With Friends Like These

This caught my eye (from under the bus). Matt Tuininga calls me a friend and I guess that’s supposed to weaken the sting of what’s included:

But Scott Clark’s version and Darryl Hart’s version is not the Reformed version. And it is not just their conclusions about religion in the public square that are different. These are fundamentally different political theologies.

Yes, Calvin argued, and rightly so, that the church should only proclaim what the Word teaches. The church should stay out of public policy debates. Yes, Calvin argued, and rightly so, that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual. It cannot be conflated with the moral transformation of secular society. But Calvin also affirmed that the Word teaches much about society and that the church must proclaim these teachings. And when he said that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual he meant essentially that the kingdom of Christ is eschatological, not that it has no implications for material social life (as I show here). Remember, we are talking about the theologian who recovered and reestablished the diaconate as a spiritual, materially oriented office (again, as I show here). I have written much about this and will not rehash it all here.

Scott and Darryl are both friends to me, and I am grateful for all they have done for me over the years. But their thinking on these points is not clear and it is not helpful. It is hardly likely to persuade anyone tempted to embrace the Social Gospel, given that it merely presents an individualistic and virtually neo-Platonized gospel as the alternative.

On the way to this characterization, Matt waves at the Bible but does little more when he writes:

Appealing to J. Gresham Machen’s doctrine of the spirituality of the church, which he identifies with John Calvin’s two kingdoms doctrine, Clark argues that “social concerns” are outside of the scope of the gospel. Thus Machen, in his official capacity as a gospel minister, “refrained from speaking to social concerns because of the teaching of the New Testament. Read on its own terms, the teaching of the New Testament about the Kingdom of God is remarkably silent about the pressing social concerns of the day.”

Does Clark forget how much the New Testament has to say about justice for the widow and the orphan, good news for the poor, the oppression of the weak, marriage, slavery, the breakdown of social barriers (between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, Barbarian, Scythian), violence, reconciliation, sharing with those in need, the diaconate, obedience to civil authority, families, peacemaking, or any other number of vices and virtues that pertain to relationships between human beings. What version of the New Testament is he reading? In what world are these not pressing social concerns?

Paul actually put tight limits on the aid widows could receive. The poor included the Centurion who had servants (who were sort of like slaves). Yes, Paul wrote about marriage but he hardly set up a parachurch organization, Focus on the Family. And Paul and Peter talked a lot about submitting to those in authority (and to the surrounding social order); that hardly made them transformational and hardly allowed for readers to spot where those apostles paying honor to — wait for it — Nero were hoping for a new Christian social order. A string of words that have a certain register in Sociology 101 hardly makes the New Testament a playbook for a Social Gospel.

For some reason, though (maybe it’s a Dutch thing), Matt doesn’t put David VanDrunen in Plato’s cave with Scott Clark and me. I don’t have any idea why (though I have a few hunches) because VanDrunen could not be clearer about the spirituality of the church and the New Testament’s silence about building a just, moral, and spiritually transformed society (thanks to Zrim for doing the typing):

The Lord Jesus Christ did not come to raise up followers who would transform the cultures of this world. Christ came as the Last Adam to achieve the original goal of the First Adam under the covenant of works: the new heaven and new earth. By his perfect obedience, death, resurrection, and ascension Christ has succeeded. By virtue of his achievement Christians, by faith, share in his verdict of justification, his heavenly citizenship, and his everlasting inheritance. Redemption does not put Christians back on track to accomplish the original goal of the First Adam through their own cultural work—Christ has already done that on their behalf perfectly and finally. Misunderstanding this point is perhaps the fatal flaw of neo-Calvinism. Until the day when Christ returns he has ordained that his people be pilgrims in this world and be gathered together in the church.

It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of the fact that the church was the only institution that the Lord Jesus established in this world during his earthly ministry. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God; that is, the new creation, the original goal of the human race under the covenant of works. Yet if we scour the Gospels we find but one institution that Jesus associates with the kingdom and but one to which Jesus points to find the power and the ethic of the kingdom at work here and now. Jesus did not establish the family or civil government, but simply affirmed their legitimacy. He did not lay out plans for kingdom businesses. Families, governments, and businesses already existed under God’s providential rule and were common in the cultures of this world long before the kingdom was announced. Jesus established his church. Unlike the cultural institutions of this world, Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church alone. He entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the church alone. He commissioned disciplinary procedures reflecting the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount for the church alone. He promised, to the church alone, that where two or three are gathered in his name he himself will be there among them.

Christ came, in other words, not to transform the cultures of this world but to win the kingdom of God, the new creation, which will be cataclysmically revealed out of heaven on the last day, and to establish the church, for the time being, as a counter-cultural institution that operates not according to the cultures of this world but in anticipation of the life of the age-to-come. The church has its own doctrine, its own worship, its own government, its own discipline, its own ministry of mercy, and its own strange ethic of non-violence and forgiveness that defies the wisdom of this world. Jesus and his apostles did exert great effort to shape a culture: the church’s culture. The New Testament makes clear, of course, that Christians must live and work among the cultures of this world, and should be just, honest, loving, and industrious as they do so. But the only culture-shaping task in which the New Testament shows any serious interest is the formation of the church. In light of such considerations I suggest that the only Christian culture—in the profoundest sense of the term—is found in the ministry and fellowship of true churches of Christ operating according to the teaching of Scripture alone.

I wonder if that also sounds neo-Platonic.

To correct Matt, 2kers, even the unhelpful ones, do think the gospel is social. The gospel society is the church, which may explain why some of us are active in our communions and congregations. Maybe Matt did not mean to discount that. But it sure does seem that the church trumps society even for the Westminster Divines who were thinking about the place of Christianity in a society torn apart by civil war:

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)

The church is social and proclaims the gospel. Society is not the church and it does not proclaim the gospel. (I’m sure there’s a logical fallacy in there somewhere.)

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137 thoughts on “With Friends Like These

  1. You and RSC may be the unscariest pair of bogeymen the world has ever seen. Scott is a danger primarily to Chik-fil-A menu items, and you’re a danger to….(still working)….(little spinning icon)…

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  2. Maybe the bus-throwing was part of the price of admission to teach at the HQ of Every-Square-Inch-Ville – Calvin Seminary.

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  3. DGH: “To correct Matt, 2kers, even the unhelpful ones, do think the gospel is social.”

    Thanks Darryl, I’m glad to see you acknowledge this! The church is, as you write, a social reality. I’d simply add that the gospel also shapes the way we inhabit secular/temporal social institutions as well, along the lines of the household codes in Ephesians 5-6, or along the lines of Paul’s instruction concerning government in Romans 13.

    In the ways that we engage secular institutions we testify that although they are passing away, the future of all things is tied up with Christ, and with him we are the heirs of the world. (All that to say, I agree that to say the gospel is social is not to endorse the social gospel.)

    Now if we can agree that the work of sanctification, as performed by Christ by his Spirit, is part of the gospel, not simply an implication of the gospel, we will really be getting somewhere.

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  4. Matt T: Now if we can agree that the work of sanctification, as performed by Christ by his Spirit, is part of the gospel, not simply an implication of the gospel, we will really be getting somewhere.

    Sanctification is indeed a part of the gospel and not an implication of it.

    Meanwhile, sanctification is an implication of justification and not a part of it.

    Easy-peasy.

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  5. Matt, actually, what would be getting somewhere is your not mimicking the neo-Cals and calling those who dissent “not Reformed.” Does that brand apply to VanDrunen?

    As for sanctification, if you can explain how this is social you may get a pass from your “friend”:

    Q. 75. What is sanctification?
    A. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

    Sounds pretty personal and not social. What’s next? The Westminster Standards aren’t Reformed?

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  6. Darryl, I didn’t call you “not Reformed.” I said that your version of the two kingdoms doctrine is not the Reformed version.

    On sanctification in Q 75, is holiness not social? Can there be repentance without love or justice? Do you really dispute the fact that sanctification is social?

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  7. Matt,

    The gospel “shapes the way we inhabit secular/temporal institution’s”, but does the gospel mean that we should shape those institutions?

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  8. CW,

    Yes, Paul used the word justice (dikaios) all the time. In English translations it is usually translated ‘righteousness’ but it is the same word. In other languages it is often simply translated justice.

    Nate,

    I think it depends what you mean by “shape”. Should I “shape” my marriage as a picture of the love between Christ and the church? I should try to.

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  9. Matt, I wonder if this doesn’t take us into the realm of it sounds good, but it doesn’t have a lot of detail to it. So, it works at the pep rally but it lacks on the field. And what about issues of jurisdiction and competency?

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  10. DGHart:Sounds pretty personal and not social.

    Personal? you mean to love oneself even more?

    1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, (toward others)2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation

    1 Thess 3 11 Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; 12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; 13 so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

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  11. Matt, still, where do you get authorization to declare some articulations of 2k “not Reformed”? Do you really think there isn’t enough room for the likes of Darryl and Scott? Criticism I get, but that kind of indictment, to say nothing of the “neo-Platonic” jazz, begins to sound like you’re trying to prove something (I could speculate as to why but will refrain).

    Re the shaping of marriage (or whatever is grounded in creation and not redemption, ahem), aren’t there sufficient prescriptions in the NT that sound more like law instead of gospel, e.g. love and patience as opposed to lord over? You still hold that marriage is grounded in creation, right?

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  12. Not to equate being “old school Reformed” with agreement with Calvin, it’s interesting to see how the social arrangements of Christendom effect the jurisdiction of the church over the world.

    Calvin on I Corinthians 5— A question might be proposed by way of objection: “As Paul said this at a time when Christians were as yet mingled with heathens, and dispersed among them, what ought to be done now, when all have given themselves to Christ in name? For even in the present day we must go out of the world, if we would avoid the society of the wicked; and there are none that are strangers, when all take upon themselves Christ’s name, and are consecrated to him by baptism.”

    Should any one feel inclined to follow Chrysostom, he will find no difficulty in replying, to this effect: that Paul here took for granted what was true — that, where there is the power of excommunication, there is an easy remedy for effecting a separation between the good and the bad, if Churches do their duty. As to strangers, (at that time) the Christians at Corinth had no jurisdiction, and they could not restrain their dissolute manner of life. Hence they must of necessity have quitted the world, if they wished to avoid the society of the wicked, whose vices they could not cure.

    For my own part, as I do not willingly adopt interpretations which cannot be made to suit the words, otherwise than by twisting the words so as to suit them, I prefer one that is different from all these, taking the word rendered to go out as meaning to be separated, and the term world as meaning the pollutions of the world “What need have you of an injunction as to the children of this world, (Luke 16:8,) for having once for all renounced the world, it becomes you to stand aloof from their society; for the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” 297 (1 John 5:19.)

    If any one is not satisfied with this interpretation, here is still another that is probable: “I do not write to you in general terms, that you should shun the society of the fornicators of this world, though that you ought to do, without any admonition from me.” I prefer, however, the former… There is, then, a sort of intentional omission, when he says that he makes no mention of those that are without, inasmuch as the Corinthians OUGHT TO BE ALREADY separated from them, that they may know that even at home they required to maintain this discipline of avoiding the wicked.

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom39.xii.iii.html

    Does not being “Reformed” mean saying that Israel has always been the Church? Does being “Reformed” mean saying that Israel is the same it has always been, except now it includes all nations, not just one nation? Since the word ekklesia (“church”) is used of both Israel and the new covenant assembly, then doesn’t that mean that “the church” has always been not merely a type of Christ’s kingdom but always actually Christ’s kingdom?

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  13. Steve (Zrim),

    It’s not a matter of “authorization.” It is a truth claim. Whether or not it is supported in the data is up for debate, but as you know, I have some expertise from which to speak to the matter. Again, I’m not saying Darryl and Scott aren’t Reformed. What I’m saying is that the claims they are articulating, to which I drew attention in my post, are fundamentally inconsistent with some key claims of the Reformed two kingdoms tradition.

    On your second point, yes, I believe marriage is rooted in creation. But that doesn’t mean the gospel shouldn’t shape Christian marriages, per Ephesians. On your point about the law, I’d have to know more about the sense in which you are using the word ‘law’.

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  14. So what Paul meant by righteousness is equal to the very popular, fundable, and marketable 21st century Xian concept of (social) justice? That’s convenient. Imagine much more transformed everything would be without the Vichy brigades (about 12 guys) of errant, non-Reformed Reformed 2kers.

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  15. aw cw, don’t you see an unequivocal voice of even you 12 is needed to counter voices like this ‘christian’ one in our newpaper just today.* the spirit of prophecy =the testimony of Jesus –not the one of one’s own imagination, but the true one.

    *”The sun still came up after the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage. I never understood what the fuss was about? The archaic forces that profess the Lamanites were given dark sin because they were evil and that gay marriage offended Jesus – wow! Who made that stuff up? Slowly but surely America is becoming a kinder place. If you want to vacation in a land of Old Testament cruelty, you’ll just have to take a Carnival cruise to a caliphate far wat.

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  16. a.
    Posted July 20, 2015 at 8:49 pm | Permalink
    aw cw, don’t you see an unequivocal voice of even you 12 is needed to counter voices like this ‘christian’ one in our newpaper just today.* the spirit of prophecy =the testimony of Jesus –not the one of one’s own imagination, but the true one.

    *”The sun still came up after the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage. I never understood what the fuss was about? The archaic forces that profess the Lamanites were given dark sin because they were evil and that gay marriage offended Jesus – wow! Who made that stuff up? Slowly but surely America is becoming a kinder place. If you want to vacation in a land of Old Testament cruelty, you’ll just have to take a Carnival cruise to a caliphate far way.

    Heh. No big deal, and besides, gay marriage is “governed by Christian norms.” What’s not to like?

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  17. “Paul actually put tight limits on the aid widows could receive.” I have found that Christians (including members of the OPC) almost universally chafe at the fact that this is in the Bible and try to explain it away.

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  18. Matt, I understand your expertise and all but that’s a whopper of a place to begin. It’s a place more theocratic critics begin. As I said at your place, I’m not persuaded that you’re reading very charitably (or sensibly) at all. My guess is that has something to do with feeling the need to establish bright lines in your new environs and you may well look back with a bit of regret.

    You confuse me on marriage. If it’s rooted in creation–which aligns with law which is all about shaping–then why talk of the gospel shaping it? Isn’t that what one might say if he thought marriage was rooted in redemption (and how far a leap would it be to speak of its sacramental nature)? Like Sean says, this gospel shaping language has inspiring rhetorical effect, but when one thinks about it for more than two minutes it doesn’t make much sense.

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  19. Dikaios does not mean justice. It’s an adjective that means just or justified. Justice is a different word, namely dikaiosunh; but I don’t think that’s a very good translation of this particular word.

    How is calling something Neoplatonist a criticism? First one must establish what Neoplatonism is and then establish the ways in which it is inconsistent with Paul’s thought or Christianity more generally. I don’t see this article having done either of those things, & I find that Plato, not to say Neoplatonism, and the Scriptures have much in common with one another. Augustine certainly thought so. One important area of similarity is that both the Scriptures and Plato teach the immortality of the soul. Another important point of similarity is that both Plato and the Scriptures teach that this present world is temporary and passing away. Of course there are many important differences, obviously. But the fact that there are similarities as well means that someone who raises Neoplatonism as an accusation has to demonstrate in what way that is problematic.

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  20. “Society is not the church”. In the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, there is a distinction between priest and king, but nevertheless the society is the church. And since “the covenant of grace” is still the same, and “the church” is still the same, and “the moral law” is still the same, old school folks telling us that “society is not the church” start sounding like baptists….They even seem to teach religious liberty if they think there is a society which is not church.

    Ishmael not only receives the covenant sign, but he does so after God says the covenant will not be established with him. Ishmael was circumcised into “the same one church”, even though he was soon to be exiled from the society.

    The choice described in Romans 9 of Isaac instead of Ishmael God shows that physical descent from Abraham does not guarantee that one will be a beneficiary of the covenant made with Abraham … the covenant blessings for which Isaac is freely chosen (before his birth) and from which Ishmael is excluded (in spite of parents in the one church) do not include individual eternal salvation. One should not infer from Romans 9:7-9 that Ishmael and his descendants are eternally lost or even that Isaac and his descendants are eternally saved. What God freely and sovereignly determined is the particular descendant (Isaac) whose line will inherit the blessings of the covenant– multiplying, fathering many nations, and inhabiting the promised land “forever”.

    Mike Horton: “To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong?”

    http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton

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  21. Speaking of whoppers, “I have found that Christians (including members of the OPC) almost universally chafe at the fact that this is in the Bible and try to explain it away.”

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  22. Hart asks why DVD gets a pass from being accused of being in Plato’s cave. I wonder why Mike Horton gets a pass from DGH asking about his location—in or out of that cave.

    Matt T—“It is hardly likely to persuade anyone tempted to embrace the Social Gospel, given that it merely presents an individualistic and virtually neo-Platonized gospel as the alternative. An excellent corrective to this tendency is Michael Horton’s Covenant and Eschatology.”

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/the-gospel-is-social-and-we-need-to-get-it-right/

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  23. cw, I never said that what Paul meant by justice is equal to what contemporary folks often mean by justice.

    Darryl, I’m not sure why you want me to discuss David VanDrunen. I have never understood him to be saying the sorts of things I critiqued in this blog post. I do not think the general approach to the two kingdoms doctrine you outline on this blog is consistent with his understanding.

    Zrim, how do you interpret Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians? Let’s keep close to the texts here.

    David, right about dikaisoune; I was using the root, but the point still stands. Didn’t you ask the question about Neoplatonism on my Facebook page, and didn’t I explain to you how I was using the term (if that was someone else, I’m sorry)? What you write here suggests you may have missed my explanation there.

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  24. David-

    “Paul actually put tight limits on the aid widows could receive.”
    [David:] I have found that Christians (including members of the OPC) almost universally chafe at the fact that this is in the Bible and try to explain it away.

    How about:
    “You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest” Deut 23:20 – I am guessing the afore-mentioned chafers’ interpretation of “brother” is not “fellow Christian” in this one. Any Hebraicists able to advise on the semantic scope of whichever word this is?

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  25. Horton—-“A lot of us were raised in backgrounds where we expected to be saved from ‘the late, great planet earth’ instead of with creation. Salvation was ‘going to heaven when you die’—that is, the real you—the soul, sloughing off its mortal coil. In spite of apparent disembodiment, heaven was like winning the national sweepstakes: your own mansion, streets of gold, jewels in your crown, and so forth…

    Horton—“There are two “Gentile” ways of misreading the biblical plot with respect to the dawn of the kingdom of God. The first is to think of salvation as the liberation of the soul from the body. As we see especially in Plato, there is an “upper world” of eternal spirit or mind and a “lower world” of mere appearances, the prison-house of the body, chained to the ever-changing realm of historical flux. So the soul strives to ascend upward, away from the lower world.”

    Horton—“The second Gentile misreading of the kingdom is to imagine that it’s a perfection of human society from below, something that we can bring about gradually through our own activity. At least according to orthodox Jews, the kingdom of God is not an ethereal “other world,” but this world re-created. Yet it is also something that comes to earth from heaven, through God’s Messiah, not something that human beings can bring about.”

    http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/bells-hell-a-review-by-michael-horton-part-1

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  26. Matt T—While it is true that Calvin regularly used the language of two realms, or of an inward/outward distinction, closer analysis demonstrates that this was his means of speaking about eschatological realities, not about the dividing of life into spheres. He used the language of the body, the earth, politics, and civil life to refer to the things of this age that will pass away, and he used the language of the soul, heaven, and the Spirit to refer to the things of the age to come.

    http://theaquilareport.com/james-k-a-smiths-failure-to-engage-vandrunen-on-the-two-kingdoms-doctrine/

    Calvin—“If Christ had died only a bodily death ,it would have been ineffectual.” 2.16.10.

    Calvin—“Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. … … Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man.” 3:16

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  27. Matt, maybe I ask about VanDrunen because of the quotation I provided. So I ask again? Why isn’t VanDrunen in the non-Reformed camp? My suspicion is that you have more personal loyalty to him than to Scott or me. That’s fine. We all have certain people, mentors, colleagues, that we avoid.

    At the same time, critiques of people closely associated with a mentor comes pretty close to critiquing the mentor. Maybe you figure out another line of critique that doesn’t look so arbitrary.

    Not to mention that your wave of the wand over the New Testament — it’s social throughout — is hardly convincing. I know you’re an expert on Calvin. I happen to be one on Machen. And your post didn’t merely throw me under the bus but Machen’s spirituality of the church as well. But your post does prepare you well for your new appointment. I’ve heard for many years from certain sectors of the CRC how Machen isn’t really Reformed.

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  28. mcMark, I wonder if Matt has renounced this:

    Only believers, who use things in love for God because of their participation in the city of God, can claim the virtue of justice. And of course this matches up nicely with VanDrunen’s insistence that the common affairs of this age never transcend a penultimate form of justice. Believers lay claim to ultimate justice by their participation in the city of God through the church, and they can reflect that reality in every area of life, but they can never turn the world’s activities into anything resembling true justice. . . .

    While it is true that Calvin regularly used the language of two realms, or of an inward/outward distinction, closer analysis demonstrates that this was his means of speaking about eschatological realities, not about the dividing of life into spheres. He used the language of the body, the earth, politics, and civil life to refer to the things of this age that will pass away, and he used the language of the soul, heaven, and the Spirit to refer to the things of the age to come. He described Christ’s government of this age as extending to the outward man because political authorities cannot change the heart, relying as they do on the sword, while he described Christ’s government of the kingdom of the age to come as extending to the inward man because Christ regenerates the heart through the Word and Spirit.

    Doesn’t sound very social.

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  29. Meredith Kline—At the consummation man leaves behind the external culture he has developed through his earthly history. He then has no further need for the instruments he has devised to protect himself from whatever in nature has been inhospitable or to extend his influence over the world or to enhance the splendor of his person. Glorification has made all of
    this superfluous.

    MK—Clothed in the luminosity of his transfigured nature, man has no need for his former man-made garments whether for beauty or protection, nor for the cultural extensions of clothing in the
    earthly architecture of the city. This divine investiture of men with the glory-light which is the perfecting of the imago Dei makes obsolete the fashions of human culture. Such too is the enduement of the glorified nature with the Spirit of power and knowledge that man has no need for
    his former cultural aids for the processing of information, communication and transportation.

    MK– Man’s external culture was intended to serve only a provisional purpose during man’s preconsummation history. It was merely a temporary substitute for glorification, the real and permanent thing … Typological terminology may be applied to this relationship; historical human culture is prototype and the divine heavenly-glorified culture is antitype.”

    http://www.upper-register.com/papers/two_adams.pdf

    Mouw—Shines in All That’s Fair—Here is a typical Hoeksema comment: “in the counsel of God all other things in heaven and on earth are designed as means to the realization of both election and reprobation, and therefore, of the glory of Christ and His church.” Here is another: “All the things of the present life are but means to an eternal end.” So the goal of bringing the elect and the reprobate to their eternal destinies, for Hoeksema, is the divine goal, and all other seemingly independent goals are really to be viewed as means to the attainment of that one goal. Thus Hoeksema is committed to a perspective in which the paths of the eagle’s flight and the ocean’s waves are ordained by God simply as means to the goal of bringing human beings to their foreordained destinies, and in which the divine delight in such things is necessarily connected to the role they play in fulfilling the eternal salvific decree. I find this belief no less puzzling when I extend it—as surely it must be extended from Hoeksema’s perspective—to the actions of non-elect human beings (p. 36).

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  30. Darryl,

    You seem determined to make this personal. You want to raise the implications of institutional affiliations. I could say things about you too in that light (as I suspect you know), but I don’t see how it raises the level of the discussion.

    Can we focus instead on the substance of the claims at hand? There were three main claims of yours and Clark’s that I critiqued in my post:

    1) The gospel is not social.
    2) Sanctification is not part of the gospel.
    3) The New Testament does not speak much to social concerns.

    I have not heard VanDrunen make these claims, and none of the quotes you have provided suggest that he does. To be sure, I do not agree with Dave on every point, and he knows that. But Dave is clear about where he does and does not follow the Reformed tradition. He is clear that he thinks the gospel has strong ethical/social implications (to the point that it teaches its own ethic). Those of you who are interested in my take on his work can read a piece I wrote at Reformation 21 three years ago:

    http://www.reformation21.org/articles/the-two-kingdoms-doctrine-whats-the-fuss-all-about-part-one.php

    But it is a red herring to dodge criticism of your own claims by complaining that I’m not criticizing David VanDrunen.

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  31. One wonders if Matt will be deploying the “not Reformed” charge much at the CRC and at his colleagues at Calvin Seminary. Maybe there are no problems there so urgent as the Hart-Clarkian 2k errors, so called.

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  32. Matthew 5: 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

    The law is social.
    Is “sanctification” by Christian obedience to the law? Which law?
    Is knowing what this law is necessary to knowing the gospel?
    Is our obeying this law what fulfills the requirement of the law?

    Charles Hodge— one’s interpretation of Romans 8 verse 4 is determined by the view taken of Romans 8:3. If that verse means that God, by sending His Son, destroyed sin in us, then, of course, this verse must mean, “He destroyed sin in order that we should fulfill the law” — that is, so that we should be holy (sanctification). But if Romans 8:3 refers to the sacrificial death of Christ and to the condemnation of sin in Him as the sinners’ substitute, then this verse must refer to justification and not sanctification.

    Calvin on Romans 8 4—That the justification of the law be fulfilled, etc. They who understand that the renewed, by the Spirit of Christ, fulfill the law, introduce a gloss wholly alien to the meaning of Paul; for the faithful, while they sojourn in this world, never make such a proficiency, as that the justification of the law becomes in them full or complete. This then must be applied to forgiveness; for when the death of Christ is accepted for us, the law is satisfied, so that we are counted just.
    —Calvin, Commentary on Romans 8:4

    Romans 8 —There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

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  33. Matt, Ephesians 5-6 looks to me to be a series of instructions on how believers should conduct their temporal lives in light of the gospel. You may be among those who find it torturous, but this is the sort of distinction that seems at once subtle and vital, namely the difference between believing the gospel doing the gospel (better, doing in light of the gospel). Your shaping language seems more aligned with the latter. It has wide popular appeal, but the kinds of distinctions that Horton et al make on the difference between believing and doing are important and edifying for those who are paying attention.

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  34. Many thanks Matthew, even if i don’t fully agree with you this discussion has been the best in months on here.

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  35. John 3: 19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light BECAUSE their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who LIVES BY THE TRUTH comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.

    For believing vs doing, Zrim, see Scott Clark http://heidelblog.net/2014/06/is-faith-a-virtue-2/

    of course that antithesis has now been removed for those in the church, or so we are told by Gaffin and the “new perspective on Paul” (and on Calvin)

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  36. mentor

    speaking of, love these mentor-ship glimpses =all about Jesus

    ..sending Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord to remind you of my ways which are in Christ…. to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith;
    ….to Timothy, my true child in the faith: the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith;.. fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith; …guard what has been entrusted to you; …to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you
    1 Cor 4:17; 1 Thess 3:2 ;1 Tim ,2 Tim

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  37. Zrim: believing and doing the gospel

    our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you. 2 Cor 112

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  38. Matt,

    I said in a comment on Michael Lynch’s Facebook page this: “Why won’t he take comments on his site? I’d like to ask what he thinks Neo-Platonism is, since it’s summoned in the penultimate sentence.”

    And you wrote: “David, comments on the blog are now open. When I wrote that their version presents a “virtually neo-Platonized gospel” I was alluding to a line of argument in Horton’s Covenant and Eschatology. I meant that it is a version of the gospel that sees the kingdom of God as a transcendence of this creation rather than a restoration and fulfillment of it. It operates more according to a model of two worlds, a higher and a lower, than it does according to a model of two ages, a present and future. I realize this is not neo-Platonism in a full, classical sense, which is why I added the word “virtually” and used neo-Platonized as an adjective.”

    As I said, I commend you for opening comments on your blog and thank you for attempting an answer to my question. I didn’t miss your explanation, but I don’t find it sufficient either.

    In what sense is it inappropriate for Reformed believers to consider the future, the life of the world to come, as having transcended the present age? Isn’t it possible that these distinctions – provided we continue to affirm the goodness of God’s original creation, human brokenness now, and Christ’s lordship over everything – arise primarily from our inability to express adequately and accurately something we have not yet experienced? I understand that the concept of transcending creation can be taken to mean that the present material world is somehow compromised as created by a demiurge (cf. Timaeus) of suspect motives and limited power; Neoplatonism is taken to mean that this world is not to be refined and purged of its sin but replaced with something else, immaterial (here is where people usually substitute ‘gnostic’ for Platonist/Neoplatonist, but the systems are not the same). Instead we usually (and I think rightly) believe, as Calvin interpreted 2 Peter 3, that the conflagration mentioned is purgation not absolute destruction.

    Nevertheless, much of this is unclear because the Scriptures don’t give us as much information about the future as we would like. Should we not more circumspectly confess that there are a good many things about this coming age that we do not understand even in part? The New Testament treats this world and the one to come as markedly different enough (2 Cor. 5.17; Rev. 21.1) that ‘transcend’ does not seem an inappropriate description, provided the caveats I mentioned are maintained.

    Augustine in Conf. 7.10ff. attests to his great debt to Neoplatonism in teaching him to look for a transcendent God. It rescued him from Manichaeism. Ultimately Neoplatonism leaves no room for grace and cannot adequately explain human sin, as Augustine acknowledged.

    My brief with your article in part is that Plato and his little brother Neoplatonism are often used by Christians as argument-enders. Conjure with it and your opponents must be silenced. What Christian wants to be identified with Plato? If Plato or Neoplatonism are reprehensible, at least quote something from Plato, Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and make the case that Hart and Clark follow that instead of the Scriptures.

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  39. Question and Answer – OPC Website
    Is Sanctification a Part of the Gospel?
    “Sanctification, the internal renewal and change of the sinner by the power of God, will and must take place; however, it is a fruit of the gospel rather than the gospel itself.
    If we do not keep these things clear, we will drift into the confusion of the Roman Catholic Church. The gospel calls us to repent of our sins and to flee to the Son of God for both deliverance from the guilt and penalty and for new power against sin’s mastery; however, we bring nothing to the transaction save a brokenness over sin’s offense to God and “an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ” (Shorter Catechism Q. 87), but it is all ours, not because we have been made holy (the infused righteousness of Rome’s version) but because the receiving and resting upon Christ alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel (Shorter Catechism Q. 86), means empty hands receiving forgiveness and righteousness by faith alone.”

    HT: Inwoo Lee

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  40. Matt, you made this personal. That’s why you had to try to affirm friendship. Now you threaten to raise the stakes about my institutional past. Go ahead. I’m prepared to defend what I’ve done.

    The claim at hand that I raised was that Scott’s and my articulation of 2k is not Reformed. Just because you have studied Calvin doesn’t mean that you are now qualified or have authority to settle all the debates that have divided Reformed Christians.

    So the question that has many of us puzzled, aside from your shielding VanDrunen from criticism, is why you decide to take this line of criticism now? What do you have to gain by it? What would you have to lose by throwing VanDrunen into the mix?

    As for the three claims that you say are the substance of your post:

    1) You haven’t proved that the gospel is social. In fact, your assertion is so expansive that you could wind up embracing Jim Wallis or Gary North. So that claim hardly settles anything. And you missed that at the heart of 2k — as VanDrunen’s quote — a concern for the church as the gospel society.

    2) If sanctification is part of the gospel — again, something you haven’t defined, why to Reformed creeds and catechisms state things about the gospel this way?

    Question 84. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel?
    Answer: Thus: when according to the command of Christ, it is declared and publicly testified to all and every believer, that, whenever they receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, all their sins are really forgiven them of God, for the sake of Christ’s merits; and on the contrary, when it is declared and testified to all unbelievers, and such as do not sincerely repent, that they stand exposed to the wrath of God, and eternal condemnation, so long as they are unconverted: (a) according to which testimony of the gospel, God will judge them, both in this, and in the life to come.

    Ursinus here associates the gospel with forgiveness of sins and doesn’t mention infused righteousness. Sanctification is clearly part of the gospel. But if the material principle of the Reformation was justification by faith alone, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to think that a forensic understanding of the gospel was crucial to Protestantism and its understanding of the gospel.

    BTW, VanDrunen was the chairman of the OPC committee whose report on justification included this:

    In addition to the doctrine of union with Christ, the idea of the ordo salutis makes clear that justification is prior to sanctification. This is not priority in the sense that one is somehow more important than the other. Neither is it a temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified. But while justification is the necessary prerequisite of the process of sanctification, that process is not the necessary prerequisite of justification. It is true to say that one must be justified in order to be sanctified; but it is untrue to say that one must be sanctified in order to be justified.

    So if you say that sanctification is part of the gospel, what does that mean? And do you really mean to act like if someone disagrees with your bulbous assertions their own views are not Reformed? That’s rich.

    3) You haven’t show how much the NT does speak to social concerns. Compared to today’s Christians, it says remarkably little and offers little support for Christians from the right or the left who want to do politics or activism in Christ’s name. As part of one’s vocation, sure. But as a program for all Christians? Hardly.

    So to echo Zrim, your critique is hardly charitable or even accurate. You seem simply to have scored a point in order to position yourself in some way. I don’t take that as friendly.

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  41. David,

    Your comment is very helpful, and I agree with you that “‘transcend’ does not seem an inappropriate description, provided the caveats I mentioned are maintained.” I was using the word ‘transcend’ to communicate something different from ‘restore’ and ‘fulfill.’ I probably should have put the word “merely” in front of it. All that to say, I agree with you.

    I understand your point about the appeal to neo-Platonism. It’s something I’ve wrestled with. However, in the final analysis it seems that neo-Platonism did corrupt Christian theology to a certain extent; the influence in leading Christians to an immaterial understanding of the kingdom of God (think Thomas Aquinas on the beatific vision) has been harmful, I think. So that’s what I’m trying to get at. But because I realize neo-Platonism is notoriously hard to pin down and define, I try to be careful. That’s why I used the word ‘virtually.’

    I’ve tried to find a better word to communicate what I’m getting at. Do you have any suggestions?

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  42. Darryl, these comments are helpful. To respond briefly, on the first point, if the church is the “gospel society,” as you say, then the gospel is clearly social. I agree wholeheartedly that the church is the gospel society; Of course, I wasn’t able to say everything in one blog post.

    On the second point, I affirm the distinction between justification and sanctification. That’s the key distinction of the Reformation. But I also affirm that justification, sanctification, and glorification are all part of salvation, and all central gospel promises. This is, as far as I understand it, the standard Reformed position.

    On the third point, I never said that the NT talks about social concerns as much as any particular contemporary Christian or group of Christians does. I clearly affirmed my opposition to the social gospel, and have at numerous points indicated my opposition to culture warriorism and triumphalistic transformationalism. I just don’t think we should go to the opposite extreme of saying that the NT has nothing to say about social concerns.

    I am genuinely sorry that you were offended by my reference to you as a friend, though I meant it sincerely. Please forgive me. I will try to keep a more respectful distance in the future.

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  43. You could use “Sanctification is part of the gospel” to summarize this sentence from the justification report: Neither is it a temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified.

    And “Sanctification is not part of the gospel” for this: It is true to say that one must be justified in order to be sanctified; but it is untrue to say that one must be sanctified in order to be justified.

    It depends on what’s intended. Maybe a better question is whether “the gospel” only refers to justification or to the entire process described by the ordo.

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  44. Matt,

    So if I am to understand you correctly, you believe that:

    1.) Aquinas’ understanding of the beatific vision was immaterial in such a way that it excluded/denigrated the material world; if this is so, it is news to me. Can you please cite a chapter and verse so to speak? I am erring on the side of charity to Tommy, and find it hard to think his perspective on the afterlife would impinge negatively on the resurrection of the body, for example.

    2.) Aquinas’ understanding of the beatific vision lead Christians to an immaterial understanding of the kingdom of God.

    I think the first may be easier to prove than the second, but I doubt either is true. I am willing to be corrected on both.

    It’s not that neo-Platonism is “notoriously hard to pin down and define.” It’s that

    1.) Charity and accuracy requires that critical definitons use the words of those who held to it (Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus)

    2.) Once defined, the point of disagreement has to be stated. A nice analogy would be to the work of your colleague John Cooper: Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting (first issued 1989). In it he argues at some length for the biblical basis for dualism, the classic body-soul distinction. To me it his arguments are very persuasive, and not altogether dissimilar to the views of Plato and the Neo-Plates. The latter did not hate the material world nor the body. They believed that the material realm was lesser. In some profound sense they were wrong. But if you were to ask yourself, “How would persons without special revelation express the brokenness of the human condition, while at the same time maintaining a (confused) monotheistic sense of the divine and the immortality of the human soul?”, the answer you would arrive at is something pretty close to Plato.

    So maybe Hart and Clark should be flattered to be lumped in with Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus, at least for this life.

    It may be true that “neo-Platonism did corrupt Christian theology to a certain extent.” It’s also true that Greek philosophy immeasurably strengthened the abilities, minds, and arguments of hosts of theologians stretching back to Justin Martyr. That story is seldom told.

    So I’m a little off-topic (which has never happened at OldLife).

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  45. Pannenberg–The gospel is more than a dialectical counterpart to the law. Barth rightly opposed the restriction of the gospel to the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins. ST 2:460

    Mike Horton—Even if it is granted that justification is an exclusively forensic declaration, the rest of the order of salvation has usually been treated in Reformed theology as the consequence of an entirely different event— the implantation of new life in regeneration.” (Covenant and Salvation p 216)

    Louis Berkhof, History of Christian Doctrines, p 220–”Calvin and Luther both described justification as a forensic act which does not change the inner life of man, but only the judicial relationship in which he stands to God. Moreover they deny that justification is a progressive work of God, asserting that it is instantaneous and at once complete, and hold that the believer can be absolutely sure that he is translated forever from a state of wrath and condemnation to one of favor and acceptance.”

    p 452—“It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification. Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation–a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner.”

    Gaffin: “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p 110, By Faith Not By Sight

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  46. Matt, thanks for the apology. I don’t mean to seem a stickler about this, but the offense was not that you referred to me as a friend. It was that you were so partial in your account of Scott’s and my views. If we were friends — and I’m not saying we’re not — I’m not sure why you would do that while leaving out others.

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  47. I can think of nothing more important than the “what is the gospel” question. Christ’s death as the legal satisfaction of God’s law is not enough for John Piper, who wrote—

    “It is possible to believe the promises of God, and have the assurance of salvation, and yet be lost forever. This possibility is implied in Matthew 7:22, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” These folks believed that they were secure in relation to Christ. They called him “Lord,” and they tapped into supernatural power in his name.,,,When they read the promise, “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5), they believed it was true of them. But it wasn’t. That is why they will be shocked when Jesus says to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). They are lost. But they thought they were saved.
    The way to tell if you have genuine faith is to have a taste for spiritual sweetness: In other words, saving faith in the promises of God includes spiritual enjoyment of the God of the promises. I don’t want to overstate it. I only say that saving faith must include this enjoyment. Enjoyment of the glory of God is not the whole of what faith is. But without it, faith is dead. . . .” This satisfaction is missing from the hearts of the professing Christians of Matthew 7:22. If the enjoyment of God himself were there, they would have delighted on earth in the very divine excellencies that such enjoyment anticipates. But instead they were “workers of lawlessness.”

    We need to join D G Hart in the war against the “faith and works” false gospel.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/2015/06/the-importance-of-being-earnest/

    Philip Cary—-“For Augustine and the whole Christian tradition prior to Calvin, it is perfectly possible to have a genuine faith and then lose it. Apostasy from the true faith. For Calvin, on the contrary, there is a kind of faith I can have now which I am sure not to lose, because it comes with the gift of perseverance. What is more, I can know that I have such faith rather than the temporary kind.
    For anyone who adds to an Augustinian doctrine of predestination the notion that we can know we are saved for eternity will necessarily believe that we can know we are predestined to be saved.”

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  48. Gentlemen,

    I wonder if your differences can be put aside, by simply recognizing the Kingship of Jesus over all of life. Radical 2k thoughts are radical because they are anti-clerical, not because they protect the Gospel. Does being anticlerical comport with the teachings of Jesus and Paul?
    Your in-house argument is one of the factors that pushed me towards Catholicism, where at least doctrinally the dilemma is solved.

    “….the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: “His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.”[28] Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.”[29] He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. “For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?”[30] If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. “With God and Jesus Christ,” we said, “excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation.”

    http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas.html

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  49. David, I don’t have time to cite chapter and verse, but I find Aquinas’s understanding of the beatific vision is individualistic and makes it hard to see why the resurrection of the body is so important. I’m not saying he’s unorthodox. I just think he has a truncated articulation of the kingdom of God that makes it hard to understand why the material side of things has much importance at all.

    I wasn’t saying Aquinas was the primary culprit in terms of the later tradition; I was using him as an illustration. I think a neo-Platonic mindset greatly affected the Christian tradition, leading many Christians at a popular level, for instance, to conflate the kingdom of God with heaven. How often did I grow up being told essentially that we would spend eternity in one giant never-ending church service? I also think that what I am calling the neo-Platonic mindset took on a larger impact – had a more pervasive effect – than could be communicated by citing the early authors you cite. Call it the spirit or ethos of neo-Platonism if you will, but much like liberalism today, it has been deeply influential on Christian thought.

    I’ll leave it at that for now. As I said, I think Horton’s Covenant and Eschatology gets at some of these themes quite well.

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  50. Jack Miller—Too many in the world end up hearing the church message as just one of many vying to establish its own particular beatific vision of how life should be lived in America. The gospel’s offense of the cross, though not intended, sadly ends up taking a back seat

    http://theworldsruined.blogspot.com/2015/06/some-thoughts-rumbling-about-in-my-head.html

    Mike Wittmer—Recently I heard an evangelical leader say that glorified human beings are the only creatures that are able to see God. He said that while angels must hide their faces in God’s presence, yet humans, because we bear God’s image, will one day be made fit to gaze directly upon God. He based this on the medieval idea of the visio dei and Revelation 22:3-4, which says “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face….”

    This is the second time I’ve heard this from leaders I respect, and I wonder if it signals a shift in Protestant thought. Roman Catholics believe the consummation of human existence is the beatific vision. Glorified humans will look directly into the essence of God, which is so glorious we will lock in and be unable to turn away. Protestants have protested that such a glance would annihilate us. We would vaporize faster than snow on a hot sidewalk. We would melt away like the poor fellow who looked at the Ark in the Indiana Jones movie, only faster. There wouldn’t be a trace of us left.

    The Protestant view has at least two important benefits: It preserves the ontological separation between God and creation. Our sin would prevent us from seeing God, if we were able to look on him in the first place. Our first limitation is not that we’re fallen. It’s that we’re finite. No one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). This was true in Eden and it will be true in glory. Protestants say the face we will see in Revelation 22:3-4 belongs to the Lamb. All knowledge of God must be mediated through creaturely forms. If God ever reveals himself directly to us we would incinerate on the spot. We need a buffer, for our own protection. That buffer has a name, which leads to the second advantage.

    It preserves our focus on Jesus. Jesus is the Mediator, the bridge between us and God. Jesus fully reveals God to us even as he shelters us from the full glare of the glory of God. Jesus is the only person of the Godhead we will ever see, and that’s enough, because when we see Jesus we see the Father (John 14:6-11). We risk minimizing our need for Jesus if we believe that one day we will be glorified sufficiently to look at God without his mediation. We will never outgrow our need for Jesus. We need Jesus’ mediation now because we’re finite and because we’re fallen. The latter will be fixed in glory, but not the first. It doesn’t need fixing, because there is nothing wrong with being a creature. This is what God made us to be. Will we see God? Absolutely. But only in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

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  51. Gentlemen,
    I wonder if your differences can be put aside, by simply recognizing the Kingship of Jesus over all of life.

    Israelis & Palestinians,
    I wonder if your differences can be put aside, by simply recognizing Israel’s proper claim to Jerusalem.

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  52. Gerhard Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross, p5—“The most common story we tell about ourselves is what we call the glory story. We came from glory and are bound for glory. Usually the subject of the story is ‘the soul’. The basic scheme is what Paul Ricoeur has called the ‘myth
    of the exiled soul’. So wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet laureate of American sentimentality, in “A Psalm of Life”

    Tell me not in mournful numbers,
    Life is but an empty dream!—
    For the soul is dead that slumbers
    And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real! Life is earnest!
    And the grave is not its goal;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
    Was not spoken of the soul.

    Mike Horton —Death is not a benign passageway to happiness, but a horrible enemy attempting to keep us in the grave. Death’s sting has been removed, but its bite remains. It does not have the last word for believers, but it remains the believer’s antagonist until the Resurrection of the body. The good news is never that one has died, but that death has been ultimately conquered by the Lord of Life.

    Martha trusted Jesus when she moved the stone at his command. Perhaps she had even heard and recalled Jesus’ promise, “For the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth” (John 5:28). Jesus’ own Resurrection will be the “first fruits of those who sleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), but this resurrection of Lazarus is in a sense the prelude to that great inauguration of the last day. This is the climactic sign because “the last enemy is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). Death is not a portal to life. Death is not a benign friend, but a dreaded foe. It is not a natural part of life, but the most unnatural part of life you could imagine.

    What we need again is a church that faces the real world honestly and truthfully, recognizing the tragic aspect of life as even more tragic than any nihilist could imagine, while knowing that the one who raised Lazarus is now raised to the right hand of his Father, until all enemies-including death, lie in the rubble beneath his feet.

    http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=150&var3=main

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  53. Hello sdb,

    You make it sound as if Israel never possessed the land, ever. They did for a time, and then they lost it. The reason they lost the temporal land was because they didn’t recognize the Kingship of Jesus.

    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not? ”

    The answer to the question of whether or not the people( under Roman authority) would have remained intact after the arrival of the Messiah, had the religious authorities received Him, is obviously not known. Between the religious authority and the kingly authority of Israel there was not sharp break( think of Samuel anointing David). But since Jesus is and has always been consubstantial with the Father this unity serves as a hint into the reason that they didn’t receive Him; that is, they hadn’t received the messages of God via the prophets. Not only had they missed the prophecies concerning the Christ of God, but they had also missed the prophets warnings about the temporal punishments that come as a result of man’s disobedience(sins/evil/wickedness…).
    Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” The kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven, isn’t cast aside because the OT people are not a nation anymore. The Kingdom of God is in our midst. We meld the two when we recognize His sovereign rule and when we do what the King of Kings commands.

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  54. SDB,

    I don’t know that all of what I said just now is correct( I’m willing to be corrected by The Church), but what I am attempting to explain is that I have a coherent system to live within. Meaning there are not two different theories about how Christians are to act and believe about this world and Heaven. As you can see there is an argument about what is the truly Reformed view of 2K theology/anthropology. And that difference is fought over how much the gospel can change this world or even if Christianity has a voice in this world. I don’t have to live with the schizophrenia any longer, of doing good and wondering if God is pleased with me or angry because I am stealing His glory. We are His hands and His feet in this world, but they are still heavenly hands and feet when they perform good.
    You might even agree that my system is coherent but that it required my giving up the gospel in order to have my cake and eat it too. Of course my answer is that I don’t believe that the Reformed idea of the Gospel is the true gospel. What is helpful for knowing which view is right is that one doesn’t have to adopt and either/or mentality and can live a life of common sense.
    I’m not here to argue but only to present the point of view of my faith. If it is incoherent to you, then I haven’t conveyed it properly; because it really is coherent. If you( or anyone) would stop making the Catholic Church sit in the corner, and instead listen to see if it is reasonable, it would advance our dialog. On a practical level, if one wants to construct a building or a bridge, one should listen to all the voices available but ultimately the engineer is going to have the most valuable input. So, if you want to know what Worldview options out there( sticking with Christendom), then it behooves all of us to not make the Catholic Church sit in the corner. Who knows, we might, all of us, learn something beneficial.:)

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  55. Hi Susan,
    Just a bit of gentle ribbing. My point is that your “simple” solution is like the gnome’s guide to becoming a millionaire…step one, get a million dollars. Or its like a marriage counselor telling you and your husband that the simple solution to all your arguing is to just agree on everything. I mean it is true and all, but not very helpful.

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  56. Matt, you’re still keeping the gospel and its social effects in quite the cosy relationship. But it seems to me that Paul would have considered the societal effects (outside the church) of the Gospel to be what we in the South call “gravy” — something extra and not absolutely necessary, great if you can get it but not the main course. Is this not why Paul instructed people to remain in their stations — slaves as slaves, free men as free men? I start getting worried when I can’t imagine Paul endorsing certain ways of organizing and “doing” church. Social justice, transformation of the city, neighborhood, culture, nation, arts, etc. occupies a prominent place on church menus today. Would Paul enjoy this approach or would he send it back?

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  57. @CW – Its all the gold at the end of those rainbows they use to color Notre Dame’s football helmets. That’s why we’re so slow too by the way….

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  58. cw, you mean this Paul?

    But what was the difference between the teaching of Paul and the teaching of the Judaizers? What was it that gave rise to the stupendous polemic of the Epistle to the Galatians? To the modern Church the difference would have seemed to be a mere theological subtlety. About many things the Judaizers were in perfect agreement with Paul. The Judaizers believed that Jesus was the Messiah; there is not a shadow of evidence that they objected to Paul’s lofty view of the person of Christ. Without the slightest doubt, they believed that Jesus had really risen from the dead. They believed, moreover, that faith in Christ was necessary to salvation. But the trouble was, they believed that something else was also necessary; they believed that what Christ had done needed to be pieced out by the believer’s own effort to keep the Law. From the modern point of view the difference would have seemed to be very slight. Paul as well as the Judaizers believed that the keeping of the law of God, in its deepest import, is inseparably connected with faith. The difference concerned only the logical − not even, perhaps, the temporal − order of three steps. Paul said that a man (1) first believes on Christ, (2) then is justified before God, (3) then immediately proceeds to keep God’s law. The Judaizers said that a man (1) believes on Christ and (2) keeps the law of God the best he can, and then (3) is justified. The difference would seem to modern “practical” Christians to be a highly subtle and intangible matter, hardly worthy of consideration at all in view of the large measure of agreement in the practical realm. What a splendid cleaning up of the Gentile cities it would have been if the Judaizers had succeeded in extending to those cities the observance of the Mosaic law, even including the unfortunate ceremonial observances! Surely Paul ought to have made common cause with teachers who were so nearly in agreement with him; surely he ought to have applied to them the great principle of Christian unity.

    As a matter of fact, however, Paul did nothing of the kind; and only because he (and others) did nothing of the kind does the Christian Church exist today. Paul saw very clearly that the differences between the Judaizers and himself was the differences between two entirely distinct types of religion; it was the differences between a religion of merit and a religion of grace. If Christ provides only a part of our salvation, leaving us to provide the rest, then we are still hopeless under the load of sin. For no matter how small the gap which must be bridged before salvation can be attained, the awakened conscience sees clearly that our wretched attempt at goodness is insufficient even to bridge that gap. The guilty soul enters again into the hopeless reckoning with God, to determine whether we have really done our part. And thus we groan again under the old bondage of the law. Such an attempt to piece out the work of Christ by our own merit, Paul saw clearly, is the very essence of unbelief; Christ will do everything or nothing, and the only hope is to throw ourselves unreservedly on His mercy and trust Him for all.

    Paul certainly was right. The differences which divided him from the Judaizers was no mere theological subtlety, but concerned the very heart and core of the religion of Christ. “Just as I am without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me” − that was what Paul was contending for in Galatia; that hymn would never have been written if the Judaizers had won. And without the thing which that hymn expresses there is no Christianity at all. (Machen, Christianity and Liberalism)

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  59. Susan, anti-papacy sure, but anti-clerical? 2k is a churchly theology all about creed and office. 2kers affirm things like the Belgic (which has three whole article devoted to office):

    Article 30: Concerning the Government of, and Offices in the Church.

    We believe, that this true Church must be governed by that spiritual policy which our Lord hath taught us in his Word; namely, that there must be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God, and to administer the sacraments; also elders and deacons, who, together with the pastors, form the council of the Church: that by these means true religion may be preserved, and the true doctrine everywhere propagated, likewise transgressors punished and restrained by spiritual means: also that the poor and distressed may be relieved and comforted, according to their necessities. By these means everything will be carried on in the Church with good order and decency, when faithful men are chosen, according to the rule prescribed by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy.

    Article 31: Of the Ministers, Elders, and Deacons.

    We believe, that the ministers of God’s Word, and the elders and deacons, ought to be chosen to their respective offices by a lawful election by the Church, with calling upon the name of the Lord, and in that order which the Word of God teacheth. Therefore every one must take heed, not to intrude himself by indecent means, but is bound to wait till it shall please God to call him; that he may have testimony of his calling, and be certain and assured that it is of the Lord. As for the ministers of God’s Word, they have equally the same power and authority wheresoever they are, as they are all ministers of Christ, the only universal Bishop, and the only Head of the Church. Moreover, that this holy ordinance of God may not be violated or slighted, we say that every one ought to esteem the ministers of God’s Word, and the elders of the Church, very highly for their work’s sake, and be at peace with them without murmuring, strife or contention, as much as possible.

    Article 32: Of the Order and Discipline of the Church.

    In the meantime we believe, though it is useful and beneficial, that those, who are rulers of the Church, institute and establish certain ordinances among themselves for maintaining the body of the Church; yet they ought studiously to take care, that they do not depart from those things which Christ, our only Master, hath instituted. And therefore, we reject all human inventions, and all laws, which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner whatever. Therefore we admit only of that which tends to nourish and preserve concord, and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God. For this purpose, ex-communication or church discipline is requisite, with the several circumstances belonging to it, according to the Word of God.

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  60. SDB,

    I thought you were serious. Thanks for the humor, the gentle kind is appreciated. :)~
    As far as what I said though( if you’re interested in talking), would you kindly address what I said to show me how it fits what you said? You lost me, and I want to understand what you are saying is my error.

    ~Susan

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  61. Matt T—There are other types of relationships that are not rooted in creation but that have emerged, at least in the form that we know them, due to the fall into sin. They are not evil, but their very form demonstrates that evil does exist in the world. Here I am thinking about the coercive state. Christians should support this sort of hierarchy because it is absolutely necessary for a modicum of order in this life, let alone for human flourishing.

    mcmark—Overcoming evil with evil shows that there is evil in the world? Isn’t that what Obama said? Does this defense of the “second use” of the law depend on the law being “natural law”? Does it depend on “selectively” choosing from some of the Mosaic legislation? Does it depend on thinking of Jesus Christ (at least when it comes to the state) as not the redeemer (and not even the creator) but as the lawgiver in response to sin? Does law after sin increase sin, or simply increase the knowledge of sin?

    The history of anti-liberalism is a little messy, especially if you don’t limit the debate to 2k folks vs neo-Calvinists, but also think about extremists like theonomists and anabaptists.

    Theodore D. Bozeman, “Inductive and Deductive Polities”, Journal of American History, December 1977, p 722–Materially comfortable and conspicuously toward the leading groups in society, the old school carried forward traditional Calvinist support for business and professional vocations. Having supported from the beginning a version of Protestantism supportive of property consciousness, the Old School leadership had incentive enough for worry about social instability… Old School contributions to social analysis may be viewed as a sustained attempt to defend the inherited social structure…The General Assembly found it necessary to lament the practice of those who ‘question and unsettle practice which have received the enlightened sanction of centuries’… Social naturalists assumed that the laws of society were not merely true, that is, given in the scheme of nature. They bore too the humbling force of prescription; they demanded compliance. The desire was to draw the ought out of the is…to make facts serve a normative purpose.”

    mcmark: The trick always is to suggest the impatience of the perfectionists on the other side. . . We need to work with that which has come about with the passing of time, and if we resist gradualism , we will end up with no church at all, and no culture to conserve…

    But by all means, let’s not “give up” and simply cry out “even so come Lord Jesus.” if you want to see the present presence of the Christ, we need to make claims on the nations in the same way that we make claims on our own infants . Unless we first say to our nation-state that God has a law and a covenant for it, to tell it how to take up the wrath, how will we ever be able to talk to the state or influence it in a better direction?

    “The Creator made man to participate in and prosecute His wars.” And when we get to “newer administrations of the one covenant”, the more responsibility conservatives like us have to kill liberals for the sake of the religious liberty of our own superior culture.. And therefore the dying of Jesus on the cross is unique, and not an example for anybody.

    How could we possibly think that what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount was in any way a “third use” of the law? We know that the history of the church (so far) is not an empty parenthesis, and we know that Augustine was a Christian, and thus we still need some version of Augustine’s anti-liberalism. Or do we?

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  62. Zrim
    Posted July 21, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
    Susan, anti-papacy sure, but anti-clerical? 2k is a churchly theology all about creed and office. 2kers affirm things like the Belgic (which has three whole article devoted to office):

    Article 30: Concerning the Government of, and Offices in the Church.

    We believe, that this true Church must be governed by that spiritual policy which our Lord hath taught us in his Word; namely, that there must be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God, and to administer the sacraments; also elders and deacons, who, together with the pastors, form the council of the Church: that by these means true religion may be preserved, and the true doctrine everywhere propagated, likewise transgressors punished and restrained by spiritual means: also that the poor and distressed may be relieved and comforted, according to their necessities. By these means everything will be carried on in the Church with good order and decency, when faithful men are chosen, according to the rule prescribed by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy.

    Article 31: Of the Ministers, Elders, and Deacons.

    We believe, that the ministers of God’s Word, and the elders and deacons, ought to be chosen to their respective offices by a lawful election by the Church, with calling upon the name of the Lord, and in that order which the Word of God teacheth. Therefore every one must take heed, not to intrude himself by indecent means, but is bound to wait till it shall please God to call him; that he may have testimony of his calling, and be certain and assured that it is of the Lord. As for the ministers of God’s Word, they have equally the same power and authority wheresoever they are, as they are all ministers of Christ, the only universal Bishop, and the only Head of the Church. Moreover, that this holy ordinance of God may not be violated or slighted, we say that every one ought to esteem the ministers of God’s Word, and the elders of the Church, very highly for their work’s sake, and be at peace with them without murmuring, strife or contention, as much as possible.

    Article 32: Of the Order and Discipline of the Church.

    In the meantime we believe, though it is useful and beneficial, that those, who are rulers of the Church, institute and establish certain ordinances among themselves for maintaining the body of the Church; yet they ought studiously to take care, that they do not depart from those things which Christ, our only Master, hath instituted. And therefore, we reject all human inventions, and all laws, which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner whatever. Therefore we admit only of that which tends to nourish and preserve concord, and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God. For this purpose, ex-communication or church discipline is requisite, with the several circumstances belonging to it, according to the Word of God.

    Epilogue: And then they throw the greatest Presbyterian of his generation, J. Greham Machen, out on the street.

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  63. The kingship of Christ over all of life is the debate. Of course agreeing to it would end the debate. Im wo my computer so this has to be brief…any incoherence is Samsung fault.

    Re. 1st post. No idea. Israelis have the land now and Palistinians want it. Fight would be over if they stopped fighting I think. But then I ‘m no intl relations expert.

    Regarding 2nd comment here are a few responses:
    1) willing to be corrected by “the Church”? Hopefully that isn’t all as your church is more ecumenical than that.
    2) coherence is overrated. Hobgoblin of little minds and all that.
    3) regarding different theories in how to act here and in heaven, i think I disagree. Marriage here, but not there. Don’t act same way at funeral as at kid’s bday party as in classroom as in bedroom. not schizoid just discerning of what is appropriate in each context. Don’t need principles to guide. Custom is good enough.
    4) reformed stds do not teach that God is angry with us for striving for holiness.
    5) re. Putting rcc in a corner, I have great respect forbthe rcc. I benefitted greatly by several thoughtful rc scholars. My fave philosopher is an rc convert. In better part of decade at ND I became acquainted with many fine rc folks I count as dear friends. I have read maritain, Chesterton Newman jaki, aqinas, erasmus Augustine wills mcbrien…. I attended lectures by McInerney McMullan hesburgh, novak, van fraassen, &c lots of good stuff and not so good stuff, but pretty good immersion I d say. I remained unconvinced rcc claims for herself are valid. But certainly not a corner. The ctc bunch i have no use for. Stupid, dishonest, posers celebrating other’s pain. Shameful. Frankly I find their site disgusting.

    But whatever. Lots of people do distasteful things. Here’s the thing though… i have seen several converts over the years. The ones used as trophies that go around 5minutes after entering the church trying to be the next Chesterton invariably left the faith. Think bob Dylan and evangelicalism. I’ve pointed to Dreher many times nit to tear down rcc, but as cautionary tale. I’ve seen many follow his path who i won’t mention even pseudonominously. You are quite zealous and have intellectuallized your faith. Obviously you can do what you want, but my free advice is that your approach to faith described here is unwise. RCs deal with diubt too and don’t have allvthe answers. You may intellectually acknowledge that, but the existential crisis you’ve described over the years will not be solved by a paradigm. Humility is crucial, and we all struggle with pride…even nice catholic ladies.

    Ok thimb is cramping si time to sign off.

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  64. SDB,

    Thanks for giving me your bulleted “take” ( smile) …… (really). I appreciate your thoughts as well as your kindness. I really appreciate the people you’ve read, really, really!:) I get seriously excited about those minds.
    My take away from talking with you is that there are lots of available choices and so,doing the best I can with the intellect and humility that I have, I picked ONE. ( And not the correct one according to some.) For, in truth, I cannot believe in many churches or non-hierarchal authorities, so I’m sticking with the one that claims to be founded by Jesus. If it’s prideful to believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, then the Nicene Creed should have left that part out to save me from sinning.

    I shouldn’t have chimmed in at all. I really care about you fellows, but since I really don’t have the time to devote to lengthy dialogue( and that’s what’s required), I am doing a disservice by commenting so sporadically. Good dialogue takes time and a goodwill effort from both sides. This is why I really like what they do at CTC.
    So in signing-off and not to sound superior or anything, I will pray for you, and ask that you also pray for me!

    In Christ,
    Susan

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  65. Tom but sour grapes aren’t Reformed. I don’t recall Machen whining about his predicament nor agitating for the sort of resistance and disobedience that floats your culturalist boat.

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  66. Susan, “the one that claims to be founded by Jesus”

    The one?

    And does Jesus rule your church? Does your holy father care if he says more than God’s word does?

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  67. Mr. Hart,

    You concede Mr. Tuininga’s point that the Bible does speak to a lot of social concerns. How these teachings are interpreted is up for debate, but the point is that the NT does address these concerns. Maybe Focus on the Family isn’t the way to go, but the only alternative is not saying nothing on the family or marriage.

    The Westminster Divines also held to the Establishment Principle and some of them thought every individual should be baptised by virtue of being a citizen of the country (or subject of the crown).

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  68. “the Bible does speak to a lot of social concerns. How these teachings are interpreted is up for debate”

    Alexander, please detail the difference between the Bible not speaking to an issue and not knowing what it says about an issue. You don’t believe in perspicuity?

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  69. Alexander, I concede nothing of the kind. The Bible talks about the poor. Does it mean the material or financial poor? I don’t think so. The Bible talks about liberty. The founders of the U.S. used that to underwrite independence as a cause of light against darkness. But does the Bible mean social or political liberty? I don’t think so.

    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. (CF 20.1)

    But if you want your earthly affairs to have eternal significance, you dress them up in salvation and the Bible. It’s called civil religion. I study it for a living. It’s a perversion of Christianity.

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  70. Hello Matt Tuininga,

    I have read your essay referenced in this post and have been watching the interactions here with interest. I must say that I have been stimulated by much of what you have written in the past. But your latest on Hart and Clark has left me puzzled and concerned.

    If I remember correctly, there was an interaction with Darryl on your blog a few years ago where you stated that you essentially agreed with the substance of what he had written here at OldLife. (I cannot prove this to you because you have switched comments off on your site.) What has changed? Has there been significant evolution in your political/2K thought since then?

    What is more, during my time at WSC I never once heard David VanDrunen or any other Prof. for that matter suggest publicly that Darryl’s 2K position is beyond the pale of the historic Reformed tradition. I have also asked David pointedly in private on more than one occasion what he thought of Darryl’s work. And I got substantive agreement each time. In fact, I am almost certain that David would take serious exception to your recent critique of Hart/Clark. Do you have any contemporary Reformed 2K proponent that can back you here publicly?

    On a personal note, having studied at WSC (under Horton, Clark, DVD, DGH), and written a PHD thesis on 2K, it baffles me for starters why you would exclude VanDrunen from your critique, or Horton for that matter? Even more confounding is the accusation of neo-Platonism that you level at DGH/RSC, which – in my opinion – extends to all the contemporary Reformed 2K proponents (at least of Machean or Klinean persuasion), including myself.

    Finally, and on an ecclesiastical note, it concerns me that your drawing sharp lines in the sand is going to create consternation for less informed folk trying to grapple with NL2K theology and practice. I think you have received some such sentiments on your FB page. Why the guns blazing so early in your career? And in what I thought was essentially friendly territory for you?

    Thanks for considering my thoughts/questions here.

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  71. Mr. Hart,

    You said, and I quote: “Paul actually put tight limits on the aid widows could receive. The poor included the Centurion who had servants (who were sort of like slaves). Yes, Paul wrote about marriage but he hardly set up a parachurch organization, Focus on the Family. And Paul and Peter talked a lot about submitting to those in authority (and to the surrounding social order); that hardly made them transformational and hardly allowed for readers to spot where those apostles paying honor to — wait for it — Nero were hoping for a new Christian social order.”

    Stick by your own words or don’t write them. You concede the whole point; you only quibble over details. Details are important, but don’t lie.

    And actually the Bible does talk about the economically and materially poor, as well as the poor in spirit.

    And the irony of you using the chapter on Christian liberty to restrict the Bible’s concept of liberty after your repeated assertion of the Christian’s so-called liberty to do whatever he wants, based on one clause from that whole chapter which cannot nearly bear the weight you place on it, when opposing me is breathtaking. Be consistent!

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  72. Alexander, so poor has various meanings. That’s my point (see if you can keep up). I don’t think Jesus thought Zacheus was poor.

    Paul’s teaching about widows is not social policy.

    Paul’s teaching about marriage is not social policy.

    The Bible and the Confession are not speaking about political liberty when they talk about liberty.

    Clear?

    By the way, if you’re going to use titles, it’s Dr.

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  73. Simon, I’m not sure what specific claims I made in this article that left you “puzzled and concerned” because you don’t offer any specifics.

    I have never claimed to agree with everything DGH writes at Old Life. It’s possible you are thinking of a comment I wrote on something more specific Darryl wrote. But my views haven’t really changed much, and if you go and read the essays I wrote at Reformation 21 3 years ago, or read articles from my blog over the years, or my dissertation, or papers I wrote in seminary, you will see that.

    My experience discussing Darryl’s writing with WSC profs is different than yours, but I do not want to discuss private conversations here in public, nor will I get into the politics of institutions.

    I already told Darryl above why I did not critique VanDrunen. I do not believe VanDrunen’s version of the two kingdoms is the same as Hart’s. VanDrunen has not said the sorts of things I criticized in this post, that I am aware of. He tends to be far more nuanced, precise, and pastoral in his work. He is clear that the gospel has strong ethical implications (there is even a distinct gospel ethic!), and that the church constitutes its own social reality. He would never say that sanctification is not part of the gospel.

    The same is true of Horton. It was Horton’s work on eschatology (especially his Covenant and Eschatology) that opened my eyes to some of the problems with versions of the two kingdoms doctrine that present the two kingdoms as hermetically-sealed realms, or institutions. Instead of thinking in the neo-Platonic perspective of two worlds, Horton argues, we should follow Calvin in thinking in terms of two ages that overlap in the manner of the already and not-yet.

    Please accept this as my last foray into the “why didn’t you criticize other people” line of questioning. Hart and Clark speak for themselves, not for anyone else, and they can stand for what they have written. I also stand for what I have written.

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  74. Matthew, do you find a major difference in Reformed officers (and public writers) between those born into Reformed families and those who were Evangelicals for their formative years and later adopted the Reformed faith?

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  75. Matt, and so you infer from one quotation that I am not nuanced, precise or pastoral, that I deny the ethical implications of the gospel, or that I hold that the two kingdoms are hermetically sealed?

    All that from this quotation:

    I’m not sure that the gospel and ethics should be so closely identified. I believe the gospel is about what God does in Christ for sinners and ethics has something to do with the way the redeemed respond to God’s grace in their lives by following God’s law.

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  76. Matt, how do you know that VanDrunen would NEVER say that sanctification is not part of the gospel? Do you care to explain how if sanctification is part of the gospel justification is prior to it? VanDrunen has spilled a lot of ink defending the priority of justification. Are you sure you know his mind?

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  77. Horton says the same:

    “obedience must not be confused with the Gospel. Our best obedience is corrupted, so how could that be good news? The Gospel is that Christ was crucified for our sins and was raised for our justification. The Gospel produces new life, new experiences, and a new obedience, but too often we confuse the fruit or effects with the Gospel itself. Nothing that happens within us is, properly speaking, “Gospel,” but it is the Gospel’s effect.” (What is the gospel?)

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  78. Hi Matt,

    does the OPC get it wrong when stating that sanctification is not gospel but “a fruit of the gospel?” If that distinction is lessened how do we keep from including what is done within us as “good news” to hope and trust in given man’s vain propensity to search for a righteousness within himself?

    Since HB 114 teaches, “In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience” under the section of Gratitude, i.e. our response (fruit), isn’t it confusing the definition of the “good news of Christ” to include our very partial obedience or sanctification as gospel? To believe the gospel is to believe in what Christ accomplished in his death and resurrection. I understand there is both a broad and narrow use of the word gospel. Do you see a place for that distinction? The Reformers and 2nd generation Reformed did. I think this is important inasmuch as Law (our duty) and Gospel (Christ’s finished work for elect sinners) can get blurred or conflated all too easily and the gospel then subtly can become some kind of new and easier(?) law once we believe.

    Thanks…

    Question and Answer – OPC Website
    Is Sanctification a Part of the Gospel?
    “Sanctification, the internal renewal and change of the sinner by the power of God, will and must take place; however, it is a fruit of the gospel rather than the gospel itself.
    If we do not keep these things clear, we will drift into the confusion of the Roman Catholic Church. The gospel calls us to repent of our sins and to flee to the Son of God for both deliverance from the guilt and penalty and for new power against sin’s mastery; however, we bring nothing to the transaction save a brokenness over sin’s offense to God and “an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ” (Shorter Catechism Q. 87), but it is all ours, not because we have been made holy (the infused righteousness of Rome’s version) but because the receiving and resting upon Christ alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel (Shorter Catechism Q. 86), means empty hands receiving forgiveness and righteousness by faith alone.”

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  79. Matt, has it occurred to you that Scott and I are more provocative than Mike and Dave? And might that have something to do with our blogging and their not? Blogging is a medium in which provocation thrives.

    But that consideration puts your claim about “not Reformed” in an awkward position. You blog. You are provocative. Are you then not Reformed?

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  80. DGHart: earthly affairs to have eternal significance

    earthly affairs don’t have eternal significance? why are we here?
    What does the Bible say about earthy affairs having eternal significance?

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  81. now I have to say aww DG to you I’m asking seriously, wanting your thoughts. Are you deflecting to be ‘provocative’ or because you don’t think the Bible does talk about earthly things of eternal significance. (that’s probably just a rhetorical question to myself because I likely won’t get an answer!)

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  82. But, a period, if even our temporal marriages are dissolved in eternity, you know the highest temporal institution, then what makes you think anything lower has eternal significance? Same question about the highest temporal good, life itself. It must be lost before going on into eternity.

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  83. a. Are you deflecting to be ‘provocative’ or because you don’t think the Bible does talk about earthly things of eternal significance.

    You forgot the option of people seeing you as a goofball.

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  84. Kent : You forgot the option of people seeing you as a goofball.

    I know Kent, could be………………or maybe he doesn’t know what the Bible says about the earthy affairs that have eternal consequences. Probably will never know.

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  85. Zrim: what makes you think anything lower has eternal significance
    Zrim, I suspect we probably are agreeing – where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    seeing you as a goofball
    btw kent, good job, your teacher has taught you well!.

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  86. @Jack Miller
    For the record the QA section of the OPC website does not constitute the official position of the OPC on any Q or A offered therein. You have to look at the Scriptures, the Confession and Catechisms of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and it’s Form of Government, Book of Discipline and Directory for the Public Worship of God, and the acts of the General Assembly for the official position of the OPC.

    If you consider WSC 32 Q:What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
    A: They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

    Sanctification in the “Big 3” benefits of Christ the effectually called receive — aka redemption applied.

    I don’t think WSC32 really lets you rip sanctification out of the gospel unless you take adoption and justification with it. At that point then the definition of gospel is only redemption accomplished, and the application of it to any of the elect is “not the gospel”, including justification. While that may be useful in some contexts, it certainly doesn’t prove what you’re suggesting.

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  87. “In the outward life a Christian goes about like an unbelieving man: he builds, tills the ground, and ploughs like other men. He does not undertake any special task, neither as regards eating, drinking, sleeping, working, nor anything else. These two organs alone make a difference between Christians and non-Christians: that a Christian speaks and hears in a different manner and has a tongue which praises God’s grace and preaches Christ, declaring that He alone can make a man blessed. The world does not do that. It speaks of avarice and other vices, and preaches and praises its own pomp” (Martin Luther, Quoted from A Secular Faith, pp. 176-77).

    The refusal to acknowledge the hyphenated existence of a Christian is the refusal to acknowledge reality. Even Luther understood that “the outward life of a Christian goes about like an unbelieving man.”

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  88. Andrew,
    A benefit of the gospel that we partake of in this life is a fruit of the gospel – is not the gospel. Benefits and fruit flow from the gospel – Christ’s death and resurrection for all that believe. The OPC Q/A gets it right. Are you saying it gets it wrong?

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  89. To put it another way…

    Sanctification is one of the benefits promised in the gospel of Christ. But the ongoing work of sanctification in the believer’s life is not the gospel promise secured for us by Christ. It is a benefit or fruit of the gospel promise to believers which our faithful Lord works by grace. One flows from the other.

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  90. If pagans do by nature what the law requires then are you free to carry on like a pagan throughout the week?

    Nowhere does D.G. advocate following pagans in their vices Monday-Saturday. That is a caricature and a misreading. What is purported is that Christians participate with pagans in many common activities. Read the Luther quote above if you need a list of those commonalities.

    “For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. 2 For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life…4 For while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. 5 They live in their own countries but only as nonresidents, they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. 7 They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth but their citizenship is in heaven. 10They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. 11They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted.
    —Epistle to Diognetus (c. 150 AD), 5.1–11.

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  91. 2k cannot be strong on ‘heart’ matters because that isn’t its domain, it’s a Christ/culture, church/state construct. While it is the dominant issue discussed here, there are many other doctrines and truths that the Christian must account for. Just because our existence is a hyphenated one doesn’t excuse our need for lives of the kind of devotion described in Rom. 12, or elsewhere in the NT. If we only view our faiths through the lens of this (or any other) blog, imbalances are bound to happen. Without the ministry of the church, and genuine fellowship with other believers (in real life), our own devotion and faithfulness is bound to diminish if not wither all together.

    I get the critique that 2k somehow enables us to hermetically seal off our faith from the rest of our lives, so that it is merely a private, personal affair that has absolutely no bearing on how we live our daily lives. But, anyone who thinks that this is rooted in 2k (as espoused here and elsewhere) is laying the blame in the wrong place. Our enemy and the sinful flesh will seize on any useful excuse they can, distorting either our reception or application of truth if necessary in order to induce actions satisfying the sin nature. One could go off the rails with 2k, theonomy, hot blooded Puritan piety, charismania, or any other framework we understand our faith through. I’ll readily admit to you that bifurcation is a temptation that 2kers are prone to, I have battled it and suppose I will continue to battle to varying degrees, but I think this is far more a feature of my own sinfulness than it is a flaw in 2k ideology – every ideology has its vulnerabilities. The Christian life is traversed on a knifes edge, there are perils all around us, and just as harrowing threats inside of us that threaten to push us off this edge if we are not vigilant, humble, and dependent on God’s grace.

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  92. You know what’s a great aid to sanctification and Xian living (which 2k makes much of and is primarily concerned with protecting)? The local church and its worship. And at least some around here who carp about it have little, no, or tenuous connection to local churches. We call that ironical in the sticks where I reside.

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  93. kent: a. I sure know what names you go by….

    hmm, really kent. You must be talking about the mean, mocking offline e-mails exchanges among you fellas Erik mentioned. Well, it’s encouraging the Lord convicted him anyway. I used to tell my daughter that she could believe anything she wanted to, but that didn’t change reality. I think you it’s possible you may find when you meet Jesus face-to-face, that He did not consider your life quite as ‘bifurcated’ as you had hoped. Peace to you fellas.

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  94. Jed, isn’t 2k really designed to protect liberty of conscience so that Christians can’t say the gospel is social and therefore bind other believers in non-Reformed boxes?

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  95. Darryl,

    Yeah, I think so. I have come to look at 2k as a sort of political science. Of course 2k entails various ethical and ecclesological stances, but it is at least in some sense dealing with questions of authority. Broadly speaking it deals with how the rule of Christ is applied in the heavenly and worldly kingdoms. The contribution of 2k is to help the Christian understand his sacred vocation (e.g. called to be holy, to worship, to be part of the gathered church, etc) as a believer is distinct from our earthly vocations, even if the former informs the later. I wouldn’t expect a political science to be a sanctifying force per se, simply a framework to understand how to navigate the conjunctions and disjunctions between the two kingdoms.

    Amongst typical Reformed folk, I would say that one’s sanctity isn’t necessarily more or less if one is a Kuyperian or a 2ker. That is to say, these Christ & culture questions seem quite distinct from the application of Christ’s saving benefits. It’s easy to say 2kers bifurcate, or to swipe at other straw-men, when 2k theology is quite clear, and well grounded in Scripture and in our Reformed tradition.

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  96. D. G. Hart: a dot, reveal your identity and I’ll answer.

    deflection DG; you’ve already unethically done that.
    and today for you: Luke 17:1-2
    peace

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  97. Zrim,

    So the Christian faith has nothing to say about temporal affairs?! Um, isn’t that dualism? Are you a gnostic? A manichean? This life is a pretty important thing, if for no other reason than it’s the period during which one is given the opportunity to repent and believe.

    Mr. Hart,

    Um, no, I reject using “dr.” You are a mister; you are a man, aren’t you? Ergo, Mr. is perfectly adequate and appropriate. I won’t participate in this need to flatter egos, a product of the gaudy age in which we live. Modesty shines far brighter than ostentation.

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  98. @Alexander
    If you are going to use an honorific, you should use the proper one. In the United States, with the exception of the University of Virginia, faculty with a Ph.D. should be referred to as Dr. ______ or Professor ______ . Not Mr/Mrs/Ms__________ unless requested otherwise. To persist in using the incorrect honorific is simply rude and presumptuous on your part. You should be modest and rather draw attention to yourself, humbly make use of the right title if you insist on using one.

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  99. @Jack Miller
    My point was that you misspoke by calling the QA the position of the OPC. — Nice you glossed over that. I didn’t say the answer to the QA was wrong (or right), I merely said that justification is not in the gospel if sanctification is not in the gospel per WSC32. As long as your OK with justification by faith alone (and adoption) not being in the gospel then you’re free to exclude sanctification all you wont. Actually, I think you are not giving God the Holy Spirit his due, assigning the benefits we receive from Christ’s mediation as being the fruit of an idea (the gospel) rather than the work of God the Holy Spirit. You have the confession and catechisms as well as the Scriptures to read so I don’t really have anything more. Have a good life.

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  100. Mr. Hart,

    No, I wouldn’t call you that name. That would be rude. You shouldn’t refer to yourself that way either.

    sdb,

    Maybe in pretentious, East Coast, New York circles; but in the real world, populated with real people, we don’t go in for that sorta thing. I understand that America, having no history and desperately jealous of the self-aggrandising titles of the British feel this need to constantly puff themselves up. But again, real people don’t feel that need.

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  101. Alexander, are you impugning Jesus as a dualist and Gnostic for saying his kingdom is not of this world? But who said the provisional life isn’t important? Temporal, passing, fleeting, not to be clung to too tightly, yes. Unimportant? No. Try harder.

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  102. “Modesty shines far brighter than ostentation.” — and one’s piety shines even brighter when one points out how modest and pious one is. Does one tend to agree, mister?

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  103. Matthew,

    Thank you for your reply. First off, I would not expect you to agree with everything any theologian has written. In the case of DGH, I got the impression from comments on your blog in years gone by that you were in *substantive* (not full) agreement with his rendition of 2K.

    But now you are saying he is beyond the pale of the Reformed tradition. So, it makes me wonder what changed in your position, because I don’t think that DGH has significantly changed his, or RSC for that matter.

    You ask for specific qualms with your essay. The first one is that you put RSC and DGH outside of the Reformed tradition when it comes to their version of 2K. Second, you accuse them of tending toward a Platonizing version of the gospel. Both of these are bold and sweeping claims. For the record, I would be interested to know if you are basing these claims on the blog entries you cite in your piece alone? Or their respective scholarly output as a whole?

    It is worthing noting that as far as I can tell the critiques you level at DGH and RCS – bifurcation of God’s two kingdoms and being weak on sanctification – for those holding to NL2K at WSC and beyond. But, usually they come from neo-Calvinists/ Kuyperians.

    You accuse DGH and RSC of lacking precision and pastoral care. What theologian/historian does not have his moments? Don’t you think you are being uncharitable here?

    Finally, and related, I think that Darryl might be onto something in the comments on this thread. DGH and RCS are polemicists. I wonder whether a fair reading of their theology is being lost to a prejudice against their tone? Apparently Machen had a personality defect… And so did Calvin.

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  104. Matthew,
    Apologies for my imprecision.
    4th paragraph above should read:

    It is worthing noting that as far as I can tell the critiques you level at DGH and RCS – bifurcation of God’s two kingdoms and being weak on sanctification – [are par for the course] for those holding to NL2K at WSC and beyond. But, usually they come from neo-Calvinists/ Kuyperians.

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  105. Andrew,
    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to “gloss over” your point that the Q/A isn’t an official OPC document. Indeed what I wrote gave the impression. But the point I was making is that that Q/A expresses or is consistent with OPC teaching on the gospel. I’m less concerned with whether it is an official church document than with its substance. So, the rest of my comments regarding the distinction between the gospel and the benefits that flow to those who believe the gospel still stand.

    From the OPC Justification Study:

    God demands perfect obedience to his law, yet no person is able to render such obedience due to innate moral corruption. The good news of the gospel, however, announces that God, in Christ, has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. The Lord Jesus Christ, as the incarnate God-Man, has both borne the curse of our sin and has perfectly obeyed the requirements of the law.

    cheers…

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  106. I wonder if Matt thinks “the gospel is social” is respectful to non-believers:

    Christians may think in their heart of hearts that getting a point across, taking a stand, or quoting the Bible is the most loving thing they can possibly do. And such actions are often motivated by loving concern. But that is not how they are usually received. Why not? Because as delivered they remain abstract; they could be delivered in just the same way to any given number of people; they can even be communicated through Twitter. They reflect no particular love for this particular individual as a particular individual with all of her own cares and concerns. They suggest that we might be willing to have a relationship, but it will be on our terms and in our world.

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