In case you haven’t noticed, Christianity is riddled with dilemmas and perplexities. For instance, Christ tells his followers to have nothing to do with the world but then he leaves Christians in the world. Another is that Christ wins by defeat; by dying on the cross, Satan’s apparent victory, Christ snatches believers from the grip of the evil one. Yet another is the doctrine of the Trinity. Still another is that Christ is Lord and Christians should submit to a counterfeit lord by the name of Nero. If you wanted intellectual consistency, then you’d likely end up abandoning orthodox Christianity.
The intellect defying mysteries of Christianity do not prevent critics of 2k from pointing out 2k’s apparent inconsistencies. Neo-Calvinism’s condemnation of all dualism fortifies critics in their quest to iron out all of Christianity’s wrinkles and gives them the upper hand in public relations contests since St. Joe the Home Schooler is more likely to trust a simple and direct answer to his questions than one that begins “well, yes and no.”
A recent attempt to catch 2k in the clutches of inconsistency came from Steven Wedgeworth at his new blog, The Calvinist International. He asks whether a seminary that trains pastors belongs to the spiritual or temporal kingdom and follows the reasoning of Ryan McIlhenry from an article in Mid-America Journal of Theology, not a journal that one associates with fans of the Federal Visions (but opposition to 2k makes for strange bed bugs). At a conference at Westminster California, David VanDrunen responded to this question in ways inconceivable to the perplexity challenged. Dissatisfied by VanDrunen’s response, Wedgeworth argues:
. . . VanDrunen attempts to soften things with a general admission of complexity and a denial that “every single plot of ground” can be put into one kingdom or the other, he does not admit the more obvious point: his specific expression of the two kingdoms cannot be coherently applied in the world. This is because he is still attempting to distinguish the kingdoms along the lines of vocation. Churchy callings and, specifically, Bible-teaching, are the business of the spiritual kingdom, whereas more ordinary jobs like committees, administration, and custodianship are the business of the worldly kingdom.
But what business does a common institution have training up the leaders of the spiritual kingdom? Indeed, under the terms of de jure divino Presbyterianism, this would mean that the spiritual kingdom of Christ is in fact dependent upon the worldly kingdom for one of its essential marks. Is VanDrunen now also among the Constantinians?
Notice that VanDrunen’s response was complex. But the actual 2k doctrine, elaborated by Wedgeworth’s interaction with Calvin and Luther, will not admit of such complexity. In which case the proponents of 2k are really not 2k after all.
But once again, history to the rescue. You don’t have to be 2k to understand that the work of seminaries does not fit easily in any of the modern categories of politics, education, or religion. Back in the 1940s the OPC debated whether to adopt Westminster Seminary as a denominational institution. Each of the committee members who studied the matter and rejected the idea of an ecclesiastically overseen seminary — R. B. Kuiper, John Murray, and Paul Woolley — appealed to the neo-Calvinist notion of sphere sovereignty, an indication that they may have been channeling Kuyper more than Machen. And each member recognized that a seminary does not belong to the church, nor to the state, but — get this — to the family, a common institution that belongs to both believers and unbelievers. According John Murray (in his portion of the report):
The teaching of the Word of God given in the family and in the Christian school will indeed, as regards content, coincide with the teaching given by the church, but this coincidence as regards content does not in the least imply that such teaching should be given under the auspices of the church. In like manner a theological seminary should teach the whole counsel of God. A great deal of the teaching must therefore coincide with the teaching given by the church, and, furthermore, a great deal of it is the teaching that may properly be conducted by the church and under its official auspices. It does not follow, however, that the teaching of the Word of God given in a theological seminary must be given under the auspices of the church. The mere fact that, in certain particulars, the type of teaching given is the type of teaching that may and should be given by the church and may also properly be conducted under the official auspices of the church does not rove that such teaching must be conducted under the auspices of the church. This does not follow any more than does the-fact that the teaching of the Word of God given in the home and in the school is in content the same as may and should be given by the church prove that the family and the school should be conducted under the auspices of the church. A theological seminary is an institution which may quite properly be conducted, like other Christian schools, under auspices other than those of the church, and a great deal of its work is of such a character that the church may not properly undertake it.
So if Reformed theologians not known for advocating 2k recognize that the formal academic training of ministers does not easily fall within either the temporal or spiritual kingdoms as designated by the earthly institutions of state and church, is it really a problem that 2kers offer complex answers to questions about to which kingdom Westminster California belongs?
Which leads to one last quibble. My impression of Mr. Wedgeworth is that he is a nice enough fellow and does not intend to bray or holler the way some anti-2k bloggers do. But when he complains that VanDrunen’s “expression of the two kingdoms cannot be coherently applied in the world,” my jaws tighten. When will the critics of 2k acknowledge that the teachings of Calvin or Richard Hooker cannot be applied coherently to our world either, or that 2k looks a whole lot more coherent after the revolutions of the late eighteenth century than do Constantinian politics applied to a mixed body of citizens? Again, for the gazillionth time, the problems of state churches and the demands of diverse populations led all the Reformed churches to drop the Reformation’s teaching about the Christian responsibilities of the magistrate. This may mean that all the Reformed communions are incoherent in their application of 2k theology. But that problem is not the peculiar possession of 2k’s advocates. I’d encourage pastor Wedgeworth to send a letter to NAPARC.