Neo-Calvinism's Whiggish W-w

In his piece for Christian Renewal (March 26, 2014) Bill Evans expands on his earlier critique of 2k. And he commits again two important mistakes.

The first is to assert that 2kers identify the church with the kingdom of God. Wrong. 2kers follow the Confession of Faith in identifying the kingdom of Christ with the visible church and — see if you can follow the balls — the kingdom of God is not the same as the kingdom of Christ. If it were, then Saddam Hussein, who was under God’s reign, would have been part of the kingdom of Christ.

Remember how the Confession puts it:

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 still remember sitting across a seminar table from solid conservative Presbyterians under the spell of Kuyper who asked me if I really believe that affirmation (even though they had subscribed the Confession).

The second mistake is to say that Calvinism is socially activist in contrast to Lutheranism. Evans writes, despite similarities in the way that Calvin and Luther spoke about two kingdoms, Calvin’s efforts to protect the church from encroachments of the state, and to emphasize the duties that Christians have to the state wind up denying the sort of ecclesiastical independence that results in Luther’s view (even though Lutheran churches were as much part of the political establishment as Reformed).

This difference helps to account for the profound contrast between the passivity toward the state that has characterized much of the Lutheran tradition and the historic pattern of social and political activism evident among Reformed Christians.

And there you have in one sentence a historical verdict on 400 years, as if everyone knows this, as if the Scottish Kirk was all that militant in resisting London, or as if the Dutch churches were any more successful in opposing Hitler than Lutherans were. Just glide right over those complexities and arrive with two thumbs up for Calvinism which gave us the modern world. These Calvinist optimists — who seem to forget that TULIP is not exactly John Locke write large — never seem to calculate that Calvinists never lifted a hand to stop the execution of Servetus or argued against sending Roger Williams into exile.

Aside from Calvinist soteriology, the Confession of Faith and its historical circumstances pose a speed bump to Evans’ whiggish rendering of history where all lines lead to Christian Renewal‘s readers. Of the major confessions from the Reformation era (as far as I know), only Westminster’s has a chapter devoted to Christian liberty, a pretty important concept for those who argue for Calvinism’s influence on modern social and political arrangements. For instance, this is how John Witte understands Calvinism’s contribution to human rights:

The first and most essential rights for early modern Calvinists were religious rights — the rights of the individual believer to enjoy liberty of conscience and free exercise of religion, and the rights of the religious group to enjoy freedom of worship and autonomy of governance. Already in Calvin’s day, the reformers discovered that proper protection of religious rights required protection of several correlative rights as well, particularly as Calvinists found themselves repressed and persecuted as minorities. The rights of the individual to religious conscience and exercise required attendant rights to assemble, speak, worship, evangelize, educate, parent, travel, and more on the basis of their beliefs.(2) John Witte, Jr., The Reformation of Rights)

It would be harder to find a view of freedom of conscience, though thoroughly accepted by moderns, more at odds with the way the Westminster Divines conceived of freedom of conscience, which was for them first and foremost a spiritual reality:

The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a childlike love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law. But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected; and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of. (20.1)

Unlike the Anabaptists, Quakers, or Roger Williams, freedom of conscience had nothing to do with politics. But for Evans’ understanding of Calvinism’s activist progressive side to make sense, he needs Witte to be right and to ignore what the Westminster Confession says.

And yet, the Westminster Divines, who wrote under the patronage of a Parliament at war with the crown — a sure sign of political activism if you wanted one — refused to let freedom of conscience be a buttress to political ends:

And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the church. (20.4)

Call it Lutheran if you want, but the A2k view of the Reformed tradition relies on a recent construction of Calvinism that has been foisted as the general article.

173 thoughts on “Neo-Calvinism's Whiggish W-w

  1. Kevin Deyoung, Don’t Call it a Comeback, The Old Faith for a New Day—Most of us in the Western world have seen parodies of kings and crowns and kingdoms, but we’ve never seen anything approaching the real thing. So the language void is filled with all the chatter around us about the Prince of Wales or the local high school homecoming queen or the advertising slogans of the “King of Beers” or the “Dairy Queen.”

    And yet, the Bible we believe—and the gospel we preach—is constantly slapping us back to the message of kingdom, kingdom, kingdom, repeated throughout Old and New Testaments and in every generation of the church ever since. The mission of Christ starts and ends not just in the announcement of forgiveness of sins or in the removal of condemnation—although both of those things are true and essential. The mission of Christ starts and ends with an announcement that God has made Jesus emperor of the cosmos—and he plans to bend the cosmos to fit Jesus’ agenda, not the other way around.

    Matthew 4: The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
    “‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

    Matthew 8: 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Matthew 25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

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  2. DVD, Living in Two Kingdoms—“The church is the community of the citizens of the kingdom…. the kingdom of heaven is not to be found in the social-political communities of the broader world” (p 114). The ethics of the Sermon on the Mount are only possible for citizens of the new creation, to whom it is clearly directed.

    But since when is the “offer” based on ability? Does God have different promises and different laws for those who are not in the kingdom of Christ? Does God therefore have a sincere desire for unsaved people to keep these different commands?

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  3. I think I liked this post- I’m not quite sure I followed it all properly though. Were you contrasting the Westminster view of liberty with a modern, democratic/pluralistic view? If so I’d agree.

    Also, Scottish Presbyterians went to war with the Crown over how to organise the church. Although, I think we’d say that the taking up of carnal weapons to fight the spiritual cause of Christianity is to be rejected. But we also recognise that the Covenanters were godly people who were fighting for the true religion and many of those who subscribed the covenants and the Presbyterian cause were martyred. And then of course I think we can distinguish between those who stood for that cause but who didn’t take up weapons.

    You should come and do a tour of Scotland, Mr. Hart. Come for a few Communion seasons over a summer. It’d do you the world of good🙂

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  4. This Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Christ distinction seems dubious to me in light of:

    seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness

    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?

    behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

    Sounds not like the realm in which Saddam had a part. And I’m a 2K sympathete, but, well, what am I missing here?

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  5. Old Life Basketball Coach

    http://literatecomments.com/2014/05/13/why-basketball-loves-its-pop/

    By Jason Gay
    Updated May 12, 2014 12:35 p.m. ET

    At the moment, the San Antonio Spurs hold a three-games-to-none edge over the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA’s Western Conference semifinals, which continue Monday evening in Oregon. Barring an astonishing comeback by the likable and talented Blazers, the Spurs are poised to win the series and move on to the conference finals.

    Oh, who are we kidding: The Spurs are going to win the series and move on to the conference finals.

    So let’s talk about the San Antonio coach, Gregg Popovich. Here are some essential numbers on Popovich: 65 years old, 18 seasons, 17 playoff appearances, 17 consecutive winning seasons, three G’s in the first name. Nine hundred and sixty-seven regular-season wins against 443 losses, winning percentage of .686, third-best in league history. One-hundred and forty wins in the playoffs, three coach-of-the-year honors, including this season, and then the big one: four world championships.

    That’s the data—and it’s excellent, among basketball’s best ever.

    Still, that’s not the reason why America adores Popovich. Popovich feels the love because Popovich is basketball’s brilliant crabby uncle—and it’s fun to love what might not love you back. In a sports era thick with self-promoters and self-mythologizers, Popovich has no interest in playing cute or dabbling in small talk. During interviews, he’s as straightforward as a sledgehammer through drywall.

    Popovich talk is straight talk to the extreme; bluntness as performance art. If words are cheap, he is the Titan of Terse. “A lot of the questions he gets,” said former Spur Malik Rose, “he feels the answers are pretty obvious.”

    Then there’s Popovich’s signature look: Popovich Face. During games, Popovich will bear the look of an airline passenger who has just experienced something substandard about the flight, and cannot wait, when the plane lands, to write a brief but merciless letter to the airline. Stern-eyed and sometimes open-mouthed, Popovich Face is not exactly a look of disgust. It’s more of a measured disdain.

    And yet this is a coach who has had more prolonged NBA success than anyone coaching in the league. Who has, in partnership with San Antonio’s front office, cracked the difficult formula for preserving aged superstars while simultaneously developing his team’s future. Who consistently has done it his way—even if it means unashamedly knocking heads with the boardroom of the NBA.

    “He’s demanding but he’s fair—and this is coming from somebody who spent considerable time in his doghouse,” said Rose, who was part of Spurs title teams in 1999 and 2003. “He doesn’t put on airs. He’s not fake. He’s 100% real.”

    Rose describes a coach who remembers the names of player spouses and children and details from home. “Still, to this day, he asks how my mother is doing,” he said. “He’s very in tune to his emotional side.”

    And Popovich’s Spurs do it over and over and over. The titles may be intermittent, but the winning culture is not. The hardest thing in sports is not achieving success but sustaining it; adapting to new competition and styles while accommodating for natural decline. The Spurs are like a pair of shoes you bought 20 years ago and can’t believe how good they still are. With Popovich as coach, Spurs star Tim Duncan won his first NBA title during Bill Clinton’s first term.

    And Clinton is a fan.

    “Coach Popovich is a great coach and a good man,” President Clinton said in a statement to the Journal. “Year in and year out the Spurs keep winning, regardless of injuries, retirements, trades, and the talent of their opponents. Gregg’s relationship to his players and his ability to get them to play as a real team are tributes to his extraordinary combination of leadership and humanity.”

    Earlier this year, Popovich went to lunch in San Antonio with a group that included Clinton, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros and current San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro. “His personality and his attitude on the court match this city very well,” said Castro. “Unassuming but good character, not flashy but effective. People here really appreciate that.”

    The country may be falling hard at the moment, but San Antonio has long known the Popovich behind the Popovich Face. He revealed it in an unguarded moment a couple of weeks ago during an on-court interview with Craig Sager Jr., son of TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager, who has raised Popovich’s perfunctory Q&As to destination television. At the moment, the elder Sager was undergoing treatment for leukemia, and his son was standing in. After a couple of gentle exchanges on San Antonio’s playoff game with Dallas, Popovich turned to Sager Jr. with a compliment. “You did a great job,” Popovich said. “But I’d rather have your Dad standing here.”

    Then the coach looked square into the camera and addressed the elder Sager himself. “We want your fanny back on the court,” he said. He added impishly: “And I promise I’ll be nice.”

    This was the Popovich that fans have come to adore—the coach who gets it, who knows what’s important, who may not say a lot, but seems to always say the right thing. San Antonio is rolling in the playoffs once more, and some day Gregg Popovich will explain how he managed to do this for so long. He’ll just probably do it in 10 words or less.

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  6. Like d4v34x, I don’t follow the balls. Is Christ not the ruler of the created order too? Or will the kingdom of Christ only overlap into the kingdom of God at the eschaton?

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  7. Christ rules over the Church as Redeemer (as opposed to merely as Creator). 2K has never claimed that God does not rule over his creation, which is what Dr. Evans is implying*.

    Dr. Evans is seldom straight with his language when he speaks about 2K and confessionalism. He employs and combines terms and semantics in a way that confuses things. His ‘mixing skillz’ would definitely put all the local DJs here to shame.

    I have honestly given up on him since he uttered this statement on his blog:

    “Moreover, the church is not constituted, as some today curiously allege, by its confession, though what the church believes, confesses, and teaches is extraordinarily important. Rather, it is constituted by its spiritual union with the great Head of the church—Jesus Christ.” DJ Bill-E!

    *d4v34x, you should know this if you are a 2K sympathizer!

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  8. d4, but you didn’t quote anything about the kingdom of heaven. And do you really think that Christ executes the office of king in any way that includes Saddam Hussein as Bathist (as opposed to Christian)?

    Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

    How does Christ rule his enemies and his beloved as part of a common kingdom apart from distinguishing redemptive from providential rule?

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  9. Christ rules over the Church as Redeemer (as opposed to merely as Creator).

    No kidding. But the OP read to me as if the Kingdom of God (as in the biblical phrase) referred to God’s general rule. If Dr. H didn’t mean to specifically invoke the biblical phrase, then the misreading is mine.

    And had I quoted re: the kingdom of heaven, would we then be up to three kingdoms?🙂

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  10. Darryl, honest question here–not trying to start an argument. Do the Westminster Standards make the distinction you are making? I can easily see the reference to the Kingdom of Christ in the chapter you’ve quoted. The proof-texts on the OPC web site refer to the Kingdom of Heaven and the Messianic/Davidic Kingship of Christ. Do the Standards ever speak of Christ’s/God’s general rule as a Kingdom?

    I’ve always understood Kingdom of Heaven merely to be Matthew’s circumlocution of Kingdom of God for his Jewish audience. So when the Bible, especially the New Testament, refers to the Kingdom of God/Heaven is that the Kingdom of Christ (as the proof-text suggests)?

    For the record I don’t disagree that there is a difference between Christ’s rule in the Church (as Redeemer) and Christ’s/God’s rule in the world (as Creator/Provider/Governor). Perhaps that’s enough to make me 2K.😉 (After all, DVD says that Kuyper was 2K.) But, I am curious about the Biblical and Confession use of the terms. For example, in the Lord’s Prayer–“Thy Kingdom come”–which kingdom is being talked about? If the church is the Kingdom, isn’t it already here?

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  11. d4v34x
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
    Christ rules over the Church as Redeemer (as opposed to merely as Creator).

    No kidding. But the OP read to me as if the Kingdom of God (as in the biblical phrase) referred to God’s general rule. If Dr. H didn’t mean to specifically invoke the biblical phrase, then the misreading is mine.

    And had I quoted re: the kingdom of heaven, would we then be up to three kingdoms?🙂

    Hilarious. What Kingdoms? Whose Kingdoms? You nailed this one bigtime, man. It’s always 3-Card Monte here in the 2K universe–whichever kingdom you guess they’re talking about, you’re wrong. Then they take your money and laugh at you, you fool.

    And of course, since America is a democracy, WE are the temporal kingdom, too. WE are Caesar.

    Make that 4-Card Monte. You fool.

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  12. Terry,

    1. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

    2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

    3. God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.

    4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin. (wcf 5)

    All that talk about governing, power, and decrees sure sounds kingly to me.

    Maybe you didn’t notice because you’re so addicted to common grace.

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  13. Well I’m distressed as can be that I somehow gave TVD ammo with my offhand quip that was meant to be more self-deprecating than anything.

    Still don’t understand the OP’s use of Kingdom of God and waiting for enlightenment. Again, I assume the fault is my misreading or other comprehension failure.

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  14. d4v34x,

    The term “kingdom of God” can both refer to God’s saving kingdom, thus the kingdom of Christ or heaven, as the Gospel of Mark uses the term, or in a theological sense it can refer to God’s rule over all creation and peoples, such as in Rev. 1:5, as Christ rules over the kings of the earth. The second meaning necessitates a distinction between the mediatorial kingship of Christ by Word and Spirit over his redeemed people and God’s providential rule over all creation. The first meaning, as you have noted, is simply a different way to refer to Christ’s saving kingdom, thus no distinction. In the context DGH was referring to the second use of the term.

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  15. Darryl,, didn’t miss it at. In fact, that chapter has a rather prominent place in my articulation of a theistic view of science. Obviously, God “governs all creatures, actions, and things”. But the standards don’t use “kingdom” language here. I’m simply asking if there is some significance to that. Also, I’m still not hear from you whether kingdom of God/heaven in the NT is the general rule of Christ/God or the redemptive, mediatorial rule.

    I’m not sure what your reference to common grace is about–perhaps you can explain that to me.

    Focusing on Chapter V a bit more thought…what about Section VII. (which you didn’t quote). “As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.” Here it seems that the WCF is willing to blur the distinctions between general rule and mediatorial rule. Which would you say the confession is talking about?

    Todd, are you saying the main Biblical use of “kingdom” is in this redemptive sense and that the other use is not explicitly using Biblical language but is a theological term encompassing Providence, Christ’s rule over the civil magistrate, etc.

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  16. Terry,

    Not just the civil magistrate, but all things, and yes, I cannot think of a verse where the term “kingdom of God” is used to refer to God’s general rule over all creation (though someone else might), but theologically it is an accurate designation.

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  17. Terry, if you read Genesis the way you do the Confession, then what does “day” mean anyway? You’re not asking. You’re doing a Frame — if it doesn’t used kingdom then we have wiggle room.

    But then when we go literal with the confession on the visible church as the kingdom of Christ outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation, you don’t want to be so literal.

    No peace, no justice.

    And no blurring at all in 5.7. The word ‘special’ distinguishes from general. Dualities everywhere in the Reformed tradition, until Kuyper said dualism was heresy.

    No peacejustice.

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  18. Terry M. Gray
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink
    Darryl,, didn’t miss it at. In fact, that chapter has a rather prominent place in my articulation of a theistic view of science. Obviously, God “governs all creatures, actions, and things”. But the standards don’t use “kingdom” language here. I’m simply asking if there is some significance to that. Also, I’m still not hear from you whether kingdom of God/heaven in the NT is the general rule of Christ/God or the redemptive, mediatorial rule.

    I’m not sure what your reference to common grace is about–perhaps you can explain that to me.

    Focusing on Chapter V a bit more thought…what about Section VII. (which you didn’t quote). “As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.” Here it seems that the WCF is willing to blur the distinctions between general rule and mediatorial rule. Which would you say the confession is talking about?

    Todd, are you saying the main Biblical use of “kingdom” is in this redemptive sense and that the other use is not explicitly using Biblical language but is a theological term encompassing Providence, Christ’s rule over the civil magistrate, etc.

    The role of the “magistrate” is key in this here democratic republic. This is not Nero’s Rome.

    http://www.constitution.org/cmt/beza/magistrates.htm

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  19. I’ve decided not to waste any of the liquid stuff that lubricates my eyeballs by moving them to read anything BVVD writes. Working well, eyes fully lubricated.

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  20. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 5:23 am | Permalink
    victor tango, delta, love Jesus.

    Tom Van Dyke
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Loving Jesus is easy. You, not so much. But I’m trying.

    Erik Charter
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve decided not to waste any of the liquid stuff that lubricates my eyeballs by moving them to read anything BVVD writes. Working well, eyes fully lubricated.

    Judas is even harder to love than Pilate, my erstwhile pal. But do what you must. Kiss me, you fool.

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  21. But Mr. Hart you do the exact same with the concept of union: because the word is not specifically used you deny it. What’s the difference between that and Terry? Or why can’t you just engage with the question he’s asking instead of playing games? Why bring up Creation?

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  22. Darryl, I’m not trying to wiggle out of anything. I’m in full agreement that the Confession and the Bible uses kingdom language without explicitly using the word “kingdom”. As I’ve said, I don’t disagree that Christ’s rule in the church is different from his rule in Creation (especially I that it is among subjects who acknowledge that rule). Those same subjects who acknowledge his rule in the church also acknowledge his rule in Creation. This is why I’ve never understood you Sadaam Hussein argument. Common realm citizens are still subject to Christ’s rule (different as it may be) in Creation, they just don’t acknowledge that rule.

    What I’m hearing in this is that you’re pinning 2k on the Confession’s specific use of Kingdom language even though you are at the same time arguing for a kingly rule in a more general sense. Are we really that far apart here?

    As for reading Genesis…we all know that the “literal” meaning of a text is to read it “according to the words”. If it’s meant to be read in a figurative sense, then that reading is the “literal” meaning of the text. I’m just asking that question of the Confession. Is it really meant to bear the theological load that you’re placing on it or are you anachronistically putting the 2k argument there when it’s not really addressing that question at all. It seems that the Divines did not see any incongruence between their language about the church and their language about the civil magistrate. The original version allowed the two notions stand together. (Are we agreed that the original called the civil magistrate to enforce the true church — tending toward a more Erastian approach?)

    Again, I’m not disputing that Christ’s rule in the church is different. If that’s all 2k is claiming the. Count me in. The Kuyperian claim is the God rules generally in Creation (as 2k admits) and that believers recognize that rule and act as proper subjects to that rule.

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  23. Terry, if that’s all that Kuyperians claim, then why the need to redeem math, science, Shakespeare, plumbing? Kuyperians struggle with the common (which God rules). For them it’s either holy or profane, so math needs to be done in the Christian school, not apart from Christian oversight.

    That’s why Saddam Hussein is important. He was part of God’s rule and didn’t need to be redeemed or toppled. I mean, if secular governors are fine, then why start the Anti-Revolutionary Party?

    You’re wiggling.

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  24. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:45 am | Permalink
    victor delta, tango, do you love Jesus enough? Remember. Who will stand in that great day?

    I’ll stand up as character witness for you, Darryl. If you think it’ll help…

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  25. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:54 am | Permalink
    Terry, if that’s all that Kuyperians claim, then why the need to redeem math, science, Shakespeare, plumbing? Kuyperians struggle with the common (which God rules). For them it’s either holy or profane, so math needs to be done in the Christian school, not apart from Christian oversight.

    That’s why Saddam Hussein is important. He was part of God’s rule and didn’t need to be redeemed or toppled. I mean, if secular governors are fine, then why start the Anti-Revolutionary Party?

    You’re wiggling.

    The fish is convinced he’s hooked the fisherman.

    That’s why Saddam Hussein is important. He was part of God’s rule and didn’t need to be redeemed or toppled.

    There you have it, folks. But Saddam wasn’t all that important.

    That’s why Adolf Hitler is important. He was part of God’s rule and didn’t need to be redeemed or toppled.

    doesn’t work as cleverly.

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  26. Darryl, the acknowledgement of Christ’s Lordship is not unimportant. I don’t really think Kuyperians struggle as much as you think. 2+2=4 is true in the Christian school and in the public school because it is a God-created fact. Even CVT said that unbelievers know that fact after a fashion enough to get along in the world. However, in the Christian school God’s being Creator is acknowledged. Not so in the public school. Romans 1 tells us that acknowledging God as Creator and the giving of thanks is the duty of all mankind. Kuyperians simply want an educational environment where that duty can be appropriately expressed.

    And, of course, Sadaam was part of God’s providential rule. No disputing that. However, Sadaam had a duty to acknowledge that rule and he didn’t.

    As for the anti-revolutionary party…in a democratic society Christians can band together to influence the civil government if they have that privilege. Surely you don’t think that successful legal political opposition is “toppling a government.” You tell me that Christ is King over the common realm and that God’s law (as revealed in nature) is the basis of common realm rule. Believers acknowledge Christ’s rule in their lives (24-7-365; “all of life”). Thus, even in their dealing in the common realm they acknowledge and live out Christ’s rule, i.e. as citizens in a democratic society.

    I hope you notice that Kuyper had no intention of theocratizing the Dutch civil government. He simply wanted it to be a “nursing father” so that “all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger.” (I assume you agree with all that.) The WCF suggests that it was Sadaam’s duty as well. It’s even the duty of Xi Jinping. (Or as the revised BC states, “civil rulers have the task…of removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel…in order that the Word of God may have free course” — I assume that URCer’s here agree with that.)

    Perhaps the Confessions have a different vision of 2k than you all.

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  27. Terry, and so what if secular schools or pagan rulers don’t acknowledge God? The Bible never seems to suggest that their effectiveness or legitimacy is in any way hampered by not doing so. It only seems to be the neo-Calvinist who suggest it has some obvious or direct bearing on those things. But as I’ve said before, I don’t care if my pagan cashier acknowledges God so long as she gives me the right change (and she doesn’t need to have epistemological self-awareness to do it). How is that any different for those that educate or rule?

    And have you ever considered what a civil magistrate who does what certain versions of Belgic 36 says and makes special pains to removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel looks like to those citizens who aren’t Christian? If not, how’s this sound: “…civil rulers have the task…of removing every obstacle to the publication of the Book of Moroni.” Sounds like special attention to one particular group on the part of a ruler who some might say is supposed to be impartial. Why do we get special attention? Where is there biblical basis for the powers of this world having to make life easy for the people of God? Sure seems like we’re supposed to actually expect the opposite.

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  28. Zrim, the WCF version seems indiscriminate…as was the Kuyperian project. The Reformed religion, the Catholic religion, the Secular religion were given “full, free, and unquestioned liberty” in performing their religious duties.

    So what? Read Romans 1.

    We’ve been over this before. As Dylan said, “you gotta serve somebody”. That 2nd grade arithmetic teacher exudes something of their worldview in their teaching 2+2=4. They’re certainly not going to inform your youngster that God who made all things made 2+2=4. Even if they try to be neutral, there is a message that you can do 2+2=4 (and perhaps the rest of life) without God. God isn’t really important for some parts of life. The ideal would be to acknowledge God even in 2+2=4 and reinforce the faith formation that’s happening at church and home. Why do I want my 2nd grader coming under the influence of some teacher of a false religion (even if they’re not teaching catechism)? Perhaps you can undo the influence of your public school teacher (if they happen to be of some other religion than yours) with your home and church instruction. Seems far from ideal to me.

    I’d suggest that the spirit of BC/WCF is religious liberty. The state is not to propagate the religion, but simply to remove obstacles so that the religious person (even those of secular religion) can freely propagate their views. Today in the USA we seem to be in a situation where only the secularist can freely propagate their religious views (at least in the public schools).

    Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want Christianity taught in secularist schools. If the state is going to support education, I’d like to see it support all religions not just the secular religion.

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  29. Zrim, sounds like you’re not so Confessional after all. I’d guess you’re even less inclined to go with the original BC. Perhaps an overture to synod to change that section would be in order. Darryl? Similarly, on WCF, XXIII?

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  30. Terry – I’d suggest that the spirit of BC/WCF is religious liberty. The state is not to propagate the religion, but simply to remove obstacles so that the religious person (even those of secular religion) can freely propagate their views.

    Erik – Do you think most people in the URC believe that this is what Belgic 36 is saying?

    How does the Magistrate support the advance of the gospel without resisting those who muck up the gospel (including Mormons, JW’s, and Roman Catholics)?

    How does this “hands off” reading of Belgic 36 make sense of those in the URC who would use Belgic 36 to also make the case that the Magistrate should be upholding both tables of the Ten Commandments?

    As always, you do keep things lively around here. Thanks for that.

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  31. Erik, according to BC 36 their task is to “remove every obstacle” (not to “advance the gospel”). The church preaches the gospel and institutes “every aspect of divine worship.” The magistrate refrains from absolutism, functions in their own sphere, and uses appropriate means.

    I can’t say what URC’ers think. Kuyperians in the CRC may have advocated political activism, but not as the church as institution. Think of Skillen’s APJ. Many have objected to increased political activity on the part of CRC synodical offices (OPJ, CRWRC, various political peace and public justice projects). I don’t know that theonomy ever really plagued the CRC during the years it plagued the OPC (70’s and 80’s). The rise of 2k in the URC would be recent phenomena promoted by WTSCA. Since the CRC part of WTSCA faculty have found their home in the URC by and large, I’d guess that the debate is fairly new to the URC. It seems to me that the majority of URC pastors would hold to a Americanized Kuyperianism.

    Can’t say on your last question. Perhaps the conservative end of the CRC, now URC, is more influenced by conservative Presbyterians (OPC types) some of whom are theonomists, who would lean in that direction.

    If you compare the current version with the original you find that what was replaced was significantly more theonomic “upholding the sacred ministry with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship” and “to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ” and “to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere”. It seems to me that the 1958 revision is a shrinking back from calling the civil magistrate to these duties.

    There’s always the “religious right” piece here as well. American evangelicals (include URC folks) are likely social conservatives and seem to have no problem trying to be the moral majority and crying foul when they’re the “moral minority”. I doubt that the more theologically aware URC folks concerned about this issue are in that camp however.

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  32. Terry, they live out Christ’s rule in a democratic society or in doing math? This is precisely the problem. You assert truths that are not divinely revealed (sufficiency of Scripture with the flipside of Christian liberty). In trying to assert Christ’s Lordship over everything in some kind of normative way for all Christians, you wind up saying more than the Bible does. That makes you Lord, not Christ.

    The Bible doesn’t reveal math. And if it reveals politics, it reveals monarchy. What’s all this democracy jazz?

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  33. Terry, “The magistrate refrains from absolutism, functions in their own sphere, and uses appropriate means.”

    Talk about euphemisms. You mean when Peter Stuyvesaant in New Netherland banned Lutheran and Baptist ministers in order to remove every obstacle to the revealed truth? You really think the history of the West has seen Christian magistrates merely stay out of religion’s way? Which religion?

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  34. Terry – It seems to me that the 1958 revision is a shrinking back from calling the civil magistrate to these duties.

    Erik – You have a pretty good handle on all this, but I think you are underestimating the degree of right wing political fervor in the URC (and I say that as someone who is 2K, but a man of the right in my private politics).

    The overture to Synod deals with recognizing the footnote in the 1976 Psalter as being part of what we Confess in the URC. It was accepted by the CRC in 1958 but left in a footnote while it was circulated for comment from other churches that use the Belgic.

    If that footnote is a “shrinking back” why do some in Central Classis that approved the overture think it will be an effective means to suppress 2K in the URC?

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  35. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the concept of “not hindering the gospel” is not viewed as meaning the same thing by everyone. A sharp distinction between Law and Gospel is seen as Lutheran or an innovation being promoted by those suspect characters like Hart, Van Drunen, Clark, Horton, etc. at Westminster West. When people start to think of law and gospel as being virtually the same thing they can make the case that “not hindering the gospel” means that the Magistrate needs to enforce Sabbath keeping, laws against blasphemy, laws against adultery, laws against homosexuality, etc.

    The problem isn’t that the URCNA might start writing letters to the government demanding these things (it could happen but would mostly just be an annoyance to those who think it’s out of line). The problem is that real people who are just looking for a biblical church to worship in peacefully could be harassed, subjected to church discipline, denied the opportunity to serve as officers or ministers, and driven from office merely because their politics are not as strident as those of men in power in the URCNA.

    Consider the writings of Nelson Kloosterman (formerly in the URCNA), Mark Van Der Molen, contributors to “Christian Renewal” and the antipathy to 2K coming out of Mid American Reformed Seminary in recent years if you doubt this.

    https://cosmiceye.wordpress.com/

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  36. “Mid-America Reformed Seminary”.

    Here’s a thought experiment for you. Which URCNA elder should be viewed most favorably:

    Elder 1: During coffee time the elder speaks to church members decrying policies of the Obama Administration on issues like health care policy, tax policy, civil rights, judcial appointments, and environmental issues. Existing members know this man’s political preferences and either wholeheartedly agree, listen politely without necessarily agreeing, or seek to avoid him. Visitors to the church may agree or may not agree and might even be made quite uncomfortable by the elder’s outspokenness.

    Elder 2: During coffee time the elder overhears two members discussing policies of the Obama Administration with which they disagree. He mentions that our Confessions say that we are bound to to subject ourselves to the magistrates, pay tribute, to show due honor and respect to them, and to obey them in all things that are not repugnant to the Word of God. He also mentions that we should pray for them and ask God to rule and guide them in all their ways so that we may lead a quiet life in all godliness and gravity.

    Elder 1, when overhearing Elder 2, chides him because “in the United States, we are the Magistrate”, and tells him that he has become deluded by the rhetoric of the left. Elder 2 responds that Elder 1 is out of line and is not understanding our Confessions rightly.

    Who is correct? Who will feel more at home in the URCNA?

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  37. For anybody reading this who is not up to speed on our inside baseball, “URC” and “URCNA” are the same things. I started out with URC above and switched to URCNA.

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  38. Eric, in the OPC and elder could be a democrat and actually support most of Obama’s agenda. Paul Wooley in a minority GA report even argued that abortion was a matter of Christian liberty and that the church as church shouldn’t take a position on the issue. He was never disciplined for his view as far as I know.

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  39. Darryl, I think they would been using the old version (not the 1958 revision) of the BC in New Amsterdam. Please try to read more carefully.

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  40. Darryl, try to follow these balls. Christ/God rules in Creation. Scroll up and you will find that you, yourself asserted that. Creational law/natural law, whatever you want to call it, is still God’s law, God’s rule. Those things are revealed in Creation not in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t teach us everything. Yet God rules everything. So some of what we know to be true comes from God apart from the Bible. Now as a matter of fact that God is Lord over arithmetic and politics is actually revealed in the Bible. Kingdom citizens, church members, are obligated to acknowledge that rule even in arithmetic and politics. Unbelievers, even though they don’t acknowledge it, are under that rule. Part of their sin/rebellion is that they don’t acknowledge his rule. Why is that so hard?

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  41. Terry,

    The OPC and the URCNA (and the CRC before that) have decades of affinity for one another but there is a big difference that separates the two — ethnic identity. OPC members are mutts, URCNA members are overwhelmingly Dutch. In the U.S. being Dutch still involves the Dutch enclave — Pella, Orange City, Sioux Center, Grand Rapids, Holland, South Chicago, Lynden, and on and on. These places are overwhelmingly white, conservative, and Republican. It’s no wonder that church and state become intertwined. The representatives that Northwest Iowa sends to the state legislature and the representative that Western Iowa sends to Congress are among the most conservative members of those bodies.

    Now problems arise when the URCNA does church planting and seeks to expand. They confront a situation where churches are no longer necessarily in Dutch enclaves and new people come in who have not grown up in that subculture where it is just assumed that you share that “worldview” (conservative Republican politics, Christian schools, Sabbath keeping, etc.). Des Moines is not Pella. Nevada is not Michigan. It’s even true in the Seminaries that train URCNA ministers. Horton is not Dutch and grew up fundamentalist. Clark is not Dutch as far as I know and grew up in Nebraska. My pastor is not Dutch, grew up in Southern California evangelicalism. The tensions we are dealing with result from this collision of the Dutch milieu with the wider streams of American religion and culture — things that the Dutch feared from the earliest days of the CRC in the 1850s.

    Now all these difficult theological questions regarding the Magistrate should be resolved biblically as opposed to culturally. Just because the Dutch have always done or viewed things “a certain way” doesn’t make it right or biblical. Once you’ve opened yourself up to the outside world you need to re-argue your traditions. Maybe you haven’t been right all along.

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  42. Terry, so forming xian labor unions, xian political parties, and xian schools is the way to acknowledge that Christ rules over non-xian labor unions, non-xian political parties, and non-xian schools. Lots of balls up there. But I do think you dropped a few.

    This is so hard because your view pretends to be consistent but has to equivocate all the time. If Christ is lord of the public school — which he is — tell me why I can’t send my kids to a place where he is Lord.

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  43. Darryl, you throw such softies my way. Non-Christian labor unions, non-Christian political parties, non-Christian schools don’t acknowledge Christ’s rule and often fail to submit to His law (even as revealed in nature). No equivocation there at all. The tension is that we live in this in-between age. God is not yet ready to judge the wicked for their failure to acknowledge Him and His rule. So we live side by side with unbelievers with much in common in terms of our daily needs (as we all agree on). Christian versions of various institutions are desirable because it allows believers to acknowledge and conform to the rule of Christ (in the world).

    You asked earlier if I acknowledge God in my classroom.Certainly in the Christian schools, in a variety of ways. In the public schools (CSU, FRCC) I’m a bit more circumspect. When we discuss matter and energy, for example, i discuss a strict materialist perspective (every thing is matter and energy) vs. a non-materialist perspective (ideas, literature, relationships, love, spiritual realities, God, etc.) are not matter and energy. We also have a discussion of bioethics when talk about human genetics and we get into the basis for moral decisions. Religious belief is one of the options there. In discussion environmental issues there is opportunity to discuss the reasons one might be concerned about environmental degradation. Arguments rooted in stewardship of God’s creation and the human creational task under God are mentioned among others. I often will offer a range of options on the creation/evolution debate when we cover evolution.

    One aspect of teaching in a Christian school is that I would have some idea of what was being taught elsewhere. Biblical studies, theology, and philosophy classes could be built upon. Nothing of the sort is really possible in a public school classroom.

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  44. Terry,

    So would your work be far more fulfilling if you taught in a Christian school?

    How are you glorifying God in a public school setting if you are facilitating people holding beliefs that you know to be false?

    Have you chosen to pursue mammon rather than God in your vocation?

    Or is the knowledge that you pass on in some sense “common”?

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  45. Erik, who said anything about church? I said “church members” acknowledge the rule of God/Christ in (outside of church activities like) arithmetic and politics.

    You guys are the ones who equivocate. When it’s convenient for your argument, you say that the rule of God/Christ is just in the church. When we press you about whether God/Christ is ruler over all things, you say of course we believe that. If both of those are true, which I think we all agree they are, then church members acknowledge the rule of Christ in and out (in arithmetic and in politics) of the church.

    One point that may be causing a misunderstanding here is the way we use the rule of God over Creation as a whole. Sometimes I think that Darryl simply means Providence with no concern about normativity–hence, the Sadaam Hussein argument. Because Sadaam is in power and sustained by Divine Providence he is subject to God’s rule and actually executing God’s plan for the world. In that sense, whatever comes to pass is an expression of God’s decree and His Providence.

    But normatively is revealed not just in Scripture, but also in Creation–creational regularity (roughly, scientific law) and the law written in the human heart (natural law). Creational law (mathematical, physical, biological, psychological, social, aesthetic, etc. think of Dooyeweerd’s modalities) are evident in the Creation around us (discoverable). In the case of some of these laws, they seem somewhat inexorable (you fall to the ground when you jump off a high building). In other cases, humans seem to get away with violating these laws at least in the short run and so we can talk about submitting or not submitting to these laws. Either way, they are expressions of God’s law (not revealed in Scripture, but revealed in Creation).

    We sometimes distinguish between God’s revealed will and His secret decretal will. History reveals God’s secret decretal will in the way things turn out. Those things may or may not have been contrary to God’s revealed will. There is no inconsistency in saying that Hitler operated contrary to the revealed will of God and yet was fully within God’s secret and providential will.

    Most of the time when I speak the rule of God I am speaking of revealed (in nature and in scripture) will not decretal Providential will. God may have His purposes for having a godless, immoral regime in power at a given place and time. It does not mean that the godless, immoral regime is not duty bound to obey the revealed will of God in performing the proper duties of the civil magistrate.

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  46. Erik, interesting comment about the Dutch enclaves. My experience in west Michigan (perhaps overly influence by Calvin College) but now also reinforced by the CRC in Fort Collins, CO is somewhat different. Social programs (help for the poor, social security, universal health care) were seen to be rooted in Christian principles. Also, American nationalism and civil religion and military hawkishness were not viewed as particularly Christian. On the more current front, being pro-immigration is seen as being a Christian position.

    Thus, many of the CRC and even OPC folks that I encountered identified with Democrats rather than Republicans. These Christian Democrats were usually disturbed on the abortion case, but refused to be “single issue” voters. I tend to identify as a conservative Republican. At Calvin College we had a small support group that numbered around ten faculty members for such people.

    So, it makes me wonder whether your analysis is correct. Is the political conservatism that you perceive a result of Dutchness or of free market, individual freedom Americanism.

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  47. Erik, well, to be honest, Calvin College was my dream job, but that didn’t work out. So I’m “content to fill a little space, if thou be glorified.”

    Of course, what I teach is “common”. You act as if that should be a surprise to me. It goes to show that you don’t really understand what I’m talking about. Unbelievers can know creational knowledge “after a fashion and enough to get along in the world.” But in not acknowledging God as the source of that knowledge or know that that thing is God created, they don’t rightly or truly “know”.

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  48. Terry, how did you possibly hit this softball?

    Non-Christian labor unions, non-Christian political parties, non-Christian schools don’t acknowledge Christ’s rule and often fail to submit to His law (even as revealed in nature). No equivocation there at all. The tension is that we live in this in-between age. God is not yet ready to judge the wicked for their failure to acknowledge Him and His rule. So we live side by side with unbelievers with much in common in terms of our daily needs (as we all agree on). Christian versions of various institutions are desirable because it allows believers to acknowledge and conform to the rule of Christ (in the world).

    So Christ rules them but they don’t acknowledge his rule and that why we need institutions that will acknowledge his rule. We have things in common with unbelievers and so can work with them except that they don’t acknowledge Christ’s rule so we need to separate ourselves from them and not share labor unions, schools, and political parties in common. Kierkegaardian?

    Then the kicker — you teach at a school that doesn’t acknowledge Christ’s rule (does “come ye out from among them” sound familiar?) and you only bring up faith in a variable, conditional, let’s see, kind of way. Would Van Til be pleased?

    Terry, you want the best of neo-Calvinism and then it turns out you live like us 2k schlubs.

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  49. Terry, you say we equivocate and then come aboard with this jaw-dropper?

    We sometimes distinguish between God’s revealed will and His secret decretal will. History reveals God’s secret decretal will in the way things turn out. Those things may or may not have been contrary to God’s revealed will. There is no inconsistency in saying that Hitler operated contrary to the revealed will of God and yet was fully within God’s secret and providential will.

    If Hitler was acting fully within God’s secret will, then how would any Christian every resist a tyrant? Wouldn’t we possibly be acting contrary to God’s secret will (not to mention that God’s word doesn’t reveal any revealed will instruction to resist tyranny). If Jamie Smith heard you on Hitler — heck if Nick Wolsterstorff heard this — they’d boot you off team neo-Calvinism.

    And for the record, please STOPPPPPPP! with the jazz about limiting Christ’s rule to the church. How many times do we have to say that Christ’s redemptive rule (office as king) is different from his providential rule before it gets through your thick Dutch-Calvinist shaped head? If Christ doesn’t rule the church in a special way, then why is he the good shepherd? Does he go after the lost Saddam Husseins?

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  50. That 2nd grade arithmetic teacher exudes something of their worldview in their teaching 2+2=4. They’re certainly not going to inform your youngster that God who made all things made 2+2=4. Even if they try to be neutral, there is a message that you can do 2+2=4 (and perhaps the rest of life) without God. God isn’t really important for some parts of life. The ideal would be to acknowledge God even in 2+2=4 and reinforce the faith formation that’s happening at church and home. Why do I want my 2nd grader coming under the influence of some teacher of a false religion (even if they’re not teaching catechism)? Perhaps you can undo the influence of your public school teacher (if they happen to be of some other religion than yours) with your home and church instruction. Seems far from ideal to me.
    Terry, explicitly acknowledging that God is the author of arithmetic on the part of the one teaching has no bearing on whether the one learning will learn that 2+2=4. I still don’t understand why it matters in academia, unless you are making more of academia than is fitting. Same for politics. Nor do I understand why it is insufficient for the home (in tandem with the church) to instill a worldview that God is the author of math. What is actually ideal is for a school to stick to it limited ordination and teach the 3Rs and leave religious nurture to homes and churches. What is it with neos that academia has to have some hand in faith formation? Do you understand that you share this over-realizing of the power of academia with the social progressives in education?

    But you can do arithmetic without belief in God. Lots of unbelievers do lots of things without believing in God. You seem to think there is a problem with doing things without believing in God. Some things require it, like church membership and communion. But math? There is no direct or obvious correspondence between doing math and belief in God. The more I listen to neo-Calvinists the more I don’t think you guys want Christian education so much as a Christian environment. I wish you’d just admit that instead of this constant epistemological push for a direct correspondence between faith and learning or faith and culture making.

    I’d suggest that the spirit of BC/WCF is religious liberty. The state is not to propagate the religion, but simply to remove obstacles so that the religious person (even those of secular religion) can freely propagate their views. Today in the USA we seem to be in a situation where only the secularist can freely propagate their religious views (at least in the public schools).

    So you affirm the revised WCF 23.3 which wants all religious persons free from the molestation of the civic authorities in relation to their beliefs and practices. So does 2k. What exactly is your beef then?

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  51. Terry,

    The closer you get to any type of academic institution, whether it’s Calvin, Dordt, Hope, Central, or Northwestern, the more likely you are to encounter political and theological liberals. Its just how academia works, and the fact that the faculty is Christian doesn’t mean they haven’t emerged from their long academic training unscathed. You haven’t encountered the intersection of Dutch Calvinism with conservative politics out in the hinterlands, in other words. It’s not like it is in the faculty lounge.

    The CRC today is not the URCNA today, either. Those who could stomach liberalism (political and theological) stayed in the CRC. Those who couldn’t, left.

    And to echo Darryl, your Neocalvinism is mostly between your ears. You don’t live any differently than we do.

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  52. Terry, “Unbelievers can know creational knowledge “after a fashion and enough to get along in the world.” But in not acknowledging God as the source of that knowledge or know that that thing is God created, they don’t rightly or truly “know”.”

    So do you think you are the smartest guy in the room at department meetings? Does your “knowledge” vastly differ from your unbelieving colleagues? Or is saying they don’t truly “know” a way of separating the wheat from the chaff?

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  53. “You mock my pain!” “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

    Or as a famous poet once said, “No, you can’t always get what you want.”

    I’m not sure “come ye out from among them” is quite in the right context. After all, I did grow up in the UPCUSA. For what it’s worth, I’m not sure that Kuyperian institutions are chiefly for separation, but rather to enable a development of a consistent Christian worldview informed expression of that institution as it functions in the particular sphere along side the alternate worldview informed expressions. You simply can’t do certain things without a common principial foundation.

    indeed, fellow “schlub” it is. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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  54. Darryl, you underestimate why I mean by “getting along in the world”. That takes smarts. Getting it right and true, well, that comes to sinners only by regeneration. Grandmas know more than PhD’s if they know that God created the stuff.

    I’m not sure I’m talking about resisting tyranny in my comments on Hitler. I’m talking about Hitler’s obligation as a civil magistrate to submit to the law of God.

    Please note that what the Dutch resistance did (in that it came to pass) was also part of God’s Providential will. As was the American Revolution (in that it also came to pass). The relevant question is what is God’s revealed will in these cases. I’m suggesting, perhaps I’m wrong, that we’re talking past each other here. I’m speak of God’s rule in the normativity sense and you’re speak in the sovereign, executed Divine decree sense.

    And, for what it’s worth, I believe that the Lord Jesus did go after the lost Sadaam Hussein–“their voice goes out to all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” I wouldn’t be too surprised if Sadaam had actually had the gospel preached to him at some point.

    I get that Christ’s rule in the church is different and that you all believe that Christ rules in general as well but in a different manner. I don’t understand why you’re saying that I don’t get it.

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  55. Zrim, you think that sticking to the 3R’s in the curriculum is possible. That’s the problem here. It’s not possible. The teacher’s and the school’s worldview and life philosophy are always in play. That’s fundamentally what it means to be human. We’re living out our religion in what we do in life. So as much as you’d like the teacher to stick to the curriculum, he/she can’t/doesn’t.

    No difference between 2+2=4 for the believer or the unbeliever. It’s a God-created truth for both. The believer acknowledges that. The unbeliever doesn’t. There’s the key difference. How does 2+2=4 function in the religious totality of the person? The believer worships and serves the Creator and gives thanks. The unbeliever worships and serves the Created thing (2+2=4 can be understood and interpreted without God) and does not give thanks.

    Does this mean that unbelievers can’t balance their checkbook or give the correct change or do chemical stoichiometry? Of course not. That’s “getting along in the world” (as CVT puts it). Nobody’s saying that. I’m sorry if that’s what you’re hearing.

    Zrim, call me a progressive…but I think it’s sad if “getting along in the world” is all we’re after in education.

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  56. The tragedy of so much of what is going on with American Christianity these days is that the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross to save people from their sins is being crowded out. I’m hoping that people start to realize how faddish all of this other junk is and come to see the simple message of the Cross as new and exciting again.

    Jesus is awfully busy redeeming not only peoples’ souls but The United States of America, conservative politics, liberal politics, The City, peoples’ marital sex lives, math, shop class, plumbing, weight loss, the glorious postmillennial future of mankind on this earth, and whatever other ridiculous idea the next guru comes up with. Enough! Saving us from ours sins is good enough. Let Jesus rest.

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  57. Finally listened to R. Scott Clark’s interview with D.G. on the republication of “Recovering Mother Kirk”. Good interview. I did not know that the Hillsdale OPC celebrated the Lord’s Supper weekly.

    [audio src="http://rscottclark.org/wp-content/audio/heidelcast-67-apr-06-2014.mp3" /]

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  58. Clark jokes with Hart about being a curmudgeon, which is defined as being a bad-tempered or surly person. He is far from a curmudgeon. A contrarian, maybe, but not a curmudgeon. He is one of the most longsuffering, gracious guys around, actually. He has been patient with many difficult people here for a long time — myself included at times.

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  59. Terry, I’m aware that education has an affective dimension (as any human endeavor does). But it’s entirely secondary, not primary like worldviewers seem to think. Education takes place if it is learned that 2+2=4. If that isn’t grasped but the fact that God is its author, sorry, but no actual learning has happened. It works the other way as well—if a believer can’t add it is irrelevant to his church membership. In both cases, it’s great if both pieces are there, but one task calls for this and another task calls for that. I bet you grade papers accordingly, so why when 2kers say it you grouse I’ll never know.

    You also wrote: “Getting it right and true, well, that comes to sinners only by regeneration. Grandmas know more than PhD’s if they know that God created the stuff.” What may help here is to distinguish between natural knowledge and supernatural faith. As a non-scientist believer, I have a supernatural faith the unbelieving scientist doesn’t have. But he beats me when it comes to natural knowledge. It actually comes off as a form of arrogance to say that because of my supernatural faith I “know more” than him on science, because I don’t. I may have a leg up spiritually, but he always beats me naturally. The way you guys speak, supernatural faith trumps natural knowledge on its own turf. Fubar.

    ps and another pagan poet once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Yet another, “God only knows when God makes his plan—the information’s not available to the mortal man. We work our jobs, collect our pay, believe we’re gliding down the highway when in fact we’re slip sliding away.” Who knew a former mop top and a secular Jew could be such Calvinists? 2kers, that’s who.

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  60. Terry board an airplane:

    Stewardess: Hello, Mr. Gray, Welcome to Fun Travel Airlines.

    Terry: Hello, can you tell me about the pilot?

    Stewardess: Well, she’s not a licensed pilot, but she is a dear woman of God, who has been a faithful church attender for the past 70 years.She also graduated from Christian day school.

    Terry: Wonderful. Do you have any of those fancy drinks with the little umbrellas in them?

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  61. Erik, if you think that’s a consequence of what I’m saying, then I suggest you think about it some more. A qualified pilot gets along in the world and is able to fly planes. If he doesn’t acknowledge God in that knowledge he will go to hell for his idolatry and for denying the truth about piloting (among other things).

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  62. Erik, for what it’s worth I’m with you on the priority of the gospel–that the Good News first and foremost is Christ crucified and risen again on behalf of His people. Our sins are placed on Him and His righteousness is imputed to us. Believing this gospel is something we do throughout our Christian lives and not just at our conversion. Confession of sin/assurance of pardon, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, rehearsing our baptism, hearing the Good News about the way of salvation is what we need weekly in worship and even every day we walk by faith in Christ. And then we live by faith with a conscience free from the Accuser’s accusations. The ought of the Christian life (the Law of God as revealed in scripture) flows from the springboard of the is. The piety of the Christian, the piety of the Church, and the piety of Christians acting in the world as salt and light is always secondary to our lifting up of Christ’s doing and dying and rising again. The hope of the world is not in our good deeds or our efforts to bring God’s Shalom to it. The hope of the world is in our proclaiming that salvation comes through Christ alone.

    Indeed, the church is side-tracked when self-help, sanctification, bettering people’s lives, social justice, etc. becomes the chief message. This is not to say, however, that when preaching the whole counsel of God we neglect Christian duty, the Third Use of the Law, loving our brothers and sisters in Christ especially, and doing good to all people. One can’t read the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms without noticing the positive emphasis given to sanctification, good works, following the moral law, performing our duties one to another as we express the communion of the saints, and prayer. Yet, all of this is fruit of a trust in Christ alone and strangely nurtured not by some commandment, but by an admonition to be what we already are in Christ, to love as we have been loved.

    That other stuff you talk about is not without merit. The Bible talks about much of it, especially in those “oikonomos” passages in the epistles. Jesus and the NT has a lot to say about money. There is much said about care for the poor and the fatherless and widows. The “general equity” of the laws given to Israel instruct us in the way we should go. But these are the “therefores” of the gospel as it has always been–I brought you out of Egypt (Gospel first)–now keep my ways (Commandment second). These things are always the response of gratitude, of living who we already are in Christ.

    Your concern about keeping Jesus too busy with other stuff is misplaced. Don’t worry. He can handle it. He actually got it right for us once for all two thousand years ago even when we still get it wrong. I like to suggest that he even gets our thinking right for us even when we get it wrong. None of us have perfect orthodoxy. Christ’s perfect orthodoxy is imputed to us. No hope without it.

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  63. Zrim, whoever said ‘that because of my supernatural faith I “know more” than him on science.’ I’ve never said that. You’re making stuff up, not hearing me clearly, or attributing to me what somebody else said. I’m not sure neo-Calvinists in general say such a thing. I’m not sure CVT would say such a thing. Claims that sound like that are carefully nuanced. Be sure you’re catching the nuance.

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  64. Erik, not sure what your “nursing fathers” question was about. Perhaps you were just pointing out its strangeness. It’s the phrase used in Chapter XXIII,3.

    Zrim, I don’t think that the revision to the WCF is any more friendly to 2k than to neo-Calvinism. (Of course, I don’t conflate neo-Calvinism with theonomy and theocratic rule, like you seem to do some times.) Neo-Calvinism is very comfortable with the task of the civil magistrate as outlined in the American version of WCF, XXIII. I think Kuyper’s own career demonstrated a desire to free the church from the bondage of the state and to practice statecraft with a view to allowing a pluralism of worldviews.

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  65. Terry M. Gray
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 1:00 am | Permalink
    Erik, not sure what your “nursing fathers” question was about. Perhaps you were just pointing out its strangeness. It’s the phrase used in Chapter XXIII,3.

    Zrim, I don’t think that the revision to the WCF is any more friendly to 2k than to neo-Calvinism. (Of course, I don’t conflate neo-Calvinism with theonomy and theocratic rule, like you seem to do some times.) Neo-Calvinism is very comfortable with the task of the civil magistrate as outlined in the American version of WCF, XXIII. I think Kuyper’s own career demonstrated a desire to free the church from the bondage of the state and to practice statecraft with a view to allowing a pluralism of worldviews.

    Keep penetrating, Terry. The magistrate is key, and it’s to pretend that we are frozen in time, as impotent as in Nero’s Rome, rather than in a political environment where we elect the magistrate, where in a representative democracy the magistrate [political official] is essentially oneself…

    Even the sophist can see where that must lead. What is the duty of the magistrate–to God, to the natural law? In the end, the same question must be asked of the citizen.

    As for the church–and the objection that the church should not be an arm of the state or a political party is heartily sustained–must the church be silent on the magistrate’s–the citizen’s–obligation to the natural law?

    There lies the core of your argument, in my view.

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  66. Darryl, re

    Terry, are you kidding? We’ve been over revisions to WCF before.

    All my comments (and citations of the WCF) are based on the American revisions as adopted by the OPC. Again, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. Are you thinking that I was referring to the original? The “nursing fathers” language is part of the WCF as adopted by the OPC. As I’ve noted, it seems to call the civil magistrate to something that 2k’s seem reluctant to do. Is that not true? Do you think the civil magistrate ought to do what is outlined in WCF XXIII, 3? Is that just in America? Or is this a Biblical and universal duty for the civil magistrate?

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  67. Terry, so the neo-Calvinist sets up all these different institutions to maintain w-w consistency but then says he’s not a separatist. I grew up fundamentalist. I know separatism. The only difference between fundamentalism and neo-Calvinism is Hegel.

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  68. Terry, I say you don’t get it because you seem to think that when a 2ker affirms God’s rule of every square inch, you imply we are crossing our fingers:

    You guys are the ones who equivocate. When it’s convenient for your argument, you say that the rule of God/Christ is just in the church. When we press you about whether God/Christ is ruler over all things, you say of course we believe that. If both of those are true, which I think we all agree they are, then church members acknowledge the rule of Christ in and out (in arithmetic and in politics) of the church.

    I’m glad you talk about normativity and God’s revealed will. Where exactly does God reveal that we need Christian labor unions?

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  69. Terry, “. . . sticking to the 3R’s in the curriculum is possible. That’s the problem here. It’s not possible. The teacher’s and the school’s worldview and life philosophy are always in play. That’s fundamentally what it means to be human. We’re living out our religion in what we do in life. So as much as you’d like the teacher to stick to the curriculum, he/she can’t/doesn’t.”

    Fundamentalism.

    And to think that neo-Calvinists have called the spirituality of the church fundamentalist.

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  70. Terry, the nursing father language is right there with not hindering any religious group.

    . . . without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

    That’s not different from Laodecian. A neither hot nor cold nursing father.

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  71. Terry,

    Yes, just the strangeness of the expression. Male nipples are useless and I haven’t been won over by those fake boobs that some girly-men put on to nurse their offspring.

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  72. Terry – If he doesn’t acknowledge God in that knowledge he will go to hell for his idolatry and for denying the truth about piloting (among other things).

    Erik – No, his piloting will have nothing to do with his going to hell. That’s what you don’t get.

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  73. Terry – Your concern about keeping Jesus too busy with other stuff is misplaced. Don’t worry. He can handle it

    Erik – Everything you said in the three paragraphs above this was solid and has little to do with Neocalvinism. It’s just basic Christianity. Maybe the issue is less Jesus being able to handle this other stuff, but Churches, pastors, and Christians being able to handle it. They are easily and often sidetracked and Neocalvinism is a sidetracker.

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  74. Erik, pastors and the Church shouldn’t do the culture stuff. Why would the Neo-Calvinism be a side-tracker. As for Christians…just doing our vocation under Christ’s Lordship. Why that would be getting side-tracked, I don’t really know.

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  75. Darryl, yes, I agree, neither hot nor cold. But do you admit that the WCF is calling the civil magistrate to guarantee religious freedom (“that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance”)? This would include Hitler, Hussen, Kuyper, and Obama. Is this mandate the WCF mentions a Biblical mandate or is it a Natural Law mandate? Is it just for modern western democracies or is it for Communist governments, dictatorship, Islamic theocracies, and monarchies as well?

    When a Kuyperian has a civil magistrate bring about God’s will for the political order, he/she is talking about this very thing–Laodecian nursing fathers. I pretty sure that’s what Kuyper tried to do and what Skillen in principled pluralism advocates. Not theonomy, not the first table of the Law, simply public justice and freedom for the Church (and all religions, including the secular one) to practice freely.

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  76. Are URCNA Officers Derelict in their Responsibilities Under a Revised Belgic 36?

    Prior to 1958 the Christian Reformed Church confessed a version of Belgic Confession Article 36 – “The Magistracy (Civil Government)” that included the following passage:

    “Their office is not only to have regard and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also to protect the sacred ministry, that the kingdom of Christ may thus be promoted. They must therefore countenance the preaching of the Word of the gospel everywhere, that God may be honored and worshipped by every one, as He commands in His Word.”

    To quote the 1976 Psalter Hymnal, “The Synod of 1958 approved the following substitute statement which has been referred to other Reformed Churches accepting the Belgic Confession as their creed for evaluation and reaction:”

    “And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, in subjection to the law of God, while completely refraining from every tendency toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them and with the means belonging to them, to remove every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship, in order that the Word of God may have free course, the kingdom of Jesus Christ may make progress, and every anti-christian power may be resisted.”

    If this version of Belgic 36 is the version that current URCNA officers have subscribed to and agreed to be bound by, I will make the case that they are in serious dereliction of their duties.

    One of the greatest obstacles that we as URCNA churches face is opposition from churches that teach things that are opposed to our Confessions. Indeed, these churches hinder proper divine worship, prohibit the Word of God from having free course, slow the progress of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and, in some cases, are an anti-Christian power that needs to be resisted.

    Belgic Confession Article 29 – “The Marks of the True Church, and Wherein it Differs From the False Church” concludes by saying , “As for the false Church, it ascribes more power and authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit itself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does it administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in His Word, but adds to and takes from them, as it thinks proper; it relies more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those who live holily according to the Word of God and rebuke it for its errors, covetousness, and idolatry. These two Churches are easily known and distinguished from each other.”

    Obviously this Article refers directly to the Roman Catholic Church.

    Belgic Confession Article 34 – “Holy Baptism”, says toward the end of the Article, “Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, who we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children of Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children.”

    Obviously this Article refers to any group that denies the doctrine of infant baptism.

    Now as a Church we have moved beyond believing that the Magistrate should kill those who deny biblical truth. That was the point of revising Belgic 36 in the early 20th Century. To do so under the 1958 revision of Belgic 36 would violate the requirement that the Magistrate “refrain from every tendency to absolute authority.” It could also be argued that capital punishment for these sorts of violations would entail the Magistrate functioning outside of “the sphere entrusted to them and the means belonging to them.” So how do we believe the Magistrate should punish Roman Catholics, Baptists, and any other group of people who are hindering the gospel, divine worship, and the progress of the Kingdom of Christ? (Note that this punishment should ironically also be extended to the Christian Reformed Church, from whom we split for presumably biblical reasons).

    The obvious answer is that the government should punish these wayward churches through tax policy.

    Currently churches are exempt from federal and state income taxes on their net income. Not only that, but church members are able to deduct their contributions to their churches for the purpose of determining their personal federal and state income tax liabilities. Most localities also exempt churches from paying property taxes on the value of their real estate. This is a travesty in that these tax benefits flow not only to true churches but to false churches and churches that our Confessions deem to be seriously in error!

    Where is the outrage over this from our church officers? Where are the letters from our church officers to public officials? Where is an appropriate lobbying campaign? If our Confessions are correct, the Magistrate is in serious error on this matter.

    Now some will say that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is an impediment to what a revised Belgic 36 envisions. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If Congress is going to give us tax benefits, how can they not give churches that we consider to be in error tax benefits as well?, the argument goes. If this is the case, perhaps the First Amendment also needs to go and be replaced with an Amendment stating that the United States Congress will support our true churches and oppose false churches. This will require a great deal of activism by our church officers as well.

    If we indeed confess the Revised Belgic 36 our church officers have certainly been derelict in their responsibilities. If Synod Visalia clarifies that we have been confessing this revised version it had better also consider an action plan to get our officers back on a proper course!

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  77. Terry,

    If pastors shouldn’t do the culture stuff will you talk to every Reformed pastor who is doing the culture stuff?

    If going on and on about “The City” isn’t doing “the culture stuff”, what is?

    And since when should pastors not practice what they preach? Under 2K, they do.

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  78. Darryl, lsbor unions are NOT revealed in scripture–nobody said they were–they are revealed in nature (creation). Normativity doesn’t just come from the Bible. Isn’t that what you guys mean when you talk about Natural Law? (But Natural Law is still God’s Law, right?) The labor union is a God-created social institution that unfolds as society and culture develop. We learn about it through economics, political science, and sociology. It’s in the same category as the internal combustion gas engine–part of God’s creation as unfolded by scientific and technological advancement. Scripture says nothing about it, but that doesn’t mean there is no Creational norms (God’s Divine Word/will in Creation) that “speak” about it.

    There are vast swaths of Creation that are maintained by God’s will and have norms that we learn simply via empirical study. We would agree, I think, that the Church as Church, says nothing about any of this. Church as Church is limited to declaring what is revealed in Scripture. The church should not express an opinion about the technical case for or against climate change, for example.

    You see, I think you have more of a friend than you think in the neo-Calvinist. Yes, we can quibble whether there is one kingdom or two (although God rules over both even when there are two–hence, the word “quibble”). The neo-Calvinist doesn’t believe that the Bible per se speaks to everything — that’s fundamentalism and Biblicism. The neo-Calvinist believes that much of the rule of God is still through Creational norms–just as you do–so that scripture has little to say (other than via broad strokes in applying the doctrine of God, man, sin, creation, etc. to inform a Christian philosophical system–a worldview). And such knowledge “after a fashion” is shared with unbelievers because of common grace and living in God’s creation and living as God’s creatures. Thus, the neo-Calvinist can affirm a Natural Law, a law revealed in Creation and in the heart of humanity (even fallen humanity).

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  79. Erik, does the Bible take a position on the marijuana issue?

    I guess since you’re in a Reformed church where whiskey and cigars are appreciated, you take your doctrine of Christian liberty for granted. Marijuana’s in the same category, man.

    On the question of pastors doing cultural work…of course, pastors, a human beings, are participants in culture and are citizens of “common” kingdom. So, my comment must be understood as pastors in their office as pastor.

    If you read Keller carefully, he argues that social justice work (culture building) isn’t the work of the church, but should be done by Christians and perhaps others who band together in common cause to do this work. In Generous Justice he has a nice section on Kuyperian sphere sovereignty that should please most 2k fellows.

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  80. I actually don’t oppose Neocalvinist use of marijuana. If marijuana does anything it kills ambition and the less ambitious Neocalvinists are, the better!

    Legalize pot in Grand Rapids!

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  81. Drug Quiz:

    People you know who started smoking pot in 10th grade ended up…

    (A) as class Valedictorian

    (B) spending a lot of time behind the football stadium

    (C) In jail

    (D) dead

    (E) anything but (A)

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  82. Terry, if labor unions are not revealed in Scripture, why call them Christian? See, this is where we keep struggling. You keep wanting to affirm parts of 2k and back away from the absurdities of neo-cal’s, but then you won’t actually fix the problems. We can have Christian labor unions, sure. We’ll just appeal to NL if 2k pushes back too much. We can quibble about one or two kingdoms. It’s not a quibble. The redemptive rule of Christ is distinct from his providential rule. If you say we can quibble about the differences, you wind up saying that various cultural projects are Christian when they are merely creational. And look what happened to the Dutch churches and to the CRC.

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  83. …whoever said ‘that because of my supernatural faith I “know more” than him on science.’ I’ve never said that. You’re making stuff up, not hearing me clearly, or attributing to me what somebody else said. I’m not sure neo-Calvinists in general say such a thing. I’m not sure CVT would say such a thing. Claims that sound like that are carefully nuanced. Be sure you’re catching the nuance.

    Terry, you did: “Grandmas know more than PhD’s if they know that God created the stuff.” You may want to suggest I don’t listen and make things up, but I might suggest it’s a matter of language and you not listening to yourself, and when I mirror back to you your rhetoric you seem to get just how silly it is but then blame me for it.

    Unlike Darryl, I didn’t grow up in fundamnetlaism. But while I did happily marry into it, I unhappily converted into it. In its natural affirmation of creation, neo-Calvinism was a welcome respite from its extreme swallowing up of creation by redemption. But with the utter fixation on culture, it didn’t take very long living here at ground zero to figure out that neo-Calvinism was animated by the same fundamentalist impulse to make faith come to bear on every square inch of created life.

    The neo-Calvinist doesn’t believe that the Bible per se speaks to everything — that’s fundamentalism and Biblicism. The neo-Calvinist believes that much of the rule of God is still through Creational norms–just as you do–so that scripture has little to say (other than via broad strokes in applying the doctrine of God, man, sin, creation, etc. to inform a Christian philosophical system–a worldview). And such knowledge “after a fashion” is shared with unbelievers because of common grace and living in God’s creation and living as God’s creatures. Thus, the neo-Calvinist can affirm a Natural Law, a law revealed in Creation and in the heart of humanity (even fallen humanity).

    Terry, this is neo-Calvinism on a good day. And I for one am thankful for those good days. But it would be very naïve to think this is where neo-Calvinism begins and ends. Neos simply do not believe that creational norms are sufficient to govern created life. The whole point is to bring redemptive norms to bear on created life, or in language you’ve used here “to bring shalom to the world.” This is the left turn at Albuquerque and why it is a form of Fundamentalism for the learned and cultured. If you guys really thought that natural revelation was sufficient for created life then you wouldn’t create Xian labor unions, political parties or day schools and colleges that have the express purpose of transforming wider culture. Those efforts are the tell-tale signs that Fundamentalism still clings.

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  84. Zrim, I believe that is structure (creation) and direction (redemption) parlance regarding whether creational norms can govern created life. If you need direction for structure, and you look to redemption for direction, you’re going to wind up with a big bowl of blur. And could you possibly have creation as the direction for creation? I don’t think so.

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  85. The structure/direction blur sometimes shows up in orthodox sounding dress: natural revelation is read through the lens of special revelation. But how does this not end up implying something corrupt about one form of God’s revelation? Aren’t both forms perfectly clear, while corruption lies in the sinful reader of either natural or special revelation? But if when I kill I can’t plead innocent by reason of never having read the Bible, then maybe nobody needs the Bible to know what is clearly revealed in nature.

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  86. When we get into these debates Neocals always pay lip service to the Church as Institute and the ordinary means of grace. I keep coming back to the CRC dad who, when he was worship with us in the URCNA, was bored and saw us as navel gazers. For him, this just wasn’t where the action was. The action was in the world where he did his transformational relief work.

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  87. Terry M. Gray, keep contributing, please. I’m in your corner. Thanks, DGH, for creating and maintaining this forum. Many of these points were under debate–believe it or not–in the now defunct “Reformed Journal” out of Grand Rapids decades ago. I think Eerdmans has highlights in a recent volume. Erik, how do you know the CRC dad was “transformational” in seeking relief work opportunities? Perhaps he simply desired to let his light shine before men, “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5 :16).

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  88. Gentlemen, please don’t forget the FALL. The FALLEN Creation is in need of redemption. The perfect revelation of God in Creation is distorted by the FALL. It’s clear enough to leave men without excuse, but it’s distorted. That’s why we need Calvin’s spectacles of Special Revelation.

    Okay, Darryl, I’ll take your bait. What do you want to call a labor union where the members are all Christians and recognize that God is Lord of their labor union activities and seek to practice labor unioning in way that is maximally consistent with the doctrines and ethical norms of the Christian faith?

    This is exactly the point of structure and direction. There is nothing wrong with Creation, structurally. It’s direction that is messed up. And here’s where the antithesis lies. One direction opposes God; one direction worships and obeys God. At the absolute minimum there’s a questions of how Creation is used: to worship and serve the Creator or to worship and serve the Created thing. The redeemed community strives by the power of Spirit toward the direction that worships and obeys God in all of life, whether eating, drinking, arithmetic, plumbing, education, science, history, the arts, “whatever you do”. Individuals can do that. But if we seek to do it institutionally, in schools, labor unions, media, we have to band together to form Christian (or substitute whatever word Darryl comes up with for us) institutions.

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  89. Terry, first creation is fallen and in need of redemption, and then “there is nothing wrong with creation.” Can you see how it’s kind of difficult to follow the balls of your logic? Which part of creation — the part without a soul — opposes God and which worships him? Do Zebras worship God but rats oppose him? Go back to the drawing board.

    As for your collection of Christian laborers, I call them the church. But I see no reason why those laborers need to join a Christian labor union if they work with non-Christians. But if they live in a society that includes only Christians, then they work for a Christian boss and why in the world would they need to protect their class interests?

    Go back to the drawing board squared.

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  90. Zrim, same comment to you as to Erik. Of course, Grandma doesn’t know quantum mechanics. That’s not my point and never was. But her knowledge is more right and true relative to someone who denies the Creator. The point is that knowledge that doesn’t rightly relate to God analogous to trivia as far as the individual who knows it concerned. (This is not to say that such knowledge is not used more broadly to benefit humankind and even the elect with respect to creaturely comfort and good.)

    For what it’s worth, I’m also only for neo-Calvinism on its good days. (I’m also for 2k on its good days.)

    I still don’t seem to have a straight answer from Darryl whether God’s/Christ’s rule of the common realm is merely Providence (and thus whatever comes to pass) or whether there is an “ought” that is perceivable and functions as a standard for the common.

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  91. Darryl, what’s this “We’ll just appeal to NL if 2k pushes back too much?”

    Creational law/norms are a significant part of the neo-Calvinist project. The broad perspective (worldview, if you will) is dictated by Christian theology (doctrines of God, man, creation, sin, etc.) But, then the specifics are worked out empirically by interacting with the God-created (and now fallen) world. This is what we do in science–we observe God’s regular interactions with created things and we attempt to describe them, often mathematically. Interestingly, unbelievers observe the same regular interaction of God with created things. Thus, we can most of the time cooperate in our efforts. However, the unbeliever will not attribute God’s governing activity to God. They say assert that the Laws of Nature are just there. Richard Dawkins even asserts that to ask where they come from is a meaningless question, a non-question. (Then he mocks theists by saying that we should ask where God comes from.)

    You seem to think that 2k has a monopoly on taking Creation seriously. You’re mistaken about that.

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  92. nocable,

    He may be a “deeds, not creeds” kind of fellow.

    Odd, then, that some in the URCNA are now viewing Acts of CRC Synods as sacrosanct. Maybe we ought to just go out and watch them work a bread line.

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  93. Darryl, why do you say they live in a society that contains only Christians? Kuyper’s Netherlands didn’t.

    What makes you think that have a Christian company/boss means you don’t need a labor union? Perhaps economic normativity in a sufficiently developed society requires different institutions to enable the proper functioning of the whole. This is just the unfolding and development of creation. The labor union looks after one set of interests (the ones appropriate to them); the boss looks after another set of interests (the one appropriate to him). When they come together in good faith negotiations they arrive at a just, acceptable arrangement that is better than if they functioned alone.

    Indeed, there is a mystery to sin. Following my balls is not hard if you recognize that things aren’t the way their supposed to be (of course, we’re thinking direction here). I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers. Zebras vs. rats isn’t all that complicated. Normal cell biology vs. cancer cell biology–that’s a bit trickier. But “back to the drawing board?”–Nah.

    I don’t think you would call Christians who band together to be a labor union “the church”. The “church” shouldn’t be doing labor unions. Indeed, these Christians are part of the church. But they don’t forget who their Lord is when they’re not assembled together. (I know you want to give them different robes, but do want to say that they forget who their Lord is?) So when they do similar things as unbelievers do like form labor unions, but together follow God’s ways in that enterprise, what do we call them? A labor union of Christians? Does that work better for you? What if I said that’s what I mean by “Christian labor union?”

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  94. Terry, grandma’s knowledge of God is only superior if it is the kind that mixes with assent and will and is the stuff of faith. But if she knows nothing about quantum physics then the unbelieving quantum physicist’s natural knowledge is superior.

    “The point is that knowledge that doesn’t rightly relate to God analogous to trivia as far as the individual who knows it concerned.” 2+2=4 doesn’t go from trivial to substantive when faith is sprinkled on top. It remains trivial. What changes is a person, i.e. unbelief into belief. The neo notion of faith always seems like the medieval notion of grace. Where the medievals had grace leaking out a believer’s bath tub and in need to refill, neos have it leaking out the believer’s fingertips and redeeming whatever it touches. But grace is for persons alone, not them and their stuff.

    So when they do similar things as unbelievers do like form labor unions, but together follow God’s ways in that enterprise, what do we call them? A labor union of Christians? Does that work better for you? What if I said that’s what I mean by “Christian labor union?”

    Then say what you mean and dispense with the confusing language. Christians who band together to do X are called Christians doing x. What they do is not Christian x-ing. To suggest it is is a form of Christian narcissism: I (we) think x, I am (we are) Christian, therefore x is Christian. You might think the point about language trifling, but it actually matters. I bet you can’t do it any more than you can refrain from actually promoting Christian insert-creational-task-here. And that’s because you fundamentally hold that redemption is supposed to bear on creation directly in all of life. It’s received orthodoxy in neo-Calvinism–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and creation is to be normed by redemption, Amen.

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  95. Zrim, your “sprinkling on top” is exactly why CVT makes the claims that he makes about the Christian’s knowledge vs. the non-Christian’s knowledge. There is no sprinkling. Because there is no true knowledge without the proper knowledge of God. It’s only knowledge after a fashion and even that is given graciously (common grace) to the one who does not deserve it (who in fact deserves to be consumed in judgment immediately because of his rebellion). It’s not neutral/common knowledge with or without faith. Without faith it’s not knowledge other than in the most superficial sense (after a fashion so as to get along in the world). It’s fundamentally a religious claim here.

    Yes, of course, wrt grandma’s knowledge of God. The quantum physicist only has knowledge after a fashion. It’s not true knowledge because he doesn’t know the most fundamental aspect about quantum physics.

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  96. Terry M. Gray
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Permalink
    Zrim, your “sprinkling on top” is exactly why CVT makes the claims that he makes about the Christian’s knowledge vs. the non-Christian’s knowledge. There is no sprinkling. Because there is no true knowledge without the proper knowledge of God. It’s only knowledge after a fashion and even that is given graciously (common grace) to the one who does not deserve it (who in fact deserves to be consumed in judgment immediately because of his rebellion). It’s not neutral/common knowledge with or without faith. Without faith it’s not knowledge other than in the most superficial sense (after a fashion so as to get along in the world). It’s fundamentally a religious claim here.

    Yes, of course, wrt grandma’s knowledge of God. The quantum physicist only has knowledge after a fashion. It’s not true knowledge because he doesn’t know the most fundamental aspect about quantum physics.

    You’re hanging in there somehow, Dr. Gray. The piranha are many, but they’re toothless. Trying to gum you to death.

    “The most fundamental aspect about quantum physics” is that even “empty” space has properties and qualities. Therefore it’s not empty atall, it is not “nothing.” Grandma knows that much even if it’s hidden from the learned.

    As for the moronic “What is ‘Christian plumbing'” argument, shit flows downhill. It’s the natural law. The rest follows. The Christian plumber observes the natural law. With the gentiles, it’s still hit or miss, especially the Democrats, who still believe they can make it flow upward.

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  97. ” The quantum physicist only has knowledge after a fashion. It’s not true knowledge because he doesn’t know the most fundamental aspect about quantum physics.”

    I think this really gets at something I fundamentally don’t understand aboutthe neo-cal perspective. First, what does it mean to have knowledge after a fashion? Second, let’s saya xtian QP holds to the Copenhagen interpretation of qm (Polkinghorne?) while an atheist thinks the bohmian approach is better (valentini?). This is the best theory we have in science (truest?), and these guys differ on how to understand it. Your claim is that the believer has superior knowledge of qm bc he ackowledges God’s providence. But what if the atheist is correct and Bohm’s model proves more fundamental. Wouldn’t that imply the atheist had better knowledge? But maybe you mean all other things being equal, given two scientists with identical levels of empirical insight, competence, etc… The one who acknowledges providence has truer knowledge. Is that a fair summary? If so, maybe a better way to frame this would be to say the Christian has the capacity (framework?) to more fully appreciate qm rather than to focus on who has better knowledge.

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  98. Terry, there are plenty of oughts in creation. Have you noticed how moralistic our society is? We have senses of right and wrong, and creation has a built in order that we violate at our peril.

    But I don’t think any of this can be printed on a bumper sticker or made into some kind of movement for values (read transformation). It is just the way it is and we all limp along.

    I think the difference between 2k and neo-Cal’sm is the former are not optimists and the latter are.

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  99. Terry, that would the apostle Paul, and his telling Christians not to go to court against each other, that would be a reason for not having a Christian labor union in a Christian society.

    So what does your Christian labor union do with the non-Christian laborers at the factory? Wouldn’t it be better for all the workers to be in the same union and at the same bargaining table? Why form a Christian labor union except to separate (a la fundamentalism) yourself from unbelief?

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  100. Terry, if unbelievers only have a “knowledge after a fashion and even that is given graciously to him who does not deserve it,” are you suggesting that believers have a real knowledge and that they actually deserve? Religious arrogance alert. But if an unbeliever knows 2+2=4 then he has real knowledge and if both un/believers know it they both have a real knowledge more endowed than deserved.

    When you say “true knowledge” I say faith. Your phraseology is indicative of the intellectualism and rationalizing of faith of which neo-Calvinism is guilty. The embarrassing upshot is that you actually come off as saying that unbelievers don’t truly know what 2*2=4 means. Then why would you give an unbelieving third grader an A on his times tables drill when he says 2*2=4? You’re like Lucy taking the ball away from Charlie Brown, telling a student he has real knowledge but not really? Huh?

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  101. sdb, not to speak for Terry but actually the point of neo-Calvinism is to demonstrate (assert?) that believers have a leg up on unbelievers not only in the plan of redemption but also in the created order. Believers have more appreciation than unbelievers? I don’t know, my unbelieving scientists seem pretty revved up about the awesomesauce of the created world (ever heard of the “I Effing Love Science” crowd?). Who could blame them? But I know plenty of believers who aren’t nearly so appreciative either. Still doesn’t work for me, because on top of still being a way to conclude believers superior (a variant of religious arrogance) it’s still not explaining the real world I live in where there are those who believe and those who don’t and each group having vastly different levels of competence in and appreciation for the created order.

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  102. @Terry
    I apologize for the typos in my previous comment. I pecked it out on my phone pretty late. Let me see if I can clarify what I was getting at. When we talk about “knowledge” of ordinary things (toilets, quantum theory, or city administration), it seems to me that the 2K’er would say that one’s status as a Christian is irrelevant to one’s mastery of the topic (Darryl, please correct me if I am mistaken here). I don’t have a better understanding of how to design efficient toilets, do qm calculations, or manage a city’s traffic patterns because I am a Christian. The neo-cal seems to be saying that the unbeliever has an inferior knowledge of these things or that her knowledge is only knowledge after a fashion. By confessing Christ, we understand more about toilets, etc…. than we would otherwise?

    I think this is very hard to maintain exegetically or empirically. I can see how true faith would enable one to keep this knowledge in proper perspective (i.e., make it less likely that one would worship the creation rather than the creator), but I don’t see how one’s knowledge of this world is improved. Do I misunderstand what you are claiming for neo-calvinism?

    Assuming I am more or less on track, this leads me to the problem of Christian __________ . On the one hand it is divisive and can lead to a certain ghetto-ization (when one’s union, party, music, art, scholarship, etc… is “Christian”, then it is marginalized). By cutting oneself off from the mainstream of one’s discipline, one loses out on quality. Christian music, movies, science, and universities just aren’t as good as their secular counterparts. Forming Christian associations for quantum physics, plumbing, etc… restricts access to excellence in these endeavors from non-believers. It is too restrictive. On the other hand, a band of Christians who organize around one of these extra-ecclesiastical creational endeavors have to decide how broadly to define “Christian”. The development of ecumenical parachurch organizations isn’t so encouraging. They encroach on the work of the church without the oversight. They become too broad and the focal point becomes the creational endeavor rather than the creator.

    So at the same time, Christian ____________ is too narrow and too broad. It isn’t clear what the advantage is. Nor does there seem to be NT warrant for forming extra-ecclesiastical Christian groups.

    None of this is to say that Christians shouldn’t be plumbers, quantum physicists, or politicians. Nor is it to say that they shouldn’t acknowledge God’s providence in all we do. But I don’t see how my performance as a believer changes on account of my faith or what is added to what I do by prefacing it with “Christian”.

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  103. @Z
    “…the point of neo-Calvinism is to demonstrate (assert?) that believers have a leg up on unbelievers not only in the plan of redemption but also in the created order.”

    I would think that the evidence should show any fair minded individual that this is false. In what endeavor are Christians really outperforming their non-Christian counterparts? I don’t think our track record is so hot.

    “Believers have more appreciation than unbelievers?”
    I don’t think this is generally true, but I think we have the capacity to appreciate creation better because we know the creator. The “I Effing Love Science” crowd is a great case in point. This kind of fanboy-ism over science is embarrassing. They don’t properly appreciate science (and its limitations). This isn’t to say that Christians always get it right – we all have a built in tendency to worship the created rather than the creator. But (to paraphrase the HC) we have freed from the tyranny of the devil and Christ by his Holy Spirit makes me ready to live for him (presumably this means that I am less bound to confuse the creation and the creator). So I can see how true faith provides one with the capacity to properly appreciate creation even if we don’t always get it right.

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  104. sdb and zrim, but if a believer has an otherworldly faith, you know, stranger and aliens, how much is the refugee going to follow U.S. news when what’s really important is what’s happening back in the New Jerusalem. I do think Christian devotion detaches us from the world and neo-Cal’s along with transformers of various stripes — some like Ken Myers call it gnosticism — don’t like that detachment. But it sure is hard to read the NT and not be detachified.

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  105. I think the model to follow is Daniel. It’s odd that Christian parents (including homeschoolers & Christian schoolers) tell their kids, “dare to be a Daniel”. What they mean is, “be like the Daniel who was willing to go into the Lion’s Den for his faith”. Daniel spent most of his time succeeding in “secular” society, though, only drawing a line in the sand when his religious convictions were truly under assault. This should probably be our model today, not trying to recreate Christendom or establish our own Christian versions of everything.

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  106. sdb, agreed. But as I’ve said throughout this conversation, language is important. “Appreciation” seems like such a subjective category and one easily used to promote religious superiority. I mean, how do we account for unbelievers who properly appreciate creation? One way is to deny the premise and say they don’t, but that hardly seems fair. All faith seems able to do is connect the noumenal and phenomenonal dots. How that makes those who make that connection any better (at appreciating or understanding or teaching, etc.) phenomenon seems strained and not helpful at fostering the sort of modesty Christian faith is supposed to yield.

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  107. Darryl, which is why the operating category for neo-Calvinism is Christian worldview (this-worldly), while for the Bible and 2k it’s Christian faith (otherworldly).

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  108. Speaking of aliens and strangers, this morning NPR had a story on Pope Francis being involved in the Middle East peace process or something along those lines and you would have thought the man had nuclear weapons and commanded a million man army the weight his opinions were given. Has a religious figure ever received better press?

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  109. Erik, own thought this morning listening to the same story was whether the Roman faithful are ever struck by just how utterly embroiled the church is in worldly affairs–Rome, the original Protestant liberalism and Reformed neo-Calvinism. But the 2k peso exchange rate keeps tanking at ground zero…

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  110. Erik, or has the press lost all powers of evaluation? Do they treat Queen Elizabeth this way? The Dutch monarch? Tim Keller? You mention “pope” and their knees wobble? Could it be that public radio is saturated with ex-Roman Catholics? I mean the friggin’ governor of Michigan has more clout than the pope (temporally speaking).

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  111. zrim — dah ding! I’m convinced that Rome has picked up Protestant converts because it does what the mainline used to do — and has been doing it so much longer. I’d love to see what the press would do if Francis showed up in Jerusalem with Swiss soldiers.

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  112. All, I suspect you will be disappointed with my answer here, because you are arguing against things I have never said (wrt to 2+2=4, quantum physics, plumbing, etc.). Perhaps I will put things in sdb’s lingo about perspective.

    Perspective is part of knowledge. If you don’t have the right perspective, your knowledge is fundamentally deficient. It’s merely “after a fashion”. More or less, that’s what I’ve been saying all along. I have never said that a Christian has a leg up on the non-Christian with respect to knowledge after a fashion. I’m not sure that a Christian perspective helps one decide on the right interpretation of QM (unless there some claim about Divine knowledge or where the Creator/Creature distinction is ignored). I’m not sure I want to claim that universally about the disciplines in academia or in various vocations–after all there is some overlap between reality (Creation) and what is revealed in Scripture.

    I suspect that you all will say this is a weak claim. And it can easily be interpreted as a “sprinkled on” type of knowledge. But this is why I (and CVT) want to use fairly absolute language here. Also, you will notice that the right perspective is only available to believers, whose hearts awakened/reborn to the knowledge of God.

    2+2=4 functions in its limited “after a fashion” sense for both the believer and the unbeliever to make change, to do chemistry, or to calculate electrostatic potentials. No leg up with respect to this sort of “after a fashion in order to get along in the world” knowledge.

    Zrim, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to commend people for “after a fashion” knowledge.

    Also, your comments concerning “religious arrogance” have always intrigued me. If you accept the believer/unbeliever distinction then there is a certain advantage. (I’m not sure I want to call it arrogance, though.) Believers are in the light, unbelievers are in the dark. Believers are going to heaven, unbelievers are going to hell. Believer are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, unbelievers are still in their sin(s). Believers have their sins forgiven, unbelievers walk around with true guilt. It’s completely true that “but by the grace of God, there go I” and so there is no boasting (no arrogance). But believers have received the grace of God and so we don’t go there–we’re in the light, going to heaven, forgiven, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, recognize God as Creator of heaven and earth.

    I would agree that “appreciation” is not the right word here. Idolaters appreciate their idols. Some people who get jazzed by science (the IFLS crowd) are worshiping their God. Complete devotion would be generally expected. Check this out: http://www.cosmosontv.com/live-event (I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the Cosmos series, despite the occasional jabs at religious belief, but this panel Q&A reveals an interesting “perspective” by some very smart people).

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  113. Darryl, would a labor union of Christians countenance violence the way some labor unions historically have? Would a labor union of Christians have connections with organized crime?

    I would assume that whatever contracts the labor union of Christians would negotiate for would apply to all the workers.

    Do you think that the political process (i.e. negotiations, competing interests, compromise, etc.) is the result of the Fall? Or is this part of being human and embedded in a human society?

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  114. I’m sorry for being so dense, but I still don’t understand what knowledge “after a fashion” is and it seems to be doing a lot of work here.

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  115. Pope Francis is jet setting around the globe with…get this…a Jewish Rabbi from Argentina. If that doesn’t qualify him to solve the world’s problems, what does? Have we ever witnessed a man with this degree of wisdom? He reeks of ecumenism and elderberries. “Rolling Stone” should name him “Man of the Year”. If he can add an Imam to his entourage we may indeed be witnessing the second coming.

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  116. Being Catholic just has a cache’ that being Baptist or Reformed or Pentecostal (gasp!) never will have. In a three way race for a Iowa State House seat in Des Moines two of the men have Italian (Sicilian?) surnames, are graduates of Dowling Catholic, and are members of the Roman Catholic Church. That’s a pedigree that means something in Des Moines, especially in Democratic Party politics. No wonder Jason and Bryan were impressed.

    There are opportunities to trade on Catholicism for worldly riches that just don’t exist in respectable Protestantism.

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  117. Terry, the implication of what you (*you*) have said is that there is a difference between real knowledge and so-called “knowledge after a fashion.” It seems safe to say that the former is true and good, the latter is lacking and corrupt.

    That said, my point about religious arrogance is not in regard to the spiritual antithesis—there are indeed children of light being saved and children of darkness being condemned and ne’er the twain shall meet. It’s in relation to our commonality. It is simply arrogant to suggest that among those who have equal access to the reservoir of the created order some have real knowledge of that order and some only a “knowledge after a fashion.” One either has true natural knowledge or he doesn’t, much like one either has supernatural faith or he doesn’t. What your views imply is that just as some might teach that there are first and second class believers in the realm of redemption, there are first and second class citizens in the realm of creation and that it is based on the respective spiritual statuses. There is only true knowledge (2+2=4) or false knowledge (2+2=5) of the created order, but once that fuzzy category called “knowledge after a fashion” of the created order pops up so does the religious arrogance.

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  118. Terry, do you think Christians should take others to court (which is what contract negotiations are)? Great, you think Christian labor unions aren’t corrupt. That’s where w-w always leads. Christians are moral, non-Xians aren’t.

    More fundamentalism.

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  119. Terry, re: perspective. What neo-Cal’sm had done in countless cases is nurture a fundamentally flawed (i.e. unbiblical) perspective. It has encouraged Xians to think they have insider knowledge on things that are common, on things that Christians have no more insight (because Scripture is silent) than unbelievers, on things they regard as holy or profane when they aren’t either — they are merely common. Neo-Calvinism ratchets up the stakes of everything — all endeavors are finally spiritual and either for or against God.

    And you talk about perspective. Neo-Cals need to get one.

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  120. sdb,

    I’m not sure it’s “after a fashion” that’s trying to bear the weight; I suspect it’s more the word “true”.

    Here is the CVT quote from A Survey of Christian Epistemology

    The argument in favor of Christian theism must therefore seek to prove that if one is not a Christian theist he knows nothing at all as he ought to know anything. The difference is not that all men alike know certain things about the finite universe and that some claim some additional knowledge, while the others do not. On the contrary, the Christian theist must claim that he alone has true knowledge about cows and chickens as well as about God. He does this in no spirit of conceit, because it is a gift of God’s grace. Nor does he deny that there is knowledge after a fashion that enables the non-theist to get along after a fashion in the world. This is the gift of God’s common grace, and therefore does not change the absoluteness of the distinction made about the knowledge and ignorance of the theist and the non-theist respectively.

    My attempt to explain this is at http://grayt2.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/the-similarity-of-the-christians-and-non-christians-science/

    What surprises me in all this is that Van Til and his view of knowledge has been standard fare in the OPC and at WTS throughout their history. @OldLife and the “Escondido Theology” are the new kids on the block on this issue as far as the OPC is concerned. You all may think of yourselves as “paleo-Calvinists” but as far as the OPC is concerned you’re the “neos”.

    Would Darryl and Zrim want to say that Van Til’s book is mis-titled? That there’s no such thing as a Christian epistemology.

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  121. Terry, the older Protestants used the categories of belief and unbelief, not true knowledge and knowledge after a fashion. Sorry, but when I read you and CVT I hear modernity in the background. So if 2kers follow the older Prots and use the categories of un/belief and others prefer the modern categories worldview and esoteric distinctions between kinds of knowledge, then who’s paleo and who’s neo? I mean, Calvin pre-dated CVT. But even more than that, 2kers also part with the theocrat Calvin. Do neos ever contemplate the possibility CVT’s foibles? Gasp.Can you distinguish between a man inspired after a fashion (Calvin, CVT)and an infallible writer (Paul and Peter)?

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  122. Zrim, of course, no human theologian is perfect. And I don’t disagree with your timeline (although I tend to see more continuity between Calvin and Kuyper (and Augustine and Paul) than you guys do). I don’t really think DVD’s analysis extended much into the OPC. I’ll have to review what he had to say about Van Til. My point is the narrow point about the OPC only. The OPC has been Van Tillian to its core (almost extra-confessionally so). The MTI guidelines for ministerial training recommends presuppositional apologetics and a defense of its superiority over other forms of apologetics. While this is not the WCF or even the Church Order, it shows the commitment of the OPC to this view.

    “CVT foibles”. I think CVT would say that this epistemological claim here is at the heart of his project. This is no foible. Take away this epistemological claim and you’ve gutted Van Til. He may as well not be there.

    No doubt the neo-Calvinist project resulted from engagement with modernity. The problem with paleo-theology and paleo-philosophy to some degree is that I’m not sure you can go back. The evidentialist project collapses in light of modern epistemology. Yeah, yeah, I know that you’ll somehow appeal to Peter and Paul and some kind of straightforward reading of the Biblical text. (Although I’m not so sure I’m willing to grant that Christian theology hasn’t always had some of the elements of modernity that you eschew.)

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  123. Terry, yes, those straightforward readings of the biblical writers will always throw a wrench in the neo-Calvinist works–best to avoid it and consign any attempt to a thinly veiled Biblicism. But what can I say? The point isn’t to gut CVT or presuppositional apologetics. It’s to question neo-Calvinism, a third rail effort in the P&R world convinced of its awesomesauce, I know. But when the logic leads to conclusions like the following statements, some of us are simply left wondering if something’s askew in the Netherlands:

    “Non-Christians believe that the personality of the child can develop best if it is not placed face to face with God. Christian believe that the child’s personality cannot develop at all unless it is placed face to face with God. Non-Christian education puts the child in a vacuum. In this vacuum the child is expected to grow. The result is that the child dies. Christian education alone really nurtures personality because it alone gives the child air and food.”

    “Non-Christians believe that authority hurts the growth of the child. Christians believe that without authority a child cannot live at all.”

    “The only reason why we are justified in having Christian schools is that we are convinced that outside of a Christian-theistic atmosphere there can be no more than an empty process of one abstraction teaching abstractness to other abstractions.”

    “No teaching of any sort is possible except in Christian schools.”

    “On the basis of our opponents the position of the teacher is utterly hopeless. He knows that he knows nothing and that in spite of this fact he must teach. He knows that without authority he cannot teach and that there are no authorities to which he can appeal. He has to place the child before an infinite series of possibilities and pretend to be able to say something about the most advisable attitude to take with respect to the possibilities, and at the same time he has to admit that he knows nothing at all about those possibilities. And the result for the child is that he is not furnished with an atmosphere in which he can live and grow.”

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  124. Darryl, is neo-Calvinism alive and well in the CRC? And I do recognize that CVT in general has had less influence in the CRC. I could see in the 80’s already that Calvin College transformationalism was being disconnected from the Reformed confession. The OPC and CVT more faithfully maintain that connection. The 3 strands–docs, pies, Kuyps–were seen as equally legitimate even in isolation from each other. In other words someone was considered Reformed if they were a transformationalist without holding to Reformed doctrine or Reformed piety. I prefer to think that all 3 ought to be maintained simultaneously. As such the possible excess of each are curbed.

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  125. Zrim, we all know that straightforward reading of the text isn’t the way to go or we’d all be cosmic redemptionists (Col. 1:20) or we’d think we should raise our hands when we pray (1 Timothy 2:8) or we’d baptize for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29) or we’d think that sanctification did something significant (1 Cor. 6:9-11) or we’d think that the kings of the earth will bring gifts to the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24) or we’d think that God created the heavens and earth in six twenty-four hour days just a few thousand years ago (Gen. 1,5,11).

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  126. Terry, since when was a plain reading of the text more biblicist than Reformed? But a plain reading also keeps the fairer sex from being ordained, Mr. CRC (1 Tim 2:12), as well as the unqualified among the uglier sex (Titus 1, 1 Tim 3). And nothing wrong with raised hands, I say, so long as it’s done per the dialogical principle and in a good and decent order (1 Cor 14:40). Do biblicists care about the dialogical principle?

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  127. Zrim, I’m curious why you guys never agree with me, even when I state the obvious. A Reformed hermeneutic doesn’t just read the text “plainly”. It reads it rightly with proper grammatical-historical and redemptively historical nuance. Are we violating the regulative principle if we don’t greet each other with a holy kiss? Do your women wear head coverings? The argument for infant baptism or cessationism or Presbyterian government or a dialogical principle in worship or amillennialism or for that matter, limited atonement, irresistible grace, or perseverance of the saints, isn’t “plain”. Now I happen to think that the Reformed confessions have it right on all these things, but if you’ve spent any time discussing these issues with people who don’t share your viewpoint you see that perhaps its not as clear as we’d like to think when we declare something to be the “clear teaching of scripture.”

    Additionally, it strikes me as interesting that we can agree on the vast majority of Reformed doctrine yet get worked up about things that aren’t even in the creeds, confessions, and catechisms.

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  128. Terry, you might recall that you’ve earned the reputation of a neo-Cal with which this 2ker can live, so you might dial back the suggestion that you get nowhere over here. And in keeping with that, you make a good point about plain reading. Reformed hermeneutics 101 does tell us that no reader comes to the text without bias, that every reader has a grid with which to interpret holy writ. Which puts a stick in the spokes of wider evangelicalism’s biblicism (and Reformed that are unduly influenced by it) which says to simply pick up and read the Bible and, presto, everything will become clear. That wasn’t my experience as a young unbeliever. A bare back reading by someone seeking worldly wisdom only caused me to toss the little green NT being handed out outside Pierce Hall over my shoulder (pshaw, just a bunch of play-by-play accounts about some fellow who made wild claims and then allegedly rose from the dead, yawn). And moving out of eeeevangelicalism and into Reformation doesn’t come with a simplistic reading of the Bible, it comes more so with the hard work of having to change categories with which one reads the Bible (and plenty of other shifts).

    But that’s my point, namely that there is a difference between naive biblicism and plain reading. There really is such a thing as taking the biblical writers at their word and not unnecessarily complicating things. And the mirror error of Biblicism is what we find in something like Romanism, where the text is rendered so complicated that we need an infallible magisterium to decode it. Plain reading balances those two errors out. Is that really controversial?

    And so by that same point the claims of neo-Calvinism become sketchy, because by neo-Calvinism’s lights everyone should read the Bible and conclude that whatever else it may mean the gospel entails the transformation of society or that the Bible provides a framework for doing all of life. Pardon? I don’t see any of that anywhere in the Bible. I don’t see a framework for how to make sense of this world but a revelation about the world to come. Those are two very different things.

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  129. Zrim, wasn’t sure I really I had that reputation, especially with Darryl😉

    I wasn’t distinguishing between “plain reading” and “naive Biblicism”. I like to say that we take the Bible seriously which means that we interpret it rightly (not necessarily naively) and do what it says even when highly counter-cultural. I suspect we’re on the same page here.

    I suppose we continue to disagree about the degree to which the Bible and the worldview derived from Christian theology is relevant to creaturely existence in general and about the nature of the world to come.

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  130. @Terry
    I’m a bit late getting back to this. I can’t say much about the OPC/WTC reverence for CVT (or lack thereof) – this blog is the extent of my experience with the OPC. I’m PCA – I don’t think we have any OPC congregations in my neck of the woods.

    Maybe it is “true” rather than “fashion” that is tripping me up…I dunno. Who has better knowledge of electrodynamics – Maxwell (an orthodox Christian) or Jackson (an atheist as far as I know)? Maxwell’s formalism is great as far as it goes, but his framework was all wrong. Jackson has more knowledge of electrodynamics than Maxwell ever did. Of course neither of them have “true” knowledge of electrodynamics – theories are constantly evolving as more data comes in. No one has “true” knowledge of these things if by “true” knowledge you mean complete.

    So what is the scientist missing out on about electrodynamics by not believing in God? How does Christian electrodynamics look different from Atheistic electrodynamics?

    I could see if it was something “sprinkled on” so to speak – perhaps we might keep our science in proper perspective and be less likely to fall into the IFLS nonsense. But CVT is making a much stronger claim than that. I don’t find his epistemology very convincing.

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  131. sdb, if the knowledge of something includes that it is created by God, then the unbeliever doesn’t have the most basic knowledge of that thing. It seems that you want to separate the knowledge of the physics of electromagnetism from the knowledge of God. Van Til wants to say that this cannot and should not be done. Thus, it is only knowledge after a fashion. I think he would even avoid calling it partial knowledge because then you get the notion that the knowledge of God is just an add-on.

    I’m not saying here, as some have suggested, that the knowledge of God or the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit gives some kind of advantage with respect to this knowledge after a fashion. Although, as I’ve said before, some ideas may be eliminated because the conflict with what we know from scripture about the nature of reality. But, in all honesty, I’d be hard-pressed to think of any current scientific theory that I couldn’t understand as an expression of God’s creative and providential will. Admittedly, some scientists (in priestly garb) will use some scientific theory to deny God or to suggest that he is superfluous, but it’s usually because they are bad theologians. In many ways it gets back to the idea that if there is a scientific explanation for something then somehow God is not involved (a univocity of explanation). But if we hold to an idea such as concursus (as we do when we speak of the divine and human in the Scriptures–see my paper here if you’re interested), then God is present and at work even when I have an scientific explanation in hand. Is God’s action part of our scientific theory? I think not. And this is why believers and unbelievers can cooperate. We both start with the common ground that there is a regularity to the operations of the universe. We disagree on the basis for that regularity.

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  132. I wasn’t distinguishing between “plain reading” and “naive Biblicism”. I like to say that we take the Bible seriously which means that we interpret it rightly (not necessarily naively) and do what it says even when highly counter-cultural. I suspect we’re on the same page here.

    Terry, could be. One test might be what each of us makes of Enns who doesn’t want to take Paul at his word on submitting to civil authorities and suggests that to do so is to make a mistake–Paul was just propping up the assumptions of his times, which is to say being countenance-cultural, which is to say not binding believers in all times and places on civil obedience. But it’s highly counter-cultural to read Paul plainly and conclude that his words are indeed binding on those believers who inhabit a time and place that esteems civil rebellion as a virtue and obedience a vice.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/04/the-apostle-pauls-clear-inerrant-teaching-on-government-and-why-we-dont-need-to-follow-it/

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  133. Zrim, while I think Pete is sensitive to a lot of the nuances of Biblical interpretation and Inspiration and Incarnation has much good in it. But generally, I think he’s gone off in the wrong direction. He’s disconnected from the Reformed confession. Even I, with what many think is a liberal stance on origins, don’t accept his views on Adam and the way he handles Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. To be honest I’m not clear how he decides what’s from God and what’s Paul’s sanctified opinion or personal wisdom. I cannot see how this cannot but erode the foundations of evangelical doctrine. I’m not sure he has landed yet.

    While I appreciate and endorse my country’s political system as defined in various founding documents, I am willing to say that the American Revolution may have been a violation of God’s revealed will. Who knows which side I would have picked had I been there? Of course, one can make a defense on the basis of the powers of lesser magistrates and the legitimacy of lesser magistrates to challenge and resist higher magistrates. But Pete makes it sound like any one who’s an American doesn’t accept Paul’s teaching in Romans 13. I think he’s wrong about that.

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  134. It’s not just Evans and the neo-Calvinists. It’s still the old theonomists.

    Larry Ball—Under the old Puritan-Reformed theology the right to freedom was ultimately guaranteed by God’s Law. The civil magistrate was a minister of God to insure justice as defined by God. This was the root of our civil liberties, not a social contract like the U. S. Constitution whose authors omitted any reference to the God of the Bible. There was a time when the men of God would call to account the civil magistrate when he deviated from his responsibility to uphold God’s Law. It was the duty of every preacher.

    The Bible condemns slander but not free speech. Christians are to speak the truth in love. Christians must not bear false witness (9th Commandment). The right to life in the womb is not merely a civil right. It is protected by the 6th Commandment. The right to marry someone of the same sex is now a civil liberty protected by the Constitution, yet it is disobedience to the 7th Commandment. The right to debase the money supply is considered to be a pathway to prosperity, however it is disobedience to the 8th Commandment. It is legalized theft.

    Appeal to the U.S. Constitution alone is pure Americanism. That’s all it is. Contrary to Americanism, our freedom is rooted in the Law of God (which is not opposed to the grace of God in Christ).

    What we need today are brave preachers who understand the sovereignty of God over all of life, and not some two-kingdom preachers who appeal to Americanism for civil rights and see Christianity as only dealing with the soul. It is easy to see how bad theology lost America to secular humanism. I believe that the Church is to blame. Americanism is not the same thing as Christianity.

    http://theaquilareport.com/americanism-is-not-christianity/#.VmQ2Edk08IA.facebook

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