Snarky Saturday (Which It Still Is on the West Coast)

So here I was, opening up my browser with a beautiful view of the Rogue River Valley in southern Oregon overlooking a pear orchard (where I am speaking), with a cup of java, and lo I behold two blog posts that didn’t cause me to wretch (so I wasn’t drunk) but did force me to double down on my objections to transformationalism in its various guises. Turns out both posts were responding to Ross Douthat’s new book, Bad Religion.

The first was Peter Leithart’s defense of worldliness. In an interview with Ken Myers, Douthat talks about worldliness in the church and how “A lot of the most influential theologies in American life today are theologies that take various worldly ends as their primary end.” Leithart agrees that the church should not capitulate to earthly powers. But then he offers a reading of redemptive history in which God identifies with the world in such a way that orthodox Christianity is worldly. Toward the end Leithart concludes:

The great Reformed theologian Karl Barth pushed the point back to the pre-dawn of the world. In his stirring re-envisioning of the Reformed doctrine of election, Barth emphasized that election is not only God’s decision concerning human beings and the world but his decision concerning himself. By election, God chooses what kind of God he will be in relation to the world he creates in freedom. He wills to be God only by being God-for-us and God-with-us. He refuses to be God-without-us or God-without-world.

What Barth says about God’s choice before the beginning is consistent with what Christians believe about the end. Christians don’t expect to leave the world behind when history reaches its consummation. Scripture holds out the promise of a new heavens and a new earth, this world transfigured into the kingdom. Christians hope for the resurrection of the body, this flesh transfigured by the Spirit.

I’ll let the praise of Barth go — ahem, but I sure do which guys like Leithart, when thet go on riffs like this, would try to do justice to remarks by Christ like “my kingdom is not of this world,” or Paul like “flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom.” In fact, the New Testament is rife with an anti-worldiness theme that doesn’t quite dovetail with the remark that Christians do not expect to leave the world behind. Anyone who wants to claim that anti-worldliness is gnostic will have to deal with Paul who was anti-gnostic and otherworldly. So can we at least acknowledge a paradox here? Or do we simply ignore the Bible’s talk of not being conformed to this world (or by implication expect the new heavens and new earth to be like this one)? Whatever the answer, it sure makes sense that neo-Calvinism’s baptism of the world and efforts to make it ours (in the name of Christ, of course) appeals to baby boomers getting over their fundamentalist upbringing. It may make sense, but it is not right.

The other post came from Tim Keller, again in response to Douthat. According to Keller (I haven’t read Douthat’s book yet), the New York Times columnist says that the kind of church that may respond well to the current world’s needs is one that has the following attributes:

First, it would have to be political without being partisan. That is, it would have to equip all its members to be culturally engaged through vocation and civic involvement without identifying corporately with one political party. Second, it would have to be confessional yet ecumenical. That is, the church would have to be fully orthodox within its theological and ecclesiastical tradition yet not narrow and harsh toward other kinds of Christians. It should be especially desirous of cooperation with non-Western Christian leaders and churches. Third, the church would not only have to preach the Word faithfully, but also be committed to beauty and sanctity, the arts, and human rights for all. In this brief section he sounds a lot like Lesslie Newbigin and James Hunter, who have described a church that can have a “missionary encounter with Western culture.”

Again, according to Keller, Douthat mentions Redeemer Big Apple as an example of this kind of church. Maybe. But New York, I understand, is a big city, and Douthat who at least works there may not know all the goings on at Redeemer or what his recommendation involves. At the risk of disagreeing with Douthat and in the hopes of keeping Redeemer honest, his point about ecumenism is a poignant one. A church has to do justice to its own tradition while not being mean or harsh to other Christians.

The problem here is how well Redeemer and Keller honor their own tradition or the churches that share the Reformed heritage. For instance, I recently learned that Keller is starting a Sunday school series to be published by Zondervan. It’s a free country and anyone can publish anything they want is such a land of free milk and democratic honey. But Douthat may want to consider that Redeemer belongs to the Presbyterian Church of America, a denomination that co-owns (with the OPC) Great Commission Publications. And GCP already publishes a Sunday school curriculum that is Reformed, covenantal, and Presbyterian. It may not have the urban bells and cosmopolitan whistles that hipster Presbyterians desire. But it is decent curriculum. To my knowledge, Redeemer has not contacted the publisher to talk about how the material might be improved so that Redeemer can use it (whether they can sell it is another matter). But if Keller and Redeemer wanted to do justice to their tradition and communion, they could show a little of the team player spirit that is supposed to characterize a Presbyterian communion.

Ross Douthat can’t be blamed for not knowing the inner workings of Reformed Protestantism in the United States. Then again, journalists are known to have some awareness of fact checking.

By the way, the idea that churches should equip members to be culturally engaged is remarkable. As it stands, churches have all they can do simply to catechize members and disciple them in the ordinary aspects of church life. To add yet another task to the church is to make ministry well nigh impossible. Not to mention that asking pastors — no offense — whose cultural standards may not be up to part with the grandeur of Western Civilization to school their members on the glories of Shakespeare, Homer, and Percy is borderline laughable. In fact, I don’t know of any church, mainline or sideline, whose cultural instincts I would trust. Thankfully, the Lord doesn’t add cultural engagement to the Great Commission.

Despite the rocky start to the morning, I had a delightful time with the saints here in Medford, contemplating the other world that transcends this one, our reminder of that world on Sundays when we ascend Mt. Zion with all the saints and angels, and enjoying the delightful weather and produce of this world available to the residents and visitors of southern Oregon.


41 thoughts on “Snarky Saturday (Which It Still Is on the West Coast)

  1. DGH,

    I have a good deal of family in the Rogue Valley, its a beautiful slice of land. If you ever make it to Paschal Winery (no relation), they make some great wines. I lived in OR for the 1st 5 years of my life, still have a family cabin 45 mIns outside Medford. What a beautiful slice of country, make the trek to Crater Lake if you can, simply breathtaking.


  2. Should the church “equip members to be culturally engaged” ?
    That’s not the church’s job, no.

    But, as someone who appreciates nuance to the point of inconsistency, Darryl, you can appreciate that we confessionalists who are also neocalvinists answer the question with a “well, yes and no.” We say while it is not the church’s job to equip members to be culturally engaged, cultural engagement of human beings is inevitable, religious-direction of cultural engagement is inevitable, and Christians should do culture Christianly, and within the church’s limited mission (word&sacrament, or “catechizing”), it actually does, in a manner, ‘equip’ them.

    And you won’t be surprised to know that we think equipping Christians to do culture Christianly is the job of Christian education/schools, Dr. Noe notwithstanding.


  3. Jed, thanks for the recommendations. I’m afraid this trip is a drive by. But it has whetted the appetite for more of So Or.


  4. The more things change, the more they stay the same, until Jesus comes again. In the last century, a baptist preacher named William Rushton laments celebrity preachers with emphasis on present triumph (but “not denying” justification by imputation) (A Defense of Particular Redemption):

    “The Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all the saints are united, is the only foundation and bond of spiritual union. The whole family meet and center in Him. That which unites them is his glorious person and work. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. This voice which they hear is the truth of the gospel which they love and which produces among them love for each other for the truth’s sake.

    In the exercise of His grace those who love the gospel have fellowship with each other, and they are despised by the world and are separated from it. “Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall nor be reckoned among the nations.” If, therefore, the people of God are united in the bond of truth, it is evident that nothing is so effectual to scatter them as the influence of erroneous doctrine, especially such as effects the righteousness of Christ which is the ground of their unity, concord and hope. Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them. Romans 16: 18.

    In the kingdom of Christ the advancement of doctrines which obscure the glory of imputed righteousness is an offense of the most malignant kind, because it tends directly to abase the Lord Jesus and to destroy unity among His people. The effect of an “ethical challenge” ministry is not only to produce divisions among the people of God, but also to exalt the preacher.

    “Self-exaltation is a mark which invariably distinguishes the preachers of a perverted gospel. While their doctrine has a direct tendency to obscure the glory of Christ it tends to magnify themselves. The preacher becomes the bond of union among them. ”

    mcmark: The point of John 18 is not that the kingdom is another place, but that the power of the kingdom comes from another place, from heaven . Of course Christ was on earth in John 18, but even then Christ put the emphasis on being citizens of heaven (on earth). The concern is not to say that another place is our future. Rather, the kingdom is coming TO EARTH but its power does not consist in a power we have been given to transform the culture (along side the gospel of course). No, the power of the present kingdom is a gospel about the benefits and effects of Christ’s cross and resurrection work. (future in John 18, done now).

    Christ’s second coming to earth will make this Kingdom present on earth in a way that it cannot be as long as Christ in his humanity is now absent. Christ the person of course, who is both God and human, now remains present, even on earth. Not a Lutheran summary of course, and maybe not even 2k in the sense dgh advocates, but I only mean to agree that for now we need to be patient and focus on the gospel. The gospel of atonement imputed is no fiction and it needs no supplement in which we attempt to do for the world what the world can’t do for itself. Tim Keller’s utopian attempts are illusions which only distract from the need to focus on the gospel.



    Warfield — Least of all, are we to seek unity by surrendering all public or organized testimony to all truth except that minimum which-just because it is the minimum, less than which no man can
    believe and be a Christian-all Christians of all names can unite in confessing. Subjection to the tyranny of the unbeliever is no more essential to unity than subjection to the tyranny of the believer (say the Pope); and this of course can mean nothing other than-”Let him that believes least among you be your lawgiver.” There is a sense, of course, in which the visible unity of the Church is based on the common belief and confession of the body of truth held alike by all who are Christians; but this is not the same as saying that it must be based on the repression of all organized testimony to truth not yet held by all alike.


  6. mark mcculley:

    Warfield — Least of all, are we to seek unity by surrendering all public or organized testimony to all truth except that minimum which-just because it is the minimum, less than which no man can
    believe and be a Christian-all Christians of all names can unite in confessing. Subjection to the tyranny of the unbeliever is no more essential to unity than subjection to the tyranny of the believer (say the Pope); and this of course can mean nothing other than-”Let him that believes least among you be your lawgiver.” There is a sense, of course, in which the visible unity of the Church is based on the common belief and confession of the body of truth held alike by all who are Christians; but this is not the same as saying that it must be based on the repression of all organized testimony to truth not yet held by all alike.

    RS: Mark, do you know where this Warfield quote is located? Thanks


  7. DG, shouldn’t you have mentioned Keller’s words in the final paragraph of his post regarding Redeemer being propped up by Douthat as a great example for churches to follow….

    “When I read it I was startled, then humbled, then strongly overwhelmed by a sense that, for all God’s kindness to us over the years, we at Redeemer are so far from realizing our goals and aims. It actually discouraged me for several days….”

    You don’t have to think the worst of Keller and Redeemer. Most readers get that sense in reading Old Life, but there is a better way.


  8. But, Baus, if it isn’t the job of churches to equip members to be culturally engaged but rather the job of Christian schools then when communions like the PRC require denominational schools on pain of discipline, that would seem to suggest that it IS the job of churches to equip members to be culturally engaged. And even when a communion doesn’t behave like the PRC, when it simply takes up tithes for Christian schools, well, what else could that mean other than churches are just as called to equip members to be culturally engaged every bit as much as they are called to evangelize?


  9. sorry, left off first letter of link

    don’t know who the writer is quoting Warfield—

    “subjection to the tyranny of the believer (say the Pope); and this of course can mean nothing other than-”Let him that believes least among you be your lawgiver.” There is a sense, of course, in
    which the visible unity of the Church is based on the common belief and confession of the body of truth held alike by all who are Christians; but this is not the same as saying that it must be based
    on the repression of all organized testimony to truth not yet held by all alike.”

    “True Church Unity: What It Is”, in Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings Vol. 1


  10. Darryl, maybe. But those making the church safe for him are the real problem.

    Zrim, it’s a great point. There are many things I love about the PRC… but their position on schooling isn’t one of them (esp. as they oppose homeschooling). Hearsay is that various CanRC and FRC congregations have the same trouble.


  11. Baus, it seems to me that the PRC’s formal position on schooling is simply the outworking of the informal posture. It’s really the predictable end result of confessionalism mixed with neocalvinism, so as one who champions the admixture I’m not sure why you’d take issue.


  12. “You don’t have to think the worst of Keller and Redeemer. Most readers get that sense in reading Old Life, but there is a better way.” Maybe DGH’s parries and jabs are motivated by love. If ” Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!” is right, maybe this criticism is a least causing woe reduction in the Big Increasingly Redeemed Apple.


  13. Dan, by not mentioning Keller’s angst I was actually giving him the benefit of the doubt. No need for you to think the worst of Old Life. If I were Keller I would have left out the bit that Douthat referred to my church. Sometimes it’s best not to make it all about me.


  14. Zrim, interesting that you think so. You’re talking about the Protestant Reformed Church, right? They’re pretty much confessionally opposed to neocalvinism.


  15. Baus, yes, Protestant Reformed. I don’t know what you mean by saying they confessionally oppose neocalvimism. But I take A Christian View of Everything (i.e. Christian world-and-life view, i.e. neocalvinism) to be what animates any Christian schooling project to greater or lesser degrees. So whatever it means to “confessionally oppose neocalvinism” seems undermined by formal ecclesiastical efforts to promote it.


  16. Zrim, makes me wonder how much PRC material you’ve read. But just as there are non-neocalvinist “transformation-isms” of various types, and there are non-2K paradoxisms, etc… there are differing rationales for and different conceptions of “Christian schooling.” If you reject neocalvinist notions of common grace, you reject neocalvinism.

    You’re not going to tell me that just because there are Baptist confessionalists and Lutheran confessionalists, that these are the same as Reformed confessionalists, are you? They are all, after all, confessionalists.


  17. Baus, but the tie that binds across the various rationales and conceptions seems to be Christian world-and-life view. I’ve yet to hear any advocate of Christian schooling not come fundamentally back to some form or another of CVE. And plenty of 2kers speak like neocalvinists when it comes to education. Evidently, education is the one creational task that can have a redemptive version (not politics, legislation, medicine, economics, art, sports, and entertainment, but somehow education–go figure).

    So I get that there’s plenty if mixing and matching. What I don’t get is how an advocate of both CVE (neocalvinist) and churchly structure (confessionalist) has much a problem with a communion giving formal structure to an informal theory. If there really is a Christian View of Everything, and it comes by way of curriculum, then shouldn’t the church require it?


  18. Zrim, your question reflects Darryl’s confusion when he suggests the same, viz, that if there is a Christian view of general/natural revelation, then somehow it becomes or ought to be enforceable dogma for the church. I have several responses.

    First of all, I hope this means you and Darryl are advocates of close communion & confessional membership, but in Darryl’s case, I know it’s not true.
    Second, if you paid closer attention to what I’ve argued, you’ll see that I don’t think extrabiblical dogma ought to be enforceable.
    Third, even if we supposed that Christian view of general revelation should be enforced in the church, that’s no argument against the possibility of understanding general revelation Christianly.

    As an aside, not all worldviews or curricula claiming to be Christian and Reformed are equal. There are differences and better&worse. Just like Christian confessions.


  19. Baus, if you don’t think extrabiblical dogma enforceable, then there goes the whole neo-Cal mojo. The very idea of a Christian w-w, a neo-Cal dogma, has no more basis in Scripture than offering a prayer of thanks before eating meat to idols. The idea of w-w is only an opinion that you can’t make me share.


  20. Baus, yes on confessional membership (no difference between laity and officers). But if CVE is to Calvinism what apochrapha is to Catholicism then maybe there is something to learn from sola scriptura and the RPW: there is a Christian view of justification, baptism, and polity but not on reading, writing, and arithmetic. So why would Protestant schools want to push as Christian something about which the Bible is silent? Indeed, that doesn’t sound very Reformed.


  21. I want to look at that Keller Sunday School literature to see if they explain why for somebody between the ages of Isaac and Ishmael, it’s both too late and too early to be baptized with water or take communion. Even if your father just made profession and was baptized, at this age you are not old enough to be baptized, and also too old.

    The OPC Directory of Worship (IV.A.2) clearly states, “The baptism of infants is not to be unnecessarily delayed. The baptism of adults must await their public profession of faith in Christ.”

    “Your specific question about the ages of 11 and 13 is significant. I believe that the reference to infants in the Confession of Faith (XXVIII.IV) and in the Directory for Worship should be
    understood in terms of an age of a minor. In some congregations some young people of that age are deemed by the respective session ready to take a communicants’ class and to be received as communicant members, wherein a young person would be received as and treated as an adult in
    terms of membership status.

    I emphasized the word “some” in the above paragraph. There is not a prescribed age in the Scriptures nor in our OPC Book of Church Order which prescribes the age at which it is appropriate to receive a young person as an adult professed believer. For example, in our own congregation, the session has adopted a plan of instruction that builds a study of the Shorter Catechism into the 10th grade Sunday School class. We have judged that that is typically an appropriate time for such an in depth study in the WSC to occur before a young person is ready to stand as an adult on their own profession in the congregation, and not simply on the basis of his or her believing parent.”

    Or do the parents decide, since Keller’s congregation is PCA?


  22. Zrim, your comment “If there really is a Christian View of Everything, and it comes by way of curriculum, then shouldn’t the church require it?” suggests to me that you don’t really get what we’re saying. Just because something is “Christian” doesn’t mean that it’s subject to the church. If a thinker who is a Christian thinks about philosophy or science or aesthetics or whatever, he or she will root that thinking in a Christian/Biblical view of God/man/creation. The theology there (the Christian/Biblical view of God/man/creation) is subject to the church for sure (that’s an appropriate topic for the sphere of the church). But once we start doing philosophy/science/aesthetics/politics/statecraft we’re doing it as Christians investigating/practicing that area of life. The Bible does not spell out those details, they are arrived at by empirical method, experience, etc. They are not confessionally/Biblically binding (the theology is). But the rest is outside the sphere of the church and, as you all are fond to say, part of the common realm. I’d prefer to talk about the creational realm. Right thinking and practice still require being in tune with God’s creational truth (which is consistent and rooted in the theology). I think that part of the reason that Baus says PRC is confessionally anti-neo-Calvinist is their stance on Common Grace. God lets the rain fall on the non-elect. He “graces” them with his goodness revealed in creation. Some non-elect become expert plumbers and quantum scientists. The CRC and OPC critiques of the PRC admitted that such goodness would be used against unbelievers on the day of judgment, but for today it was an expression of honest to goodness goodness. It could well be that in some disciplines the antithesis will run very deep and the theology that generates a worldview will produce a discipline that looks very different from the common–I’m thinking of the field of psychology, for example–in other disciplines, chemistry, physics, mathematics, I’m not so sure that the discipline comes out very differently.

    So the upshot is that worldview is built on confession and theology but is not to be confused with them. So I would put the question of worldview and the particulars of Christian thinking in the disciplines in the realm of Christian liberty. They basically are Christians living out their faith in the world.

    Since we sometimes play the game “where is this quotation from”, I thought I throw one out for us:

    “This did not mean that factory conditions were insignificant or unworthy of individual Christians’ concerns as citizens, employers, or government officials.”

    Who said this? Is this Kuyperian? Kind of sounds like it to me.


  23. Terry, if you think 2kers don’t get what neo-Cals are saying, then perhaps the same charge applies to you. Why would anyone ever think of Christianity apart from the body of Christ? How is it conceivable to call something Christian that does not involve norms for Christ’s followers? And this is precisely what happens informally. If you don’t sign on to w-w, you aren’t a good Christian. Hence, Christian is a norm, not an observation.

    At the same time, why go on the way you do about w-w when we already had a perfectly good word that did not need the kind of qualification and discussion yours does. It’s called “vocation.” In fact, the words, “vocation,” “creation,” and “providence,” generally cover everything that neo-Cal’s pine for. And get this. They are in the confession — vocation, less so, but it’s part and parcel of the Reformation and its recognition of serving God in secular callings.

    Seems to me that neo-Cals have gummed up the works for the pietist reason of wanting Christianity to be evident everywhere 24/7.


  24. Darryl, we’re so close I can just taste it! Why do you think I’m thinking of Christianity apart from the body of Christ? The practitioners who are Christians in the disciplines are members of the body of Christ. They are thinking through their vocation in light of their Christian belief. That’s about all there is to it. I like to talk about thinking Christianly in my area of work. Does that mean there is a Christian biochemistry? Not sure I want to put it that way. But I do want to say that there is a Creational biochemistry and that if I’m going to understand it aright I have to understand it in keeping with Christian/Biblical truth and theology. I know that’s perilously close to thinking about thinking and you all don’t really like to do that, but that’s how the flow of worldview thinking goes.

    And speaking of the idea of vocation… I couldn’t agree more. The idea of vocation is part of the neo-Calvinist cluster of ideas. Clearly, as you note, this is no novelty in Reformed thought. But what is vocation? Calling, right? Calling by/from whom? Well, God, of course. God calls me to my job/career/vocation. God calls me to be a husband or wife. God calls me to be a parent. God calls me to be a citizen in the country in which I live. Seems to me it that’s “all of life” and “24/7”. I’m to be a God-pleaser and not a man-pleaser. And, if all you mean by “secular” is that it’s not in the church, then that’s mere semantics. I tend to think that if God calls me to something that it has some sacred character to it. (As suggested by the closing verses of Zechariah.)

    Thus, the quote: “This did not mean that factory conditions were insignificant or unworthy of individual Christians’ concerns as citizens, employers, or government officials.” Citizen, employer, government official are callings from God for Christians in particular. (Of course, in his providence and common grace, God calls unbelievers to their tasks. But they don’t self-consciously honor God in their vocation.)

    So…vocation, creation, providence–add in a little inaugurated eschatology–and voila!–it’s neo-Calvinism.


  25. Terry, maybe we are close, but then you are far from the neo-Cals because they have made an industry — Christian colleges — out of redeeming disciplines. It’s not simply that individual faculty are living out their vocations. But these folks tell parents that their children will learn a Christian view of algebra and history. What is such a thing? But it’s not about the person, it’s about the knowledge.


  26. Darryl, what’s the problem with me want to encourage others to apply the faith to philosophy, science, economics, politics, etc. the same way that I do? (It’s all about me, after all.) Even better if a group of scholars and practitioners who share a perspective band together to provide education for people interested in learning to think the same way. Suppose a group of Dooyeweerdians wanted to start an institute of higher learning in Iowa somewhere and teach the disciplines from their common perspective.

    Again, I think you want to chose your words carefully, we all know that a Christian view of algebra is pretty much the same as the atheist view of algebra other than perhaps Creational foundations of mathematics and the human mind that discovers mathematical truth and the necessity to acknowledge those things in order know the truth in it’s religious and moral sense. Not so sure about history–we’ve all seen evidence of revisionist histories the bolster one’s view. You’re the historian–surely post-modernist historians recognize and practice history from a perspective. Given that is it not likely that a Christian history might look different from a Marxist history. I suppose it’s possible that you don’t grant post-modernism its due.

    I am opposed to parochial control of education. I think that Calvin College is a glaring inconsistency among professed neo-Calvinists. Galen Byker, past president of Calvin, has argued that neo-Calvinism (Kuyperianism) is not a monolithic way of thinking in the CRC. Thus, while neo-Calvinism might argue for a sphere sovereignty based separation of church and college, the CRC or Calvin is not fully committed to neo-Calvinism. I can say from my experience at Calvin that while there was a lot of neo-Calvinist talk and many neo-Cals there, not everyone was in the camp. Many at Calvin and other Christian college focus more on the community of faith walking together to do higher education than sharing a particular intellectual common ground.


  27. Terry, what’s wrong with doing this is that at some Christian colleges the integration of faith and learning takes a Sunday school (barely) understanding of the faith and weds it to a Ph.D. in name your discipline. Which learning do you think is going to win in that scenario? Should a Ph.D. in chemistry desire to serve God and pray for God to bless his work? Sure. How is that any different from Joe-six-pack the plumber?


  28. Darryl, why can’t Joe-six-pack the plumber or the Ph.D. in chemistry have a mature understanding of the Bible, the confessions, and theology? I’m sorry if you’ve had a bad run-in with hacks. Generally speaking, that’s not what I have seen. People who take their faith seriously and who want to think about implications for their vocation know their Bible and know their theology. I’m not talking about any Christian with a Sunday school understanding of the faith. (For what it’s worth, some Sunday schools teach at a higher level than you might imagine.) That’s a bogey-man. Of course, they’re not doing what I’m talking about. In my experience those people don’t really get into the Christian perspective discussion. They are content “to serve God and pray for God to bless their work.” You can see it in the classroom as well–they typically stick to the conventional topics in a course and a Christian perspective means “work hard, but don’t be a workaholic, be honest, apply the tools of your trade with excellence”. And I’m not necessarily criticizing such a person, but I wouldn’t say they are “integrating faith and learning”.

    Once again I marvel at how much your perspective is influenced by poor practitioners.


  29. Terry, exactly. But the poor practitioners are the neo-Cals who insist that the Bible speaks to all of life. That is not only wrong, but it gives license to all of the practitioners who don’t know the glories of Hegel or the woes of the French Revolution to take verses of the Bible as scriptural justification for their ordinary opinions.

    BTW, you’ve given up so much of the neo-Cal outlook that if I were you I’d worry about keeping my membership card (Baus, I believe, keeps the records).


  30. Is it true, Baus? Have I given away the store?

    I might agree that there are no proof-texts for a Christian perspective on a discipline, but surely there are general principles of scripture that inform us if we seek to apply the Christian faith to my discipline or practice. For example, does God’s sovereignty over even chance events allow for the possibility of processes that are ultimately (even to God) random? Does a view of Creation upheld by Divine decree/Law give us any expectation about the character of the physical/biological universe? Does human nature (image of God/fallen) provide any limits to our theorizing in psychology or politics or economics?

    Why can’t a Biblical perspective be used to critique theoretical frameworks that the world offers. I also wouldn’t say necessarily that there is one right answer. These are Christians in the disciplines applying their faith to their thinking about their discipline.


  31. …your comment “If there really is a Christian View of Everything, and it comes by way of curriculum, then shouldn’t the church require it?” suggests to me that you don’t really get what we’re saying. Just because something is “Christian” doesn’t mean that it’s subject to the church.

    Terry, the offering tonight was for a local Christian school. It sure seems to me that when tithes are taken up for Christian schools the presupposition is that the church is called to worldview curriculum every bit as much as she is called to evangelization, administration of the sacraments, and discipline. But I don’t see the kind of NT warrant for schools that I do for the Great Commission.

    The offering tonight was in a URC, where local PRC homeschoolers have fled from the educational legalism. I have great sympathy for them, but I sure do wonder if they feel the pain of some of us who not only don’t see NT warrant for curriculum but also employ secular schooling (and thus have trouble when the plate comes round). I also wonder if they realize that this is where their troubles started—by thinking the church is indeed called to curriculum they way she’s called to catechism. I know I sound like a broken record, but frankly, I just don’t see how you don’t end up with the PRC’s stance when you mix neo-Calvinism with ecclesiastical Protestantism. I’m glad for Baus and you striking a critical note, but in the final analysis it just seems inconsistent at best and arbitrary at worst.


  32. Zrim, I feel your pain when it comes to the support of parochial schools. But the unfortunate thing for you and I is that the promotion of God-centered schooling is in our Church Order, though I’ve never heard and offering for it myself…


  33. Adam, true. But could it be that URC CO Article 14 has something to learn from the (brace thyself) RCC Catechism 2229:

    As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.


  34. Zrim, that would be helpful to say the least, but given our dutch/crc genetics, probably unlikely. That portion of Article 14 just seems a bit amorphous, given that one’s definition of a “Christian School” is practically arbitrary. And, with such schooling, I am always concerned that an assumed “In Loco Parentis” allows for parents to subconsciously renege on their duty as a catechist. But we could just support seminaries and forget the whole dilemma.


  35. Zrim, I’ve always regarded offerings for tuition assistance to be part of benevolence ministry to families that can’t afford Christian school tuition. I’ve also always regarded it as optional unlike the normal tithes to support the ministry of the church. The schools themselves technically are not parochial, i.e. they are not church-run. This would be contrary to sphere sovereignty. If they are Reformed they are likely to be confessional and have some kind of confessional commitment, even church membership requirement, for staff and board members. Christian schools in the Reformed tradition are typically independent parent/board run entities that aren’t under the authority of the church. That’s how it should be in a neo-Calvinist perspective since the church doesn’t have any particular expertise in K-12 education or in the disciplines outside of the Bible and theology.

    The question of a consistory or a session requiring parents to send their kids to Christian school is a separate matter. I would suggest that it’s a violation of sphere sovereignty for the church to dictate in a conscience-binding way this decision. The general education of children is the task of parents. Christian parents should educate their children “Christianly”. This can be done via homeschooling, private Christian schooling, or even public schooling with the appropriate Biblical/theological/worldview instruction supplementing/correcting the “common” curriculum. Of course, education can have deep worldview foundation and so parents have to be on guard.

    In my own family we have employed all three options in the education of our children. And, while I am a proponent of Christian higher education, I wouldn’t rule out public institutions of higher education as options for Christians. My own kids are attending, have attended, or even have graduated from Colorado State University. My own higher education comes from Purdue University and the University of Oregon. I didn’t have the institutional support for Christian thinking in my discipline and so had to supplement my higher education with personal study with Biblical studies, theology, faith/science issues, and general Christian philosophy.


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