Calling All Neo-Calvinists and Kuyperians!!

I need serious help. I have been conversing (yes, snarkly) with the good Dr. K. about 2k after all that Rodney King mojo that descended like a dove on Lookout Mountain last week when Mike Horton ascended the same. He keeps faulting 2kers for many faults — basically giving away the faith — and then in comments he does a great impersonation of Muhammad Ali, dodging and weaving against any untoward construction, at once sounding biblicist, then bobbing like a Dutch Calvinist, and then ducking like a 2ker. It’s enough to give you vertigo.

Here are some samples from the comments and exchanges. On the one hand he wants the Bible to be the norm for all of life:

Declaring the Bible to be authoritative over all of human living, and acting accordingly, are confessional matters. Nevertheless, all of us continue to wrestle with how the Bible is authoritative (for example, more directly / less directly; by way of norm, orientation, or example; and the like). The concretization of the principle, however, need not be a confessional matter. . . .

The neo-Calvinist vison is that together Christians cultivate their witness and walk in the various spheres of cultural activity. Insofar as they seek to apply the principles of God’s Word in the particular area of politics, the neo-Calvinist vision aims to pursue biblical justice for all members of society according to the divine norms relevant to various kinds of human activity.

One of those norms involves protecting unborn life. Another involves protecting the divine institution of marriage, which, as we know even from Scripture, by divine permission allows divorce for the hardness of the human heart. Another norm involves truth-telling, such that biblical teaching requires fidelity to one’s oath, the enforcement of contracts, punishing perjury, anti-libel laws, etc. I know of no neo-Calvinist who would argue that politicians must advocate to ban heresy or false religion. Some might advocate punishing blasphemy. Most would seek to do everything politically feasible to limit non-marital sex.

On the other hand, Dr. K. strives (why, I don’t know) to distance himself from advocating a Christian state or the state’s enforcement of Christian norms:

The prohibition of polygamy is most certainly entailed in the Seventh Commandment. As WLC 139 puts it, among the sins forbidden in the Seventh Commandment is “having more wives or husbands than one at the same time.” (Though the WLC list of sins prohibited also includes “allowing, tolerating, keeping stews.” I’m not sure if I’ve ever done that; I’ll look in the fridg.) You compare polygamy with divorce, with respect to how Christians should respond to this in the public square. If it were possible for me as a Christian legislator to introduce now, in 2012, a law that upholds monogamy over against polygamy, should I do so, or would I be forcing my morality on the public? By the way, in none of my comments, questions, or observations, have I called for the state to enforce any commandment—Seventh, Third, Ninth, or any. Rather, I have simply pointed to specific duties or obligations, whose wording I have borrowed conveniently from the WLC, which we have as Christians, we who presumably who adhere to the WLC. That as a Christian living in a democratic republic I should want the state legislatively to promote and preserve unborn human life, monogamous heterosexual marriage, and truthful contracts is not at all to desire that the state somehow become Christian, or that the state enforce what are merely Christian values. These values are universally binding moral values. (emphasis mine)

I emphasize this line because in the previous quote (all in the same discussion thread) Dr. K. did speak about Christian politics and the application of biblical norms of justice to all members of society.

What is also worthy of emphasis (hence the bold) is Dr. K.’s assertion that pro-life, heterosexual marriage, and honest contracts are matters that we recognize as true universally, in other words, apart from the Bible. Here he adopts the 2k logic of natural law.

Finally, the kicker is that Dr. K. believes 2k is in fundamental opposition to Reformed Protestantism:

For my part, our disagreement begins with the Bible—with the exegesis of the entire biblical story from Genesis through Revelation. It continues with the Confessions—both the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards. It moves from there to the application of the truths and principles harvested from these sources to all of Christian living in the world. None of this denigrates the institutional church, the office of minister of the Word, the pivotal, crucial role of the means of grace, the essential ecclesiastical activities of catechesis, family visiting, discipling, and service. It is simply saying: the gospel is for more than these.

I’d like to say I understand where Dr. K. is coming from but I cannot. Perhaps my neo-Calvinist friends, few though they may be, can help me translate. Is this a function of not understanding Dutch?

90 thoughts on “Calling All Neo-Calvinists and Kuyperians!!

  1. No, it’s a problem with not understanding orthodoxy.

    I just listened to Richard Gamble’s critique of 2K. Thank God that men are standing up against this stuff.


  2. Philip, you don’t mean to imply that orthodoxy is self-contradictory? Why don’t you step up and explain away. Try Dutch. I’ll find a translator.


  3. 2k’s put a high priority on church, doctrine, the confessions and, generally, the redemptive kingdom. Neo-Cals should be glad to sit beside 2k’s in the pews. But if 2k’s aren’t welcome because we won’t enlist the church in the culture wars- and that’s what seems to generate all the heat – the neo-Cals seem to confirm that the world is more important to them than the church.


  4. MM,

    After all the jousting, that is the sad truth. Well said. One hopes their rhetoric is just that. If not Rome does it(culture transformation) better and they are late and undermanned(monastic orders) to the task.


  5. Mark G., thanks. Looks like the confusion continues, at least according to one listener who commented:

    Kloosterman says (22:00ff) that natural law in the early Reformed tradition was a tool never used “apart from Scripture,” as a means to “invent a distinct morality or moral code.” Unfortunately, this isn’t clear (I’m not sure what “apart from” means, and I am not sure why Kloosterman talks solely in terms of “moral codes”–presumably there are also individual moral norms, reasons, etc.). Besides giving a thorough explanation of natural law, I’d love to see the following questions answered:

    1. Does Kloosterman mean to say that the early Reformers thought there was not one moral norm knowable or justifiable apart from appeal to Scripture? In other words, did they think every argument which has a moral norm as its conclusion has to include at least one premise that appeals to or cites Scripture?
    2. Further, is Kloosterman (himself or as an interpretation of natural law in the Reformed tradition) saying that our only source of moral normativity is special revelation? What about normativity in general?

    Too many questions for Dr. K. to act like 2k is beyond the pale. Looks like we need a definition of the pale.

    Speaking of pale, I could go for an IPA about now.


  6. That Reformed Forum podcast page says “Dr. Nelson Kloosterman returns to Christ the Center to speak about natural law and two kingdom theology in early 21st century Dutch thought.”

    What, is he quoting himself? I suspect they meant to write “20th century”, not “21st century”.


  7. The reason we can win this battle is that while we appeal to Scripture and the Confessions, Neocals refer to a bunch of Dutch thinkers and works that still haven’t even been translated — and they act like we’re the ones being obscure and missing the obvious. The only thing that keeps them in the game is that the practical way that Neocalvinism gets worked out is so similar to the fundamentalist model of political engagement that is already entrenched in the American religious culture. If they had to start from scratch they would be in big trouble.


  8. George – That’s Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. Darrell Todd Maurina and Randy Martin Snyder kept trying to give me fatherly advice on Cosmic Eye so I was feeling like Kip Dynamite. He is a grown man who lives with his grandma so she can look after him. The actress who played the grandma also played Selma Green on “Big Love”, one of the weirdest characters in the history of television, but I digress…

    Old Life guys should actually be familiar with Big Love. Pretty interesting show that touched on a lot of the issues that we deal with here.


  9. Can someone tell me how we know what Natural Law is? DVD’s tracing of it in his book suggests pretty tight linkage with the Ten Commandments. Are 1-4 part of natural law? Is the law against coveting part of natural law? I’m always told that Natural Law is from God. How much does it overlap with God’s law as given in the 10 Commandments? How do we distinguish between Natural Law and some consensus of suppressed consciences?


  10. Erik – I suspect that a great many of us Old Life bloggers also have Old Skool pocket books. Since this “Big Love” is an HBO program that can only be viewed via some broadband media (cable, satellite), it is out of reach for those of us on fixed incomes who depend on OTA broadcasting. I’ve never seen an episode and have no idea about any of the content or characters. Although I may have to check out this Napoleon Dynamite via NetFlix.


  11. Eric – I nearly posted that you look like Kip from Napolean Dynamite but decided not to cuz didn’t want you to get offended. How funny.


  12. I need to read more on Natural Law (Van Drunen’s longer book, for starters), but my general impression is that the Natural Law is to the Law of God what Natural Light is to good beer — a weak substitute. As I mentioned on Kloosterman’s site, I can go Bahnsen on the Natural Law advocate just like I can go Bahnsen on the Neocalvinist (who won’t go all the way to Theonomy — which is the logical outcome of one who advocates “Worldview Calvinism”, “All of Life Christian Cultural Obedience”, or whatever they want to call it.


  13. George – I watch most everything through the public library or Netflix (DVD’s, not streaming). Only $8 a month. Napoleon Dynamite is hilarious. Uncle Rico is my hero, as is Napoleon.


  14. Terry, all 10 dovetail with natural law and it’s all authored by God. But even Paul wasn’t averse to appealing to the altar of the Unknown God to show that even suppressed consciences betray this knowledge.


  15. Does anyone else think the reaction from the christian right this morning seem terribly overwrought? I’m not the most political cat there is, but the stuff I’ve read just on facebook much less some reconstructionist sites being linked to, seem especially hyperbolic. Yeesh, the national political landscape looks pretty much the way it did a week ago, and I’m with George Will on this one, ‘this is perfect, we’ve got 4 pretty good years of gridlock’. Is this what neo-calvinism and culture transformation has netted us? a bunch of Chicken Littles?!


  16. @Sean

    I’ll pay the crowd a complement, they have a realistic assessment of their numbers. To quote Chris Hayes of The Nation regarding conservatives, “they get high on their own supply”. By which he means that the evangelical right tends to believe its own propaganda. Most evangelicals think they have a much larger number than they actually have.

    What they just got confronted with was the realization, that really and truly are large number of people who understand their positions and reject them. This is what liberals went through starting in ’72 till about ’84. A new generation learned the lessen painfully in 2000-2005.

    If you are a reconstructionist who talks and thinks as if Americans wanted biblical law, being confronted with the fact that “biblical law” would do about as well in the polls as a proposal to import Myanmar’s military dictatorship is disheartening.


  17. Richard, I’ll hoist one for good ‘ol gridlock any day. Cheers!

    I haven’t searched around looking for reactions, but FWIW I do think the political landscape changed while Republicans slept. Smaller government and what the left would call legislation of the groin just aren’t winners in general elections any more. The foreign policy differences don’t reach out and grab people, either. The Republican party is going to have to look more like the Democrats or persuade people that its distinctives are important and desirable. Of course, certain events could make R positions look desirable again, as could individual compelling personalities.

    And never underestimate the addictive power of free stuff.


  18. CD – Do you have any concern about how the left is going to continue to pay for the welfare state? I think the idea that they can tax the rich enough to pay for it is not true. How do we keep from becoming like Spain, Greece, & Italy? I know it’s overblown to act like we’ll be like them in 2 or 4 years, but long term?

    Another concern for the left (and this is already starting to happen) is full-time jobs becoming part time jobs because of Obamacare. I have an entry on my blog from the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. At my office we are watching the 50 full-time equivalent employee threshold & the 30 hour per week threshold. A lot of people are going to have multiple part time jobs but still no employer provided healthcare. They will get government subsidies for which the government (taxpayers) will pick up the tab.


  19. Sean & MM –

    The only problem is it’s gridlock with $1 trillion plus added to the debt each year. That’s gridlock the left can live with, not to mention those who hate America and wouldn’t feel bad if it was changed forever or destroyed. A $20 trillion national debt in 4 years doesn’t look too good to me.


  20. Erik, neither the right nor the left has the political will to do what is necessary to get the budget under control. Voters value goodies over our economic future, and will punish any politician taking them away. Think of the denial of compulsive credit card users surely headed toward bankruptcy and you have a picture of where we are now. And in a few years Obamacare will be as untouchable as Social Security.

    Yeah, just call me Mr. Optimism.


  21. Zrim (cont). … Let alone sabbath-keeping (okay, it makes sense not to work workers to death, but why should it be the same day for everyone) or monotheism or anti-blasphemy. Honestly, believers have enough trouble with the Law and they accept scripture as authoritative and have the Holy Spirit. Common grace restraint only gets you so far and there’s no consensus. Are you suggesting that the West as a whole is suppressing the light of nature. And where does NL say “thou shalt not covet”. Do you know how ridiculous people like Richard Dawkins thinks it is when we say that there are such things as sins in our thought life?


  22. CD – Do you have any concern about how the left is going to continue to pay for the welfare state?

    First off let’s just make sure we agree on the basics as far as “welfare state”. The big ticket items are Medicare, medicaid, social security which with defense are about 80% of the federal budget. The answer is the Patient Protection Act (Obamacare). Right now the US has a healthcare system that 1/3rd more expensive than France’s (best in the world) while providing a quality of care on par with Cuba’s (about 1/10th the price of the US system). By using the efficiency mechanism in the Patient Protection Act and realigning health expenses we can probably cut the cost of care by about 2/3rds without an damaging the quality of care in the United States or improve the quality of care substantially. That’s the main approach.

    As far as Social Security the left is really divided here. Though lots of left-wingers agreed partially with George Bush on diversification of the asset base, even while disagreeing on his desire to have the SS system pay fees to wall-street. Others would like to see the level of payments go down slightly (about 15% gradually). Others would like to see the age continue to increase. And others would like to see means testing or the salary cap removed.

    Defense they want to cut and most importantly prevent the rampant growth that’s its been on.

    I think the idea that they can tax the rich enough to pay for it is not true.

    The fact is though the rich can easily pay for it. There has been huge redistribution up. The US is not a middle class society anymore. We could pay for the government on the backs of the rich which would have the beneficial effect of redistribution. Most of the left just wants an increase in taxes from the rich and not substantial redistribution.

    How do we keep from becoming like Spain, Greece, & Italy?

    Right now we borrow in dollars. We are incapable of having the kind of crisis that Spain, Greece and Italy are having. The analogy with Greece would be California not the USA. That being said (see below)

    I know it’s overblown to act like we’ll be like them in 2 or 4 years, but long term?

    Long term obviously we as a country can’t continue to tax at 20% of GDP and spend at 30% of the GDP. The left doesn’t disagree with the right on that. Where they disagree is what to do about it.

    Another concern for the left (and this is already starting to happen) is full-time jobs becoming part time jobs because of Obamacare. I have an entry on my blog from the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. At my office we are watching the 50 full-time equivalent employee threshold & the 30 hour per week threshold. A lot of people are going to have multiple part time jobs but still no employer provided healthcare. They will get government subsidies for which the government (taxpayers) will pick up the tab.

    The left has always wanted to attack this kind of cost shifting by employers. It ain’t opposition from the left that’s stopping the country from preventing cost shifting. My personal opinion would be there shouldn’t be any small employers, small employers should PEO their employees which end all sorts of abuses. I do that with my 4 person business, it saves me money and helps me comply with NJ and Federal laws.


  23. MM, cheers.

    Erik, at this point between crony capitalism/corporate welfare and individual subsidy, I’ve reconciled to the foregone conclusion that you won’t get folks of the tit ’till the milk runs dry. I’m too cynical at this point to believe we have the fortitude much less moral courage to be fiscally responsible. Color me jaded.


  24. Terry, vague generalities? You asked some simple questions and simple answers were given. But in your follow up I’m not sure what you’re getting at. The law is naturally written on the human heart, so everybody knows that there is only one God who makes a host of demands that should be heeded. That any of it is being suppressed or that there appears to be little consensus doesn’t say anything about its clarity or import but everything about the abiding nature of human sin.


  25. Zrim, my point is if it’s so obvious, why isn’t it so obvious? What’s your NL argument for a given moral position–the ones I listed to start with. Convince me that homosexuality is wrong. Convince me that serial marriage is wrong. Etc. I’m just not seeing it.


  26. Terry, if it’s not obvious it’s because sin is obscuring the clarity. Everybody knows homosexuality is contrary to nature. Maybe your problem is that you expect everybody to speak and behave the same way about a thing in order to demonstrate its universal intrinsic knowledge. But it just doesn’t work that way. Everybody knows there is one God, but some worship him by name in Christian churches, others erect altars and ascribe anonymity. That some play dumb about his name and worship him falsely doesn’t mean intrinsic knowledge of him isn’t obvious. It just means sinners can really screw up that knowledge. What exactly do you think Paul’s point in Romans is about the law being written on the heart but also suppressed in unrighteousness?


  27. Zrim, I’m not sure I’d think homosexuality was wrong if it wasn’t in the Bible. I think you’re taking your sensibilities and calling that NL. I can’t think of anything more natural than “love the one you’re with”. Tell me that everyone knows that’s wrong too.


  28. Terry, if the Bible is the standard, you’re toast. If you think love the one you’re with is natural, do you think (applying the neo-Cal antithesis) love the lord your God with all your heart etc. is going to be a game changer?


  29. Terry, and the same for stealing? So does that mean someone can plead not guilty by reason of never having read the Bible? Don’t look now, but not only are you making it impossible to explain how pagans can have built well ordered societies, you’re making hay of Paul in Romans.


  30. Erik, why do you think it’s only the left which can and will live with the debt? Were the two wars W put on the credit card not really the work of the right? Is there some “real right” out there that I don’t know about?

    Still more non-voters than ever, and it feels good to be among them. When the mafia runs up a debt and collects from me, they don’t ask me which Mafia I want….


  31. CD – I would love to bet you a large amount of money that health care costs & total expenditures go up under Obamacare. Check back in 5 years on this issue.

    I fear you are the classic example of the Christian who loses their faith and becomes a skeptic in matters of religion while at the same time somehow developing faith in the goodness of man and the Democratic Party platform. You need to look at big government programs with the same skepticism you look at religion. If only it would all work out as nicely as you are hoping.

    It remains true that incentives matter and there is no such thing as a free lunch, no matter who we elect to office.


  32. I would love to bet you a large amount of money that health care costs & total expenditures go up under Obamacare. Check back in 5 years on this issue.

    I don’t disagree with you. The cost control mechanisms were what the Republicans were going to get in exchange for their support. That is Dems get universal coverage and Republicans get lower expenses and it passes by a huge margin. But the Republicans instead decided to make it a campaign issue and run on their opposition and the deficit oriented right didn’t feel comfortable voting for it.

    But that doesn’t mean the infrastructure for the cost control mechanisms don’t exist. That’s going to be the big Democratic concession on deal after deal after deal. So for example in this round of budget talks what Boehner may get is a trillion off government healthcare costs to keep the defense stuff he cares about.

    If the Democrats had a lasting strong majority they would pass these cost control mechanisms as well. But they are going to be unpopular but for Republicans who run on cutting spending should finally be able to actually deliver some meaningful cuts. I think there may be some room here in the next congress when Republicans give up the fantasy of repeal and instead realize the choice is Obamacare with strong cost controls or Obamacare without strong cost controls.


  33. “If the Democrats had a lasting strong majority they would pass these cost control mechanisms as well.”

    Cost control mechanisms? Like what, waving a magic wand? Telling old people they are consuming too much health care they can’t have any more? Suspending the laws of supply and demand? If the number of people getting health care is going way up, where are more doctors and nurses magically going to come from?

    What are the “cost control mechanisms” that the government uses for other scarce resources? I could use some of those for gas.

    Other countries have these sorts of things for health care, too. It’s why their citizens (used to) come here when they needed medical treatment. Really the only mechanism is long waits for care and hoping old people just die while they are waiting. What else is there? “Computerized medical records”?

    Did you know any of these common sense things when you were a Christian and just forgot them or did you never know them? I would love to know what kind of church you were in. I have spent most of my life around clueless liberals growing up in a college town. I know one when I see one.


  34. I listened to the Horton confab at Covenant (on the college’s ITunes site). I actually think we have a lot more fruitful back-and-forth here (referring to & Imagine going into a setting where most everyone else disagrees with you on a topic and many people aren’t that informed about what it is exactly that you believe. You are dealing with people face-to-face and there are a lot of people watching. You just aren’t going to get as in-depth as you can in an online setting where you are doing a lot of writing. I think Hart, and maybe even little old me, would have taken some of those Covenant folks to the woodshed (or at least challenged them) in ways Horton did not given an online setting. What does one do with the notion that because God said he would bless all people through Abraham “it is the church’s responsibility to be a blessing to the world around us.” Um, I don’t think that is precisely what is being communicated in Genesis. There are a few facts about Christ and his work in between that premise and conclusion. We don’t jump directly from God’s promise to Abraham to the social gospel. The whole thing was kind of frustrating — an ambush of Horton almost.

    One very interesting point, though. Critics at Covenant were mostly concerned about 2k leading to the church neglecting “the poor”. No one at all really argued for being culture warriors, in fact everyone seemed to agree they were generally against it — which is pretty much all that the 2k opponents online seem to be concerned about. Keep in mind this is an academic crowd, though, with the usual baggage that goes with that demographic.


  35. Erik, for what it’s worth, I did a confab at Covenant back in 2001. Then the subject was Christian higher ed. The 2k notion that Christians don’t have a distinct outlook in the academic disciplines (except for biblical studies and theology) did not go over well. One faculty member actually called my employer at the time a day before the event and tried to prevent me from speaking at the college.


  36. Further Thoughts on Michael Horton’s Mugging Atop Lookout Mountain

    I’ve allowed my brain to marinate overnight in the ITunes podcast of Michael Horton’s recent panel discussion on Two Kingdoms Theology with faculty and students at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Something didn’t sit right with me about the get together, and as I continue to reflect on just what that is I will make a few comments.

    What is Covenant College? Their website says “We are a community committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, and everything we do is grounded in our Reformed theology and worldview.”

    The site goes on:

    “The mission of Covenant College is to explore and express the preeminence of Jesus Christ in all things. We educate Christians to engage culture and cultures, to examine and unfold creation, and to pursue biblical justice and mercy in community. With the student-faculty relationship and strong teaching and scholarship at the foundation, our Christ-centered community seeks to help students mature in three primary areas: (1) Identity in Christ (2) Biblical frame of reference (3) Service that is Christ-like. We offer the world biblically grounded men and women equipped to live out extraordinary callings in ordinary places.”

    O.K. That’s a lot of stuff. Let’s unpack it.

    First off, as I noted in another post, “Critics at Covenant were mostly concerned about 2k leading to the church neglecting ‘the poor’. No one at all really argued for being culture warriors, in fact everyone seemed to agree they were generally against it — which is pretty much all that the 2k opponents online seem to be concerned about.”

    So on one hand we have college faculty and students affiliated with a Presbyterian Church in America school criticizing 2k because they think it is going to hold them back in their mission on earth to help the poor. Call it a vision of the church as a hospital for the sick in the world.

    On the other hand we have Neocalvinists & aggressive postmillennialists online, most of whom are interested in the issues that are normally associated with the “culture war” — homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion. Call it a vision of the church as a policeman for the law-breakers of the world.

    Both of these groups claim be be rooted in Reformed theology and criticize 2k for trying to limit what the church is meant to be — a refuge for the world’s downtrodden in one case, a transformer or preserver of culture in the other case (I would kind of like to see a panel discussion between these two factions. Maybe Nelson Kloosterman or Doug Wilson can head up Lookout Mountain).

    What do both of these groups miss?

    Heidelberg Catechism 114 is given at the end of the exposition of the Ten Commandments:

    Question: “Can those who are converted to God keep these Commandments perfectly?”

    Answer: “No, but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of such obedience, yet so that with earnest purpose they begin to live not only according to some, but according to all the Commandments of God.”

    Both of these groups miss the point, how can I put this nicely, that they are just plain not as good of people as they view themselves to be. The church is not a hospital for the sick in the world. The church is not a policeman for the law-breakers of the world. The church is a hospital for the sick and the law-breakers in the church. This is a profound difference.

    One of the more influential things I have encountered as a Christian is my pastor preaching through the first five books of the Old Testament. He didn’t go straight through every chapter, but he went through all of Genesis and select parts of the other four books. The number one impression these months of preaching left we with is the notion that God’s covenant people really aren’t any better than those he does not make a gracious covenant with. The only difference is that God is graciously working in their midst. They remain stained with sin throughout their lives and God will often have to work in spite of them, a notion that we see constantly in the lives of the Patriarchs.

    Why does 2k stress the humble means of grace — preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments, prayer, church discipline — as what the church is primarily about? Because Christians need these things all their lives long. We are not good people who have arrived and are ready to be let loose on the world. We are sick and sinful people in need of constant reminding of who we are and who our God is.

    Will their be no good works that have an impact on those outside the church? No, the Heidelberg tells us there will be a small beginning. Let’s just be humble about what that means.


  37. Cost control mechanisms? Like what, waving a magic wand?

    Like quality of life adjustments on coverage. Like removing billing and uncollectables from our system. Like inexpensive activities billable. So for example right now a physician makes money for a visit but not for handling a problem via phone call, even though a visit costs more. Like creating financial incentives for doctors to offer cheaper care, what HMOs call capitation.

    Did you know any of these common sense things when you were a Christian and just forgot them or did you never know them?

    When I was a Christian the Republican party’s economic policy was Keynesian but Keynesian of the Milton Friedman variety not the John Kenneth Galbraith variety. When I was a Christian the Republican party was about using capitalism to advance the common good, not denying the existence of a common good and bemoaning the fact that voters won’t vote to slit their own economic throats. When I was a Christian the Republican party was pro-infrastructure they just wanted the infrastructure built by contracting. The party that represents the economic policies of the 1970s-1990s Republican party today is the Democrats. I haven’t changed one bit.

    I would love to know what kind of church you were in.

    Depends on when I switched churches over more than two decades. But mainstream evangelical, what I like to call “non denominational baptist”.


  38. CD – I hope Obamacare works out because the #1 thing I can’t stand about my job is renewing company health insurance each year. What else do we deal with that can rise 20% in a given year? The system is not bad when you need it, but paying the bill is killing me anyway so what’s the difference?

    You should just find a conservative P&R church and go back. Go back as an unbeliever and just give it a year. Who knows. Being an evangelical again would probably drive me to atheism, too – ha, ha!


  39. Funny how liberals hated those Republicans too!

    Yes. Liberals changed in response to their defeat in 2004. They opened up to the idea of working with disgruntled Republicans who didn’t like the shift in the party. They went from politics of subtraction to the politics of addition, “if you agree with me on 30% of the issues lets work on those 30% together. If you want to move things 1/2 as far as I do lets move them where you want them then fight about whether to move them as far as I want them”. The Republicans meanwhile started calling those guys RINOs and kicked them out of the party.

    I don’t know where the Republicans are going to end up. I happen to think that most likely alignment a generation from now is the Republicans are the 1963 Democrats (socially conservative economically liberal) and the Democrats are the 1963 Republicans (socially and economically moderate). Socially and Economic Liberals will end up where they were in 1963 as swing voters not really liking either party.


  40. Zrim, you can get some mileage out of pragmatic Golden Rule ethic, but I’m not sure Biblical sexual ethics are required for a well-ordered society. It seems to me that you can have a well-ordered society and have homosexuality. I’m not sure your reference to pagans holds with respect to sexual ethics.

    Darryl, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. You’re the one who seems to think that nature teaches the 10 Commandments. It seems to me that if that was the case that we could get some societal consensus apart from the Bible. Doesn’t seem too promising. Which leads me to think that Law is not so Natural.


  41. Terry, so since God hasn’t made sexual mores clear enough in natural revelation, general society needs to crack open the Bible for clarity? But the Bible doesn’t solve things the way you seem to think. It’s also clear about sola fide, but if Roman Catholic Church hasn’t been able to see it then what makes you think general society will finally figure out sexuality by reading it? The problem is human sin, not God’s revelation.


  42. Darryl, Zrim, I’m not advocating the Decalogue–you are (at least historically, natural law advocates have argued that the Decalogue summarizes natural law–let me know if that’s not true any more). And I don’t think the Bible solves things for society as a whole. (Although it does solve things within in the limits of the differences of opinion among believers for those within the Christian worldview.) You again mistaken me for a theonomist (and continue to confuse neo-Calvinism with theonomy).

    I’m just wanting to know how this all works for you. I don’t really see you how decide at the civil magistrate level. How do we decide what nature reveals is “law”? Is it societal consensus? Is it historical consensus?

    In my understanding of neo-Calvinism, everyone brings their worldview to the table and then the political process starts–negotiation and coalitions based on common ground and overlapping aspects of the worldviews. Part of the Christian worldview is that at this point in redemptive history is that state represents all worldviews not just the Christian worldview. But each worldview brings its perspective to the table when participating in the state.


  43. Terry, I understand you’re not a theonomist. But when you make the homosexuality point you begin to share space with those who seem to think natural revelation is deficient for civil life and needs special revelation to swoop in and save the day. And I don’t know why it’s a 2k onus to answer your questions about how to decide what natural nature reveals.

    But try a thought experiment: if I say the Bible is sufficient to rule the church, do you respond that the project is dubious because there are traditions that deny what is plainly revealed in the Bible? I get that many people screw up what is plainly revealed. What I don’t get is how that casts doubt on natural revelation’s sufficiency to govern civil life or special revelation’s sufficiency to govern ecclesial life. So it just seems to me that those who claim the Protestant Reformation shouldn’t hesitate any more on the former formulation than they would on sola scriptura.


  44. Terry, that sounds great. But I’ll be interested to see how the Baylys, Dr. K., Mark Van Der Molen, and Rabbi Bret regard your affirmation of pluralism. Have you ever considered your neo-Calvinism may be unique?

    As for how this works, we live in a constitutional republic. That’s how it works. You win some, you lose others.


  45. Terry – I know Doug Wilson says emphatically that he not after just a seat at the table. I’ve heard the semons.

    Try this – Be a 2K guy who says the church teaches Christians sound doctrine and then they go out into the world (and into the voting booth) and live with wisdom. The church doesn’t need to hold their hand or draw them an elaborate map on how to do that.


  46. Darryl, taking my cues from Jim Skillen, as you might guess. I’d call Skillen a neo-Calvinist and one who gets sphere sovereignty. No problem with our constitution republic or winning some and losing some. I think that’s what I said when I mentioned the political process. The question is “how do you know what to promote?” if you are a citizen who can vote or if you are a civil magistrate. I’m not particularly trying to pick a fight here. How do you decide what natural law actually says?


  47. Erik, don’t confuse me with Doug Wilson. He’s a theonomist and a post-millennielist. I’m neither. You guys are all mixed up about this. Kuyperians can make the exact same arguments against theonomists and post-mils.

    Not wanting the church to hold anyone’s hand. The church should mind its own business (i.e sphere sovereignty). By the way, from where do you get wisdom?


  48. Terry – What wisdom I have comes from the Bible, The Confessions, sound preaching, life experience, and, of course, (D.G. – I’ll assume the money will hit my PayPal account in the morning).

    I don’t know if Wilson would say he is a theonomist. I’ve never heard him call himself one. Who really does these days? (other than Doug Sowers, Gary North, and maybe Rev. Bret McAtee — of the CRC of all places). That would go over real well at Synod. Just what role did women ministers play under the Mosaic covenant?


  49. Terry, it’s worse than you think. I don’t really think that much about natural law. The way I decide on what to vote comes from political convictions formed by — shocking — reading American history, smart people, and assessing what seems good and equitable. I suspect that’s the way most neo-Cals also act. If so, all the jazz about epistemological self-consciousness is noise.


  50. Hauerwas explains the problem with Skillen and “sphere sovereignty”—-they present justice as an external standard to which Christianity is accountable. It is also assumed that justice can be understood apart from Christian theologian convictions and practices. Human rights, for example, are defended in a manner that renders irrelevant what Christians believe or do not believe about God.

    Such a view of justice, as well as the approach to Scripture associated with justice so conceived, is determined by the modern pluralistic political context. That context, moreover, is one in which church are assumed not relevant for determining how to know as well as do justice. Such a view of justice thus reinforces the politics of modernity, in which “the church is consigned to the role of cultural custodian of values rightly cordoned off from political practice, which finds its highest expression and guarantor in the nation-state.”(Daniel Bell)

    Hauwerwas: Desperate to show the social relevance of the church, Christians ironically underwrite in the name of justice an account of social relations that presumes a privatized account of Christian convictions and the church. (War and the American Difference, p.101)


  51. Mark, that’s sort of the point. There seems to be a conflation Christianity and Church in your comments. While the Bible does teach us about justice, social justice is not really something that the church does (contra the current generation of so-called Kuyperians and socially-minded evangelicals).The state is in charge of social justice and does its work distinct from and with its own sovereignty from the church. The civil magistrate is accountable to God for his/her task and not through the church. Indeed, modernity is a consequence of sphere sovereignty informed Christianity. (I think 2K-ers might even go along with some version of this.) There’s a distinction between cordoning off the church and cordoning of the faith. A Christian politician brings his/her understanding of the world (worldview)–what is good, just, equitable, etc. to the table when doing politics. Additionally, there’s the explicit recognition that life is religion so religious liberties (including non-Christian religious viewpoints) are valued and preserved in the Christian magistrates activities in the state.

    Darryl, we’re close here. You may not like saying it, but “good and equitable” is informed by your worldview.


  52. Eric, exactly. Your wisdom that you use in making decisions in all of life is informed by your Christian worldview.

    I will retreat to ignorance concerning whether or not Doug Wilson is a theonomist. Your reference to him not just wanting a seat at the table suggested that in his view the Christian view should have hegemony over all other views suggests a form of theonomy, however.


  53. Terry, nonsense. W-w comes from our religious orientation in good neo-Calvinist logic. So you would expect people with a Reformed w-w to favor a constitutional republic. Calvin didn’t. Plus, plenty of folks with non-Reformed w-w’s favor a constitutional republic.

    Have you considered that what you do seems to identify whatever you agree with and call it neo-Calvinist?


  54. terry: There seems to be a conflation Christianity and Church in your comments. While the Bible does teach us about justice, social justice is not really something that the church does (contra the current generation of so-called Kuyperians and socially-minded evangelicals).The state is in charge of social justice and does its work distinct from and with its own sovereignty from the church.

    mark: Where is there any “conflation? I deny that Christians (not churches) need to figure out what the state should do. I say that “justice” apart from Christ is a bad idea that Christians (not churches) need not support. The only justice revealed in the gospel is the justice of Christ having satisfied God’s law for the elect.

    You seem to have your mind already made up that there is some “other justice” but you don’t define this abstract” justice” from the Bible or from any covenant in the Bible. In history social “rights” turn into increased power for the nation-state. The only kind of “religious liberty” a liberal nation-state permits is that which says that your religion makes no difference for other people besides yourself.

    You are talking about Christ’s distinct sovereignty over the state . But that’s only talk. The reality is the state’s sovereignty “in its own sphere” (which increases with each affirmation of “justice” as the “right” to equality). Sounds like idolatry to me.

    if you think the modern nation-state is a result of Christian magistrates operating in their own sphere, you have convinced yourself of a myth. To be a liberal is to that the identification of the true God (not merely a church) can have no influence on politics or economics. If you disagree, you can’t participate. So the way for Christians (not only churches) to be political is to disagree with the ideology of liberalism.


  55. I’m the one with my mind made up? You’ve got to be kidding. Never once said that the Bible teaches constitutional republic. Never once said that the state was sovereign. You guys are really hard to talk with. I give up.


  56. McMark says: The only justice revealed in the gospel is the justice of Christ having satisfied God’s law for the elect.

    Not true! You have completely whiffed on the category of socio political justice. Why do you always forget that category? In fact, I’ve never heard you address the concept of socio political ethics and morality. Haven’t you heard that socio political justice must be the foundation of any Nation that will last? And by justice, once again the Bible is talking about socio political justice and morality. Shouldn’t all Nations be founded on the Rock of God’s commands? Dr J. Gresham Machen is the man who made that statement.


  57. The only justice revealed in the gospel is the justice of Christ having satisfied God’s law for the elect.

    mark: “in the gospel”. Don’t you know the difference between the law and the gospel? Or do you think that your “other sphere justice” is gospel? I wouldn’t mind seeing a specific citation from Machen (or the Bible).


  58. McMark; first off, the law contained the gospel! Listen to the Puritans, as they maintained the Law was the gospel in figures. The moral law? No! The ceremonial law! In other words, the scape goat offering was a type? Who was the Pascal lamb? Who was the great high Priest? These were figures or types that pointed to Christ. So the Israelites had the gospel preached to them, just like we do. Albeit, in shadow form via the law.

    Once Christ came in the flesh, and accomplished salvation, the ceremonial shadow aspects of the law, were no longer of faith.


  59. @McMark: Moreover, when a Saint sacrificed an animal in the older testament, they’re faith was looking ahead to Christ, and their sins were covered. But both the old and new administrations of the covenant of grace had to be appropriated by faith. Once Christ comes in the flesh and accomplishes redemption, the figures need to be set aside. To continue in the ceremonial aspects of the law, was not of faith. Get it?

    Paul was not suggesting that prior to Christ’s incarnation, no ever walked by faith. Just read the Psalms for the lie of that premise. King David was called a man after God’s own heart, and he loved the law! It was his meditation all through the dayand night! He wrote those words walking by faith. So if you want a healthy perspective on how you should view the law, read the Psalms.


  60. McMark says: ”. Don’t you know the difference between the law and the gospel? Or do you think that your “other sphere justice” is gospel? I wouldn’t mind seeing a specific citation from Machen (or the Bible).

    Ahem, ahem, I’m clearing my throat lol. I’m mean stretching my fingers. 🙂

    Paul said that the law is good if one uses it lawfully. In the present tense! Notice Paul didn’t say, the law used to be good, no no, Paul said it was *present* tense good.

    And what aspect of this good law was Paul alluding too? Why the penal sanctions laid down in the law for murder, sodomy, stealing, blasphemy, adultery and rape, which according to Paul is in accordance to the gospel of Christ. I suggest you read 1 Tim 1:8-13 there is no antithesis between law and gospel. The penal sanctions that men like you claim Jesus abrogated are in accordance to the gospel of Christ!!!


  61. @Richard and Erik:

    It’s getting more personal than doctrinal guys! I enjoy reading your posts when you passionately discuss your views. But lately, you’re both out of line! I was encouraged to hear Erik offer an apology to us knucklehead’s lol. Brother Erik, apology accepted!

    Richard, I was taken aback at how you disparaged Erik’s pastor, with such scant personal knowledge. Please apologize! BTW, Richard do you apologize much? You come off sounding a little condescending sometimes, in my opinion.

    Erik, psychoanalyzing Richard in public, is bad form. He’s your elder, so it’s humiliating having you describe Richards personal foibles for all to see… so even if you’re right, you’re wrong.

    I like both of you, and hope you both show the blogosphere that Christians can discuss doctrinal differences without hating each others guts. I’m the first to admit I’ve lost my cool and fired my share of zingers, (usually at Hart) and will probably have to repent in the future. Keep this mindset, if Jesus died for him, who am I to withhold mercy? Call me the peacemaker 🙂

    Rest in his completed work,


  62. Thanks, Doug. I think I am just done posting on blogs like this where people can use fake names. Too little accountability for such serious topics. No doubt I am a jackass at times, but at least people know who I am so they call me on it. Using your real name also makes you at least think twice about what you say.


  63. Erik Charter: “Richard Smith” – Yesterday when I said I “I think I am in a really solid church” you said: (quoting) RS: Not really. I have listened to some of the stuff online. Sure, you could care less about my opinion, but I would argue that it is not that solid in terms of the Gospel.

    Erik Charter: I attend Providence Reformed Church in Des Moines, Iowa. It is a church in good standing in the United Reformed Churches in North America. It is a member of the Central Classis. The minister there is an ordained minister in the United Reformed Churches of North America and was trained at Westminster Seminary California by D.G. Hart, Rev. Scott Clark, Rev. Michael Horton, Rev. Robert Godfrey, and several other men with excellent reputations in the Reformed world.

    You, on the other hand, are an anonymous person hiding behind a screen name. You have now slandered an actual, visual Reformed Church and minister by saying that it is “not even solid in terms of the gospel”. That is a very serious charge. People know who I am and can easily find out where I am a church member (unlike you I would tell them).

    RS: Once again, Erik, I am not an anonymous person hiding behind a screen name. As I have stated several times now, this is my real name. But again, when I listen to sermons of a particular church and don’t hear the Gospel, I am not sure how what I have said it is wrong. Again, I am not claiming anything other than I did not hear the Gospel.


  64. Doug Sowers: Richard, I was taken aback at how you disparaged Erik’s pastor, with such scant personal knowledge. Please apologize! BTW, Richard do you apologize much? You come off sounding a little condescending sometimes, in my opinion.

    RS: Doug, how did I disparage Erik’s pastor? I simply said, and admitted it was not over a large selection of sermons, that in the sermons I listened to I did not hear the Gospel. One, I have no personal knowledge of the man but have simply listened to sermons online. I did not even go into detail on the issue. As far as condescending, on a site like this everybody comes off as condescending at times because of the nature of the medium. At times you have a few moments to answer and you fire something off. If you don’t take the time to add a few things to make yourself appear as humble or give out nice things, it comes across as condescending.

    Doug, in all seriousness, I did not hear the Gospel preached in the things I listened to. I mentioned that. Are you saying I should apologize for what I did not hear? There are times that for one to apologize it would entail making one a liar. I cannot say anything other than I did not hear what I did not hear.


  65. Erik Charter: Thanks, Doug. I think I am just done posting on blogs like this where people can use fake names. Too little accountability for such serious topics. No doubt I am a jackass at times, but at least people know who I am so they call me on it. Using your real name also makes you at least think twice about what you say.

    RS: I have repeatedly told you that this is my real name. Indeed I gave up and stopped saying anything when you said it was not my real name. Indeed when humor gets mixed in at times, some don’t see through that enough. I would be happy to come to Des Moines at some point and show you my DL, but whatever. I know a guy in Ames who knows me who would testify that he has known me for close to 20 years under this name. But of course you can interpret that and think I faked that to him or had my name changed before that.


  66. Richard – You said ” I would argue that it is not that solid in terms of the Gospel.”

    You later retreat and say, “I simply did not hear the Gospel preached.”

    I repeat my request that you retract and apologize for your original statement or provide the sermons that you listened to. If you won’t do that I request the name of the church of which you are affiliated and either a website or phone number so I can contact the elders to which you are accountable. My e-mail address is

    D.G, apparently won’t take any steps, which is his perogative – it’s his site and no one is making me interact here. I would argue, however, that it makes no sense to me to be 2K and to constantly point out the importance of the visible church, and then to turn a blind eye when a visible church is slandered. Especially one with which his church is in formal ecclesiastical fellowship.

    My sad conclusion is that this is just a bunch of mental masturbation. I think I will retreat to the visible church and be content to dealing with these issues only in the context of the visible church. At a minimum I will only comment in forums in which people have accountability to their own visible churches or where I can be free to delete comments from unaccountable people (like my own blog).

    So unless Richard retracts and apologizes I guess this is farewell for me.


  67. And lest you think that I’m a hypocrite, I have had someone ask the same thing of me regarding something I wrote on my own blog. I gave the guy my pastor’s information and he called him. My pastor talked to me and I ended up deleting some stuff and apologizing. If we claim we are Christians and somehow think the internet “doesn’t count” I’ll go a bit Richard on us all and say we’re kidding ourselves. We’ll be judged for the things we say here just like the things we say to someone in person. If we are Christians then our churches have to be part of the equation.


  68. Erik,

    I don’t know the comments by Richard to which you are referring. I can’t find the offensive comment (I can’t follow all the comments). If Richard defamed a particular pastor by name I will delete the comment. But if he said he believed a sermon was poor or deficient, it does seem like that’s his opinion and Old Life has lots of opinions. Have I not written things about Keller that, applying your apparent logic, are over the line?


  69. D.G. – My problem is that he went to the website of my specific church, listened to a few sermons, and made the specific charge “I would argue that it is not that solid in terms of the Gospel.” Now it’s put up or shut up time for him. What sermons were allegedly deficient and what is the gospel? I don’t think you have ever said Keller’s church is “not solid in terms of the gospel”. That is a really serious thing to say about another Presbyterian or Reformed church in a public forum.

    What is driving this is Richard (1) got angry, and (2) has an ongoing vendetta against Reformed men who hold to Word & Sacrament sans his Edwardsianism & semi-revivalism. He has an axe to grind with most of the men here that he just will not let rest. I think he crossed a line this time.


  70. dgh, Defending the Faith, p80—Fosdick’s response to Machen: “Never in my life have I been treated like this.”

    p110—“In denominational skirmishes, conservatives (like Machen) were the ones who spoke of the church….as a voluntary association in which majority rule should prevail.”


  71. It’s a URCNA church led by a Westminster California graduate who was, from what I have heard, the top student in his graduating class (same class as Stellman). He preaches every sermon (unless he is out of town). If he is “not that solid in terms of the Gospel” we (the URCNA, Westminster California, and the 2K movement) have a serious problem. Either that, or Richard is mistaken and needs to make things right. The only sermon that Richard has specifically mentioned thus far was an evening Catechetical sermon on Belgic 36 – Of the Magistrate using Romans 13:1-7 as the text. I am pushing him to produce others that are allegedly “not solid in terms of the gospel”.


  72. Tim Keller, speaking to an ecumenical political group in New York City about why God “allowed” 9/11—- “we know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that God doesn’t love us.”

    Keller is a PCA clergyman who has signed on to the Westminster Confession which explains in its chapter 3, first paragraph: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will freely ordain whatever comes to pass.” This is not “allowing”.

    Paragraph three of the confession chapter 3: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death.”

    For the manifestation of His glory—that is how the Bible itself explains it. Romans 9:13 declares “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:22 tells the truth: “God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory.”

    There is a difference between saying we can’t explain providence and telling lost people that God loves them. The Bible was written to those who believe the Christian gospel (not the message of tolerance and loves everybody), so when Bible preachers see a “loves us” in the Bible, they need to ask the question Tonto asked : “who’s the us?” The Lord Jesus only died for as many as believe the gospel, and those who believe the gospel only do so because the Lord Jesus died for them.

    According to the Bible, God does not love all sinners, and God’s love is never conditioned on the sinner. God has ordained evil things to happen to both the non-elect and the elect, but the promise of Romans 8:28 is that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”


  73. Note that he was responding to my statement that “I think I am in a really solid church”. He was not attacking a particular sermon, but my whole church. He also wasn’t attacking me (which I can take, I certainly provoke him and others at times — which most of us do here). Leave my church and my minister out of it, though. What’s next, my wife and my mother? This is all under “Enforcing God’s Law”.


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