Of Radical Minorities and the (Dutch) Reformed Mainstream

Vocal defenders of 2k are in such short supply – though practitioners are everywhere in North America (it is the default position for Reformed Protestants, after all) – that I wondered about commenting on this. But when I read this, it seemed that some comment was in order.

Matt Tuininga is a smart fellow and doing impressive work at Emory University on political theology. His blog is worth reading. In addition, he has defended 2k in the pages of Christian Renewal where Dr. K. has done his darnedest to associate 2k with all things profane. (Aside from the kitchen sink, the only charge that Dr. K. has not hurled is is that of Communism.)

In a fairly recent piece for CR, Matt tried to explain the controversy over 2k as one between those who use its logic without even thinking about it and a minority that takes the position to extremes:

The controversy arises when people appeal to the doctrine to question causes closer to home. For instance, some have used it to challenge the politicization of many evangelical churches directly involved in the political work of the Christian Right. Others have used it to challenge what they perceive as the excesses of Neocalvinism and its failure to distinguish the advancement of the kingdom of God through the work of the church with the work of cultural transformation.

Usually when I hear people opposing the two kingdoms doctrine today it is because they think it entails the abandonment of something like Christian education, or of a Christian worldview that guides the actions of Christians in every aspect of life. While there have been some recent two kingdoms proponents who do move in this direction, it is a massive theological and historical mistake to allow those people – who are most certainly in a minority – to define the two kingdoms doctrine and to control the way in which we speak of it. To do this ignores the importance the doctrine has held in establishing precisely the kind of Reformed biblical autonomy and church government that we value so highly and on which the integrity of the Reformed tradition depends.

Since I have in fact used the logic of 2k to question the necessity (as in “thou shalt”) of Christian schools and to wonder about the German idealist pretensions of nineteenth-century critiques of liberalism (i.e., w-w), Matt’s comments would appear to implicate me. Since he and I are friendly and recently had a pleasant chat at the Greenville seminary conference on Old Princeton, I doubt that Matt was necessarily singling me out. Even so, I would like to see him amend his analysis by considering the following.

In addition to the important debates about church power – with Geneva (2k) and Zuirch (Erastian) representing the main options on questions of excommunication – was the even more basic question of the authority of Scripture (i.e. sola Scriptura). Ministers could teach only what Scripture reveals, and churches could require only what the Bible commanded. The doctrines and commandments of men, no matter how wise, pious, or well intentioned, could not bind a believer’s conscience. For that reason, whenever the church evaluates the integrity of a believer’s profession, it must do so on the basis only of norms revealed in Scripture. The church must have a “thus, saith the Lord.” An effort like Adam’s instruction to Eve about not even touching the fruit of the tree won’t do. Either you don’t eat the apple or you sin. Touching it, looking at it, cutting it is not a command revealed by God.

All of the Reformed creeds begin with an affirmation of sola scriptura. Here is how the Gallican Confession (1559) puts it:

We know these books to be canonical, and the sure rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books upon which, however useful, we can not found any articles of faith. (Art. 4)

For churches to require anything that the Bible does not require is akin to establishing an article of faith on a foundation other than the Bible. Kuyper and his views about w-w’s or about education may be useful, though the way that places like the Free University turned out or that Christian w-w formation is playing out in numerous so-called Reformed day schools is not the best of testimonies to Kuyper’s wisdom. Still, the point should not be missed. Unless anti-2kers (and even some 2kers) can establish that Christian education and w-w are necessary as in an article of faith, then those who raise questions about Christian education and w-w are not radical or extreme. They are only doing what the Reformers did by asking where the Bible, as opposed to influential saints, establishes the existing practices and teachings of the church. In fact, it is those who establish a hierarchy of faithfulness based on tradition and look down on those who don’t follow the doctrines and commandments of men who are extreme.


83 thoughts on “Of Radical Minorities and the (Dutch) Reformed Mainstream

  1. Another inflammatory and useless contribution to the worldview discussion. Taking this blog off my reading list.


  2. I’m not sure that Reformed folks binding the consciences of others with Kuyperianism is so different from fundamentalists binding it through prohibitions on booze.

    A good reminder how easy it is to violate WCF 20.


  3. Great post Dr. Hart. I’d like to see Tuininga respond to it. It is a basic point and well argued. Mr. Blom seems off his meds.


  4. Wouldn’t it be better to appeal to the notion of sola scriptura and the doctrine of the sufficiency and perspicuity of the Scriptures than to use the languge of World View? If by world view difference you mean that Christians look at the world through the lens and presupposition of God’s special revelation, than why not just use the language of historic protestant theology? It seems easier than using W-W language all the time.

    I am tempted to suggest that the reason is that the language of W-W is so precious to so many because of economics. W-W weekends, pull in money for speakers, books, and dvd sales. There is also some emotional need Christians in the arts (film, painting, poetry, etc.) for them to want to think of their work as ”ministry” and not an horrible ”profession” or ”job”. Also it’s easier to teach young people ”world view thinking” as opposed to hermeuntics and exegesis. It’s much easier than investing in tools to better understand the Scriptures and requires less work. This is because the notion of Christian World view thinking says ”If it doesn’t feel christian/spiritual, than it’s wrong”, no matter how much exegesis, and how many facts you show.


  5. Curious as to the discussion of Christian schools – is anyone speaking of Christian schools in a “thou shalt” kind of way (i.e. as if it were a commandment & so binding on the consciences of believers)?

    And do you make a distinction between necessity & prudence? In other words, are you just against the idea of the “necessity” (mandate?) of Christian schooling, or against its existence altogether? I assume that you are not anti-Christian school per se.

    I have known parents who seem to take their own preferred manner of educating their children (i.e. home school, Christian school, etc.) as “God’s way”, but thankfully I have yet to hear a pastor speak of it in terms of it being mandated.


  6. Andy, consider Neoz’s point. P&R talk about non-Christian education the way Fundamentalists talk about beer. Not all fundies are hard legalists. Many are softer about the perils of substances and spirits and appeal to the wisdom of Christian living (i.e. temperance). Switch out the subject of substance for education among many P&R and it can tend to sound like “thou shalt” with a wink and a smile. But smiles have teeth.


  7. Andy, I am not opposed to Christian schools, just to be required to support them. The URC is debating whether to require church officers to send their children to Christian schools, which was the requirement in the CRC. So it’s not the case that if you don’t send your kids to Christian schools you sin. But you’re not officer candidate material. And let’s not forget the way that some hurl around epithets about not being Reformed if you don’t support Christian schools.


  8. Darryl, I appreciate your comment on my article, and I want to reassure you that I agree with every word you write here. The purpose of my article was not to articulate a crisp, tight version of the two kingdoms doctrine, but to show people that there is breadth within the two kingdoms tradition. What I was finding was that people were dismissing it wholesale based on certain stereotypes of it. I felt it was a step in the right direction to get people to stop saying, “do we believe in the two kingdoms doctrine?” and to start saying, “what should the two kingdoms doctrine mean?” In other words, I wanted to eliminate stumbling blocks to conversation.

    Keep in mind that many Reformed lay people do not understand the two kingdoms doctrine, although they actually hold to it. When they think it means that Christian education is a bad thing (which you don’t say, but what they think 2kers are saying, and what some actually seem to say), they reject the doctrine. I want them to take it seriously as a paradigm in and of itself, and then we can talk about its implications afterwards. What do you think of this?


  9. Many are willing to attach “thou shalt” to worldview education, and say it could conceivably be done while sending kids to a secular school. I’ve head it framed in terms of the amount of time kids spend in a secular classroom being indoctrinated with a pagan worldview versus the amount of time you have at home and at church. So if you do use public schools, you better be pretty much reeducating them from a Christian worldview at home with every spare moment. To me, the obvious implication is why would you ever do that.

    Also, here’s R.C. Sproul Sr.: “Given the pagan nature of the public school system, I would think that any discerning parents would not place their children in such an environment. Knowingly to turn them over to such a pagan system would be sin. But it’’s mostly a sin of ignorance. Most folks don’’t know the true nature of the public schools… Christian parents have a responsibility not to send their kids into that environment.”


  10. John – While that sounds all nice and good, what do you tell the people I have the privilege to minister to that are 1). Single parent families 2.) Financially strapped 3.) Without a “Christian” school that is in any way reachable in any sense of the term?

    Do we really think that we need hour for hour instruction time to “combat” a pagan worldview?


  11. What I find most alarming at those who accuse the public schools of outright paganism is that many of them are so far removed from the public education system that their criticisms are grossly over-exaggerated. Many of the most vocal critics of public schools have never been to one, so they rely on horror stories in the news as opposed to more balanced accounts of what actually occurs in public schools. My wife works in the public school system in the special ed. dept. and I have many friends (Christian and non) who work in the public school system, and while there are in fact isolated incidents of teachers advocating anti-Christian positions, these are the exception to the rule. There are a lot of good reasons to opt for an alternative to traditional public ed., such as homeschooling, charter schools, and private schools, and many of the reasons for this are strictly educational as public schools budgetary woes are causing increased class size and decreased educational standards – mainly in the 3 R’s and music, athletics, vocational tracks (such as shop classes and drafting), and the arts, which all are increasingly rare in public schools. For the isolated incidents where public schools are engaging in teaching that is antithetical to the Christian faith, or morality, these are opportunities for covenant families to teach their children against the backdrop of counter-claims to the truth. In my experience, growing up in a town with a prominent Reformed k-12 school, whether or not the child ends up with a substantive faith rests far more in the health of the home and the church than it does in the schools as the occurrences of Christian children walking away from the faith are about the same percentage wise in public and private schools.

    If I had the opportunity and the means to send my kids to a Reformed school (there are none where I live), I would seriously consider taking that opportunity. Christian schools are a good thing, but their value is not nearly as vaunted as some wish to make it. Even worldview training can be a good thing, as it can assist in forming critical thought and knowing why one believes the Christian faith, but it is not an absolute imperative, nor do I think there is such a thing as a monolithic “Christian” or “Reformed” worldview since there are far more complex inputs into this than mere epistemological considerations. So while some might see some of the criticisms of W-V- here at OldLife as completely overstated, I see it as at least a corrective to the excesses of worldview rhetoric, especially when it is given an elevated status over the basic tenets of spiritual formation in a Confessional setting.


  12. Jeremy – Well for me, I don’t really think worldview education is necessary or beneficial. I’ll be sending my kids to school to learn how to get along in the society of man. My point was that once you swallow the necessity of an all-encompassing worldview, secular schooling makes no sense. Backing away from saying that it is sin and a disciplinable offence is inconsistent.

    To be fair, I think most ministers who would attach “thou shalt” to Christian schooling would make exceptions for the cases you describe.


  13. So weird. A few weeks ago I used the “delete” option at wordpress to delete that pilgrim philosopher blog. I thought that was the end of it. I stop buy here today (haven’t been here in a few weeks) and clicked on the link it Hart’s post. To my surprise, it took me to my blog, the blog I thought I had deleted! I guess I forgot to visit the email account I set up for the blog and “confirm” the deletion request.


  14. “Unless anti-2kers (and even some 2kers) can establish that Christian education and w-w are necessary as in an article of faith, then those who raise questions about Christian education and w-w are not radical or extreme.”

    The case is as simple as this: The Bible (and the Confession) both *presuppose* and *entail* stances (for or against myriad things) on classically defined *philosophical* categories. To the extent that 2kers deny this, or claim that those who point out such things are “denying the gospel,” will be where 2k is radical and extreme and obscurantist. We are doing nothing other than Reformers, especially Reformed scholastics, have done. We find elucidating and defending these presuppositions and entailments, both important and necessary. For that which implies or presupposes that which is false is itself false. We are the unwanted guardians who protect the Reformed tent from the myriad attacks that come from the outside so that the people on the inside can debate thinks like 2k among themselves. A simple “thank you” would be nice.


  15. John – Thanks for the clarification. I get your point. Funny that as soon as “urban contexts” and the like are brought into view most “thou shalts” are quick to make exceptions. Like not disciplining those who do not go along with the educational philosophies of the elders I find this to be rather inconsistent.


  16. “Pilgrim,” I know you like to think the Reformed tradition owes such a debt to the philosophers amongst us, but last I checked the confessions cite the Bible. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll thank God instead—which might wonder about what is entailed by your demand for kudos.


  17. Jed, you mean educational choice is layered and complicated? I thought it was all about worldview, kind of how politics is all about morality? What will you R2kers think of next?


  18. Zrim, never said anything about a “deb” to replay. I understand the Confession cites the Bible. You need to learn what a presupposition and/or an entailment is. As for the rest, your reasoning is similar to those who say that since God elects and draws those he chooses to save, and he will do so assuredly, we don’t need evangelists.


  19. And when you get around to it, you may want to deal with the argument: Your confession presupposes and entails philosophical positions. Thus, you’re committed to them, like it or not.


  20. “Pilgrim,” no it’s more like putting a healthy dose of moderation on the need for philosophers and evangelists. You need to learn the meaning of limits. Your remarks are similar to those who say that since God uses earthen vessels to accomplish his purposes we need to esteem them more than exercise humility. Hello, philosophical popery.


  21. R.C. Sproul Jr.’s statements about public schooling are over the top.

    I’m taking my youngest son out of a Calvary Chapel Private School after 11 years (K – 10) because they are not offering a math course he will need in order to get into a well regarded university. Many, many universities require 4 years of upper level math in grades 9 – 12. Our school has decided to offer Precalculus as a summer school class and eliminate it from the program for all students next year. My son, on the other hand, has better things to do this summer like participate in two search and rescue schools with the U.S. Air Force. Next year, he will be in the public high school and he will take Precalculus.

    For students that aspire to a good university education and need help paying for it, it comes down to more than a diploma. It also involves good grades, good test scores and meaningful extracurricular activities.

    If I discover pagan worship in the public schools of my town, I’ll file suit and then invite R.C. Jr. over to document the experience for his next article.


  22. Pilgrim, so the simple point is that the Bible depends on philosophy? Philosophy is more basic than the teachings of Scripture? I always thought you believed that. Now I’m glad for the confirmation. Too bad it puts you in the category of Paul’s (the apostle) Greeks who seek the wisdom of philosophy rather than the folly of the word.


  23. “..they think it entails the abandonment of something like Christian education, or of a Christian worldview that guides the actions of Christians in every aspect of life. While there have been some recent two kingdoms proponents who do move in this direction, it is a massive theological and historical mistake to allow those people – who are most certainly in a minority – to define the two kingdoms doctrine and to control the way in which we speak of it.

    Matthew Tuininga, given your reassurance that you are in agreement with every word Darryl wrote here, {which words include defamation of Dr. Kloosterman}, it would be helpful to readers of Christian Renewal if you would be transparent and identify who you had in mind when you referenced “recent two kingdom proponents who do move in this direction” {i.e., abandoning Christian education and Christian worldview}.


  24. Good to have you back to your “gotcha” strategy, Mark. Does the How To Catch Your Enemies in Inconsistencies in Twelve Steps only circulate among theonomists and neo-Cals?


  25. Zrim, can you derive from statements I made that I “don’t put a healthy dose of moderation on the needs of philosophers”?

    Darryl, no more than language. You have an odd view of the Bible. You also need to wrestle with the concept of presupposition and entailment. For an easy example: The Bible teaches that God exists and that, by good inference, he is immaterial. This both *presupposes* and *entails* several philosophical stances. Am I wrong or right? If wrong, how?


  26. “Pilgrim,” statements like: “We are the unwanted guardians who protect the Reformed tent from the myriad attacks that come from the outside so that the people on the inside can debate thinks like 2k among themselves. A simple ‘thank you’ would be nice,” don’t exactly suggest humility. And you’ve said things like this before around here, namely that the Reformed symbols owe great debts to philosophy when it’s actually Scripture that deserves the debt. But before you go suggesting anti-intellectualism, it’s not that philosophy doesn’t have a place, it’s that it’s place shouldn’t be as overestimated as your remarks here and elsewhere always suggest.


  27. Mark,

    I am unclear where you see defamation of Dr. Kloosterman here, and I certainly do not participate in that. I respect and have dialogued with Dr. Kloosterman on these issues in a friendly way.

    I do not agree with your seeming desire to create a wedge between me and Dr. Kloosterman, or between me and other particular persons. Why do we have to name names? I do not find the people advocating the positions I noted to be credible in their advocacy of the two kingdoms doctrine, so why would I draw attention to them by naming them? In addition, I prefer to talk about ideas and substance rather than particular individuals. Have I not made it clear where I stand on the particular issue? Isn’t that what matters?

    This whole debate needs to be toned down, and that was the major purpose of my article. There is nothing in the two kingdoms doctrine that entails abandoning Christian education or a Christian worldview, though the two kingdoms doctrine does, as Darryl points out, challenge those who would be dogmatic on the application of these points.


  28. I can’t get into all the details of w-v, “”thou shalt & Christian Education. I think Matt is helpful in really pointing out that 2K is a spectrum between 2 extremes of it. Let me say what happened in our family, and let other smart folks decide if I am 2K and where on the spectrum I fit. God gave me a WTS degree. I sat under Dr. VanTil. I liked Abraham Kuyper more than he did! My wife and I have been married nearly 60 years and raised 3 sons and a daughter. Our oldest 2 sons were in Public schools k-12. Oldest graduated from a secular college in MA. Drives an 18 wheeler truck locally in TN. Well read, Bible and many other good books. Raising 5 kids. Home schooled. Second son has MBA from U. of Michigan. CFU of middle sized company. Has 6 kids, ages 17-35. Oldest has a PhD in Philosophy, Notre Dame. Taught Philosophy for 3 years in Germany (Jena) using German language. Now Prof @ U. of south Florida. Running out of time—- His other sons, Law degree from Notre Dame. Passed bar exam in GA. His #3 working on PhD in Chem @ U. of Texas, Austin. Enough about our son #2. All 6 kids of his have mixture of Public schools and Christian schools. Our t.hird son, Public school k-8, Christian school 9-12, grad. of Covenant College. PhD in Molecular Biology, U of Florida. 5 kids— 2 Covenant grads, all 5 from Christian schools. Our Daughter, Covenant grad in Ed., has 9 kids, 2 married, all home schooled. More to tell! Now, wife and I say this: Our main concern about culture is the environment for all these descendants, wives and 4 great grands— doing all we can about politics. We are not post mils! We think it is close to a Thus saith the Lord re. attendance for ours and others about going to GOOD Christian schools or Home Schooling! Thanks for listening if you got this far! In Jesus, Old Bob


  29. I see that in all my long msg. I didn’t mention that #3 son, Tim, has been Biology Prof. at Covenant college since 1995. Science head. Not bragging in all these things. Wife and I PTL! We are horrified at the Prez we have and how far DOWN our culture has gone since we were kids in NJ and WI. OB


  30. Not OB again! I am wondering if Matt T. is the young man, who with wife @ little child visited our OPC Redeemer, in ATL, and even preached a great sermon for us? OB


  31. Bob,
    I am that person. We are often still at Redeemer in the evenings, though during the summer not so much since I’m preaching a lot elsewhere. I’ll actually be preaching for you all again on June 24.


  32. Thank you, Matthew for your response. I have no intention to create any wedge between you and Kloosterman, but your endorsement of every word of the blog post had me understandably concerned. If you don’t see the defamation in the words Dr. K. has done his darnedest to associate 2k with all things profane. (Aside from the kitchen sink, the only charge that Dr. K. has not hurled is is that of Communism.), then I would respectfully suggest you {re}read his CR series again to see the patent falsity of the claim.

    When we examine a particular theology, we always identify the person publicly advancing the idea. It is done regularly here on this blog. It’s done by Van Drunen, by Horton, et. al. I assume you will do so in your doctorate work. You claim there is only a “minority” advancing the abandonment of Christian education or Christian worldview under the banner of 2k. As it stands, it is impossible to evaluate your claim. Having familiarity with most of the 2k proponents and their writings, I am skeptical of the claim of minority status. But I would love to be shown to be wrong, hence my inquiry.

    I will note I was encouraged when I read your CR piece, and agree that the tone of the discussion should be civil and substantive. I assume you believe that applies to 2k proponents as well and are willing to publicly hold them to that standard.


  33. Pilgrim, you may be right. I don’t know. But you don’t need to be philosophical to be a Christian. Sometimes being philosophical makes you a worse Christian.

    This would be like my claiming that the Bible is a historical document — which it is — and then arguing that everyone needs to be historically trained in order to read the Bible.

    I get it. Philosophers are smart. But at the foot of the cross, we’re all schleps.


  34. Mark VDM, have you taken up the point about civility with Dr. K. He defamed me several times in his long-winded set of pieces for CR — not to mention the guilt-by-association tactic of coloring his discussion of 2k with Misty Irons. I emailed Dr. K. He never responded. His series engaged in prejudicial language repeatedly. That’s not defamation. That is description.


  35. Mark,

    Rest assured, when I said I agreed with “every word” I was thinking of the substantive content, not Darryl’s rhetoric regarding Dr. Kloosterman. I obviously exaggerated. I do think Dr. Kloosterman’s review series was less than charitable or accurate in its approach to VanDrunen’s book, though as I have told both him and VanDrunen, I think they are closer to each other in substance than they (or others) think.

    I agree that one should cite sources one is examining, but I was making a brief comment about radical two kingdoms advocates (highly present on the Internet), and I was not thinking of those making serious scholarly contributions to the subject. That does not mean I necessarily agree with every single word VanDrunen or Hart says in all their publications. But it’s important, I think, to distinguish rhetoric from substance. I might disagree with someone’s emphasis or word choice, without disagreeing with the substance of their argument. For instance, David VanDrunen is much more suspicious about the adjective ‘Christian’ than I am. Darryl is probably stricter about what a preacher could say from the pulpit than I would be. But I understand why they have the concerns they do, and I agree with their basic perspective, even if I disagree on points of application.

    I actually think that most of us (even two kingdoms opponents) agree on most of these points, and I think the rhetoric and some differences on point of application disguise that. That is not to say there is no substantive disagreement. It’s just to say that the substance is hidden under the clutter of vicious argument and caricature. (For instance, google a piece recently written by Darrel Todd Maurina.)

    I appreciate your comment about the CR piece. I always aspire to write and communicate in this spirit, as I hope you will see if you follow my blog (whether or not you always agree with me), and one of my chief goals is to spread this spirit to all sides of the debate. And yes, I am not blaming one side. It takes two.

    If you are interested, in June I will giving a lecture on the biblical basis for the two kingdoms doctrine at Trinity URC in the Grand Rapids area. I will also continue to write on this on my blog from time to time.


  36. Zrim, your evidence is insufficient. Perhaps if I had used the word “only” you’d have a point. But I didn’t. Of course, Reformed philosophers owe a great debt to theologians and church historians too, but we weren’t talking about them. My statement can be true and does not suggest that I “don’t put a healthy dose of moderation on philosophers.”


  37. Darryl, can you point me (or anyone) to where I said you “need to be philosophical to be Christian?” Of course, that statement is vague and ambiguous, but I can anticipate what you mean if you spelled it out. However, humans are simply philosophical creatures by nature, whether they philosophize good or bad in another matter, and Christians hold on to certain philosophical “pictures” by accepting certain theological views, and so to be a fully self-reflective Christian you should be aware of all of this. But certainly, you are not somehow “less” in the kingdom for not doing so.


  38. I was making a brief comment about radical two kingdoms advocates (highly present on the Internet), and I was not thinking of those making serious scholarly contributions to the subject.

    This is helpful. At least I know the basis upon which you gauged “minority” status for the “radicals”.

    That is not to say there is no substantive disagreement. It’s just to say that the substance is hidden under the clutter of vicious argument and caricature.

    Yes, we must identify the substantive disagreement. I have read much of the scholarly works from the 2k proponents, and am fairly convinced the substantive disagreements are more substantial than what first meets the eye.

    if you follow my blog (whether or not you always agree with me), and one of my chief goals is to spread this spirit to all sides of the debate.

    Will check it out, and if opportunity permits, I will take up further discussion with you there.

    If you are interested, in June I will giving a lecture on the biblical basis for the two kingdoms doctrine at Trinity URC in the Grand Rapids area.

    That is my sister’s church, so if it works, perhaps I can do a “two-fer”: catch your lecture and visit with my little sis.


  39. DGH: “The URC is debating whether to require church officers to send their children to Christian schools, which was the requirement in the CRC.”

    Darryl, do you have a specific reference for this debate? Are you talking about an actual overture to a classis or synod, or just water cooler debate?

    Also, if I am not mistaken all faculty at Calvin also had to send their children to “Christian” schools. That sounds like a “thou shalt” to me.


  40. Brian,
    I know for a fact of one URC in southern Ontario that a few years ago established a requirement that elders had to have their children in a Christian school. An exception was not even made for homeschoolers. But as far as I am aware, this church changed its policy after a short time. I don’t think there is any widespread support for such a requirement.


  41. Brian, I would distinguish between conscience-binding (Thou shalt) and a condition for contractual employment. A church requiring something of church members is conscience-binding. I’m not even sure a church requiring officers to do something is conscience binding. You don’t have to be an officer. You do have to be a member.


  42. But, Terry, what if that something isn’t biblically warranted? Then what difference does it make if one is an ordained member or not? It’s ok to bind an officer to do or refrain from something the Bible neither compels nor prohibits? Again, consider substance use. Are my Fundamentalists correct to say that beer drinking or going to R-rated movies means you can never be an elder (or are grounds to dismiss)? Most P&R scoff at this, and rightly so. And the only way I can see that compelling officers re educational practice is “something” a church can require is to assume that the Bible in point of fact does have something to say about it.


  43. Pilgrim, so it gets worse. You don’t have to be philosophical to be a Christian. You have to be philosophical to be human. Wow! When will philosophers realize that they have an academic specialty like every other academic. And philosophy has a history. In which case a historian could trump a philosopher. But neither is essential to being human. It’s as if you go directly against Paul (again in 1 Cor.) by saying that everyone is a hand. Remember, there is a diversity of body parts.


  44. Brian, back in the day when Scott Clark was blogging I seem to recall that he and Dr. K. were going back and forth about church order provisions and whether the URC would follow the model of the CRC. I assume it is the case that on the books the CRC is still committed to officers needing to send their children to Christian day schools. It was the case when I was ordained.


  45. Zrim, Terry

    What about the validity of demanding extra-confessional commitments to be an officer? How does that work


  46. Darryl, if it is on the CRC books I slipped through the cracks when I served not too long ago. But you may have the PRC in mind instead of the URC. I know, all Dutch Reformed look the same to Presbyterians.


  47. Terry,

    You make a fair point, and I grant a distinction. But with Zrim I’m still not sure that distinction is a significant one if there is an implicit claim to divine authority. Setting Calvin college aside, why would you require an officer to send their child to a Christian school if the Bible doesn’t?


  48. For the sake of clarification, let’s just say “some in the URC” or “some congregations in the URC” have debated requiring officers to send their kids to Christian schools.

    To the best of my knowledge, the URC itself is not currently debating there, and there is no such overture on the Agenda of Synod 2012 (or any Classes that I’m aware of).


  49. 10:03 pm!!!! That’s insane. Nothing good happens after 10:00 pm everybody knows that, it’s part of the general equity grounded in creation and written on the heart.


  50. I’m actually inclined to agree wrt church officers, although I’m not sure that things like church order, books of discipline, directories of worship, rules of synod, etc. aren’t in this category. If you want to be an officer you agree to such and such. There’s a voluntary aspect to becoming an officer that’s not the case for “just” being a church member. I’m not sure I want to rule out a “covenanting” together on some common cause. I understand the danger here. But here’s where conscience might have some bite. If you can’t do it then you shouldn’t.


  51. Sean, true. Late meetings are when otherwise good 2kers are tempted to indulge their inner theo and start throwing rocks at the ones who keep getting things wrong.


  52. Terry, fair enough. But I suppose what that would mean is that if I can’t “promote God centered schooling” per URC CO Art. 14 (because it seems to imply to discourage secular schooling and would be self-refuting and I’d rather promote liberty on matters indifferent), I should take a pass on any nomination. That’s fine, hello 10:03 PM at home. But the question of needing biblical warrant for any explicit duty remains. What’s the warrant for “Godly schooling”?


  53. Darryl, no requirement of Christian schools for officers as far as i can see. CRC church order requires attending to faith formation and catchesis of covenant youth.

    There is this:

    Article 71
    The council shall diligently encourage the members of the congregation to establish and maintain good Christian schools in which the biblical, Reformed vision of Christ’s lordship over all creation is clearly taught. The council shall also urge parents to have their children educated in har- mony with this vision according to the demands of the covenant.

    This seems consistent with sphere sovereignty.


  54. Terry, CRC 71 sounds a lot like URC 14: officers shall promote a particularly Christian delivery of schooling. I’d rather promote liberty on things indifferent.


  55. Zrim, it does say “in harmony with this vision”. I’m not so sure that a properly grounded and corrected public education doesn’t qualify. In other words, the call to teach children to think Christianly in all of life is just the call to Christian discipleship. Hopefully, no one would suggest that it’s illegitimate conscience-binding for Christian parents to raise their kids in the Biblical faith. I will readily grant you the point that in much of Reformedom “in harmony with this vision” is and has been equated to the the local Christian day school.

    Being OPC in Mecca while I was a faculty-member at Calvin put me slightly outside the mainstream of GR culture. Homeschooling was not a difficult option, although it was viewed as a bit strange. My family made the cover of the Banner when they had an article about homeschooling. The article had nothing to do with us or our perspective, just a photo opp. We were the closest thing they could come up with as Reformed homeschoolers.

    But I do have to say that there is a social/communal dimension to establishing a Christian school. It’s hard to keep one going if all the Reformed folks in the community aren’t committed to it.

    Additionally, I cringe at the Biblicism inherent in the ask for “the Bible’s command to send your kids to the Christian school.” That’s like asking where does the Bible teach me anything about atomic theory. Or, is Genesis discussing evolutionary theory or old-earth geology? The modern education enterprise was there in the Bible. You can’t use the Bible to answer those questions, but you can use the good and necessary consequences of Biblical teaching (and maybe a bit of the light of nature) to get to answers.


  56. But, Terry, a secular school would never describe itself as “being in harmony the biblical, Reformed vision of Christ’s lordship over all creation is clearly taught,” or “godly schooling.” So the idea that a public school would qualify seems not a small stretch. I’ve heard this strategy before on the part of those who want to protect the Dutch Reformed legacy from legalism. It’s a nice effort, but way too much like pounding square pegs into round holes.

    And is it really Biblicism to demand where the Bible binds a conscience or good old fashioned Protestantism? I thought the RPW was Reformed, not Anabaptist. Now you are sounding like the Catholics who conflate the Radical Reformation with the Protestant Reformation.


  57. Zrim, read carefully. It doesn’t say that the school be in harmony, it says that the education provided by the parents be in harmony. Public education supplemented with appropriate Christian thinking provided by parents or pastors could well qualify. I doubt that it’s superior to from the ground up Christian education, but it could meet the church order’s mandate.

    The call to train our children in our faith (and all that that entails) is pretty clear in the Bible. Schooling options are applications. The principle is certainly Biblical.


  58. Terry, well, there you have it. The social/communal dimension of Christian schools. That is an important reason for immigrants to maintain group solidarity and I have admired ethnic loyalty among the Dutch. It is when the immigrant experience of one ethnic group becomes a transforming vision for all the other Calvinist mutts that I get annoyed. I wish the Dutch the best in maintaining their ways. But once they give up the mother tongue and begin to assimilate, then they need to back off the Kuyperian convictions and try a little Machen once in a while. We’re not in Amsterdam anymore.


  59. Terry, come on with the reading carefully and tap into your experience around the Dutch Reformed. The plain reading is pushing Christian day schools for covenant youth. Quit torturing the reading. But if one wants to make the point about the primacy of parents in the matter (to say nothing of respecting conscience), give me instead the RCC 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.

    With Darryl, I respect the desire for cultural cohesion that day schools give an immigrant group. But it’s time to admit that this is really what animates things like URC 14 and CRC 71 and then re-assess what it all might mean this side of cultural assimilation, not to mention in light of Christian liberty. And I’m not antagonistic about the biblical mandate of training covenant youth in the faith. My point is about HOW that is done. And it is done via catechism, not curriculum. If only the CRC took its confessional heritage as seriously as it does its day school tradition. Sigh.


  60. Zrim, well out here in Colorado, at least in Fort Collins, it is the natural reading not a strain at all. Some families pursue the local more fundamentalist Christian school, some attend a neighboring town Lutheran Christian school, some homeschool, the by far the majority attend the local public schools. I’ll have to do research on the history of the wording but I suspect that the language was altered to grant more flexibility to churches, councils, and families.

    Clearly, the main motivation of Kuyper to establish Christian schools in the Netherlands is because of the immigrant experience. You guys are ridiculous. And the embracing of the newly formed OPC by the CRC in the 30’s was because the OPC was so Dutch. Reminds me a bit of those in the CRC who think the Reformed Confessions are part of the Dutch ways and if they want to truly become a diverse church then they have to give up the Reformed Confessions.


  61. Terry, so the local Fundie, Lutheran, and SECULAR(!) schools teach in harmony with “the biblical, Reformed vision of Christ’s lordship over all creation”? How is it to be ridiculous to truly puzzle over how secularism can possibly be understood as in accord with a Reformed vision? Talk about the mind boggling. But if the language was altered to grant more flexibility, I still say the Catholics have worded things much better.

    But now you also seem to be hinting at the recent efforts in the CRC to revise the Form of Subscription (more evidence of a wayward denom). I’m not sure what this has to do with the discussion exactly, but as long as you bring it up, evidently the day school devotion hasn’t done much to instill a confessionally and militantly Reformed identity and commitment, now has it?


  62. Zrim, not hinting at that at all. And, actually, the final version of the form is pretty true to the CRC’s confessional heritage. You might want to read it for yourself. I don’t particularly have a problem with the original Form of Subscription other than its “doth fully agree” phrase. I think that the Presbyterian (OPC, historic PCUSA) is superior. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in updating language every few hundred years.

    You’re still not getting the point of Article 71. No one said that Fundie, Lutheran, or Secular schools teach in harmony with the Reformed vision. That’s not what the church order article requires. My confidence in your reading skills diminishes with each exchange. The church order articles instructs councils to encourage members to set up Reformed schools. Separately, tt instructs councils to urge parents to have children educated in harmony with the Reformed vision. This can happen in any kind of school as long as the parents supplement any missing piece or correct faulty instruction. Once so adjusted the schooling is in harmony with the Reformed vision.


  63. Zrim,

    CRCNA Church Order 2011
    Article 71
    The council shall diligently encourage the members of the congregation to establish and maintain good Christian schools in which the biblical, Reformed vision of Christ’s lordship over all creation is clearly taught. The council shall also urge parents to have their children educated in harmony with this vision according to the demands of the covenant.

    CRCNA Church Order 1976
    Article 71
    The consistory shall diligently encourage the members of the congregation to establish and maintain good Christian schools and shall urge parents to have their children instructed in these schools according to the demands of the covenant.

    I think that the 2011 version is more flexible. Wouldn’t you agree?


  64. This can happen in any kind of school as long as the parents supplement any missing piece or correct faulty instruction. Once so adjusted the schooling is in harmony with the Reformed vision.

    So, Terry, why not just say catechize the kids at home and in church? What’s schooling of any variety matter as long as that’s happening? Here’s all that would have to happen to URC 14:

    The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, (DELETE) promote God-centered schooling (DELETE), visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

    But I see no principled difference between CRC 71 (1976) and (2011). RCC Catechism 2229 beats both and URC 14.


  65. Zrim, as good as catechism is (very good!), it’s not all there is to Christian education. I would readily admit that a well-catechized person will likely have the worldview envisioned by most neo- Cals. It doesn’t hurt to model it in the concrete however. And that’s Christian schools do when operating properly.


  66. Terry, yes, that seems to be the worldviewist take on catechism: good, but not good enough. Not unlike the neo-Cal culturalist take on the confessions themselves, high opinion (sometimes low) but low view. High view is reserved for epistemology. But at least paleos and neos share an infallible view of the Bible. So there is that. Who says we’re pessimists?


  67. Terry, what in hades does Heidelberg say about biology? How could the catechism possibly have much to say beyond there is a creator and then man fell? That’s not going to get you very far in a biology text book. Oh, I forgot. And as you teach biology you glorify God.


  68. Darryl, you’re well on your way to figuring this out. Creation, of course, is a fundamental aspect to thinking about all of reality, including biology. The lawfulness and regularity that we observe in the biological world is grounded in and founded upon God’s decrees, laws, statutes, etc. Understanding aright the biological world means understanding its createdness. I would add the doctrine of Providence to the mix–the catechism and confessions have something to say about that. Necessary, contingent, and free secondary causes are all rooted in the execution of God’s decree in providence. If you don’t start with these things you end up with your science promoting materialism, reductionism, autonomy of nature, etc. I’m not so sure about the consequences of the Fall for our biology other than the darkening of the knowledge of the Creator that should come from our study.

    We could also talk about the doxological notions and the service to God notions (vocation) that are embodied in the catechism’s teaching about the 10 Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.

    And, yes, teaching biology, studying biology, biology itself (even the stones cry out, let everything that has breath…) glorifies God.

    You’re right about the biology textbook. If you think that’s what we’re talking about then you’re mistaken. I’m talking about the religio-philosophical roots of the disciplines including biology. The technical details at least in the physical/biological sciences are largely shared between Christians and non-Christians. There is common ground but not common foundations. Non-Christians still operate in God’s Creation whether they admit it or not.

    I know you have little use for religio-philosophical foundations for thinking. I find that to be strange for a scholar. I suspect that you don’t really think that about your own discipline and that you’ve given lots of thought to the practice of history and how one’s fundamental perspectives (worldview) impact one’s scholarship. My impression is that this is even more important in disciplines outside the natural sciences.


  69. As someone fairly squarely in the 2K camp, I can’t see many consciences being bound in “promote God-centered schooling” as a task of the elder in URCNA CO 14. Sure, it’s not a positive statement of liberty on the issue (as Rome articulate due to the history of persecution and liberties being restricted). But it is a good bit better than CRC (’76 or ’11), in that it doesn’t call for the council to establish schools. I would guess this change is less driven by any latent 2K spirit in the drafters than by a desire to be more open-ended for home schoolers and less domineering (or more suspicious of institutions).

    Zrim, do you have kids? I must say, my views on this have changed since my only daughter began attending an LCMS school operating on a classical model (we are in an area where public schools frankly aren’t an option). Namely, I’m far more grateful for her Christian education (and the Christian aspects of it) than I anticipated.

    Let’s take music, surely a proper subject of “schooling” on a classical model. She is being trained by her Lutheran teachers to know music primarily for the purposes of worship. Within weeks of her starting up last fall, my four year old began waking me up in the morning singing Kyrie Elieson. Yes, I’m a pastor, and I should have been teaching her music at home. I was, some. But her musical education has skyrocketed this year, as well as her interest and ability to engage with psalms and hymns we sing at church. I recently awoke from a Sunday afternoon nap to see her copying out Psalm 51 from our bulletin. Sure, she could learn the elements of music from anyone. But how much better that she learns the elements while learning Christian forms, to boot? [Though I am afraid the debts/trespasses battle will be pitched and protracted]

    I’m a product of Catholic parochial schools (1-8) and public high school, but I think in this day and age it is appropriate for elders to “promote god-centered schooling,” especially if this instruction is read with a 2K lens (i.e., “parents, your godly training of your children extends beyond catechesis, to how to think well.”) I don’t know Kuyper’s motivation, but I know that the Reformation was a great boon to literacy in general, as more households read and studied the Scriptures, and churches emphasized he importance of this study. Sure, this took on a totally different meaning and significance in an immigrant community, but to jettison this concern entirely for fear of constraining liberty seems a bit foolish.

    Many parents today are clueless about the importance of ideology in education. Increasingly, our state schools will produce illiterate citizens (barely “citizens”), who may not be well equipped intellectually to be church members or officers. Officers should promote god-centered schooling — an education that equips our children to worship. Was that the original intent of the CO? Maybe, in part, with charitable reading. But I think that’s a good reading in the light of the broader Reformed tradition.


  70. Brian, CRC CO #71 does not call for the Council to establish schools. That’s not the work of the church. It calls for the Council to encourage members to establish and maintain schools. I think this is an important distinction when we’re quibbling over sphere sovereignty and the spirituality of the church.


  71. Brian, yes, we have two daughters. And ss advocates of public schooling who have in the past decided against local public school options, and as one who whose vocation is within the larger public education arena and sees the weaknesses, I can readily admit that it’s very difficult to maintain public school advocacy in theory and in practice these days. But we do nevertheless. And it might help to try and see things from this perspective to begin to understand how even statements like “promote God-centered schooling” might imply something troubling. It may not be as readily apparent to one with your background.

    Good public school advocates know the importance of variety in schooling (private, home, religious), so your points about what parochial schooling has afforded are well taken. And some of us would like to see the favor returned. One place I might point you to is WA Strong’s “Children in the Early Church,” which helps make the point that the early believers weren’t quite as concerned with worldview as moderns tend to be and also saw the virtue of learning along side those who have vastly different religious convictions.

    If it helps, we have decided against continuing in the mainstream public school where we are for our oldest (so far the transformers in Little Geneva have yet to impact public education) and have instead chosen an academically oriented preparatory high school for her–but it’s a charter, so we still get the public aspect we esteem. Still not what anybody could construe as “godly,” but I’m still not clear why that matters so much that my elder needs to promote it.


  72. Terry, do you really mean to imply that scientists in the West do not build on the philosophy of the Greeks and Romans or the Muslims for that matter? If you look at the history of science, the distinctness of Christian outlooks becomes less convincing. Which again leads to the point that neo-Calvinism is guilty of triumphalism and doesn’t give Christians a good reputation among those who recognize the accomplishments of non-Christian scientists and philosophers. It is a simplistic construction to give Christians credit for advances in science (though it is a nice way to try to do for science what Jerry Falwell and Co. did for the United States — we must return to our Christian origins as a nation or a science).


  73. Terry, yes, you are correct. I misread that. I grant the import of the distinction. I still prefer the URC formulation for not asking people to establish schools, and leaving a bit more liberty.

    Zrim, I’m not noting the parochial advantages out of worldview concern, so we’re in agreement there. More out of prudential concern. And a CO is not a confessional document, in my book. It is, in part, a prudential document, more contextual, and open to revision on far lighter grounds than confessions.

    I can imagine all sorts of contexts where a church order may wish to have officers be mindful of how families are attending to the education of their children. No, I don’t think “God-centered” is the best adjective, either for the sake of its clarity or descriptive power.

    Part of my prudential concern is quality of education (again, not worldview), but I’ll come clean and grant that I worry more and more about ideology these days (not worldview, mind you). Of course, ideology gets back to quality, as an ideological school is engaged more in indoctrination than education. Don’t want to slur public educators at all, but I do worry in particular about “Green Orthodoxy” and Sexuality. And my concern is that both of these ideological concerns are occupying a greater portion of the public education diet, and not encouraging critical thought in doing so.

    Let’s leave w__w out of it. As a public school advocate, how would you rate those concerns of mine? Do you think our public school systems (again, broadly generalizing) are growing more ideological in select areas, and therefore doing a worse job educating? Because my guess is that in the URC this is what most people are concerned about when they use a term like “God-centered schooling.”


  74. Brian,

    I think your prudential concerns are warranted and I share them. They play some part in our own past and future decisions against the local public education. But I’m also not sure there is the kind of distinction between ideology and worldview you’re suggesting. If there is ideology and worldview in public education it is because it shares with educational parochialists who also believe education is not primarily an intellectual project but an affective one. In my own experience, Christians basically choose parochial schooling out of worldview, not out of a concern for intellectual development.

    But with regard to the CO being a prudential document, that’s fine as far as it goes. But the problem for me is how Article 14 includes elements that are of a binding nature. Once more:

    The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, promote God-centered schooling, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

    Purity of doctrine and life, sacraments, catechism, discipline, evangelism, and good order are all prescribed by the Bible. I don’t know what schooling has to do with any of that since the Bible doesn’t prescribe schooling (as in the three Rs). Purity of doctrine and life, evangelism, visitation, discipline, and catechism should be promoted by officers because the Bible prescribes them. Either all of these things are not binding but simply really good ideas, or schooling is just as prescribed as evangelism. I doubt you grant the former, and if the latter then the PRC is right to compel officers (even laity for that matter) to employ only denominational schools they way they may only employ Reformed worship. My guess is that, like me, you don’t like the PRC’s recent actions, in which case it makes more sense to drop the whole idea of “godly schooling,” which means deleting the phrase “promote God-centered schooling.”

    If the URC is concerned for the state of education (and is why the phrase is retained) then why not the state of the Union, the physical health of Americans and on and don it could go? If I tried hard enough, I could have prudential concerns about those things, but I don’t see why any of it should be the concern of elders to promote “godly statecraft and eating habits.” You may want to keep worldview out of this, but it’s the 500 lb gorilla smack in the middle of it all.


  75. Fair points, but there are two points in the list that talk about “promoting,” and I think there is a bit of intended ambiguity with that word, so the list isn’t an undifferentiated enumeration of necessities. Promoting something is different than doing it. Why only promote evangelism and missions, which are clearly necessary to the well-being of the church? Well, maybe because not everyone is gifted in the same way in those regards. Likewise, promoting god-centered schooling is going to vary a lot, depending on your context.

    I’m not saying worldview thinking isn’t part of the reason it is in there, and I’m not saying that a CO without it wouldn’t be better. But I think there is a big difference between debating an ideal CO in the abstract, and living within the bounds (and the collected history) of the one you have. For those who inherited a strong Christian schooling tradition from their parents, removing it from the CO would be a highly symbolic move. Ultimately, I think it is there (and not godly statecraft) because schooling is within the sphere of the family, and the church has a direct interest in the activity of that sphere.

    What does Paul say? Let them remain in the condition in which they were called. I’m happy for the elders to continue to promote God-centered schooling with an eye to prudence and Christian liberty, so long as others are happy not to bind consciences where Scripture is silent. And I think our CO strikes a good balance there. Speaking pastorally, that is certainly how I would explain it and apply it to a public school teacher or advocate, most of whom, like you, recognize there are a host of tradeoffs.


  76. Brian, it may be the case that not everyone is gifted for evangelism and missions, but if it’s a sphere sovereignty point we want to make, it’s also the case that parents have primacy in deciding how their children will be schooled. Which means they should be afforded that liberty without ecclesiastical promotion or discouragement. Which is why something like RCC Catechism 2229 is still better to my mind if we’re being serious about liberty.

    Yes, I’m quite sure striking the language from the CO would be highly symbolic among the Reformed where schooling is a third rail the way personal holiness is among the Fundamentalists. But it’s a point worth raising when it comes to worldview. Frankly, I think it becomes something of a conundrum for confessionalists to fault the culturalists for their “Reformed world-and-life view” and not think that the laboratory for worldview (Christian schools) can go unquestioned. But let me also be clear that this has nothing to do with wanting to take away anything from anybody–how could it be if the larger point is liberty? Rather, it’s to make a point about sola scriptura and press an assumption that at least looks like the Bible prescribes schools.


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