistically arranged society, Christians also need to work together to reach agreement about various issues. If that doesn’t succeed, they need to consider whether a compromise can be struck.

So the antithesis pedal doesn’t have to pushed to the floor all the time. And it’s even okay to suggest a different approach follows in a world comprised of believers and unbelievers. I wonder where I’ve heard that.

But then Dr. K. goes to the old country again with a mystifying point (implicitly) about the Holy Spirit and good plumbing:

For some Christians it is perhaps confusing that the Spirit who is given to us in Christ should also be active in technicians or artists who are totally unbelieving. We could distinguish between the work that the Spirit performs as Creator (proceeding from the Father and the eternal Son) and the work that he performs as Redeemer (proceeding from the Father through the incarnate Son who now sits at the Father’s right hand). This distinction signifies no separation, for the creating and maintaining work of the Triune God is tied to his redeeming and restoring work.

The statement that “the Holy Spirit works only in the hearts of believers,” seems to me to be formulated too narrowly, with the result that people have trouble with the rest of the Spirit’s work. I would change that statement this way: “The redeeming work of the Spirit of Christ occurs only in the hearts of all those who are reborn unto faith: at that point the human heart is opening up for that same Spirit who has always been doing his creating and maintaining work in all people, very often without these people giving God the honor for that work.”

This is from Jakub Van Bruggen who teaches at the Theological University in Kampen. This is a very strange construction because it self-consciously blurs the antithesis. Lost is the distinction between creation and redemption. Lost as well is the distinction between beautiful art, good plumbing, and extortion. For if the Holy Spirit is at work in non-believers when they create beauty, is the Holy Spirit also at work in non-believers when write beautiful poetry to seduce a married woman?

It seems to me this is just another version of Christians trying to take credit for whatever is good in the world in a way that is filled with a host of theological problems. But it does keep you from being 2k even if it means you confuse the categories that are basic to the work of redemption.

I wonder if Dr. K. could spot those problems if he could sort out American Protestants better.

81 thoughts on “Dr. K's Two K's

  1. My pastor (your former sheep B.W.) is currently doing an sunday evening Bible study on a ”Christian World view”. He made the comment that the neo-calvinist tradition has produced great academic institutions that are respected by the world. I began to reflect on this and I truly think the Dutch bubble is either completely blind to the reality of things. Can you name one confessionally Reformed neo-calvinist institution? The closest is Dort College and Calvin college and I’m sure the URC and Can Ref folk just love that! Dort also has lots of contact with the Fed.Vis (I know it’s not popular to attack federal vision anymore among Reformed Folk, but have we forgotton it is a denial of the Gospel?) Reedemer, Free University, Kuyper college, etc. Every neo-calvinist institution has a tendency to go neo-evangelical or theonomist at best, liberal at worst to my knowledge.

    So why neo-calvinists may hate those evil two kingdom institutions (Missouri Synod & the 2 Westminsters), given they’ve both fought and won against liberalism and kept to the same doctrine for a pretty decent amount of time, that deserves a bit of credit?


  2. Darryl,

    Having read DVD’s “Living in God’s Two Kingdoms”, I am not convinced that DVD really believes that God has established two separate kingdoms.To clarify my point: separate kingdoms are defined by separate monarchs, not whether or not two spheres under the same monarch are ruled in different ways. DVD acknowledges that both kingdoms are ruled by the same monarch, God. He also acknowledges that as Christians we continue to exist under the same monarch even when we operate in the “common kingdom” sphere when he says:

    Being honest, hardworking, and just, on the other hand, are simply human moral obligations. Christians have a different motive for pursuing them, for they alone pursue humility and industriousness as an expression of their faith in Christ and for the goal of honoring God.

    Though they refuse to acknowledge it, non-Christians also exist under the same monarch, God, which is why and how God’s Spirit works to bring about His purpose through them as well.


  3. Canons III & IV, 4: “There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright EVEN IN THINGS NATURAL AND CIVIL. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.”


  4. Mark,

    Not sure how or if your comment relates to my post. While the unredeemed man is incapable of using the light of nature aright EVEN IN THINGS NATURAL AND CIVIL does not mean that he lives in a differerent kingdom than the redeemed man. Both are still subject to the same Monarch.


  5. Don, to complicate your world, because the church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, and because unbelivers don’t belong to that kingdom, how could you possibly think that believers and unbelievers don’t belong to different kingdoms?


  6. Would the British Empire be an apt analogy? You had Britain and the nations it ruled over: both had the same Monarch, but there was an essential difference between being a Briton and a subject in one of the colonies. Britons could go easily between Britain and a colony, but one of the colonised could not.



  7. Don,

    “My kingdom is not of this world” would make no sense if there were not two kingdoms. Nor would Daniel 2:44 or Matt 4:8&9. God’s providential rule over all is not the only way the Bible considers kingdoms. Sometimes they are political entities (Dan 2), sometimes they are said to belong to Satan (Matt 4). You are flattening all the different usages of kingdom in the Bible into one, which the Bible does not do.


  8. Don, I think you’re right. While Christ is the head of the church (WCF 25:6), God is the supreme Lord and King of all the world (WCF 23:1) which includes the church of Jesus Christ.


  9. It just seems to me that we are using the term Kingdom in different ways which ends up confusing the point we are trying to make. This may be why Augustine used the term city of man and city of God, which I think is far more precise in saying the same thing it seems to me that DVD is trying to say.

    Let’s use Alexander’s analogy of the British empire and one of its colonies, say India. Prior to India being a colony of the British empire, it had a different King, and therefore was not then a part of the British kingdom until the monarch of England left England to go to India and defeated the King of India. In the same way, the Monarch of the heavenly kingdom left the heavenly kingdom to go to this world and defeat the then reigning king of this world Satan. Remember how Satan tried to avoid this defeat when he tempted Christ to fall down and worship him. Of course Christ refused and so Satan killed Him not knowing that by shedding the blood of an innocent man he abdicated his kingship and the the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of out Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever. Rev 11:15 (ASV).

    So yes, Todd, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, but the kingdom of this world is most certainly now become the kingdom of the Lord.


  10. Don,

    Satan is still the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” Eph 1:2. The kingdoms of this world do become the kingdom of Christ when he returns. Are you post-mil? Maybe that is the issue here?


  11. Darryl,

    Actually, it is you who are complicating your world by conflating the meaning of the word “kingdom.” Nowhere in Scripture will you find the Church being referred to as the kingdom of God. Instead you find Jesus telling His disciples that the kingdom of God is the world represented as a field in which both believers, the good seed, and non-believers, the tares, are growing up together. If you allow scripture to form your way of thinking, how could you possibly think that believers and unbelievers belong to different kingdoms? Cities, yes, as Augustine maintains, but not kingdoms. It is only at the end of time that the unbelievers will be gathered up, bound, burned, and thus eliminated from the kingdom of God. Matt 13:30


  12. To add another wrinkle to this 2K discussion, Michael Horton has on several occasions, and in a couple of his books, commented on Abraham Kuyper’s essay, “Conservatism and Orthodoxy: False and True Preservation.” In the recent Modern Reformation magazine he wrote another article about Kuyper’s warning to conservatives, quoting Horton: “Abraham Kuyper spoke of the danger of a moribund conservatism in his own movement: the separation from the national Reformed Church in the Netherlands. In a sermon preached in Utrecht in 1870, Kuyper complained that a generic conservatism had replaced a genuine Reformed impulse in the church…..Conservatism and orthodoxy, terms which are often confused, need to be most sharply distinguished today. Like Paul, Kuyper saw the source of the church’s life in the gospel itself…..It is true that a false progressivism closes its eyes to the past, but false conservatism falls into the opposite error: ‘Quenching life, we find peace solely in the past.’ This type of conservatism tries merely to hold on to the ‘ever-diminishing influence still left to us’ from our forebears. This is an exercise in ‘repristination’: the mere repetition of past utterances as if this could magically preserve the truth for the next generation. Advocates of this approach alternate between triumphalism and despair.”

    Horton then gives another quote from Kuyper: “They force themselves outside of their own time at the cost of having any influence on the life that surrounds them. In the end they turn aqainst their own brothers, fragmenting even more the little power that remains. Worst of all, their own spiritual life has to suffer, and as a result of continual disappointment, the grave of their dearest wishes must become the grave of their faith itself. No, you men who honor the fathers: first seek to have for yourself the life your fathers had and then hold fast what you have. Then articulate that life in your won language as they did in theirs. Struggle as they did to pump that life into the arteries of the life of our church and society. Then not being a dead form but a living fellowship will unite you with them, faith will be a power in your own life, and your building project will reach complete success.”

    I will stop with these quotes but the article goes on and tries to get to the bottom of what Kuyper was trying to get at with his rebuke of a type of conservatism that was devoid of power and life. This is not an easy issue to deal with and many have differing views of how to keep life and power within the church so it can spread out into the society at large. It is easy to accuse others of a false conservatism but it is difficult to know when one is retreating into that void which sucks the life out of the gospel.

    I have also never heard this essay by Kuyper referred to at this blog site and was wondering what others who have read the essay by Kuyper think about it. I have heard the critics of 2K accuse 2K advocates of a false conservativism and those on the 2K side say the same thing to the critics of 2K. This Christ and culture issue gets very confusing.


  13. John Y., for what it’s worth, Kuyper’s Doleantie was a little ambiguous about the Afscheiding and when the two groups merged in 1892 some of the earlier group stayed out because they didn’t think Kuyper did justice to their concerns. Kuyper’s comments have sometimes been used against the OPC. Don’t let Frame near them. I’m always a little confused by those who think they can discern power and vigor in other Christians.


  14. Don, perhaps you’ve heard that Old Life tries to maintain and defend Reformed Protestantism. Well, if that’s the case, then maybe you won’t be surprised to hear that Old Life takes some of its cues about the kingdom of Christ from the Confession of Faith which identifies the visible church with that kingdom. That may not be biblical enough for you. But it is in the ballpark of Reformed Protestantism.

    BTW, if you think the church is not a sufficient entity to distinguish between believers and unbelievers, you’re appeal to one kingdom certainly seems to make hay of the other major power — the magistrate. You really wouldn’t want to suggest that everyone who lives on earth is a citizen of the United States because there is only one kingdom, would you?


  15. Darryl,

    I can’t say that the thought that Horton (and Kuyper) was being unduly influenced by those who critique confessionalists for its supposed lack of what evangelicals, arminians, charismatics and revivalists call life and power. Paul certainly did make statements about the power of the Gospel but what many others mean by this may not be the same thing that Paul meant. I appreciate your added insight into what really was going on amongst the Reformed during Kuyper’s time. I am ignorant of that history. It is sometimes not easy to resist the perhaps false promise that Word and Sacrament need a bit of reviving from other means in order to really accomplish what God intends. There is a lot of doubt in Christiandome that Word and Sacrament are not sufficient to accomplish what needs to be done before Christ returns.


  16. Darryl,

    Now you are confusing matters even further. Earlier you said, “the church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, and because unbelivers don’t belong to that kingdom, how could you possibly think that believers and unbelievers don’t belong to different kingdoms?” Now you say that the visible church is the kingdom of Christ. So either you believe that unbelievers don’t belong to the visible church, or you are changing your position and now saying that unbelievers do belong to the kingdom of Christ, at least until He gathers them up and burns them with fire at the end of the world.

    I also subscribe to the WCF, but, as I’m sure you do, I give priority to Scripture. So, I continue to maintain that it is clearer to go with Augustine’s use of the terms “city of God” and “city of man” rather than DVD’s “kingdom of God” and “common kingdom.”

    By the way, the most confusing statement I came across in reading DVD’s book was the following footnote:

    In short, Augustine, in The City of God, described two cities, one consisting of true believers and destined for eternal blessing, and the other consisting of unbelievers and destined for eternal condemnation. Each person is a citizen of one city, and one city only, though the two cities necessarily intermingle in this present world. The Reformed tradition, from which I write, has understood both of the two kingdoms as God’s. God rules all things, but rules the affairs of this world in two fundamentally different ways. Christians are therefore citizens of two “kingdoms” but one “city.

    VanDrunen, David (2010-10-15). Living in God’s Two Kingdoms (p. 32). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

    I just can’t figure out, based on what DVD is saying about the two kingdoms, of which I am a citizen. He says I am a citizen of one city so does that mean that the one city belongs to two different kingdoms? If so, I assume God is the monarch of the one kingdom. Does that mean Satan is the monarch of the other kingdom, and I am still a citizen of that kingdom too? Or is he saying that Christ is the monarch of the other “common kingdom” which somehow makes Christ to be someone other than God.

    Life was so much simpler when the Bible was read as a story than a text book.


  17. Don, a dose of triadalism might help the 2k medicine go down. Think in terms of Venn diagram. One circle contains things only proper to one group, the other only proper to another; in the middle, where they converge, is common ground. In the left circle, we could say exists unbelievers and all the things proper to them eternally speaking is contained therein (e.g. judgment, and all the related properties) and in the right circle the same for believers (e.g. redemption and all the related properties); but in the middle is where we all exist under natural law and its related properties, which takes absolutely no account of our previous status as either blessed or condemned.


  18. Don, I’ll say it again, the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the third time I’ve said it. I see no contradiction between the first two (unless you’re looking for a story line). So the point remains unless you believe that churches should admit unbelievers to the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Glad to hear you affirm the Confession of Faith. But a few weeks back you said you’d take Scheemann over Reformed confessionalism. Now you’re the one who is confusing.


  19. Zrim,

    I get what he is trying to say, but I go back to my statement that he is conflating the meaning of the term kingdom. Who is the monarch of the middle kingdom?


  20. from Mike Horton’s review of Rob Bell’s book: “The when question always ends up shaping our assumptions about what the kingdom is in the first place. John the Baptist seems to have been confused by Jesus’s ministry, because the final judgment and resurrection of the dead had not happened yet. Herod was still sitting on his usurped throne, while John was sitting in jail awaiting

    Jesus’s point in the Olivet Discourse is that this one event comes in two stages: first, the era of grace, when the gospel is preached to the whole world over a period of time, and then, when people least expect it, when he returns for his final judgment and liberation. The kingdom of grace now will, in that day, be revealed finally in glory and power: to the horror of God’s enemies and the joy of his people.

    Avoiding the first Gentile misunderstanding about heaven, Rob Bel falls headlong into the second. The kingdom of God becomes a movement not only within history but of history. It is evolving, through our transforming efforts. It’s interesting to read Orthodox Jewish theologians who consider it blasphemy even to say that the modern state of Israel is holy, much less identifiable with the messianic kingdom. The latter can only come “from above,” not “from below.” Only God’s descent will bring it about.
    The Gentile misunderstanding teaches a false transcendence (heaven as an escape from God’s creation); the second errs by teaching a false immanence (this age as capable of ever being
    recovered). The kingdom of God is not something that evolved within history itself, as if this present age could yield anything but death. Rather, it’s something that came into this present age from the age to come. In his resurrection, Jesus inaugurated the age to come—in which we will fully
    share, even though we still wait for it patiently. We can live as salt and light in this age, loving our neighbors and serving them in our callings and telling them the glorious gospel.

    However, this age cannot be saved; it’s dying. We can plant flowers, preserve some semblance of justice and community in our neighborhoods and nations. We can console disaster victims and help care for those who suffer from poverty and disease. In fact, these are part of our “reasonable
    response” to “the mercies of God.” However, we’re not saving anything. We’re being saved along with other sinners until Jesus Christ—the only Savior—returns to consummate his kingdom that he has already purchased.
    Because the kingdom comes to earth from heaven, it is indestructible; it can’t be shaken, as even Israel was ever since the exile. We are not called to build the kingdom or to realize it by our
    effort, but to receive it. “Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. For our God is a
    consuming fire” (Heb 12:28-29)…. Wrath is just as evident in the kingdom motif as forgiveness. Blessing is not to be taken for granted. It’s a time of division within the house of Israel itself, where some are baptized with the Spirit and others with fire.”


  21. Don,

    I think you are word-smithing DGH’s statement about unbelievers and the church in a way that seems rather obviously to mean something he isn’t implying. Of course there are unbelievers “in” the church, but properly we don’t “admit” them in on the basis of unbelief, rather based on the credible profession from the evaluative perspective of the elders. I see DGH simply stating that a conscientious, self-professed unbeliever would not be admitted to church membership, but this doesn’t preclude the fact that elder evaluations are approximations of who the believers in their church are, simply because they cannot peer into the heart and know it’s secrets – heck I have a hard enough time peering into my own.


  22. Don, 2k holds that Jesus is Lord over every square inch. But it might help to read NL2K alongside LG2K where he makes the point that 2k as it is being articulated in the Reformed tradition is a development from Augustine’s two cities. The two are not identical. But now I am confused. You cited DVD’s footnote as the most confusing statement you came across in the book. Now you say you get what he is trying to say. Art thou confused or not?


  23. Don, you said all people belong to the one kingdom ruled by Christ. So all unbelievers belong to the church?

    And what about Schmeemann vs. the Confession? Are you feeling Eastern today, or Reformed?


  24. Darryl,

    No, it was you who pointed out that the WCF called the visible church the kingdom of Christ. In order to reconcile the WCF with Scripture, which you are obligated to do, you have to define the kingdom of Christ as a kingdom within, i.e., subordinate to the kingdom of God, which is perfectly in accord with Scripture according to 1 Cor 15:28 where Paul says that all things must be subjected to Christ and then Christ will be subject to God. Until all things are subject to Christ there are millions of baptized and professing believers who are truly unbelievers in the kingdom of Christ as defined by the WCF. Jesus clearly teaches that we are not to weed them out.Therefore, you need to come clean and admit that your argument that there must be two kingdoms because believers and unbelievers must belong to different kingdoms is simply an invalid argument. It does not hold water. I know it is a difficult thing to admit when we are wrong, but you really have no choice in this case.

    As to Schmemann, until you have read “The Life of the World” as I have read DVD’s Living in 2ks, you really can’t accuse me of any specific point in which he contradicts the WCF. I would welcome your attempt to do so, but will not argue in the abstract. Schmemann operates on a wholly different plane than does the WCF, recognizing that the Church began long before the reformation.


  25. Mark,

    I appreciate your explanation as I think it rings fairly true to Scripture. You may recall that I have often repeated your sentiment that “this age cannot be saved; it’s dying,” though I would want to clarify this age as the age of fallen man. God, through redeemed men, is now building His Church, having bound Satan so that his house can be plundered, and having sent His Spirit to His people like Paul who knows that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? As children of God, we run for an imperishable crown. Therefore we run with certainty. We fight not as one who beats the air, but discipline the body and bring it into subjection, lest, when we have preached to others, we ourselves should become disqualified.

    Admittedly, our weapons are different than the world’s weapons, and DVD actually makes this point when he says, “Being honest, hardworking, and just, on the other hand, are simply human moral obligations. Christians have a different motive for pursuing them, for they alone pursue humility and industriousness as an expression of their faith in Christ and for the goal of honoring God.” The disagreement I have with DVD’s argument is that he wants to treat creation as a common kingdom, describing it more like a playground where we all come together. But Scripture is clear that creation is a battle ground (read the Psalms) which the enemy is attempting to claim as its own. Scripture portrays the Church as a battering ram that will smash through the gates of hell and liberate creation from its bondage to decay and bring it into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

    When Christ ascended, the battle began in earnest. The unbelieving Jews were the fiercest enemy that the Church had to deal with, This is why Peter so earnestly reminded the believing Jews that what Christ said about the temple being destroyed during the generation of the people He spoke to would happen even though it appeared that everything was going on as is, and that when it happened, it would be the end of the age of the unbelieving Jews, something that could only be described as a catclysmic event like the end of the world (which for the unbelieving Jews was true), but for the believing Jews and Christians was the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth that would be consummated when all things have been brought into subject to Christ by the Church.


  26. I was not speaking. I was merely reporting a quotation from Mike Horton, from his review of Rob Bell. I myself think the biblical text says that the field is the world, not the “church”. But then again I am not a sacramentalist, and I don’t share you or Mike Horton’s view of “church”.

    Ecclesia is something which happens. Or not. And the “church” is not called to discipline or transform the “world”. I do not share Augustine’s view of the “nursing magistrates”

    On your view, Don, why bother with church discipline? Since we all agree that some tares are going to be in the visible church, why not just invite all the tares in to begin with and simply define church as the place where sacraments are handed out (do not take)?

    And please don’t call me a gnostic or platonist for my using the phrase “visible church”.


  27. Darryl, re: “the church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ” from April 27, 7:48 pm (and then a few posts after that).

    Perhaps this is the bottom line. I realize you are quoting loosely from the WCF — doesn’t it actually say “the visible church…” I was as disturbed by reading your post as I was when I got this sense in Clowney’s “Living in Christ’s Church” book from 1986.

    Somewhere in my theological training I learned that church and kingdom aren’t the same. The church constitutes the citizens of the kingdom, but the kingdom is broader than the church and includes everything over which Christ is king. I’m not sure where I got this idea, perhaps you can help me out. It could be Ridderbos, Goldsworthy, Ladd, Kline, Vos, Kuyper (Mine!), various other Westminster theologians from whom I learned a Biblical theological approach. Is there a difference between the historical systematic theology definition of kingdom and the Biblical theological definition of kingdom? Or it could be my encounter with Covenanters and some theonomic influences there. I’ve rejected theonomy but perhaps my notion of kingdom has been tainted. Or maybe it was reading Francis Schaeffer as an undergrad. Or World Magazine perhaps.

    Clowney himself writes on page 57: “The kingdom of God in the broadest sense describes God’s sovereign rule over all things.” He emphasizes that basileia means dominion rather than domain. It seems to me that this implies that any follower of Christ is subject to that rule and is part of that dominion. Could it be that wherever such a person is, there is kingdom of God. Clowney’s figure on page 75 shows the Messianic Rule of Jesus to be over the N.T. Church and over the World.

    To be sure, the visible church is the clearest manifestation of where the rule of God is acknowledge.


  28. Mark,

    I lean towards your interpretation of field as the world as well, and thus take church discipline seriously. Nonetheless, there will still be undetected tares in the church and I was taking issue with Darryl’s statement that the visible church cannot include both believers and non-believers. Either way, Christ is the Lord of the church and the world, and will remain so until all things have been subjected to Him and then He subjected to God that God may be all in all.

    Repeating what I said earlier, the world is not a common kingdom but a battleground from which the enemy will be eliminated when Christ returns. This does not mean that the church’s role is to transform the culture, but rather be true to itself. Please don’t accuse me of being a transformationalist except in the sense that the enemy either be converted or destroyed.


  29. Don, what on earth or in heaven are you going on about? Is this a wrestling match?

    Do you presume to say that the church and state do not have distinct jurisdictions, that one is only open to those who make some profession of faith and the other is open to people who do and people who don’t? I’m not talking about those inside the church. But neither are you when you say that all people belong to the kingdom of God.

    As for catching you in disagreement with the Confession of Faith, it seems that you are having trouble with the idea that the visible church is the kingdom of Christ.


  30. Terry, Clowney is making a typical neo-Cal move but it’s one the Old Schoolers and Scots were loath to make. The confession says (could be wrong) that the visible church is the kingdom of the lord Jesus Christ “out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

    This is a major source of disagreement between the neo-Cals and confessional Reformed. An expansive view of the kingdom seems to go right along with an expansive view of the federal govt. Hello Obama.


  31. Darryl,

    Yes they have different jurisdictions, but so do the electric company and the telephone company. This doesn’t mean they are separate kingdoms.


  32. Darryl, yes, and in the same breath utilizes the household/family imagery of scripture. Is the WCF really trying to define kingdom here or is it using Biblical language to describe the church? Is it really a neo-Cal innovation to see the kingdom as broader than the church? And, is it neo-Cal or is it BT? You’d call Clowney a neo-Cal? You see I think even Clowney identifies the church and kingdom too closely.

    Au contraire…This advocate of an expansive view of the kingdom has Ron Paul leanings. In fact, my neo-Cal impulses inform my limited government sensitivities. BTW, I picked up A Secular Faith on my iPad. I suspect I will agree with most of it and argue that your viewpoint is completely consistent with a sphere sovereignty informed neo-Calvinism 😉


  33. Again, I am only reporting: Calvin’s commentary on 1 Cor. 11:1-16:

    “Here the man is placed in an intermediate position between Christ and the woman, so that Christ is not the head of the woman. Yet the same Apostle teaches us elsewhere, (Galatians 3:28,) that in Christ there is neither male nor female. Why then does he make a distinction here, which in that passage he does away with? I answer, that the solution of this depends on the connection in which the passages occur. When he says that there is no difference between the man and the woman, he is treating of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, in which individual distinctions are not regarded, or made any account of; for it has nothing to do with the body, and has nothing to do with the outward relationships of mankind, but has to do solely with the mind — on which account he declares that there is no difference, even between bond and free.”


  34. Terry, it sure does look to me like from a BT perspective the kingdom is limited to the spiritual — my kingdom is not of this world. So in that sense, it is not a neo-Cal innovation to identify the kingdom with physical things like movies, cities, or the state’s programs since the Corinthians were not real content with a spiritual kingdom.

    But if you’re going to invoke the language of family, the kingdom gets even smaller (unless you’re a Mormon).


  35. Terry, if your hand gadget has the room, you might do well to also pick up “Always Reformed” and go right to Van Drunen’s chapter where he reflects on neo-Calvinism and its less-than-ecclesiastical ways:

    Another common characteristic of neo-Calvinism, amidst its diversity, is its dedication to putting the church in its place. That may seem unnecessarily pejorative, but I believe it is not unfair. What I mean is that neo-Calvinism, if it is united by anything, is united by a desire to promote Christian cultural engagement, the goodness of all lawful vocations, and a “kingdom vision” that includes but by no means is limited to the church. Conceptions of Christianity that are overly church-focused—and hence restricted in their kingdom vision—come in for special critique. Neo-Calvinism aims to convince believers that Christianity is about all of life and that their common occupations are just as holy and redeemable as their pastor’s work and their own worship on Sunday. Of course none of its proponents are anti-church and many of them are dedicated servants of the church. It seeks to elevate other institutions and activities rather than lower the church’s status, but the effect is still to ensure that the church does not have too prominent a place in the Christian life, for the sake of a
    holistic kingdom vision.

    So, yes, it is a neo-Cal innovation to see the kingdom broader than the church, and the effect is actually to undermine the church, even if it is not intended. Which is why paleo-Calvinists need to point out:

    It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of the fact that the church was the only institution that the Lord Jesus established in this world during his earthly ministry. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God; that is, the new creation, the original goal of the human race under the
    covenant of works. Yet if we scour the Gospels we find but one institution that Jesus associates with the kingdom and but one to which Jesus points to find the power and the ethic of the kingdom at work here and now. Jesus did not establish the family or civil government, but simply affirmed
    their legitimacy. He did not lay out plans for kingdom businesses. Families, governments, and businesses already existed under God’s providential rule and were common in the cultures of this world long before the kingdom was announced. Jesus established his church. Unlike the cultural institutions of this world, Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church alone. He entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the church alone. He commissioned disciplinary procedures reflecting the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount for the church alone. He promised, to the church alone, that where two or three are gathered in his name he
    himself will be there among them.


  36. Zrim, of course, this is one of the areas where I take issue with DVD. The church is spiritual, the church is to handle ecclesiastical affairs only, the church does not use the sword. That’s what neo-Calvinist sphere sovereignty says. Of course, you all say more or less the same thing.

    The only difference is that 2K’s don’t seem to think that believers are doing kingdom of God work when they work in Creation and Culture.

    Anybody here know the context when Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”? It was the attempt by the disciples to resist his arrest with swords. So is “world” here “Creation”? I’m not so sure we should jump to that conclusion. It seems that Jesus may be talking about a world system that gets its way by force. Not sure we want to draw too many eschatological conclusions from this.

    A renewed Creation is the New Heavens and the New Earth (on earth, by the way, as the heavenly city descends to earth). The “world” will be purged of its sin and rebellion as the earth is burned and refined by fire. As silver and gold are refined by fire so will the fallen Creation be refined.

    DVD’s assertion that the church was the only institution that Jesus established seems a bit dispensational and contrary to the Reformed confessions. I always thought the church already existed in the Old Testament. Even if it is true, it doesn’t mean that all else is worthless. Perhaps the continuity of the basic created order is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be “reinstituted”.


  37. It seems to me that where the 2 kingdom approach goes way wrong is in the way it evaluates the “task” that Jesus came to do. Throughout DVD’s book, he uses the phrase “Adam’s original task” as though God created the world for the purpose of giving Adam a task that He knew he could not do so that then Jesus could be introduced into the story to complete and fulfill that task and then we all get to rest. I do not believe this is too much of a stretch of DVD’s thesis.

    In fact, Scripture teaches that we were made to glorify and enjoy Trinitarian communion with God, and this could not be accomplished unless man first worshipped and fully obeyed God. Jesus was introduced to reconcile man to God so that His original plan could be put back on track. I have great difficulty in viewing “enjoying God forever” as a task as though it is a burdensome thing to do and that by thinking that we should do it is to, in DVD’s words, “compromise the all-sufficient work of Christ.”

    Now, if you follow this Scriptural line of reasoning, you should not be surprised that the Kingdom of God will include rebels who refuse to worship and obey God, but not to worry, for they will be destroyed when Christ returns. In the meantime, Scripture is clear that we are to think like Paul who now rejoices in his sufferings, and fills up in his flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church. Colossians 1:23-25

    If you want to talk about Christ’s work being all-sufficient, you had better restrict it to His work in justifying sinners, not as DVD would like you to believe.


  38. Don,

    I’ve been reading your takes on DVD off and on, and having taught almost all the way through NL2K and about to cap off the course with Living in 2k, i’m confident we aren’t reading the same guy. I am completely befuddled by the thought that you somehow think that DVD is regarding the initial Adamic covenant as a set up to fail, so that the Christ could be introduced and fulfill it. And if you’re take on 2nd Adam fulfillment is that we’re put back in the Garden at ground zero to start again and not graduated from that probationary covenant, unto an fulfilled reward(sabbath rest) to which we enter into by faith in an already-not yet tension-Heb 4 sabbath rest. Then you’ve misread DVD.


  39. Terry, to say that the only institution that Jesus established is the church is not to say that all else is worthless. 2k can still say without reservation that the family is the highest provisional institution (which makes it the cornerstone of society) and the civil magistrate is a minister of God himself (and so is due unreserved submission and obedience). Those hardly seem like ways to suggest worthlessness. But the point 2k also wants to make is one between creation and redemption, to make an essential distinction between the created and the redemptive orders.

    You and Don want more Bible. Well, on this score you might consider Matthew 16 and Luke 14 when Jesus explains the cost of discipleship. The highest temporal good (life itself) and the highest temporal institution (the family) are put in rather stark opposition to the kingdom of God, as in lose temporal life in order to gain eternal life and reject your family if they get between you and Jesus. I’m not sure how much starker one could get than to set the highest created goods and institutions—life and family—against the kingdom of God. In addition to lending a more modest perspective on pro-lifery and family values, another benefit of such a contrast is to elevate the importance of the institution of the church. After all, there is no salvation apart from her. That seems pretty important, I daresay even more than the plight of the weak and defenseless and the state of the family. But neo-Calvinism seems to have a way of flattening things out and losing any sense of priority.


  40. Zrim, I don’t know why you say that there is a flattening. Each according to it’s intended purpose. The unbelieving civil magistrate who pursues justice is doing God’s will and pursuing kingdom values, but because he/she is an unbeliever and outside the church he/she is going to hell. Once again you conflate what neo-Calvinists do and say about the creation and culture and what they do and say about about the church. It seems to me that you’re the one who can’t make proper distinctions.

    And, of course, God comes first. Knowing Him and being a member of His kingdom is the highest value. Who would say otherwise? It doesn’t mean that those other things aren’t of value as you note.

    Somehow I knew you would pick up on the word “worthless” and I regret using it. I don’t think that 2K’s believe that Creation and Culture is worthless. However, they are denigrated because of their temporality, and this is what I am talking about. Isn’t this DVD’s very point in the section you quoted? I don’t think that is any reason to think that our Creation and Culture efforts, once purged of their dross, will not pass into the New Heavens and the New Earth. After all, the streets are made of gold (hmm… that seems like a continuation of the elements) and the kings of the earth will bring their tribute (hmm… Will there still be earthly kings? Will there still be economic tribute?). I don’t want to go overly literal here, but it sure seems like lots of Creation and Culture will continue.


  41. Sean,

    On page 20, DVD says:

    The kingdom of God proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ is not built through politics, commerce, music or sports. Redemption does not consist in restoring people to fulfill Adam’s original task, but consists in the Lord Jesus Christ himself fulfilling Adam’s original task once and for all, on our behalf. Thus redemption is not “creation regained” but “re-creation gained.”

    DVD’s first major blunder is to refer to the purpose of man as a task instead of as the WCF defines it as to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. God did not put us in a garden, name the animals, subdue the earth, etc. as tasks, but as ways to experience Trinitarian communion with Him. Haven’t you ever experienced the joy of gardening, sifting the dirt through your hands, inhaling the sweet smell of it, planting a seed, watering it, watching it grow, and enjoying its beauty. This only became a task after God cursed the ground because of man’s sin.(Gen 3:17). This is why Paul says the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Rom 8:21). Gardening, music, sports, politics, and all of creation will be restored to their intended end, the means through which we commune with our God (revealed now through bread and wine of communion), but completely revealed when the new kingdom is fully consummated. Isaac Watts completely understood this when he wrote the beloved Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World” containing the words

    No more let sins and sorrows grow,
    Nor thorns infest the ground;
    He comes to make His blessings flow
    Far as the curse is found.

    But Jesus has done far more than remove the curse. He has raised us up even higher than the angels, never to fall again.


  42. Terry, a word of warning: the Israelites (even the devout ones) expected lots of continuity with the coming of the Messiah. Don’t be disappointed the way they were.

    As for denigrating creation because of its temporality, have you ever read that fellow, the Apostle Paul, you know the one whom BTer’s go batty over? Lots of distinctions there between the temporal and the eternal, even to the point of saying that dying is gain (and that’s even before the resurrection of the body).

    At the same time, it strikes me that neo-Cal’s overestimate the temporal and attach to it such phrases as “kingdom” values because they aren’t comfortable with its limits.


  43. Don (and Terry by implication), so now you’re quoting the catechism instead of the Bible — task vs. glorification? How convenient.

    As for the meaning of Rom. 8:21, maybe you want to follow Calvin’s advice and avoid speculating:

    But he means not that all creatures shall be partakers of the same glory with the sons of God; but that they, according to their nature, shall be participators of a better condition; for God will restore to a perfect state the world, now fallen, together with mankind. But what that perfection will be, as to beasts as well as plants and metals, it is not meet nor right in us to inquire more curiously; for the chief effect of corruption is decay. Some subtle men, but hardly sober-minded, inquire whether all kinds of animals will be immortal; but if reins be given to speculations where will they at length lead us? Let us then be content with this simple doctrine, — that such will be the constitution and the complete order of things, that nothing will be deformed or fading.

    The point is that none of us know what the new heavens and new earth will be.


  44. Don,

    You’re particular citation of DVD proves my point. You’re taking him to task for use of the word ‘task’ is a bit overwrought unless you’re looking to define the adamic covenant apart from a notion of work-reward and merit. Rom 8:21 works better as a graveyard scene paralleled with Is 24:4-6. Not an anticipation of redemption of non Imago Dei creatures. DVD would agree with you that Jesus has taken us beyond the original adamic covenant to it’s consummated reward. You really are misunderstanding his ‘re-creation gained.’ He’s arguing for consummation/glory attained by the 2nd adam


  45. Terry, the unbelieving magistrate who isn’t pursuing justice but is instead unjust is also doing God’s will (and is still to be obeyed and prayed for). Can neos say that? Or do you guys only look for the kingdom outside the church where it’s rosy?

    And you still betray much too low a view of creation to suggest it is denigrated because of its being temporal. I find this to be a common neo tick that seems more aligned with a medieval notion of creation: deficient in its essence because of the fallenness of its condition. But confessional Protestantism thinks in terms of legal-moral, not metaphysical-ontological.

    And if you think that in addition to human beings that the stuff they make also make it into the NHNE then that must mean you think Jesus lived and died for more than his people, which is to say his people and their stuff. That’s why I hear my neos pray that God would “sanctify their musical instruments.” But the only thing that can be sanctified, and thus also enter the NHNE, is an actual human being. I know you say you don’t want to be overly literal, but I do wonder if you guys ever consider the implications of your expansivist views and whether it strikes you as odd to suggest that Jesus had in mind pipe organs when he condescended to flesh and ascended into heaven.

    And because I know you guys think confessionalists aren’t Scriptural enough, to give biblical reference for DGH’s (and Calvin’s) warning about speculating on the hereafter: no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. The garden isn’t going to be restored, it’s going to be even greater. That’s another irony of neo-Calvinism—it isn’t nearly optimistic as it thinks it is.


  46. Sean,

    I’d encourage you to read Isaiah 24 in its context. The earth will not respond to those who reject its Creator. I’d also encourage you to consider whether the work-reward-merit scheme is something that has been read into or out of Scripture. It seems to me to make Jesus the greatest legalist that ever existed.


  47. Darryl,

    All three, unless you show me how Schmemann contradicts either. But then I guess you’d have to read it first.


  48. Don,

    Actually the earth groans under the burden of bearing within itself the bodies of those creatures(imago dei) for which it(the earth) was supposed to serve and be ruled by. This is the curse the earth ‘bears’ that it must serve as a graveyard for those who were supposed to be it’s(earth’s) master. As it regards works-merit, if Adam’s merit or demerit was disproportionate to either it’s reward or punishment, then so is our salvation in Christ. If merit isn’t truly possible in ANY sort of proportionate way, then God’s judgement is capricious and we are all still lost in our sins because Christ hasn’t actually merited anything. If true merit isn’t possible let’s all go drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Or what exactly is it, according to your scheme, that Christ has earned? What is imputed righteousness in your soteriology?


  49. The rejection of the biblical view of God’s justification of the ungodly by imputed righteousness tends to go along with a rejection of the imputation of the guilt of Adam to sinners. Michael Bird (Fuller Seminary, Justification: Five Views, 2011) in his “progressive Reformed view”, writes:

    “For some commentators, Adam’s disobedience is imputed to sinners and then believers have Jesus’ obedience imputed to them for justification… The word kathistemi refers to an actual state of affairs and NOT to legal transactions. To say that believers will be made righteous is to posit a rectification in BOTH their legal status and in their moral status.” p113

    My point is not simply that justification is being defined (contrary to the Reformed confessions, in agreement with Rome) to include transformation. My point is that this argument is based on the rejection of the legal transfer of guilt from Adam to sinners. The debate is also about a denial that the guilt of the elect was transferred to Christ. Representative “union” will be allowed, but legal substitution is rejected.

    Of course I am not saying that every neo-calvinist collaborates with the “new perspective”. But minimizing the soteric status of individuals is very much a part of both agendas. “Guilt by association” is one kind of imputation!

    Both agendas tend to have a shared antithesis. The forensic can be included but it CANNOT be “hegemonic”. This is the new intolerance—legal categories cannot be controlling. It cannot be grace vs works, but grace and works, or supposedly we will end up being “couch potatoes” (p155) who fail to bring in the kingdom.

    The new perspective does not want us to say anymore that the legal record of Christ’s obedience is a property which can be transferred. That would make Christ to be the “first Pelagian” racking up frequent flyer miles (merits, p145). The neo-Calvinists don’t need to make big accusations like that. They can keep imputation as a shelf doctrine but they don’t waste their time on it.


  50. Once Christ’s merits are removed from the gospel, faith inevitably blends with works, since faith and works are merely two grace-enabled human responses. And then also all kingdoms already now become one and the same kingdom.

    David Gordon explains: “John Murray’s disciples inevitably move in a monocovenantal direction. All covenants become essentially the same. Norman Shephard cannot easily distinguish Abrahamic faith from Sinaitic works. Greg Bahnsen could not distinguish Israel’s laws from the laws of non-theocratic nations. The paedo-communionists cannot distinguish a family meal (Passover) from a corporate meal (the Lord’s Supper).

    “The so-called Federal Vision cannot easily distinguish the visible (the ‘outward Jew’ of Romans 2) from the invisible (the ‘inward Jew’ of Romans 2) church. Though John Murray himself committed none of these errors, his monocovenantal tendency would inevitably have the effects it has had in each of these areas.”

    mcmark: Some of us historians might have a problem with that “inevitably”….


  51. Zrim, I’m referring to the revealed will and not the secret decretal will. The civil magistrate that pursues injustice is NOT doing God’s revealed. I hope you’re with me on this basic distinction–I don’t really understand why that has to be clarified. Why on earth would I be talking about God’s secret will?

    Colossians 1:20 — “and God was pleased … through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.” Sounds like pipe organs to me.

    And don’t forget Zechariah 14:20ff. On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and on the cooking pots in the Lord’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy the the Lord Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them.

    Sounds like more than human beings to me. I hope you get the prophecy here. Even the mundane pots and pans become like the priestly garments on that day. In our already/not yet eschatology “that day” as already begun. “all of life” “24/7” “pots and pans”–they are all holy to the Lord–sanctified.

    Don’t you worry now. We neo-Cals think that NHNE will be better. Part of the unimaginable is life/creation/culture without sin! What a day that will be!

    Here are the closing word’s to the neo-Cal contemporary testimony “Our World Belongs to God” (btw, what happens when neo-Cal becomes part of the Reformed confession? Kind of messes with your categories.)

    56. Our hope for a new earth is not tied to what humans can do,
    for we believe that one day every challenge to God’s rule
    and every resistance to his will shall be crushed.
    Then his kingdom shall come fully,
    and our Lord shall rule forever.
    57. We long for that day…

    Any problem with any of that?


  52. Terry, the problem is that when neos say “not yet” it always sounds like “already,” as in praying for pipe organs to be sanctified. Holy ivories. But 2k understands that in the NHNE everything will be holy, but it also wants to say there is a significant difference between creation made in the imago Dei and creation that isn’t. Do you really want to say that Jesus lived and died for pots and pans? It sure seems that of all people, the ones with a covenantal theology should be able to read the Bible and see that the history of redemption has to do with God and HIS PEOPLE. Then again, it also seems like of all people, the only ones with something like the RPW should have a much more predictable form of worship. Little wonder to me that neos are not only the ones who tend to expand the target of redemption but also are the ones who tend to expand on how God is to be worshiped.


  53. David Gordon explains the temporary nature of the need for ethnic purity:

    “The Mosaic covenant, burdensome as it was for the hapless Israelites, was needed for a
    variety of reasons. In terms of Paul’s concerns in Galatians, it was necessary for there to be a
    covenant that, at a minimum, preserved two things: memory of the gracious promises made to
    Abraham and his “seed,” and the biological integrity of the “seed” itself. Sinai’s dietary laws
    and prohibitions against inter-marrying with the Gentiles, along with Sinai’s calendar and its
    circumcision, set Abraham’s descendants apart from the Gentiles, saving them (in some degree)
    from their desire to inter-marry with the Am ha-Aretz until the time came to do away with such a
    designation forever.

    “There were things necessary to teach, via the types and sacrifices of the Old Testament system, in order for the work of the coming Christ to make any sense when He appeared. And during this season of preparing the world for the coming Christ, it was necessary to have a covenant that by the harshest threats of curse-sanctions would prevent inter-marriage and idolatry among a people particularly attracted to both. Sinai’s thunders did not prevent this perfectly, but they did so sufficiently that a people still existed on earth who recalled the promises to Abraham when Christ appeared, and the genealogy of Matthew’s gospel could be written.”


  54. Mark,

    I agree and would only add that the law also served to establish Israel as God’s Priests/Servants in His creation until Christ came and initiated the priesthood of all believers..


  55. Terry,

    You have to remember that 2ks can only think of redemption as people abstracted from any context such as creation. Therefore they can only appreciate an unembodied worship of God in the already and some completely incomprehensible, discontinuous glorious state in the not yet. In the meantime, their consciences are clear because they can enjoy all the things of this world without feeling any guilt, because, after all, they are only temporary. Of course they will also say not to get entangled in the things of this world for the same reason.


  56. Sean,

    Christ is the Lord of creation, so His merit is infinite. Since He is the Lord, He is not subordinate to the law as though He needed to be judged in the sense of merit per your scheme.


  57. Don,

    So according to your logic the incarnation was superfluous, why bother with the whole redemptive history bit, and this nasty stuff of God requiring his pound of flesh from his own Son of all things. Just so unnecessary. He should’ve just snapped his ‘fingers’ and maybe wrinkled his nose, and bobbed his head and it’d all be good. I don’t need Jesus coming in the flesh to show me how much he cared nor do I need Him dying on the cross to show me how bad my sin is and what it costs. I’ll stay home and read my paper and play golf on sundays if this is all that’s at work. Adamic merit was either real and possible or you don’t get to have Christ’s merit on the flip side. And it’s not my scheme, it’s scriptures. This is the traditional bi-covenantal, WCF scheme. See chapter 7


  58. Sean,

    Its not Scriptural for if Adam or any man can be saved by works then it is not by grace you have been saved through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works so that no one can boast.

    Why bother with the whole redemptive history? Because Adam forfeited the rule of creation to Satan. This is why Satan was quite authenically able to offer Jesus rule of the world when he took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor and said “All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.” This is why Christ is referred to as the last Adam — He came to take back what Satan had stolen from the first Adam, but He would do it His way, not Satan’s way. Little did Satan know that by shedding the blood of an innocent man, he lost his right to rule and why Christ could say, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”


  59. Actually, Terry, what you should try and keep in mind about 2kers is that we take the doctrine of sin seriously enough that we don’t recognize ourselves in any construction that has us feeling guilt-free. It’s this same doctrine of abiding sin that tends to put the kibosh on utopian neo tendencies for world improvement, and evidently makes some so frustrated they suggest Gnosticism. But if what is meant is that 2kers enjoy and indulge the created order because we are not to call anything unclean what God has made clean, but not too much because it’s all fading away, then (ahem) guilty as charged.


  60. don f: “Of course they will also say not to get entangled in the things of this world for the same reason.”

    mark mcculley: Are all who disagree with you about continuity, Don, to be thought of as “gnostics” and docetists”? For example, is a pacifist like me, who denies “responsibility” for “the one and only culture” by “leaving the wrath to God” (who has ordained even evil powers), is a person like me probably a careless “guilt free” antinomian?

    Or do you need to find out first what kind of gnostic I am? A separatist pacifist or merely a cowardly parasite who wants to enjoy stuff (guilt-free) while asking others to kill for me (guilt-free)?

    The only way I am guilt free is by legal identification with Jesus Christ who died to sin and to the law. But since we can’t (and don’t need to) make atonement like Jesus Christ did, are we now resigned to the immanence of creating a culture we can share with the age to come?


  61. So Don, you are Christus Victor all the way? No legal categories at all when you think of Christ’s death? No imputation of the guilt of the elect (before the law) to Christ? I don’t want to read too much into your anti-merit comments, so can you explain how your Christus Victor view reads Romans 6 without effectively denying penal substitution?

    Thanks for your explanation, if you have the time.


  62. MMc: You quote David Gordon. Do you know that in the same article he says: “I raise these questions grateful that John Murray, to my knowledge, never wrote so much as a paragraph about the Galatian letter”? He’s wrong:

    “He [Murray] did not write a full length commentary on Galatians (as he did on the Epistle to the Romans). But the claim that he never dealt with the Epistle’s teaching, particularly on the matter of the Mosaic law and the covenants, is patently false.”


    So that leaves us with the question: How good a scholar is T. David Gordon?
    Murray makes a whole lot more sense in “The Unity of the Covenant of Grace” than Gordon does in the article from which you quote.


  63. Don,

    Besides the Pauline use of grace you cite being a necessarily post fall understanding of favor in the face of demerit and not an Edenic consideration even pondered through God’s condescension.

    Your Christus victor motif is apparently devoid of penal substitutionary atonement consideration I haven’t heard in prominence like that or even quite that way outside of Pentecostal theology. Your Adamic motif is odd and fairly unique to you. Probably way too much to tackle by combox and iPhone


  64. Mark and Sean,

    I do believe the Christus Victor theory is well grounded in Scripture, in the Old Testament’s many promises by Yahweh to liberate His people through royal action, in Jesus’ proclamation of the coming of the kingdom, and in Paul’s emphasis on the liberation from the law and the curse. This model becomes problematic if it denies the requirements of justice, wrath, and propitiation which are also clearly grounded in Scripture. To put it another way, Christus Victor works so long as (with Luther) we insist that one of the adversaries that is conquered by the cross is the wrath of God.

    The problem with most of the theories of atonement today, including Christus Victor and the satisfaction theory which conservatives often see as the orthodox view of the atonement, and certainly the dominant one in Western theology since the 11th century, is the way that the theories focus almost exclusively on the death of Jesus with little emphasis on His resurrection.

    Robert Sherman has developed a Trinitarian theology of atonement (King, Priest, and Prophet [T&T Clark, 2004]) that attempts to synthesize various theories of the atonement by combining a Trinitarian frame with the triple office of Christ. As Sherman puts it, to affirm Christ as victorious king is to say that God the Father has bestowed royal authority upon the incarnate Son to accomplish in the power of the Spirit the proclamation and reestablishment of divine sovereignty in a world enslaved by alien and illegitimate powers. Trinitarian theology thus helps to address some of the criticisms that are brought against satisfaction theories: If one understands the will and work of the Father as distinct from and in some sense imposed upon the Son, or the merely human Jesus, then concern for the fundamental injustice of the procedure is clearly warranted. Yet part of the point of the doctrine of the Trinity has been to emphasize the divine equality of being between Father and Son, as well as their complete harmony of will and purpose. In such an understanding, coercion becomes impossible, because the conditions needed to enable it simply do not exist. Thus he formulates the priestly perspective on the atonement as in accord with the loving and righteous will of God the Father, God the Son freely takes on flesh by means of God the Spirit to become Christ the priest and sacrifice, to atone for human sin and restore creation to right relation with God and its own integrity. He takes on human flesh to serve as humanity’s representative and priest, because it is humanity that stands in need of making sacrifice to God.


  65. So that was a no? No legal identification with Christ’s death and no imputation? The wrath is somehow on the Son but not by means of God’s justice?

    When the Bible says death, it means also resurrection. But Christus Victor tends to say resurrection in order to teach that the death was only prelude and not rationally or judicially necessary. I suggest you read Abraham Booth or John Owen on the vindication of God’s justice. Christus Victor puts so much stress on the Deity of Christ that it tends to play down the need for the incarnation.

    The next thing you know, Don, you will be telling us that Anselm and Calvin were also gnostics. Sherman’s book agrees with the Socinian objections. This agreement will lead you very far from the Reformed Confessions. But of course I remember that I don’t know most of you guys. Don, could you tell us if you currently subscribe to one of the Reformed Confessions? If you don’t believe what they say, it would of course be good if you didn’t need to translate them into something opposite….


  66. I Peter 1:11 tells us of the Spirit’s prediction of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” I Peter 3:21 speaks of an “appeal for a good conscience, through the resurrection.”

    The gospel is not the death without the resurrection, or the resurrection without the death. The good news about one is good news about the other. Calvin: “When in scripture death only is mentioned, everything peculiar to the resurrection is at the same time included, and that there is a like synecdoche in the term resurrection.” (Institutes 2:16:13)

    See the Ephesians 4:8 quotation of Psalm 68: 18—“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. In saying, He ascended, what does it mean but that he also descended…?” From the word “ascension”, we can also infer the descent from heaven.

    John 3:13:“ No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.”

    I am adventist but not a gnostic. That means my hope is not the reformation of this age/world (the hope some are finding in Nevin) but the second coming of Jesus Christ and resurrection to immortality on the new earth.


  67. Mark,

    I take a more sacramental view of creation than most, so I tend to see varying shades of gnosticism where others don’t.I believe the Bible teaches that all that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God.So the only natural reaction of man to whom God gave this blessed and sanctified world, is to bless God in return, to thank Him, to see the world as God sees it, and — in its act of gratitude and adoration — to know, name, and possess the world. All rational, spiritual and other qualities of man, distinguishing him from other creatures, have their focus and ultimate fulfillment in this capacity to honor God, to know, so to speak, the meaning of the thirst and hunger that constitutes his life. The basic definition of man is that he is the priest, standing in the center of the world and unifying it in blessing God, receiving from and offering to God, and thus transforming his life into communion with Him. The natural dependence of man upon the world was intended to be constantly transformed into communion with God in whom is all life. From this perspective then, the original sin is not primarily that man has “disobeyed” God; the sin is that he ceased to be hungry for God and God alone.

    So in response to your question about incarnation, legal identification with Christ’s death, and resurrection, this view puts the strongest emphasis on all of these concepts. Christ had to be incarnated to fulfill the role that man was made to fulfill, He had to die as man’s perfect sacrifice to God, His death puts an end to the present order of this world and the rule of this world by Satan since Satan has now lost his power as the accuser since he accused the perfect man and God, and Christ’s resurrection is the inauguration of the new life and the new creation to be consummated upon His return. This all comports with your earlier reference to Romans 6.


  68. Romans 6 describes two legal states, one of which is “free from righteousness”.The true God will not accept us into His presence based on something in us, not even on something God has put in us. If we have not yet been legally justified by God on the basis of WHAT CHRIST DID, we are still in our sins.

    Romans 6 defines the “new creation in Christ” in terms of legally being placed into the death of Christ. Instead of a “sacrament with water” which makes us participants in Christ, our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

    II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sakes died and was raised….If anyone is in Christ, there is NEW CREATION. The old has passed; the new has come.”

    “Those who live” means those who are justified and who have eternal life. The category of “we died” is not about a sacramental addition to or renewal of nature but about an imputed legal reality. The category of “those who live” is also about forensic status, legal life because of WHAT CHRIST DID now imputed.

    The transfer from old to new is not effected or maintained by “sacrament” or by “feeding on Christ”. So how then do the justified stay in Christ? For those in Christ legally, the old has passed. Some of the elect have now already been justified. One day, at the resurrection, there will be visible evidence of that verdict.


  69. Mark,

    No disagreement with your view regarding forensic justification of the elect. However, I was not addressing individual salvation or even the sacraments of baptism or communion specifically. While your question was focusing on the individual being saved, I was looking at salvation from the perspective of God’s original purpose of creation and why Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection are necessary. Individually, I hold to the reformed doctrine of salvation by faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone.

    The reason I took the perspective I did is because, as you may recall in an earlier post, I took issue with DVD’s reference to Adam’s original task of cultivating the earth as completed by Christ. From the perspective I took, I was trying to show how instead of being a task, interacting with creation (now inaugurated as new) is the means by which man’s life is transformed into communion with God. I am not talking about cultural transformation, because the order of this world is passing. I am defending the continuity and liberation of creation to the redeemed people of God when Christ comes back — only then will culture be as it would have been if Adam had not failed to see creation as the gift of God it was meant to, and will again be.


  70. 1. All that has happened was meant to be and decreed by God.
    2. The sin of Adam was ordained by God as a means to the redemption of the elect by Christ to the glory of Christ. (The Reformed confessions do not condemn supralapsarianism).
    3. The sin of Adam was not a failure to build a culture but eating from the forbidden tree.
    4. The command to not eat from the forbidden tree was not a gift of grace, but law.
    5. Grace assumes sin and the need for grace, therefore there was no grace manifest in the garden before Adam’s sin, even though of course grace was always in the decree. (For more on this, see Mark Karlberg and other Klineans.)
    6. Adam was not created as neutral “nature” in need of “supernature grace”. Adam was created in a righteous relationship with God, but that does not entail the (later?) Roman Catholic antrhopology.
    7. But this is not to say (with Lutherans) that redemption is a return to what was, nor is it to speculate on what Adam “could have or might have” done in a “covenant of works”, but to say that grace is located nowhere but in Christ’s work for those God loves.
    8. Christus Victor rhetorically claims a past victory by God, but it fails (and you Don have failed) to show how it rationally relates to penal satisfaction of God’s law so that the work is finished already and remains to be be imputed to all the elect not yet justified. Don, it’s not enough to say you believe in forensic justification, by faith only, when you need to (with the confessions) identify the object of faith NOT in our cultural activity also but alone in Christ’s legal-work at cross and resurrection.


  71. mark mcculley: 7. But this is not to say (with Lutherans) that redemption is a return to what was, nor is it to speculate on what Adam “could have or might have” done in a “covenant of works”, but to say that grace is located nowhere but in Christ’s work for those God loves.

    RS: Or grace is located in Christ Himself. All spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph 1:3).

    McMark: 8. Christus Victor rhetorically claims a past victory by God, but it fails (and you Don have failed) to show how it rationally relates to penal satisfaction of God’s law so that the work is finished already and remains to be be imputed to all the elect not yet justified. Don, it’s not enough to say you believe in forensic justification, by faith only, when you need to (with the confessions) identify the object of faith NOT in our cultural activity also but alone in Christ’s legal-work at cross and resurrection.

    RS: Or the object of faith could be the triune God since it is through Christ that we are brought to the Father. What Christ did the Father did, or at least that is what Jesus said (John 14:10).


  72. Mark: 1. All that has happened was meant to be and decreed by God.
    Don: Ok

    Mark: 2. The sin of Adam was ordained by God as a means to the redemption of the elect by Christ to the glory of Christ. (The Reformed confessions do not condemn supralapsarianism).
    Don: Ok, but redemption is a very broad term. See below.

    Mark: 3. The sin of Adam was not a failure to build a culture but eating from the forbidden tree.
    Don: I never said the sin of Adam was a failure to build culture nor that it was not eating what was forbidden. Every act of sinning proceeds from the heart. My point was that Adam”s heart was not right with God when he ate from the forbidden tree. His hunger for God as reflected in thankful acceptance of God’s gift to him was superceded by a desire for the thing itself.

    Mark: 4. The command to not eat from the forbidden tree was not a gift of grace, but law.
    Don: I’m not sure what I said made you think that I thought the command not to eat from the forbidden tree was a gift of grace. It was a command, and may have been repealed when Adam had matured enough to eat of it, but I did not say that it was a gift of grace. Clearly Adam was forbidden to eat of it. I suspect you are going with Kline here and turning the command into the law court scenario. While I agree that it was a test, I don’t think its primary purpose was to show that Adam was a sinner (a miserable, disobedient creature) that needed to be redeemed by grace, followed by a grateful response to God. Rather, though Adam was a sinner, he was made to be the priest/king of God’s creation and needed to be redeemed (freed from slavery to desire for the things of the world instead of for God) so that his desire could be restored to eucharistic communion with Christ and the Trinity through all things which were made by and for Him.

    Mark: 5. Grace assumes sin and the need for grace, therefore there was no grace manifest in the garden before Adam’s sin, even though of course grace was always in the decree. (For more on this, see Mark Karlberg and other Klineans.)
    Don: Creation was a gift which Adam did not merit. You may not want to call it grace, but you can’t deny that it was a gift.

    Mark: 6. Adam was not created as neutral “nature” in need of “supernature grace”. Adam was created in a righteous relationship with God, but that does not entail the (later?) Roman Catholic antrhopology.
    Don: He was made from nothing. He needed to learn and grow in knowledge of God, His maker, which would have come naturally through his grateful acceptance and offering of the gift of creation to God if he had not disobeyed God.

    Mark: 7. But this is not to say (with Lutherans) that redemption is a return to what was, nor is it to speculate on what Adam “could have or might have” done in a “covenant of works”, but to say that grace is located nowhere but in Christ’s work for those God loves.
    Don: But the grace comes through Christ Himself by whom, for Whom, through Whom, unto Whom, and in Whom all things in heaven and earth are made. Redemption is the glorified state that man would have achieved if he had been patient and continued to direct his desire to Christ by, for, through, and in Whom all things in heaven and earth exist. This is the sacramental perspective of creation that Scripture, especially Col 1 forces us to acknowledge and why destruction of creation cannot begin to be conceived of.

    Mark: 8. Christus Victor rhetorically claims a past victory by God, but it fails (and you Don have failed) to show how it rationally relates to penal satisfaction of God’s law so that the work is finished already and remains to be be imputed to all the elect not yet justified. Don, it’s not enough to say you believe in forensic justification, by faith only, when you need to (with the confessions) identify the object of faith NOT in our cultural activity also but alone in Christ’s legal-work at cross and resurrection.
    Don: I’m not sure how I fall short in showing how my view relates to penal satisfaction of God’s law. Christ died as our substitute, and rose from the dead. If all things have been created by, for, through, and in Him, our faith and desire for him is evidence of His life in us. It is expressed as our grateful acceptance and offering of all things (i.e., our cultural activity) to Him and our consequential drawing deeper into communion with Him, and by the Spirit, into the Trinitarian love that has eternally existed between Father, Son and Spirit. In other words, I suggest that Scripture defines the finished work of Christ as our reconciliation and future glorification, inaugurated now, that we might become partakers of Christ (Heb 3:14)and His divine nature (2 Pet 1:4) through our eucharistic reception and offering of all things to Him by, for, through and in Whom they were made.


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