When did “neutral” become such a dirty word (along with Lutheran; is it because Lutheran’s cuss?)? It’s a perfectly fine word to use on colors such as beige, ivory, taupe, black, gray, and white. It also works when describing countries like the United States before 1917 or Switzerland to this day. It’s a word that any of us going to court hope is in play with the judge hearing our case — though fair comes close. In sports, if an umpire is wearing the colors of one of the competing teams, we would definitely wonder about his (or her) — watch out — neutrality. By the way, if your run a word search for the word at the ESV websit, you get verses that include the word, “natural.” Which makes me think that the neo-Calvinists gremlins got into Crossway’s software.
Scott Clark explains that the aversion Reformed Protestants have to “neutral” — not because they are flashy dressers — owes to the influence of Dutch (neo) Calvinism:
Anyone who is familiar with the work of Abraham Kuyper or Herman Bavinck or Cornelius Van Til knows that the idea of “neutrality” is consistently and thoroughly rejected by the framers of much of modern Dutch Reformed theology and thus, were the 2K (as people like to put it) guilty of introducing it into Reformed theology that would be a great, even fatal flaw. In this discussion, “neutrality” means “a sphere of life which is un-interpreted by God’s Word” or “an un-normed sphere of life” or “an un-interpreted sphere of life” over which the Christian or even an unbeliever would be able to say, “This is mine.” This is a truly legitimate concern. Reformed theology opposes human autonomy (self-rule). Abraham Kuyper was absolutely correct to say, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!’””
For proponents of the so-called 2K ethic, the question is not whether Jesus is sovereign but how. As I understand the neo-Calvinist movement (van Prinsterer, Kuyper, Bavinck, Van Til, Berkhof, et al) they all taught two complementary principles: antithesis and common grace (Gemeene Gratie). As I understand the so-called 2K model, it is an attempt to describe the way common grace functions relative to the antithesis.
So if the question is only about the ultimate day of judgment when the goats and lambs go their separate ways, then who could defend using neutral to describe persons standing before a holy God?
The problem is that with the exception of the keys of the kingdom, when pastors and elders administer God’s word and open and shut the kingdom of heaven, most us using the English language are dealing not with ultimate but proximate realities. And in this world of sports, politics, law, and interior design, neutral is a good thing.
Here’s one example, Ross Douthat (via Rod Dreher) on the problem of guns in the United States:
With 300 million guns in private hands in the United States, it’s very difficult to devise a non-intrusive, “common-sense” approach to regulating their exchange by individuals. Ultimately, you need more than background checks; you need many fewer guns in circulation, period. To their credit, many gun control supporters acknowledge this point, which is why there is a vogue for citing the Australian experience, where a sweeping and mandatory gun buyback followed a 1996 mass shooting.
The clearest evidence shows that Australia’s reform mostly reduced suicides — as the Brady law may have done — while the evidence on homicides is murkier. (In general, the evidence linking gun ownership rates to murder rates is relatively weak.) But a lower suicide rate would be a real public health achievement, even if it isn’t immediately relevant to the mass shooting debate.
Does that make “getting to Australia” a compelling long-term goal for liberalism? Maybe, but liberals need to count the cost. Absent a total cultural revolution in America, a massive gun collection effort would face significant resistance even once legislative and judicial battles had been won. The best analogue is Prohibition, which did have major public health benefits … but which came at a steep cost in terms of police powers, black markets and trampled liberties.
Does any policy on gun use and restrictions rise to the level of “neutral”? Maybe not. But neither does this issue of public safety and personal freedom achieve the ultimate heaviosity of the anti-thesis. Most matters stemming from our common life together — Augustine’s heavenly city living in the earthly city — do not have a Christian solution. So turning “neutral” into an expletive really does nothing to help pilgrims living in exile, except to tempt some to think their real home is in a low-lying delta below sea level (and I’m not talking about New Orleans).