In Defense of Neutrality

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).


138 thoughts on “In Defense of Neutrality

  1. What do you mean “the problem of guns in the United States?”

    Private ownership of guns is a feature not a bug.


  2. There is a difference, isn’t there, between actual neutrality on the one hand, and recognizing one’s own bias and the possibility of merit in the adversaries’ arguments, on the other? The second we sometimes achieve. The first we achieve only regarding matters that we don’t much care about.


  3. Dan, not sure. You may be a political conservative, but it would be possible to think about President Obama in categories less biased that Rush or Fox News, right?

    Then again, if you’re right, then maybe the solution is not to care too much about things that are temporal (read secular).


  4. Darryl, why must you confuse the point? You’re the master of equivocation. The issue is religious neutrality. The neutrality of an umpire is not what we’re talking about. Rather, was the game created by God, enjoyed and acknowledged as his good gift? Or rather is it an idol, worshiped and served in place of the living God, by sinful humans? It’s one or the other–no neutrality.

    I’ll grant what I take to be your main point. The religious neutrality question doesn’t always help us adjudicate the issues that are shared in common by believers and unbelievers.


  5. Terry M. Gray
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 1:32 am | Permalink
    Darryl, why must you confuse the point? You’re the master of equivocation.

    Not quite a master. He gets caught in his rhetorical tricks with increasing regularity.

    BTW, Dr. Gray, Elder D.G. Hart recently said he would have voted for your acquittal when his Orthodox Presbyterian Church put you on trial over evolution.

    Thank him very much, for all the good he did you. [None.]


  6. Terry, talk about equivocation. You’re the guy who says all of life is religious.

    If you want to back off that, great. I can then say with Charlie Sheen, “winning!”


  7. morning cw! ‘pint sized’…well at least he is not suggesting something without saying it directly. #cwlovesallkindinnuendo


  8. The quest for neutrality in matters requires all major players calling a truce and working towards that end–just like freedom of religion. Can one die as a “Neutrality Martyr”?


  9. aw cw; some.things at OL never cease to amaze; it is truly a school

    why do you regard your brother with contempt-we will all stand before the judgment seat of God

    the deceitfulness of sin hardens hearts, cw


  10. CW: Ali, re: school — It is never too late to learn capitalization and punctuation. And grammar is loving your neighbor.


    ok, thanks, cw.
    And finally then, (for today) brethren (you, CW), we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 1 Thess 4:1


  11. Terry, then what’s the problem? 2ks don’t affirm religious neutrality.

    Rather, was the game created by God, enjoyed and acknowledged as his good gift? Or rather is it an idol, worshiped and served in place of the living God, by sinful humans? It’s one or the other–no neutrality.

    Where’s the other option, that God is the author of all things and man, believing or not, is his viceroy? Where’s the common ground, where believers and unbelievers participate regardless of whether the first statement is affirmed by participants or not? Where’s the option that still allows believers to idolize a created thing and aren’t automatically immune just because they affirm God as author of all things? Where’s the triadalism?


  12. I’m glad that Russel Moore talks about culture (an evangelical statesman like Carl Truman and Timothy George) instead of the gospel. Because Russel Moore has a false gospel, something which sounds very much like that of CS Lewis.

    Even the Southern Baptists who believe in election give no evidence of believing in God’s federal imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. Nor do they seem to have any idea of faith being an benefit to the elect purchased by Christ in His death and resurrection. Their Arminian-neutral approach makes the effectiveness of the atonement depend on faith given by God. They don’t deny election but they refuse to say that it is Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect which results in faith by the elect in the true Christ revealed in the true gospel.

    This lack of attention to federal substitution is not caused by their being Baptists, nor by the absence of “the covenant” language. Rather, the problem is that their fellowship depends on not having any antithesis to Arminianism.

    Neutrality with an atonement that does not atone is not neutrality with the gospel. .


  13. CW: How long until we see a TGC/SBC/YRR conference on “Gun Control and Human Flourishing”?
    Somehow, I don’t think Dr. Scott Clark will be among the panelists.


  14. Zrim, well, Darryl seems to really, really want to say it. I don’t really disagree with you. But participation is of commonness. Neo-Cals do hold to common grace after all. You guys somewhere don’t hear that. Some would say that neo-Cals invented the term. But the unbeliever is still a God denier in all of life (so, yes Darryl, life is religion). He/she shakes his/her fist at God every time he/she uses/participates in a Creational activity while denying that God is the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Lord. That doesn’t mean he/she can’t charge everyone the same price for a gallon of gas. (Darryl’s definition of neutrality, I think.) Neo-Cals advocate common grace, antithesis, sphere sovereignty, creation, redemption, and consummation.


  15. TVD, thanks for letting me know. Darryl was at the GA but not a delegate. His Machen biography suggested as much. Darryl and I are Old Life buddies after all. Some complained that the OPC had/has drifted into a form of Reformed fundamentalism. Perhaps Darryl would agree. I wonder what fraction of the OPC still smokes cigars.


  16. Publius, good to hear it. I thought I might hear that the OPC had declared that smoking was hazardous to your health. Do you think Christian liberty extends to cannabis use in Colorado, where I live?


  17. Terry, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that neo-Cals revised the old term “providence” to “common grace.” Why the dissatisfaction? But even if you mean by common grace what the old timers more or less meat by providence, it’s still not clear what beef you have with 2k.

    Even though God is Lord over every square inch, there are spheres of life where religious belief just doesn’t have direct or obvious bearing. Somehow you guys seem to read that as a subtle form of undermining or even disparagement of faith. But I can sit in plenty of spheres even with fellow believers and the articles of faith just never seem to come up because they just aren’t relevant. I’m just saying how life works and culling a theory from there. You guys seem to be the ones who want to describe how you want it to be. It may make you sound pious, but not very realistic.


  18. Terry M. Gray
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
    TVD, thanks for letting me know. Darryl was at the GA but not a delegate. His Machen biography suggested as much. Darryl and I are Old Life buddies after all. Some complained that the OPC had/has drifted into a form of Reformed fundamentalism. Perhaps Darryl would agree.

    Ah yes, Kevin Swanson. Schism time again!


  19. Zrim, It’s true, there are areas of human discourse where the articles of faith don’t (need to) come up. But that’s not religious neutrality. That area of life is still made and Lorded over by God in Providence and common grace (i.e. the unbeliever is allowed to experience the goodness of God despite the fact that he/she deserves His wrath and will experience His wrath if he/she remains in their unbelief).

    There’s no wanting it to be anything other than it is–not sure what you’re talking about there. It’s both realistic and pious.


  20. Terry, then what is it? How would you describe an area of life where religion isn’t relevant? Religious irrelevancy?

    What I mean is can you bring yourself to admit that in plenty of given scenarios that if someone were to try and bring religious belief to bear, you could say “that’s irrelevant”?


  21. Zrim, even the common gift of eating bread (or a chocolate candy bar) enjoyed by believer and unbeliever alike is either received with thanksgiving to the creator or not. All of life works the same way. You either give God his due in the thing or you don’t.


  22. Zrim: can you bring yourself to admit that in plenty of given scenarios that if someone were to try and bring religious belief to bear, you could say “that’s irrelevant”?

    ditto above comment, yet if not with the gratitude obviously due, at least seeing fit to acknowledge God – just ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind


  23. Terry, when you enjoy that candy bar with your unbelieving friend do you make the point aloud to him that God made it and is due thanks? If yes, probably only because the larger conversation is about religious outlook and as a Calvinist you believe God is sovereign over even candy bars. If not (which most of life), then you live like a 2ker but don’t seem to have a way of explaining those instances of common life where explicit religious points don’t need to be made.


  24. Terry, is an unbeliever adding 2 + 2 and getting 4 not giving God his due? Do we live in the new heavens and new earth where people adding sums need to show all the work of giving glory to God?

    Where does the Bible say we need to do that?

    And why did Kuyper argue for the privileges of Roman Catholics to form their own institutions? Did Roman Catholics give God his due?


  25. If I read Clark correctly, he’s suggesting that modern-day Kuyperians place too much emphasis on antithesis and too little on common grace. Or, using Calvin’s language, they put too much emphasis on special revelation relative to general revelation.


  26. Zrim, who said anything about telling my unbelieving candy bar eater that he’s and idolator. Whether I speak about it or not has nothing to do with the reality of the situation. You’re very much obfuscating the issue. I don’t have to tell my neighbor that he’s a pagan in order to believe that he is one.

    Oh, I can live like a 2ker without thinking like one. There is some common ground between us.


  27. Darryl, it’s in the heart, man! Who said anything about saying or showing anything. What does the unbeliever do deep down inside? He denies God and worships and serves created things rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.

    Neo-Cals don’t advocate theocracy. Somehow you (and Van Drunen) have confused neo-Cals with theonomists. Kuyper does not think that RC’s give God his due. But in this day before the kingdom is manifest in all its fullness, false religions are allowed to exist and the sphere sovereign state is obliged to protect their rights. Nothing religiously neutral about that. If such an action is rooted in Kuyper’s Christian view of statecraft then it’s a full-blown expression of his non-neutral Christian political philosophy.


  28. Terry, “Who said anything about saying or showing anything. What does the unbeliever do deep down inside?”

    Okay, never heard of Christian day schools. So Christians should not study with unbelievers even though what’s happening is only on the inside. Huh?

    I don’t say Neo-Cals advocate theonomy. I do think the arguments on each side, and some of the intellectual inspiration for each, are similar. So the question is for neo-Cals to show how they are different from theonomists.


  29. Zrim : Ali, my dog can’t speak. Now what?

    Are you asking that of the Lord, since it’s His word, Zrim. And since that’s the case, hope you are sincere and not mocking of Him. That would be scary.

    Anyway, that verse has its own particular context, but here are some thoughts about Chrsitian ‘relevant, religious’ thoughts which influence, in some way, every ‘scenerio’ moment

    -I have breathe right now cause God gave it to me
    -God is my Lord and Master
    -God is sovereign and providential over everything
    -I have a choice to operate in the fresh or the Spirit at this moment
    -every human is an image bearer
    -I have instructions from our Creator about how to treat His creation
    -I am not an orphan, I can be helped in this moment
    -My job this moment :glorify God
    -I have the mind of Christ (His word, His Spirit) for this moment
    -I am to rejoice, give thanks, and pray in some way in this moment


  30. Policies and laws are not to be about what is helping pilgrims living in exile. Rather, they are to be about justice and the general welfare of the people. Though I agree that we have no Chrisitan laws, those laws that allow for or promote injustice are anti-Christian.


  31. Whether I speak about it or not has nothing to do with the reality of the situation.

    Terry, right, but it’s the neos who want all of life to be made explicit and draw straight lines all the time. 2k is saying you don’t have to do that. So are you, evidently, so why the beef with 2k?


  32. Ali, no, I’m asking you. Unlike a dog, you can speak. But per your list, what’s any of that have relevancy to the question of whether our school district should start a pre-K program or expand the kindergarten program? I will I use any of that at the meeting tonight?


  33. You want me to connect specific dots zrim?
    You let His Spirit in you connect your own specific dots, if you hear dot-connecting by His Spirit in you; if you don’t, so be it; I see several potential connecting dots from the principles above (probably many more principles not thought of above) .
    But that’s me, and I am me and you are you, which doesn’t negate we have the same Spirit, unless His Spirit is not living in either of us.


  34. Ali, nope, I don’t hear any dots connecting in me (whatever that means). I hear my stomach because lunch is soon though.


  35. Darryl, Zrim, ever heard of principled pluralism? The state protects the rights and abilities of adherents of a given worldview to make their claims among themselves explicitly without allowing them to force others to hold to those claims. That’s the difference with theonomy, Darryl. Of course, each worldview, including the Christian one, believes that its truth claims are true. When I’m with my believing family or in my Christian school I make the truth claims on the inside and on the outside. When I’m in mixed company, I do whatever is appropriate in that context, sometimes proselytizing and evangelizing, but not necessarily always. In the political sphere my religious views my in fact be decisive in my holding a particular view, but I can’t really use that argument in a convincing way in the pluralistic context. So I cooperate as I am able.

    Sometimes the disparate worldviews have enough common ground that there can be a cooperative effort. Take science for example. Christians believe that nature is what it is because God made it and upholds it that way. Recognizing that is quite fundamental to a proper religious orientation toward creation. One of the outcomes is that there is regularity in nature and those regularities must be discovered empirically since God was free to create however he pleased. Atheists believe that nature is what it is–no creator God behind it–it is the ultimate reality. As such atheists are God denying idolators who worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. Nonetheless, they acknowledge a discoverable regularity in nature. Christians and atheists can cooperate on science at the discovering regularity level. However, this in no way means that science or the scientific enterprise is religiously neutral. What atheists discover can be God-created truth. Christian schools allow for science to be studied in the full context of the worldview, that God is the Maker of heaven and earth, that the heavens declare the glory of God, that thankfulness and service is due to God even in the context of the scientific enterprise. Public schools either avoid the religious questions altogether (as might be advocated by a 2k sensibility) or more heinously promote the atheist religion and use the methods and results of science to promote the atheist worldview and to knock down religious ones. As I’m quite willing to say, commonness doesn’t imply neutrality.

    I think a significant point in this discussion has to do with our anthropology. If human beings are fundamentally religious beings then this talk of neutrality is nonsense. If human beings are simply cultural and biological critters, then commonness and neutrality is obviously true–humans are merely animals with perhaps advanced abilities to do the common societal tasks. It seems that 2k tends toward the latter.

    Zrim, I fully agree that my view ends up looking a lot like your view in practice. But that’s part of my point. You all are the ones who want to distance yourselves from neo-Cals. But I don’t think you know what neo-Cals believe. Culture warrior evangelicals are not necessarily neo-Cals even though they think they are and use some of the same language. Espousing some kind of religious neutrality with respect to God’s creation and human knowledge of it seems to me to be a most fundamental denial of the Lordship of Christ. Now I have to admit that I know you don’t really deny the Lordship of Christ (and in a CVT sense, neither does the unbeliever). So, I merely call you to be consistent. What you seem to fear in neo-Calvinism has little to do with neo-Calvinism properly expressed and implemented.


  36. Terry, why would conceding that human beings are essentially religious (and I do) make the point so absurd? The point is that even though God is sovereign over every square inch, and even though all people are essentially religious, there are *areas of life* in which religious belief just doesn’t calculate so obviously. A session or consistory meeting is pretty different from a town hall meeting, isn’t it? Having Muslims at the former doesn’t make much sense, but it does in the latter. Why is that?

    And I’ve spent enough time among both neo-Cals and cw-evangies to take your point on their differences with each other. I’ll even concede that there’s way more Reformation among the neos than the evangies. But as culturalists, they still have more in common with each other in distinction from the confessionalists.


  37. Machen—‘How shall I be right with God?’, ‘How do I stand in God’s sight? ’ There are those, I admit, who never raise that question; there are those who are concerned with the question of their standing before men but never with the question of their standing before God. There are those who are interested in what ‘people say’ but not in the question what God says.

    Colossians 2: 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.

    16 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is[g] the Messiah. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his unspiritual mind. 19 He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.

    20 If you died with the Messiah to the governing forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in restraining self-indulgence.


  38. Zrim, I think you’re making my claim more grandiose than it is. The very idea of creation (nature) and creational normativity IS religious. Thus when unbelievers participate in nature and utilize natural law, they are engaged religiously. We don’t have a distinct set of creationally normative principles for believers and unbelievers. But when unbelievers use creationally normative principles they are using non-neutral, religiously (Christian) based ideas. All truth is God’s truth! And this is the manifestation of common grace. I don’t have to have a distinct Christian theory of finite element analysis for it to be religious. God made mathematical truth, human beings that understand and apply, the world to which it is applied. It already drips with religious significance and meaning. Just because an unbeliever can use a God-created thing to “get along in the world” (as CVT would put it) doesn’t take away from its religious significance or basis. You guys seems to restrict religion to the redemptive. Neo-Cals see God’s activity and claims (religion) on all people in creation as well. (I anticipate a protest here.)


  39. John Bolt—“The 1924 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, though it ostensibly wanted to defend Abraham Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace, failed to guard its formulation from the perils of possible salvific universalism. Kuyper would not have been happy with that: by joining Kuyper’s insistence on the particularity of grace, Herman Hoeksema was right and the Christian Reformed Church was wrong.”

    John Bolt—Concerning the doctrine of grace, Synod declares that God’s saving grace is always particular, to the elect. The promise of the gospel “that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life…, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons of Dordt, II, 5)…. Whatever “light of nature” remains in man only serves to make him inexcusable (Canons III/IV, 4).

    I have never understood why the word “providence” wasn’t good enough anymore. Did theologians switch to “common grace” because they began to believe that sin was not against law but always against grace? Did theologians begin to think that law was grace, and that grace was law? Did theologians begin to say that God wanted to save the non-elect, and that you were “rationalist” if you disagreed?

    D A Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Crossway, 76—-“If one holds that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for th elect, both sets of concerns are accommodated.”

    The Magisterial Reformers did not need the term “common grace” in order to distinguish themselves from the anabaptists (or to kill them)


  40. Mark, perhaps the distinction lies in the context of Jesus teaching us that God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. Why doesn’t Jesus just refer to Providence here? It’s because of the context of loving our enemy as God loves his enemies and gives them undeserved gifts (grace). Common grace is a gifting of good gifts to the non-elect and is an example of how we should treat our enemies in this life.

    Interestingly, the OPC took the CRC’s side in this debate as discussed in the OPC report on the free offer of the gospel, but CVT’s position was an interesting amalgam. In the judgment the good gifts given to the non-elect in this life will be used to their condemnation. Since they didn’t give thanks or acknowledge the given, their response/use of the gift is now evidence of their guilt.


  41. Mark, the only good thing B.B. Warfield had to say about the early 20th century revisions to the WCF was about the addition of this language to the Confession in the new chapter on the Holy Spirit. Other than this, Warfield thought that new chapter merely brought together teaching about the Holy Spirit that was found elsewhere.

    2. He is the Lord and Giver of life, everywhere present, and is the source of all good thoughts, pure desires, and holy counsels in men.

    This is discussed in an article in the 2 volume collection of short writings. If I remember correctly, he tied it to discussions at the time about common grace.


  42. Terry, because it’s neo-Calvinism that traffics in the grandiose. You’ve moved the goal posts from human beings being essentially religious (agreed) to all of life is religious and “drips with religious significance and meaning” (disagreed). There’s a difference between those two propositions and when you affirm the latter, voila, Christian math. But math is just math, there’s no such thing as Christian math except among the intellectual pietists.


  43. Zrim, is there God-created math? Admitting that is really all I want. Of course, that’s a huge step for some. Seems to me that expecting people to acknowledge the Creator or else they are idolators is fairly basic.


  44. Terry, did God create math and does he sovereignly sustain it? Yes. Easy breezy.

    Is there Christian math? Flummoxed.


  45. Zrim, is the God of Creation the Christian God? Don’t be so easily bewildered. Unbelievers can do Christian math. I’m actually okay with saying creationally normative math instead of Christian if that makes you feel better. But they’re synonymous in my mind.


  46. Terry, but what is Christian math. 1 cross + 1 resurrection = 2 salvations?

    Are you ok with just math? That’s the question. Or do you have to constantly qualify it? You accuse me of making a mountain from a molehill, but if you can’t simply say math is math without attaching hifalutin adjectives, whose the mountain maker?


  47. Terry, they are fundamentally human begins who have religion. The humanity comes from God. Yes. But denying God doesn’t make someone less human. Still talk, eat, rear kids — sort of like Christians.


  48. Terry, “The very idea of creation (nature) and creational normativity IS religious.”

    Thank you Dr. Hegel.

    Is religion a biblical category? Is German idealism?


  49. Zrim: Ali, nope, I don’t hear any dots connecting in me (whatever that means). I hear my stomach because lunch is soon though.

    Yeah, heard that kind of Spirit mockery before;. much of a surprise; If you don’t ask for the Spirit’s ‘input’, you’re probably not going to be looking to hear (i.e considering the Scriptures, precepts, application). It reflects that you see no problem minimizing the indwelling Spirit
    so you must think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?

    Sometimes I wonder how well you are going to like eternity with all you flesh-reliance-loving


  50. Darryl, are you going to go all emergent on me and distinguish between religion and Christianity (or is that Tim Keller)? Religion is a Biblical category if by it we mean honoring or not honoring God. Or maybe we need to stop calling ourselves Christians too–just Christ followers or followers of the way. Not sure what you’re getting at there.

    I didn’t say anything about someone being less human. They are dead in sin and idolators however. Are you willing to go with that?


  51. Zrim, just math? I’m fine with it because I know that all of reality depends on God. But when you or unbelievers suggest autonomy or neutrality, I’ll start bringing out the adjectives to remind us all that there’s no such thing as “just” something. Jesus says “Mine!” to all of it.


  52. @ Terry:

    I agree with you that all of reality depends upon God (Col 1.16 – 17). What specific good-and-necessary inferences can you draw from that fact which help a physicist, engineer, sociologist, childcare worker, or cook?


  53. Interestingly, the OPC took the CRC’s side in this debate as discussed in the OPC report on the free offer of the gospel,


    The OPC has a Majority and a Minority Report on the Free Offer here.

    The Free Offer of the Gospel

    The following report was submitted to the Fifteenth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1948). It is taken from the Minutes, Appendix, pp. 51-72, with slight corrections. The Assembly passed the following motion: “that the report of the Committee and the minority report on the ‘Free Offer of the Gospel’ be sent down to the presbyteries and sessions for earnest study.”

    [Note: General Assembly reports (whether from a committee or its minority) are thoughtful treatises but they do not have the force of constitutional documents—the Westminster Standards or the Book of Church Order. They should not be construed as the official position of the OPC.] . . .


  54. Ali, take a breath. It was a good natured ribbing, not Spirit mocking. (Come on, listen to the connecting dots within?) But you make the Spirit’s indwelling sound more magical than spiritual. Listen to the still, small voice and maybe you’ll discern the secret principles of the universe.

    Did you just call me a carnal Christian? Hello, Keswickian Higher Life.


  55. Terry, nothing anyone over here has said suggests autonomy. Where do you get that from all the talk of God’s sovereignty and Lord over every square inch?

    But when someone uses his shoes to walk or glasses to see or conscience to guide, attributing power in them to do their appointed tasks, do you accuse him of being autonomous? Christianity is a mediate faith, as in God created means to make provisional life thrive regardless of his creatures admitting to it or not. Yes, God created all things visible and invisible, but you speak as if provisional life always has to acknowledge that. Why?


  56. Terry, actually, religion is a very modern category. That’s not emergent. That’s history.

    I know you didn’t mention human and that’s why I did.

    You have the temerity to ask if I think they are sinners when I defend justification as the only remedy for sin and also tell the put-religion-back-in-public-life crowd that such a proposal would mean the magistrate enforcing the first table against Mormons and Roman Catholics?


  57. Zrim, for neo-Cals and RC’s, it’s an either or world — autonomy or theonomy, skepticism or papal infallibility defined 250 years after Descartes (relevant and always relevanting).


  58. The Confession says “providence”. From the “minority report” of the OPC—

    In Ezekiel 33:11 as in 18:23,32, the rendering “have no pleasure” gives the proper sense, i.e. the Lord is pleased when the wicked repents, and is not pleased when he does not. The text does not assert that the Lord is pleased that the wicked should repent even when he does not.

    If the latter is given the sense that repentance as such is always approved by God, this truth could imply that God is pleased that the devil should repent. But surely no sober Christian would want to say that God desires the salvation of Satan…. The widespread representation of this desire as an intention aiming at the salvation of all renders the expression undesirable, especially when the desire is viewed as an irrational urge. These passages powerfully present the sinner’s DUTY, while they do not treat of his ABILITY to obey or of the Lord’s secret counsels.

    Nor is there a valid reason for supposing a contradiction implied between the will of decree and what is pleasing to God. To combine these passages and to add texts like Matthew 5:45 which do not refer to the way of salvation, but common mercies like rain and sunshine, is hardly to present cumulative evidence for a thesis nowhere plainly taught in Scripture, and contrary to Scripture when intended to conflict with the immutability of God’s counsel. The accumulation of a series of zeros, however elaborated, is, after all, only zero.

    The rampant evils of Arminianism among Evangelicals and Amyraldianism among Calvinists are only encouraged by adopting and even stressing the pet slogans with which they attack or obscure the doctrines of grace. Strangely, one favorite text of those who have throughout the history of Christianity insisted that God wants all men to be saved is not appealed to at present by Calvinists who use such expressions. Can it be that they realize that to take 1 Timothy 2:4 in a universalistic sense requires understanding verses 5 and 6 to teach a universal atonement, even if the will in 2:4 were taken as simply the will of command? Exegetically, as well as systematically, the thesis of Amyraldian universal grace issues in the assertion of universal redemption.

    Did the CRC theologians switch to “common grace” because they began to believe that sin was not against law but always against grace? Did they begin to think that law was grace, and that grace was law? Did they begin to say that God wanted to save the non-elect, and that you were “rationalist” if you disagreed? I commend to all the reading of John Bolt’s four essays on the topic.


  59. Bob S, Yes, you are technically correct. Mea culpa. The majority/minority report were both sent out for study and neither officially approved as is often the case with OPC study reports. (I did attend one GA where the report of the study committee was vehemently opposed–if I remember correctly t did not even appear in the minutes! Fortunately, I still have my copy.) The Q&A web site that you quote from emphasizes the word “officially” with respect to common grace, free offer, and presuppositional apologetics. But it does not answer the question with respect to “unofficially” or the general tendency of the OPC.

    The subsequent futures of the members of the majority committee (Kushke, Murray, Stonehouse) vs. the minority committee (Hamilton and Young) in the OPC are perhaps telling, although I don’t want to be guilty of a genetic fallacy. Murray’s contribution (the majority report) was later published (by the OPC?) as a separate tract and is reprinted in the Collected Writings.

    Perhaps I have been overly influenced by hardcore Murray trained pastors in the OPC, but it seems to me that the “animus imponentis” (to use a term that my name is somewhat associated with) of sorts in the OPC is the Murray position. I think that the OPC’s historical relationship with the CRC vs. PRC is additional evidence. It could be as well that I had in mind Murray’s “Common Grace” article from WTJ also reprinted in the Collected Writings.

    Maybe our esteemed host, who is expert on this subject of OPC history, could weigh in.


  60. Zrim, Actually, I did not say “but you speak as if provisional life always has to acknowledge that”. I only say it when I hear Darryl advocate “neutrality.”

    I don’t have to “say” DV after every plan or intention in order to mean it.

    What do we pray when we say “give us this day our daily bread”? “Provide us with all our bodily needs so that we may acknowledge that you are the only fountain of all good, and that our care and labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing. Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in you.” or “we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them”.

    Perhaps a daily admission that shoes or glasses or consciences are from God is enough.


  61. Darryl, “and men began to call upon the name of the Lord” is not a new category. How about if we deal with the substance and not the semantic? No temerity required for rhetorical questions. Of course, you’re okay with saying that people being dead in their sins and are idolators. I applaud wholeheartedly your commitment to JBF and even pluralism in the public square (although I know you don’t want to call it that). Remember, true neo-Calvinism and 2K thinking aren’t really that far apart.


  62. Darryl, Zrim, autonomy is just sin.

    I am bewildered that you don’t give neo-Calvinism its due with respect to common grace. It’s not that far removed from your view of the common.

    I’m just remembering that you had implemented a 4 post per day rule. Yikes! I’m way over my limit if that’s still in place. My deepest apologies if it is. Please let me know. As you know I post in spurts around here (although I’m a fairly faithful reader).


  63. Terry, words matter.

    Plus, Paul says all things are lawful. So why do neo-Cals think they have the power to make “neutrality” a dirty word?

    That is in fact the major objection to neo-Calvinism. It makes a set of personal applications the norm for all Christians — and with no biblical support except for a wave a the cosmological passages, sort of the way Roman Catholics faint over “on this rock.”


  64. Terry, right, I said it. But I’m not sure of your point. The sovereignty of God is not contested over here. All that is meant by “neutrality” is that there are areas of provisional life where religious belief isn’t immediately relevant. But the way neo-Cals speak, daily admission of all things coming from God alone really isn’t sufficient. We need Christian schools, philosophy, business, politics, and art.

    But if it helps, I’ll give neo-Calvinism props for at least being much more world-affirming than evangelicalism (which is more world-flighty). The problem comes in, though, when it wants to have Christian faith come to bear on all of life–you ironically end up creating Christian ghetto.


  65. D. G. Hart:Terry, words matter.
    Zrim:The problem comes in, though, when it wants to have Christian faith come to bear on all of life

    Words matter , alsocontext matters, and Christian faith does comes to bear on all of life

    ……not all are profitable; not all edify; I will not be mastered by anything.

    God forgives (His people) but sin harms, enslaves, perverts – so in the same paragraph He exhorts : Flee immorality 1 Cor 6:18

    and His people have freedom: so the chapter (1 Cor 10) is titled “Avoid Israel’s Mistakes” (NASB); exhorting: flee from idolatry (v14) and concluding: whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (v31) not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. (V33)

    so there is a wisdom from above and there is a fleshly wisdom and everyone knows that the world, through its wisdom, does not come to know God; everyone also knows “Christ rules over all in unconditional sovereignty and in that sense everyone and everything is in his kingdom.”

    Some just suppress those truths.


  66. What’s wrong with flight and/or ghetto? If we become like the world (in some second kingdom) in order to keep the world going (and also, we claim, to evangelize), we tend to translate the gospel into law, and then to translate Christ’s law into something more “do-able”.

    Stephen Freeman– -Christ’s teaching destroys our moral pretensions. He doesn’t say, “Tithe!” (Priests and preachers say “tithe”). Christ says, “Give it all away.” Christ doesn’t just say, “Love your neighbor.” He says, “Love your enemy.” Such statements should properly send us into an existential crisis.

    Since the law kills, we should be careful with any ideas about how we “use” the law. Can we restrain sin with sin? Better than ghetto or flight is the hope of Jesus Anointed coming back to earth to destroy the old cultures and begin the new age.

    I Corinthians 15: 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end,when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must REIGN UNTIL He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death.


  67. Ali, it may bear on life. The question — all $64k worth — is how much. A related question is whether Christians who make their faith bear on all of life get it wrong. Do the all of life people ever stop and wonder if what they are advocating in the name of Christ is right?


  68. DG: Do the all of life people ever stop and wonder if what they are advocating in the name of Christ is right?

    probably not is all they ‘hear’ is their stomach (Zrim)



  69. D. G. Hart: Ali, English is a second language?


    yeah sometimes (or according to cw, alot of times, and of course the unforgivable sin (unless I then dedicate Sunday)

    but mostly just early morning typos

    probably not is all they ‘hear’ is their stomach (Zrim)
    probably not, IF all they ‘hear’ is their stomach (Zrim)


  70. Ali, almost lunch time again. The still small voice is telling me to avoid Chipotle–food poisoning isn’t Christian, I think it’s saying. can you verify that please?


  71. Darryl, Idolatry is not lawful. Pornography is not lawful. You’re a good Calvinist. You should know that “all” doesn’t always mean “all”.

    Neutral is a perfectly good word in some contexts. A pH 7 solution is neutral–not an acid, not a base.


  72. Jeff,

    Physicist: the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. God made what you’re studying. Be amazed, worship your Creator, give thanks, use your knowledge to love your neighbor, do your physics as unto the Lord. Don’t equivocate on the word “nothing”.

    Cook: daily bread comes from God. Give thanks for it. Pray for God’s help in your baking. You can’t do it without him (even if you think you do). If you are a believer you ask for and acknowledge his help in your daily life. Do your cooking unto the Lord. Do your craft well. See it as a calling from God. Serve others with it. Make tasty stuff.

    Notice on the surface the activities of the physicists and cook look similar regardless of one’s religion. However, it’s either unto God or unto an idol. Religious either way.



  73. Darryl, this is why we have sphere sovereignty. I don’t want the church making any declarations about Creation or creational norms. That’s up to those engaged in those spheres. You put it so eloquently in your OPC history with Meuther when you discussed the OPC and social action. There you seemed to promote a Kuyperian view that respected spheres and argued that that was the modus operandi in the OPC throughout its history. Not sure how or why you’ve been radicalized in 2k-ism.

    And why the belief that “set of personal applications the norm for all Christians”? Sure the idea that we live life under the Lordship of Christ is the norm for all Christians, but Christian liberty (and sphere sovereignty) teaches us that we don’t always come to the same answer with respect to specific applications. Some say gun control, others say right to bear arms. Can Christians be on opposing sides and still both be under the Lordship of Christ? Of course. And I don’t want the church telling me that the Bible says… when it doesn’t. But I consider the matter with all I know about God, creation, sin, etc. (the Christian worldview) as I navigate the matter. And in my role in a particular State at a particular time in history, my navigation may include what civil authorities tell me I can and cannot do, but even that is under God since the magistrate is his servant.


  74. Terry, if believers can be on opposing sides of a temporal question and still both be under the eternal Lordship of Christ then why can’t there exist a neutral space where believer and unbeliever can co-exist? I mean, if there is relativism between believers, why no neutrality among un/believers?


  75. @ Terry: I don’t disagree with most of those.

    Don’t equivocate on the word “nothing”.

    As in Pascal’s argument for vacuum, or as in “all things from nothing in the space of six days”?

    It’s still OK to make non-tasty gingerbread for construction, right?

    Here’s where I part company with at least one strand of neo-Kuyps.

    As part of professional development, we attended a seminar on “Teaching Redemptively.” You can look up the book if you wish.

    The seminar had some nifty ideas, but it was fundamentally centered around Gardiner’s Multiple Intelligence theory (which is frankly pseudoscientific). I have no problem entertaining new ideas for teaching, even speculative ones.

    But the kicker was that it was communicated to us that because students are created in God’s image and therefore have tremendous diversity, Teaching Redemptively entails teaching from a Multiple Intelligences framework.

    No thanks.

    So to the extent that someone seeks to pulls redemptive categories over into common grace, I would generally push back. I see a lot of that coming out of Calvin.


  76. Terry, “That’s up to those engaged in those spheres.”

    So physicists take their cues from the Bible? From the church? Or they are independent and agnostic about faith claims — i.e., neutral.


  77. Zrim, there’s no neutral space. It’s all God’s. The unbeliever stands as rebel in God’s space.

    Can an unbeliever and a believer agree on physics, math, gun laws…? Absolutely. Common (not neutral).


  78. Darryl, not sure what you’re getting at re Mormons. Mormons can and do practice their faith (soon in the majority, most likely) where I live. In a pluralistic society various worldview are protected, even Mormons and 2ks. But that doesn’t validate Mormonism or mean that Mormons aren’t guilty before God for their false religion.

    Physicists mainly take the cues from creation–God’s creation. Seems we’re not neutral from the get go. Not sure why this is so difficult. Physicists who don’t acknowledge God, the source of that which they study, are rebels. If they do Creationally normative physics, they’re doing physics God’s way (Christ’s way, Christian physics). Call it common. But don’t call it neutral. A physicist who knows God’s creation in and out so well but who denies it’s creator will be held to account for this and other transgressions.


  79. Zrim: Ali, almost lunch time again. The still small voice is telling me to avoid Chipotle–food poisoning isn’t Christian, I think it’s saying. can you verify that please?

    You surelike to think about lunch a lot!

    Anyway, it sure seems like you don’t like to acknowledge God for His gifts to you. As a Christian…

    You might have gone to Chipotles and when you didn’t get food poisoning, you thank God.
    If you get food poisoning, you know whom to ask for health restoration, and you ask Him.
    If He has others plans for you, you know where you are going forever.
    If He didn’t answer your prayer the way you wanted, you know His plan was better.
    You know God allows food poisoning & probably doesn’t allow food poisoning.
    You know where you are going, there is no food poisoning.
    You know food poisoning is a result of the fall.
    You are not afraid to return to Chipotles, because you are not afraid (but you may not return).
    You might conclude that you are not to consider suing anybody.
    You are grateful for having been provided the resources to eat out at Chipotles.
    You are grateful for the gift of knowledge given to combat harmful microorganisms, while they must exist.

    I’m sure there’s more, but that’s it for now. Have a good dinner.


  80. Yes Ali, I’m grateful I have dined six times when a bad food reaction hit people and I didn’t feel a thing.

    In residence they served steak that didn’t seem too good, I went home for the weekend and when I returned found out 80 of the 90 students came down with horrible illness and had to go to emerg for treatment and my residence looked like a
    .. well I will spare the details on 80 people with food poisoning.


  81. Terry, we’re going in Christian circles. Let’s try another direction. When someone says he herds goats using biblical principles, you say…?


  82. Terry, the linguistics are silly. Public schools tried to be neutral. But that’s bad. Change the word to common and now they’re good? Silly.

    If people use neutral to deny God, then that’s a problem. But as if neutral is the only word that falls in that category?

    What you struggle with is that sometimes you say the antithesis goes all the way down and try to be a good Kuyperian. Other times, when you’re reading scientfic journals, you recognize the common.

    I believe lots of public institutions try to be neutral in a way that brackets religion out of public considerations. Kuyperians and some RC’s say that’s illegitimate. At this point in human history, rejecting liberalism in that way is silly.


  83. Zrim: Ali, Chipotle (not Chipotle’s). Your ESL is showing again.

    Oops ok thanks again, you guys are always so really very helpful in the important matters! Appreciate it!

    And hey,beside that important thing, I forgot to include this important thing…

    -As a Christian, you know everyone who drinks of Chipotles will thirst again; but that whoever drinks of the water that Jesus gives will never thirst again- His water becoming in one a well of water springing up to eternal life

    -And then you can’t quit thinking about the fact that we all must die, so you remind yourself of facts you are so privileged to know, that most don’t (from 2 Cor 5 or whatever scripture):
    v1 if the earthly tent is torn down, we have a building from God
    v2 in this current house we groan
    v5,17 anyone in Christ is a new creature and has the Spirit as a pledge
    v7 we walk by faith, not by sight—
    v8 we have an ambition – to be pleasing to Him
    V11 knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men
    V14 the love of Christ controls us
    V16 we recognize no one according to the flesh anymore
    v18-20 we are ambassadors for Christ- God having given us the ministry of reconciliation, committing to us the word of reconciliation,
    v20 so we beg others on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God


  84. ZRIM,

    “Terry, we’re going in Christian circles. Let’s try another direction. When someone says he herds goats using biblical principles, you say…?”

    I think you may be setting yourself up 😉
    Anyways doesn’t the bible have principles for animal husbandry?
    You guys are hilarious.


  85. Zrim, goat herding is a lot like cooking and physics, I’d guess. God made the goats. God created that which makes agriculture possible. God’s role in making and sustaining that which makes goat-herding possible OUGHT to be acknowledged in the prayers of us creatures.

    Also, there are those principles of genetics that we learn from Jacob in Genesis and the refutation of Darwin in the “after their own kind” passages in Genesis 1. Any neo-Calvinist biology will use those as first principles. =;-)>



  86. Darryl, silly for Christ’s sake, I guess.

    Maybe public schools did try to be neutral. But it’s pretty clear that it’s a failure. Perhaps we should learn from history. I’m not sure I would advocate for common education. Common streets, perhaps. Education has too much potential for the state to try to exercise religious indoctrination.

    If words matter, maybe you ought to work harder to see the difference between “common” and “neutral”.

    You are mistaken about my “struggle”. I am a perfectly good Kuyperian in my approach to science. Science as a human endeavor is famously rooted in a theistic worldview. Creational law, sphere sovereignty and common grace all help us to see how Christians and non-Christians with disparate worldviews can share exploration of, knowledge of, and use of the one God-created-and-sustained Creation that we all live in. My Kuyperianism helps me identify the false religion of Dawkins and the like who make rather explicit the idolatry that other scientists only show implicitly.

    Yes, some institutions bracket out religion the way you say. But that is a religion in itself that says that you can do life or areas of life a-religiously. That’s perhaps the chief threat of public education. You’ve been taught well, it seems. If it can’t be done because it’s violating a fundamental aspect of human creatureliness, then it’s a foolish endeavor. Better to structure the public arena so that religious views are seen as legitimate, yet recognized as a place of possible pluralism in society.


  87. Terry, “Common streets, perhaps. Education has too much potential for the state to try to exercise religious indoctrination.”

    Perhaps? !!!!?????!!!!

    By the way, the state indoctrinating in schools was part of Protestantism. Do you think the Geneva Academy was an institution that families formed?

    When you say that thinking a-religiously (neutrally), you really do sound like the Roman Catholics here. No matter what someone else says, you can always redefine terms for you team. I doubt you teach like that. I sure hope not.


  88. Darryl, I hope I’m not being too subtle for you re common streets.

    I don’t really regard Geneva as a model society. Seems that it had some theocratic leanings. Not too pluralistic. Perhaps it was a monolithic culture so there was no need for pluralism.

    As to a-religious equals neutral–I’m really not trying to redefine terms so that my side wins (whatever that means). That’s what I’m hearing you guys say, especially in your critique of neo-Cals. I’d be thrilled to learn that I’m hearing it wrong. I’ve already conceded that neutrality can be used in a perfectly legitimate sense in the context of umpires, referees, judges, government posture toward a partiicukar religion, pH, etc. if all that you mean is without inappropriate bias. I do think there is no neutrality even in these areas with respect to the rules or to laws (even natural law) or to the constitution, etc. If that’s all you are saying, then fine. And Christians can do that as well as non-Christians.

    I just want to insist on a fundamental posture by all people that is either toward God or against God. No neutrality here. And because God is involved in every area of life by virtue of Creation, Providence, and Sovereign Lordship, every area of life evidences this non-neutrality, especially with respect to acknowledging the Creator, Sustainer, Provider, and Sovereign Lord. That’s “all” I’m getting it. You may not think it’s important or doesn’t really come to the fore in our common life, but I think it’s truly foundational. Frankly, I think that’s the main message of neo-Calvinism, not some fundamentalist style application of an out of context Bible verse.


  89. Terry, if the antithesis is so basic and fundamental, then of course you don’t send your kids to public schools. Does that also require a Christian Society for the Study of Biology?

    You say neutrality is legitimate — one hand, and then you take it away such that even umpires or judges aren’t neutral properly speaking.

    So when 2kers question the way neo-Cals draw the antithesis, our Reformed bona fides are questioned. That’s the game here. You guys score all sorts of points with the populist Reformed by saying something as basic as the antithesis is so basic. The problem it, no one operates that way in the real world of between the times. 2k is realistic. Neo-Calvinism is inspirational.


  90. Darryl, I think I have already answered your first concern. There’s a perfectly good neo-Cal basis for a superficially shared science–common Creation, common grace. Look deeper at the religious underpinnings and you find the antithesis. While I don’t eschew the common scientific community, I think there is a place for Christians in science to think through questions in ways that doesn’t happen or can’t happen in the commons–thus, Christian colleges or Associations of Christian Biologists. Thinking through those sorts of questions is not the work of the church as church, i.e. no synod or general assembly is competent or authorized to deal with such matters.

    Sure, I give and take away. Context is important here.

    As I’ve said before here, I don’t think there’s all that much difference. The realism that you say is 2k is already part of a properly functioning neo-Calvinism (Creational norms, common grace, sphere sovereignty–those ain’t exclusively 2k ideas). I think you’re naive about today’s public education and the role of worldview in education. Neither the state nor the church should be in the business of education. In case you didn’t know, I’m quite partial to homeschooling. I also think your eschatology is a bit messed up–a little too other-worldly. You need a good dose of Richard Middleton. (Disclaimer–no endorsement is ever 100%.)

    I’d never kick you out of my church. As you know, I’m way too latitudinarian for that.


  91. 2k?

    On the contrary the unbelieving world excels in many things. Precious treasures have come down to us from the old heathen civilization. In Plato you find pages which you devour. Cicero fascinates you and bears you along by his noble tone and stirs up in you holy sentiments. And if you consider your own surroundings, that which is reported to you, and that which you derive from the studies and literary productions of professed infidels, how much there is which attracts you, with which you sympathize and which you admire. It is not exclusively the spark of genius or the splendor of talent, which excites your pleasure in the words and actions of unbelievers, but it is often their beauty of character, their zeal, their devotion, their love, their candor, their faithfulness and their sense of honesty. Yea, we may not pass it over in silence, not unfrequently you entertain the desire that certain believers might have more of this attractiveness, and who among us has not himself been put to the blush occasionally by being confronted with what is called the “virtues of the heathen” ?


  92. Terry, Richard Middleton? Puhleeze. Are things that tough that you need that sort of uplift?

    Calvin’s Geneva provided education. The state has long been in the business of educating. Does it have an agenda? Never said it didn’t.

    Christians thinking through common areas sounds like the people in the sciences setting the agenda for Christians. That’s not all that transcendental. Seems more like finding fellowship for Christian who are intimidated by the professional scientific societies.


  93. Darryl, no one’s perfect. But thanks for the warning; it shows you’re concerned for my soul. (That, by the way, is my main beef with Middleton. I’m a regular old-fashioned anthropological dualist.) Admittedly, this worldly at the expense of other worldly is more dangerous than other worldly at the expense of this worldly.

    I doubt that all your readers have read Kuyper. Too many of us rely on secondary sources. It’s a shame that some people know Kuyper only through the Hart/Van Drunen lens.


  94. Terry, I’ve read his works, no big deal as for tilting the earth off its axis for me.

    His connection with apartheid is troubling as well.


  95. Terry, what’s odd? American worldviewers like to tell us the Christian world-and-life view is the antidote against social horrors like slavery (doctrine of relevancy alert). But are they aware that the Dutch Reformed in South Africa could be regarded as complicit in apartheid? Now that’s odd, Christian worldview complicit in social horrors. Oh, snap.


  96. Worldviewers have their private little lists of ethnicities and opinions that not be welcome in their earthly paradise. By any means necessary I guess.

    It’s fun when they deny all this when confronted.


  97. You guys are too funny. Seems to me in a 2k world that Apartheid as a political, social reality is something that Christians shouldn’t be too worried about. Sort of like those 1st century Roman emperors. That’s why I thought it odd that Kent brought it up.

    Kuyper was a man of his times. Looking back, it seems obvious that he missed the mark here and was more influenced by 19th century views than scripture. But, eventually, the Reformed got it right–perhaps with some help from liberal minded democratic modernity, but possibly through the global witness through the RES including leadership of the OPC. Perhaps willing to tolerate apartheid in South African society, did not think that racial divisions belonged in the church.

    To Kuyper’s and other 19th century church leader’s defense (although only a little), it is not so clear that in a highly segregated culture that a segregated church structure might be the best evangelistic and church planting strategy. You know, the idea of Paul training local elders and even having predominantly Gentile churches.


  98. Terry, so 2kers aren’t worried about Apartheid (depends on whom and when), but then Dr. Neo-Calvinist defends segregation.

    So which is it? Should we be worried? Is Apartheid bad?

    Terry, your loyalty to the cause is reaching Mermaid and Susan proportions.


  99. Terry, the point is that neo-Calvinist worldviewry makes big promises for human flourishing. Apartheid isn’t an instance of human flourishing, yet neo-Calvinists gave it cover. 2kers aren’t pointing fingers the way anti-2kers do because they know what it’s like to have 2k-SOTC indicted as a cover for slavery, i.e. no moral judging going on. Rather, 2kers are pointing out that if even neo-Calvinist theorists can’t get it to align with practice then what hope do the rest of slobs have, which is another way of asking where does neo-Calvinism make any realistic room for abiding human sin in the inter-advental age? Do the theorists understand that human beings stand in the way to utopia? Never seems like it.


  100. Darryl, Zrim, please read more carefully what I wrote. I said that I don’t think Kuyper and the South African church got it right. So I’m not defending at all cost.

    I’m not a SA expert nor an expert in apartheid, so I’m not sure I want to enter this quagmire. However, I’m quite willing to say that forced racial segregation in the church is contrary to the gospel (Eph 2 among others). Here Belhar gets it right. Whether or not allowing worship style and preaching preferences to express themselves voluntarily along racial lines is a separate issue.

    What happens in the State and society is a matter of sphere sovereignty. Of course, this is why sphere sovereignty has negative connotations in some places. I do think that Christians in the SA government should have been pursuing racial justice. But politics are always subject to the history. Perhaps it can be said in retrospect that deKlerk eventually got it right due in part to his own Christian Faith and the witness of the broader church. Also, these things do take time. Perhaps they can be made the law of the land with the stroke of a pen, but there may be years of social and cultural adjustment. No one needs to be simplistic or knee-jerk or judgmental about that.


  101. Terry, please take your own advice. I didn’t say Kuyper & Co. should have gotten it right. I said how are we supposed to be won over to the theory when the theorists themselves get it wrong in practice?

    But if you’re saying that the work of society is fraught and hard and tedious with some wins and some losses and some draws, then welcome to the 2k outlook. Why are you cheerleading an outlook that is all about circumventing the human experience and ushering in a sanctified society, i.e. prosperity gospel for the cultural class.


  102. Zrim, no claims to perfection from neo-Calvinists. Where’d you get that idea? And, as always, I’m quite comfortable seeing lots of overlap between 2k and neo-Calvinists. You guys are the ones constantly trying to drive a wedge between them. Tempest in a teapot, mostly.


  103. Terry, to the extent that Keller popularizes neo-Cal thought, does this not imply claims to societal perfecionism? Sounds about as close to immanentizing the eschaton as it gets among the culturalists:

    The gospel does not only have implications for our private life and Christian relationships. It also affects our public life, particularly how we pursue our vocations in the world and do our daily work. Any particular culture is largely the result of a society’s core beliefs about the meaning of life, right and wrong, the nature of the human dilemma and it’s solution—all fleshed out and expressed through people’s work and the things they produce. When Christians begin to do their work out of a different set of beliefs—whether in business, the arts, the academy, government, or the helping professions—it changes and renews the culture. The gospel gives every believer a new worldview, new inner motives and power, and new conceptions and guidelines for work. While the local church does not directly seek to change culture, it disciples its people to be agents out in the world who do.


  104. Zrim, not until everyone is converted. Until then we’re salt and light, doing things God’s way as we best understand it. Notice he differentiates between the work of the church and the work of Christians in their vocations (now recognizing God as the one who calls–voco, vocare…).


  105. Terry, what’s not until everyone is converted? Perfection on earth? Wrong. That’s not until Jesus returns. Conversion only converts people, it doesn’t eradicate sin. Besides, if in his return he separates wheat form chaff, not everyone is converted at any point, so why do you speak as if that’s even feasible?

    His differentiation is feeble at best. The point still seems to be that the organic church transforms the world. An older notion of vocation thinks in terms of preservation, not transformation. Huge difference.


  106. Zrim, you make me smile. There is no time in this age where everyone is converted. Only when the Lord returns and the wicked are cast into the lake of fire. Then “everyone” is converted, then perfection. Until then we have this “combo” world. We’re saying the same thing.

    Yes, of course, it’s the organic church (Christians) that transforms the world (a bit here or there, sometimes more, sometimes less). That’s the whole point of distinguishing between church as organism and church as institution.

    Where do you get these ideas about neo-Calvinists? I’ve never heard anything close to the position that you attribute to us.


  107. Terry, I’m quoting from Keller himself. If we’re saying the same thing then why so approving of his words? Because you seem to think transforming the world is the role of the organic church. What part of lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands suggests the organic church is supposed to transforming the world? Where do I get these ideas? From living at ground zero among Kuyper’s descendants who really think transforming the world is as much Christian orthodoxy as trinitarian christology.


  108. Zrim, Do you distinguish between the organic church and the institutional church? How much we mind our own business depends on our business, don’t you think? Perhaps that Bible verse is more narrow than you think. As you are fond of pointing out, non-Christians can pursue justice, help the poor, serve the community with their gifts of administration and wisdom, promote global development, address environmental and climate issues just as well as Christians. Sometime Christians are called into these “common” tasks for the good of all. Those who are bring their faith and whatever implications that has for their lives, work, and service to the table. Salt and light, loving your neighbor, working as unto the Lord, glorifying God in whatever you do–these are all aspects of “transformation”.

    Not the church, right? But, Christians and others who cooperate with doing of good and bringing of peace to the world. It’s not done until the Lord returns and, honestly, who knows if any of it sticks–history shows that it comes and goes.

    Of course, these with “worldly” callings are members of the church. They believe the gospel. But their allegiance and heart motivations in all of life were and are being transformed by the Holy Spirit. They know that the fundamental issues of life and the desire to now do God’s bidding is a result of their conversion. So, gospel preaching, corporate worship, discipleship, church planting, etc. must be done. This is the work of the institutional church and its leaders. Some are called there too as special officers but all are called to the general office and participate together in this body that Christ is calling out.

    I lived in GR for 11 years and have lots of continuing ties through the CRC. It’s as diverse if not more so than Kuyper’s Netherlands with a mix of Catholics, secularists, evangelicals, as well as the Reformed. Are there institutions uniquely influenced by the Reformed way. I think so. But they exist among the pluralistic society that is modern urban America. In addition I think you have an American culture in many ways has absorbed and is absorbing the church. While you may consider what’s happening in GR to be the result of some grandiose transformational vision, I see little more than the progressive humanism that is modern America.


  109. Neutrality and secularity make sense:

    Secularity describes the discourse which necessarily dominates large areas of modern life. It is a discourse which brackets any religious definitions of reality in its proper space. Secularity thus defined became indispensable for the achievements of science and technology in modern times, and contemporary societies would be intolerable without these achievements. However, one must not therefore conclude that the secular discourse has completely pushed out all religious discourses. In the lives of individuals and in entire societies modern secularity and religion co-exist side by side. Law is a very important area of such co-existence. Of course there have been projects of restoring the hegemony of this or that religion (today the most blatant project is that of fundamentalist Islam) and projects of eliminating religion altogether (as in the heyday of Communist societies). I tend to think that the opening up of a secular legal space occurred first in the area of modern international law. One of its founders was the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), who insisted that the new discipline should proceed etsi Deus non daretur/ “as if God did not exist”. In other words, it should be religiously neutral. He had little choice if international law should apply to the Europe of his time, which had states defined as Protestant or Catholic, as Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, as well as Eastern Orthodox Russia and the Muslim Ottoman Empire. (It is important to remember that Grotius was anything but an atheist; he was a pious Protestant.) Religiously neutral law spread to domestic law as well. The newly independent Netherlands had two urgent dangers to fight—Spain reconquering it, and the sea flooding its low-lying areas (hence its name). Protestant and Catholic segments of the citizenry had to cooperate on both problems in a religiously neutral way.


  110. Hauerwas would say that “realism” makes more “sense” to those who have are attempting to keep one foot in each kingdom.

    “Despite the clear differences between the optimism of the reconciliationists and the realism of Reinhold Niebuhr, they are both driven by a desire for religion’s (that is, Christianity’s) continued relevance in the modern world. For Niebuhr, the consequence of this desire is that he comes to accept “relative justice” as the best that can be done by a political domain dominated by selfish

    Is “religious liberty” for Lutherans more important than “religious liberty” for those with a “Reformed worldview”? Every inclusion includes an exclusion, and when we said liberty, did we mean also baptists and Jews? And when we said Jews, did we mean also Muslims and Sikhs?


  111. While you may consider what’s happening in GR to be the result of some grandiose transformational vision, I see little more than the progressive humanism that is modern America.

    Terry, why do I suspect that if you liked what you saw in Little Geneva you’d mark it down to the grand Kuyperian project? Don’t like it? Must be that badder project. But once the shift goes from doctrinal to cultural, it’s hard to stuff that genie back in the bottle. Still, if the Kuyperian project is so powerful and persuasive, how did “progressive humanism” get the foothold?


  112. “Daryl Charles repeatedly tells his readers that John H Yoder was a radical Anabaptist who had no appreciation for church history prior to the Radical Reformation, who posited a radical ethical discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments (140, n. 113), and who held no place for natural law in Christian ethics (137-141).”

    “A careful reading of Yoder’s work shows that Daryl Charles was wrong on all three accounts. I demonstrate Yoder’s continuity approach to the Old and New Testament, creation and Christ, in “The Politics of YHWH: John Howard Yoder’s Old Testament Narration and Its Implications for Social Ethics,” Journal of Religious Ethics 39.1 (Mar 2011): 71-99, and in The Politics of Yahweh (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011).

    For a focused study on John Yoder’s view of Christ and creation, see Branson Parler, “John Howard Yoder and the Politics of Creation,” in Power and Practices: Engaging the Work of John Howard Yoder, eds. Jeremy M. Bergen and Anthony G. Siegrist, 65-81 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2009).


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