C2K (hint, confessional)

While Kevin DeYoung summons James Bannerman to help Bill Evans figure out 2k, I will once again appeal to the doctrinal standards of the Reformed churches. Evans summarizes the “cash value” of 2k as follows:

I think the basics can be summarized as follows: (1) There are two realms [or Kingdoms]—a. the world, which is governed by creational wisdom/natural law, and b. the Church, which is shaped and governed by the Gospel. (2) There is no distinctively “Christian worldview” that is to be applied to all of life (i.e., no Christian-worldview perspective on politics, economics, etc.). (3) Christian efforts to transform or redeem society will inevitably fail, and the ministry of the Church is exclusively spiritual in nature.

Since Evans’ summary received scholarly blessing on Facebook (always a reliable theological resource), he felt comfortable proceeding to register three complaints against 2k, all of which he also needs to take to the Reformed churches that confess either the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity:

“First, there is a failure to understand the nature of the Kingdom of God. More specifically, the institutional Church is wrongly equated with the Kingdom.”

As an accommodated Reformed Protestant living under Dutch neo-Calvinist hegemony, Evans goes on to appeal to the “seminal” Herman Ridderbos to show that the kingdom is bigger than the church. Maybe, but that is not what Evans’ communion, the OPC, or the PCA confess:

The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (25.2)

I don’t blame Evans for being confused on this one. I still have vivid memories of a conference in Colorado where I presented a paper on the spirituality of the church and appealed to the confession on the visible church only to receive questions from two notable ministers (one from the OPC, one from the PCA) about whether I really believed this. The influence of Ridderbos has been so great that we Presbyterians no longer believe that we confess.

“Second, 2K theology persistently evinces a radical dualism in its understanding of the relationship between creation and redemption. There is a denial of any real continuity or carryover from the old creation to the new.”

Perhaps Evans doesn’t remember the split in 1937 between the Bible and Orthodox Presbyterians, but one of the controverted points concerned whether the church would tolerate a variety of views about the millennium. The OPC came down on the side of eschatological liberty, and opted to require only the language of the Confession of Faith. The last two chapters of the Confession (32 and 33) are completely silent about the relationship between the existing creation and glorification, other than to affirm that bodies will be resurrected and judged, with believers going “into everlasting life, and receiv[ing] that fullness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord” and the “wicked who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, . . . be[ing] cast into eternal torments, and . . .punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”

If Evans wants to argue for a confessional amendment that would require postmillenialism, he is free to do so. But he is wrong to argue that 2k is somehow outside the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy, unless he wants to define that narrowly — and dare I say provincially — with a certain strain of extra-confessional Reformed Protestantism.

“Third (and most important), there seems to be at work in 2K a real skepticism about any sort of intrinsic transformation—personal or corporate. In an earlier post on this topic I noted that there is “a connection between personal transformation, or individual soteriology, and corporate transformation, and battle lines on the question of individual soteriology have been sharply drawn more recently.” Related to this, there is in 2K a persistently disjunctive impulse—separating sanctification and justification, Law and Gospel (another Lutheran distinctive), the transformatory and the forensic, the kingdom of the world and the institutional Church.”

Again, Evans holds 2k up to a standard that may have an informal consensus (not here of course) but that has no confessional standing among the Reformed churches. For instance, nowhere do the Reformed confessions or catechisms state or imply that sanctification of the person leads to transformation of society:

1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (Confession of Faith, 16)

Evans may think that sanctified saints (pardon the redundancy) will make the world a better place, but the confession only speaks of the “whole man” not the whole world.

Meanwhile, he trots out once again the Niebuhrian boilerplate on Lutheranism and Christ and culture (was ever a liberal Protestant ever followed so carefully?), and fails to remember what the Heidelberg Catechism says about law and gospel:

Question 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?

Answer: Out of the law of God.

Question 4. What does the law of God require of us?

Answer: Christ teaches us that briefly, Matt. 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Question 5. Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?

Answer: In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbour. . . .

Question 14. Can there be found anywhere, one, who is a mere creature, able to satisfy for us?

Answer: None; for, first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man has committed; and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin, so as to deliver others from it.

Question 18. Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man?

Answer: Our Lord Jesus Christ: “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.

Question 19. Whence knowest thou this?

Answer: From the holy gospel, which God himself first revealed in Paradise; and afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets, and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and lastly, has fulfilled it by his only begotten Son.

Question 21. What is true faith?

Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

One of the more curious features of the current debate over 2k is that it comes from folks in the orbit of Dutch Calvinism, a variety of Reformed Protestantism that was arguably the least hostile to Lutheranism of the major branches of Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Indeed, Heidelberg has the law-gospel dynamic woven into its teaching. But that won’t stop 2k critics from the philosophical parochialism that searches for a version of Calvinism that is intellectually self-contained and pure. Sometimes that urge for purity is so strong that 2k’s critics even forget to check what the Reformed churches confessed and continue to confess.

Maybe the churches were wrong. We have ways of amending the confessions since we don’t believe in infallible popes or churches inerrant. But if neo-Calvinists were to claim that the Reformed churches erred on the kingdom of Christ, or eschatology, or sanctification, then their argument that 2k is outside the mainstream would put them a good stone’s throw from that stream. Confessionalist, confess thyself.

53 thoughts on “C2K (hint, confessional)

  1. C2K… confessional two kingdoms. Amen! Some endlessly argue that theonomy or transformationalism are valid biblical positions, but it’s pretty clear where the OPC’s confessional standards come down. Of course, unless one isn’t lubed…

    Law and gospel a “Lutheran” doctrine? That canard keeps getting slayed only to see it propped up again and again like Bernie.

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  2. But don’t forget HC 114, which doesn’t sound all that optimistic about what’s happening to those in whom the Spirit abides:

    “But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?

    Answer: No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God.”

    Even the holiest only have but a small beginning of obedience. For those of us who are quite sure we’re not among the holiest of men, this is not exactly inspiring about what we can do to transform the bit of earth to which we’ve been ordained. If I can’t even get my drive-through orders to not return to me void or my children to keep their rooms clean, how do I transform society? Is transformationalism the culturalist version of health and wealth?

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  3. Ding, Ding Ding, Zrim- I have not gotten dinged at old life but my ding might not be communicating in the sense that many interpret that at this site. I’m still confused but I like this:

    http://johncampoxford.blogspot.com/2005/12/read-this-simeon-zahl-on-imputation.html

    and this:

    Even though the elect are united to Christ, they are NOT legally justified before the foundation of world. Instead, they are legally guilty with Adam’s guilt. Adam’s guilt is imputed to them. And so in that respect, and in that respect only, the elect can also be spoken of as being in Adam.

    At a later date, at some point during each elect person’s life, God legally justifies the elect in Christ. He legally imputes Christ’s righteousness (His death) to them. This legal transfer is for all time, so that all the sins of the elect, including sins they haven’t in time even sinned yet, are already legally imputed to Christ (this security occurring after justification, not from all eternity).

    Two strange things. 1. before justification, when elect are slaves of sin (Romans 6:17), sins THAT HAVE BEEN PAID FOR ALREADY are still charged to the elect.
    2. After justification, when elect have become the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor 5:21), when the elect have become slaves of righteousness (6:18), then even the sins the elect haven’t sinned yet are not only “paid for already” but not even imputed to them? How strange! How wonderful!

    Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

    1. There is probably some kind of thinking about election anytime you see the words “in Christ”. But in Romans 6 justification is the main thing, the focus. Proof is 6:14 conclusion: free why? Because you are not under law, because you are justified.

    (btw, I value the difference between old and new covenants as much as the next person, but 6:14 cannot be reduced to nobody being under Moses anymore). 6:14 is about justification.

    But we can’t focus only on the imputation but also on the death. We died with. When? Well, in one sense, when Christ died.

    We died with. When? Well, in the main sense of Romans 6, when we were placed into the death.

    Are we baptized into Christ at the cross? Or are we baptized into Christ from before the foundation of the world? Are we baptized into Christ at imputation, so that it’s legal union.?

    Romans 6:6: “our old self was crucified with Him that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” What is that old self? It’s a position in Adam (what Adam did that one time happens to us) station–legal imputation of Adam’s guilt.

    The old self is the guilty self in Adam, the not yet justified elect. Old self is the same as “slaves of sin” in 6:17-18. “Free from righteousnes.”

    DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT AN ELECT PERSON CAN BE LOVED FROM ETERNITY AND THEN ALSO DIED FOR AND STILL FOR A TIME BE “free from righteousness”? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. What’s the gospel for lost people is at stake here.

    Romans 6:20 –”when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness”. You had none, you were a dead worker doing dead works, not pleasing to God and therefore not able to do anything pleasing to God.

    However, I don’t think everyone at oldlife would agree.

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  4. dgh: Meanwhile, he trots out once again the Niebuhrian boilerplate on Christ and culture (was ever a liberal Protestant ever followed so carefully?)

    mark: Amen! Evans tends to work with false dichotomies: ” While he is not going to forbid Christians going out and trying to effect positive change in the world, deep down he thinks it’s a waste of time. So, it seems that the real issue here is not so much protecting the church from being co-opted by politics…”

    mark: why not concern for both? a Concern for a church being a church, and also a Concern for realism about how the world has been or can be changed in this age? I have no idea if Evans is post-mill, but I know that this notion that a church (or Christians) can’t get done what God needs done in the world without supporting ( as a means to influencing) “the” majority culture (read, the military-industrial complex) is not ultimately optimism about the efficacy of the cross.

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  5. “The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” (25.2)

    mark: of course I would not agree, because I would say churches instead of one universal church, and I would leave out the not yet called infants (as you leave out the infant grandchildren), but I agree with the larger point about the kingdom not being more than the churches. But this is because I think election governs the new covenant, and deny that the non-elect are in the new covenant, even though the non-elect were deliberately brought into other biblical covenants. The relationship between covenant and election will not go away, even though nobody much is addressing the question, not even after the anti-federalism of the so-called “federal vision”.

    But surely you aren’t saying that the idea of the kingdom being other than ( more than, as they say) church originated with Ridderbos, are you? It’s been around, and I would be interested in your reading of intellectual history that makes Ridderbos the main difference-maker on this matter? Not Vos? Not those who defended Reformed Christendom (sacralism)?

    I am not disagreeing. I guess I want to know if you say this mainly because Evans invoked his name.

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  6. dgh: Evans may think that sanctified saints (pardon the redundancy) will make the world a better place, but the confession only speaks of the “whole man” not the whole world.

    mark: well, with Evans, “sanctified saints” is not a redundancy, because he does not deny sanctification by the blood (Hebrews 10:10-14), but when he accuses others with antinomianism, he gets alarmed because they make a distinction between justification and “sanctification”. When Evans writes “sanctification”, he is not at all thinking of being set apart by Christ’s blood but instead thinking of a process whereby the saints get changed enough to both assure themselves of salvation and also enough to change the world.

    Of course the forensic is not denied, because it’s all “union”, but that being said, “union” turns out in the end not to be the forensic but the being changed, which is the real cash value, especially in this world, where faith in some kind of invisible imputation doesn’t count as much more than a fiction.

    The irony here is how “disjunctive” Evans can be against those he accuses of being “disjunctive”. He doesn’t deny the forensic, but he always denies the priority of the forensic. He claims that “union” is basic and first, but then he always claims that regeneration and faith are first before “union”. His disjunction works like that of Jonathan Edwards: extrinsic, not real; intrinsic, real.

    evans: battle lines on the question of individual soteriology have been sharply drawn more recently…there is in 2K a persistently disjunctive impulse—separating sanctification and justification, Law and Gospel (another Lutheran distinctive)…

    Evans: I’ve noticed that some who are deeply concerned to safeguard the extrinsic and forensic alien righteousness of justification are reticent to speak of any real, intrinsic change in us. Positive changes in our behavior are explained in terms of direct divine activity on us, a divine occasionalism that nevertheless leaves us unchanged as to our being. That is, to use the language of the older Reformed tradition, they will speak of immediate divine grace, but not of “created graces” in us. Historically, this denial of created graces was a hallmark of antinomianism , and if you want to see where this sort of thinking can lead, read I’ve noticed that some who are deeply concerned to safeguard the extrinsic alien righteousness of justification are reticent to speak of any real, intrinsic change in us. Positive changes in our behavior are explained in terms of direct divine activity on us, a divine occasionalism that nevertheless leaves us unchanged as to our being. That is, to use the language of the older Reformed tradition, they will speak of immediate divine grace, but not of “created graces” in us. Historically, this denial of created graces was a hallmark of antinomianism and if you want to see where this sort of thinking can lead, read ( W. K. B. Stoever A Faire and Easie Way to Heaven: Covenant Theology and Antinomianism in Early New England ). . and grieve! To cut to the chase, it makes little sense to speak of societal transformation when we are embarrassed to say much about individual transformation.

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  7. (John, a stretch indeed, but ding ding to ck. And I once heard Springsteen explain to Terry Gross the sub-text of all rock and roll as “take your pants off…when rockers get old it changes to ‘take your pants off, please.'” And since he’s the boss, he should know.)

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  8. Evans: VanDrunen’s approach to the matter is one-sided and selective, and that he has missed the careful dialectic of eschatological continuity and discontinuity present in Scripture. Perhaps he has been led astray by the vividness of biblical apocalyptic language.

    mark: i guess this means that the rest of us are “lutherans” who have been led astray by our little one-sided brains having this picture in them of Jesus Christ coming again

    I Corinthians 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

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  9. Evans: MIke Horton seems to rely on aesthetic metaphors such as “being overwhelmed by beauty” or “falling in love” ….his explanations of how this works never get much beyond the extrinsic and the evocative. It seems that he simply does not have conceptual apparatus at his disposal to say much of anything about a real change or transformation intrinsic to the Christian.

    mark: I must say that Evans’ use of the word “impartation” to explain his own ontology is not very aesthetically pleasing….

    For many folks, being more romantic about ritual Christendom transforming the world means also being more open to “deification”. The path this way usually begins with II Peter 1:4 (become partakers of the divine nature) and ends up making justification by Christ’s death merely one extrinsic (not the real) result of “union with Christ”.

    The idea of “union with Christ” is left undefined, especially in ecumenical discussions. What does it mean to be in Christ, and how is it different from Christ indwelling us? This is the kind of question we need to begin asking. .

    We need to read Calvin on this, to see what he did and did not teach. We also attend to the Confessions, especially to what they don’t say. (See the Bruce McCormack and Michael Horton essays in Tributes to Calvin).

    “Perichoresis … is rightly employed in trinitarian discourse for describing that which is dissimilar in the analogy between intra-trinitarian relations … on the one hand and human-to-human relations on the other. Nowadays, we are suffering from ‘creeping perichoresis,’ that is, the overly expansive use of terms – which have their home in purely spiritual relations – to describe relations between human beings who do not participate in a common ‘substance’ and who, therefore, remain distinct individuals even in the most intimate of their relations.”

    —Bruce L. McCormack, “What’s at Stake in Current Debates over Justification? The Crisis of Protestantism in the West,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), p. 111.

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  10. just a bit more from McCormack:

    “The image of vine and branches might easily be seen to connote an organic connectedness of Christ to the believer. The early church thought of an ontological union of a ‘person” in whom being is mixed with non-being (that’s us) with a ‘person’ in whom being is pure from non-being (Jesus). Where that occurs, the life communicated from the vine to the branches flows organically.

    “The difference between the relation between a vine and a branch and the relation between Christ and the believer is that the first relation is impersonal and the second is personal. The flow of nutrients from the vine to the branches take place automatically. It does not require a legal act of the will. But in the case of Christ and the believer, we are dealing with a willed relation. The ethical ‘bearing of fruit’ takes place on the foundation of justification. John 15:3–‘You are already clean BECAUSE OF THE WORD I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU.’

    “The term ‘ingrafting’ is used in Romans 9-11 to speak of inclusion in the covenant of grace, which results in a share in all the gifts and privileges. That Paul would preface his use of the horticultural image with the affirmation that the adoption belonged to the Israelites before the Gentiles suggests that the image of ‘ingrafting’ is used as a synonym for adoption. The horticultural image is subordinated to the legal…”

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  11. Berkof, Systematic Theology

    IV. The Power of the Church
    A. THE SOURCE OF CHURCH POWER.

    … He Himself spoke of the Church as founded so firmly upon a rock that the gates of hell cannot prevail against her, Matt. 16:18; and on the same occasion — the very first on which He made mention of the Church — He also promised to endow her with power, when He said unto Peter: “I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” Matt. 16:19. It is quite evident that the terms ‘Church’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ are used interchangeably here. Keys are an emblem of power (cf. Isa. 22:15-22), and in the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven Peter receives power to bind and to loose, which in this connection would seem to mean, to determine what is forbidden and what is permitted in the sphere of the Church.32 And the judgment he passes — in this case not on persons, but on actions — will be sanctioned in heaven. Peter receives this power as the representative of the apostles, and these are the nucleus and foundation of the Church in their capacity as teachers of the Church. The Church of all ages is bound by their word, John 17:20; I John 1:3…

    B. THE NATURE OF THIS POWER.
    1. A SPIRITUAL POWER. When the power of the Church is called a spiritual power, this does not mean that it is altogether internal and invisible, since Christ rules both body and soul, His Word and sacraments address the whole man, and the ministry of the diaconate even has special references to physical needs. It is a spiritual power, because it is given by the Spirit of God, Acts 20:28, can only be exercised in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, John 20:22,23; I Cor. 5:4, pertains exclusively to believers, I Cor. 5:12, and can only be exercised in a moral and spiritual way, II Cor. 10:4.34 The State represents the government of God over the outward and temporal estate of man, while the Church represents His government of man’s inward and spiritual estate. The former aims at assuring its subjects of the possession and enjoyment of their external and civil rights, and is often constrained to exercise coercive power over against human violence. The latter is founded in opposition to an evil spirit and for the purpose of delivering men from spiritual bondage by imparting to them the knowledge of the truth, by cultivating in them spiritual graces, and by leading them to a life of obedience to the divine precepts. Since the power of the Church is exclusively spiritual, it does not resort to force. Christ intimated on more than one occasion that the administration of His Kingdom on earth involved a spiritual and not a civil power, Luke 12:13 ff.; Matt. 20:25-28; John 18:36,37. The Church of Rome loses sight of this great fact, when it insists on the possession of temporal power and is bent on bringing the entire life of the people under its sway.
    2. A MINISTERIAL POWER. It is abundantly evident from Scripture that the power of the Church is no independent and sovereign power, Matt. 20:25,26; 23:8,10; II Cor. 10:4,5; I Pet. 5:3, but a diakonia leitourgia, a ministerial power, Acts 4:29,30; 20:24; Rom. 1:1, derived from Christ and subordinate to His sovereign authority over the Church, Matt. 28:18. It must be exercised in harmony with the Word of God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, through both of which Christ governs His Church, and in the name of Christ Himself as the King of the Church, Rom. 10:14,15; Eph. 5:23; I Cor. 5:4. Yet it is a very real and comprehensive power, consisting in the administration of the Word and the sacraments, Matt. 28:19, the determination of what is and what is not permitted in the Kingdom of God, Matt. 16:19, the forgiving and retaining of sin, John 20:23, and the exercise of discipline in the Church, Matt. 16:18; 18:17; I Cor. 5:4; Tit. 3:10; Heb. 12:15-17.

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  12. Yet it is a very real and comprehensive power, consisting in the administration of the Word and the sacraments, Matt. 28:19, the determination of what is and what is not permitted in the Kingdom of God, Matt. 16:19, the forgiving and retaining of sin, John 20:23, and the exercise of discipline in the Church, Matt. 16:18; 18:17; I Cor. 5:4; Tit. 3:10; Heb. 12:15-17.

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  13. “Evans goes on to appeal to the “seminal” Herman Ridderbos to show that the kingdom is bigger than the church. Maybe, but that is not what Evans’ communion, the OPC, or the PCA confess”

    I’ve struggled with this myself. Reading WCF 25.2 by itself seems to equate the church and the kingdom full stop. But then there is the answer of SC 102 . . .

    “In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.”

    It appears the catechism makes a distinction between the kingdom as experienced today (manifested in the visible church) and the kingdom in its fullness that is still yet future (the new heavens and new earth). In that sense it does seem that the Westminster Standards allow for seeing the kingdom as something “bigger” than the visible church.

    Of course, this is still not an argument for transformational theologies, but it does seem to show some more nuance than the transformationalists hear 2kers stating at times.

    If I’m misunderstanding the catechism, please feel free to correct me.

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  14. Stuart, how do you read the WLC?

    Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition?
    A. In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate; that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

    With the exception of the bit about the magistrate, which the revisers of 1787 missed, the Divines did not appear to associate the kingdom of grace with anything but the church, her ministry, and members.

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  15. Yes, the LC does emphasize the church aspect of the kingdom, and I’m not arguing against that aspect at all. What the SC seems to do, and again if I’m wrong please help me to understand it better, is make a distinction between “the kingdom of grace” and “the kingdom of glory.” But certainly there is a sense in which these “kingdoms” are really the same kingdom, right?

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  16. Zrim,

    I’m not sure how pants got included in your comment or the significance of the pants but so be it. And the Boss behind the remark but I tend to read things into others comments and I detect a bit of the smug and snidely Zrim. That’s all right though at least I got a ding finally and not a cold shoulder and that annoying ignore tactic. And I have always gotten a kick out of your sense of humor Zrim so I am glad to have connected on some level again.

    I did go back and read the Evans piece and the DeYoung piece and the Hart rebuttal and it was a good summary of the continuing issues that get debated at old life. There is a link, me’s thinks, between cultural transformation and soteriological views and I think the three essays make that clear. Evans is worried about a “hyper-spiritualized and forensically overloaded” theology that does not really change the individual. And he reads ominous divisiveness in 2K spokesman who will further fracture and divide the conservative reformed movement. Maybe further debate on updating and revising some of the confessional statements are an order for the day. Is anyone actually trying to do such a thing?

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  17. John, if Evans’ worry is that a 2k which emphasizes the forensic nature of justification leads to a theology that doesn’t really change the individual then he isn’t listening very well. The point isn’t to eliminate sanctification, rather to say it isn’t exactly what some seem to think. It isn’t transformation as in some form of self-improvement. It isn’t always fast, immediately discernible or apparent. It’s slow and rarely if ever has “cash value.” That view of personal sanctification isn’t good for inspiring cultural improvement. It’s better for fostering the virtues of patience and long-suffering, not exactly high on the postie’s list.

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  18. Are the “kingdom of grace” and the “kingdom of glory” the same kingdom in different modes/phases, or are they different kingdoms altogether?

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  19. Zrim,

    I appreciate what you are saying but I think the wording of the WCF on sanctification plays into the hands of the postie’s and those who worry about a “forensically overloaded” theology. Here is what it states with the scripture references dealing with the first sentence:

    Chapter XIII

    Of Sanctification

    I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection,[1] by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them:[2] the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,[3] and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified;[4] and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,[5] to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.[6]

    II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man;[7] yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part;[8] whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.[9]

    III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail;[10] yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome;[11] and so, the saints grow in grace,[12] perfecting holiness in the fear of God.[13]

    ——————————-

    Footnotes

    [1] 1CO 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. ACT 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. PHI 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; ROM 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

    That first sentence sounds like an ontological change in the individual, i.e. a new heart and and new spirit created in them but the scripture references used give no indication of some kind of ontological change “created” in the individual.

    The language of corruption instead of the guilt imputed from Adam is more of an idea from Calvin then from Scriptural texts. However, my main point is that the idea conveyed in this section of the confession is that the person is supposed to be getting less and less influenced by his lusts (weakened and mortified) and more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces. I see no “patience and long suffering” in that explanation.

    So, I revert back to my original inquiry- is anyone actually trying to revise some of the language of the confession?

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  20. Stuart, it’s like the difference between a saint who is sanctified (but not) in this life and one who is glorified. Got me why they call the one kingdom of grace, and the other kingdom of glory.

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  21. John, taken together with HC 62 (“…our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin”) and 114 (above), the point in WCFXIII is indeed that the flesh is being mortified but not at the kind of pace and manifestation useful in a postie program.

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  22. John Y: I appreciate what you are saying but I think the wording of the WCF on sanctification plays into the hands of the postie’s and those who worry about a “forensically overloaded” theology.

    Yes, the WCF does tend to attract more bossy and isolationist characters than the 3FU.

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  23. My favorite part of Dr. Evans’s essay: “What we have emerging here is a hyper-spiritualized, forensically overloaded, and inconsequential theology. ”

    Inconsequential? We are only talking about the saving of souls so that they get to live with God forever in the new heavens and the new earth. Or is that really not very important to transformationalists after all? That very statement reveals the emphasis of what some think our mission should be about. Saving souls is inconsequential. Perhaps because it is invisible and hard to measure? Because your town movers and shakers won’t miss your church if it left?

    On WCF 25.2, I have often made the point in presbytery committee that the Confession equates the KOG with the Visible Church, only to be told that the KOG contains the church, and that is all the Confession means to say. I guess it depends on what the meaning of “is” is, in WCF 25.2.

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  24. The right term should probably be AC2K.

    In other words “American Confessional Two Kingdoms” or maybe even “OPCPCAEPCPCUSAC2K”.

    Those of us in the small minority of Covenanters/Seceders (like the ARP/RPCNA) in America (not to mention the Presbyterians in Ireland and Scotland et al) will continue to confess a WCF 23 that differs from the sons of the mainline.

    Scotland/Ireland > Holland > USA

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  25. For the evidently uneducated “kent” the OPC and PCUSA WCF 23 is the same, hence why they were grouped together. This also goes for the PCA and EPC.

    The ARP and RPCNA, while differing in some aspects from the 1646 WCF 23, are also different from the WCF 23 of the denominations that came out of the mainline (in whatever form it was at the time).

    Here is handy chart that shows the differences/similarities between the denominations listed in my post.

    http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/2401667/WCF_23_3_Chart.pdf

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  26. Yes, Chris–we need to be careful who write about “mere” justification, as if that were inconsequential and needs something “more” to be “real”.

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/john_owen_on_union_with_christ_and_justification/

    John Fesko: William Evans claims that Reformed Orthodox theologians greatly restructured the earlier formulations of John Calvin (1509-64) and distorted the Reformer’s union with Christ model of redemption with the imposition of the foreign category of the ordo salutis. He claims that Calvin was indifferent regarding the respective order of benefits-that justification need not precede sanctification because both were given to the believer in their union with Christ.

    Fesko: This essay will prove that John Owen embraces both union with Christ but at the same time
    gives priority to the doctrine of justification over sanctification, that is, that he holds to an ordo salutis. Owen gives priority is this sense— a person can say that they are sanctified because they are justified, but a person cannot say that they are justified because they are sanctified. Justification logically comes before good works which are the fruit of justification, not its antecedent cause. This priority is expressed through the golden chain. While some think that maintaining such a priority is at odds with the doctrine of union with Christ, Owen sees no such conflict.

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  27. Ah, Ben… I think Kent’s observation is quite valid as you attempt to lump the OPC in with the PCUSA.

    Machen and the newly formed OPC were in much the same situation in relation to the PCUSA as John Calvin and Luther and the other Reformers were in relation to Roman Catholicism. The PCUSA defrocked Machen in much the same way that Calvin and Luther were under the anathema of the Roman church. Conversely, the OPC believes the PCUSA has abandoned historic biblical Christianity.

    Since its beginning, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has been committed with integrity to the Scriptures as the inspired, infallible Word of God. Counting the cost of standing for truth, we are persuaded that the Word of God is without error and that the teaching of Scripture is not bound by cultural limitations. We wholeheartedly subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechism in its entirety. Ministers and elders are required to subscribe to those documents and to uphold their teachings.

    This in itself is a radical difference from the PCUSA where the Westminster Confession and catechisms are more looked upon as historical documents that summarize what the church used to believe. Ministers and elders in the PCUSA are not required to subscribe to those confessional statements.
    http://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=435

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  28. Mark,

    The point is that C2Kers (to use Hart’s terminology) affirm the full ordo salutis — all the benefits that redemption brings. That is not inconsequential, is my point; even if we happen to be wrong about redemption’s benefits to the common culture of this age. No one is talking about mere justification without the other benefits following on even though C2K’s critics make it seem as if we are at times (hence labeling us dualists and/or gnostics). You were agreeing with that, yes?

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  29. Chris,

    Yes, I am agreeing with you. To do that, I must disagree with Evans and all who make the forensic (assurance of future “aspect of” justification) to be a consequence of an “impartation” which is thought to be more “real” than the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. I especially resent the duplicity involved in their denying the importance of the order of salvation, while at the same time insisting that faith is before union and union is before imputation.

    The antithesis is important. Those who reserve judgment on those who profess to believe the gospel so as to judge them by “works of faith” never seem to reserve judgment on these works so as to judge the works by the gospel of election, finished atonement, and present justification.

    Before we can “add virtues”, first we need to make our calling and election sure, and we do that by faith in the gospel, not by faith in our works which “union with the resurrected Christ” will enable us to do.

    Our works are not the light of the gospel. The light of the gospel is that by which we examine our works, and our motives for works. Thus my “imputation-priority”….

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  30. Not that anybody is that interested, but I found this in Thomas Boston’s comments . . .

    1. I am to shew, what is meant by the kingdom of God. There is a fourfold kingdom of God mentioned in scripture.

    I. The kingdom of his power, which reaches over all the world. The subjects of this kingdom are all creatures whatsoever, Psal. ciii.19. ‘His kingdom ruleth over all.’ It reaches from the highest angel to the meanest worm that creeps on the earth. It is a vast dominion, comprehending earth, seas, and hell, and all that in them is. He made them all, and therefore has dominion over them all: and to him they must all submit themselves willing or unwilling, Rom. xiv.11. ‘As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ Compare Phil. ii.10,11. — ‘At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ In this respect God is universal Monarch, and all the kings and emperors of the world are but his vassals.

    2. The kingdom of his gospel, Matth. xxi.43. ‘The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,’ says Christ to the Jews. This is not so large as the former. It is erected within it, but comprehends the whole visible church, in which God has set up the light of the gospel and Christ’s name is known, and men profess subjection to him.

    3. The kingdom of his grace, Matth. vi.38. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God,’ &c. This is yet narrower than any of the former, and comprehends only the invisible church; for it is not an external, but an internal kingdom, in which grace, saving grace, reigns in the hearts of those who belong to it; for, says Christ to his disciples, ‘behold the kingdom of God is within you,’ Luke xvii.21.

    4. The kingdom of his glory, 1 Cor. xv.50. This is the blessed state of eternal happiness in the other world. This kingdom is now a-gathering, but shall fully come at the second coming of Christ.

    Seems to be a little more nuanced than simply saying “church = kingdom and kingdom = church, period.”

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  31. The interesting thing about Boston’s comments is that he doesn’t exactly equate the visible church with the kingdom the way the confession does. Maybe there’s always been “kingdom confusion” among us.

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  32. “Inconsequential? We are only talking about the saving of souls so that they get to live with God forever in the new heavens and the new earth. Or is that really not very important to transformationalists after all? That very statement reveals the emphasis of what some think our mission should be about. Saving souls is inconsequential. Perhaps because it is invisible and hard to measure?”

    And this is the bottom line. Both legalism and liberalism share the same underlying error; they downplay or minimize justification by faith alone. Legalism says justification is not enough, you still have to obey the law, or be transformed first by the Spirit, or the church has to seek to transform society instead of simply save souls. Liberalism says the same, except with different laws and different theories on transforming society. Both consider those as gnostic, ethereal, ineffective, etc., who see the church’s only mandate concerning the world as saving individuals so they have eternal life, or who see forensic JBFA as all that is necessary to transfer one from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. That is why so many of today’s conservative Christian culture warriors sound just like Henry Fosdick. Thanks Chris

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  33. Read Glenda Mathes on the Recent RCA Synod:

    “General Synod spent considerable time discussing the issue of ‘White Privilege’ and adopted a recommendation to develop an online resource for discussing, understanding, and dismantling it.”

    http://ascribelog.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/2013-rca-general-synod-undermines-previous-synods-decision/

    Once your church becomes all about societal transformation you had better not let it get captured by liberals.

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  34. “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; ”

    If the “whole man” is a social being, if his sanctification not actually transform social relations in some degree, its not really “the whole man” or “throughout”

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  35. And of course the scriptures even state that the sanctification of one whole man can “sanctify” an unbelieving spouse: a social relation. Maybe you’re too hasty in assuming a whole man sanctified cant do anything for anyone else.

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  36. If the “whole man” is a social being, if his sanctification not actually transform social relations in some degree, its not really “the whole man” or “throughout”

    The Biblical promise is that those who are sanctified bear the fruit of the Spirit – where is the promise that others around you will be transformed by this fruit?

    “And of course the scriptures even state that the sanctification of one whole man can “sanctify” an unbelieving spouse: a social relation. Maybe you’re too hasty in assuming a whole man sanctified cant do anything for anyone else.”

    That is out of context of this discussion. The question In I Cor. was whether a Christian spouse must divorce his unbelieving spouse because the marriage might be unclean (per OT law). Paul informs the church that the unbelieving husband is sanctified before God, in the sense that the marriage is a clean, or biblical marriage before Him – it is not the character of the unbelieving spouse that is in view there as sanctified by the wife.

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  37. Define “sanctify”. Will the world be set apart by a church not being set apart?

    Does casting pearls before swine make swine sacred?

    Also, if what we cast is not the pearl of the gospel but our opinion about the “debt crisis”, why should the swine care? Do our political opinions become pearls because we call them “Christian”?

    Humans are living souls. Humans are bodies. Christian humans are living souls. Christian humans are bodies. But why would we think a rejection of docetism and gnosticism also means forsaking the politics of Jesus in the interest of controlling (improving) various cultures?

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  38. If the prosperity of the non-elect is some kind of “grace”, then the troubles of the elect must be not-grace. God blesses the elect on the ground of the righteousness of the atoning death of Christ. Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, God has no righteous basis for blessing the non-elect.

    Engelsma: The only explanation by those who confess the biblical doctrine that Christ died only for the elect church is that God’s grace ignores and conflicts with His righteousness….If God can bless guilty sinners apart from the cross of Christ in earthly things, why cannot God also extend …eternal life to them apart from the righteousness of the death of Christ?”

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  39. Paul, so when you tell your kids to clean their room you really mean rooms everywhere? If the divines had wanted to say society, they could well have said it. Check out the Larger Catechism on the decalogue. To use sanctification this way is simply Framean (read: sloppy).

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  40. God will do what He will do through the Word and the Sacraments, but any scheme of societal transformation that relies on me leaves me highly skeptical. I’m busy just trying to be transformed myself. In the past week I’ve had two hissy fits on a fellow 6-year-old flag football coach and a worker at Target. The first fit earned me a (well deserved) tongue lashing from my wife the likes of which I’ve only experienced a few times in our nearly 21 years of marriage. When you think you’ve arrived, when you’re ready to start transforming everyone around you, look out. Be ready to be put back in your place.

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  41. The problem is that the analogy of cleaning a whole room has too many dis-analogies to the ‘whole man’. A clean room doesn’t affect a room in another part of the house. But, say I was told to completely remove the viruses from a networked computer: that would affect the quality of the whole network.

    I suppose you recognized that a “room” was a poor analogy because your next post suggests that something I said implies the whole USA is sanctified by one mans sanctification, which at least keeps us in the realm of men, who are by definition, possessors of social relations. Obviously a single man (well, except Jesus) can’t sanctify an entire nation.

    But what I was doing was addressing your totalizing denial that the confession anywhere had any implication that sanctification was limited only to individuals and could not affect anything wider than those individuals. One may have sloppy logic, but one might also have a heremetic logic that misses a wider truth (that men are social men, and that the social aspect of man *is part of his wholeness* not an added layer, that for no good reason doesn’t “count” as him).

    Evans asks why we’re giving no recognition to corporate transformation, when whole men are always everywhere involved in some corporate relation. Countering that single men can’t transform a whole society well…

    see this

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  42. Paul, but I have a Reformed hermeneutic, which says let the simple things interpret the hard. If the divines wanted to talk about social relations, they could and did. Your hermeneutic is a search for justifying something not mentioned in the catechism. This is what leads to interpreting the Constitution as a living breathing document.

    As for why I don’t talk about corporate transformation, it has to do with the Fall. If you’ve seen the Wire (or studied societies), you know that talk of corporate transformation is folly (which is what most inspiration amounts to). I even have a proof text. Ecclesiastes.

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  43. D.G. – As for why I don’t talk about corporate transformation, it has to do with the Fall. If you’ve seen the Wire (or studied societies), you know that talk of corporate transformation is folly (which is what most inspiration amounts to). I even have a proof text. Ecclesiastes.

    Erik – Amen to that. I just finished Season 4 on the schools. Wow. What a great show. One of the more memorable interactions from the season:

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