Matt Tuininga is back to remind us of how far short the contemporary advocates of the spirituality of the church (SpofCh) fall. In this case, the proponents of 2k and SpofCh are in solidarity with the southern Presbyterian opponents of integration who formed the PCA. That’s sort of like the students at Princeton who liken the university’s faculty to the KKK on the spectrum of institutional racism. Here’s the key Tuininga challeng:
Until advocates of the doctrine of the spirituality of the church (not to mention advocates of two kingdoms theology) come to grips with the social implications of the spiritual gospel they will not be able to make the necessary distinction between inappropriate meddling in civil and political affairs (which they rightly criticize) and the church’s responsibility to proclaim the full scope of the gospel, with all of its social implications (which duty they avoid). Until we understand how the spirituality doctrine not only permits the use of church discipline and the diaconate to promote the justice and righteousness of the kingdom, but requires it, we have not grasped just what it is that spirituality means. To politicize the church is surely a horribly misguided attempt to manipulate the Spirit for our own purposes, but to muzzle the Spirit or partition the social dimension of human life from the gospel is hardly less a display of rebellion.
So the question for Tuininga is whether social advances like the civil rights movement or integration are parts of the coming of the kingdom of Christ. For instance, one of the great achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights advocates was the Voters Rights Act which prohibited local and state policies that prevented African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.
That was not the only time that suffrage included more Americans. The Puritans restricted suffrage to members of congregations, and only when Massachusetts Bay became more secular (less controlled by Christian norms) did the franchise extend to residents who were not church members. Even then, property holdings were necessary to qualify for the vote.
More recently, the nineteenth Amendment prohibited restrictions on voting based on sex.
The question for Tuininga is whether the churches should have endorsed these enlargements of the franchise? If so, why does he not complain about the Puritans who were comfortable with restricting suffrage, or the mainline churches who for so long said nary a word about women not having the right to vote?
Or could it be that most policies and laws are not benefits of the gospel the way that assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace and perseverance of the saints accompany and flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? Is it also the case that if you can tell the difference between voting in a democracy and peace of conscience, you actually know what the spirituality of the church is?
So I throw the challenge back to Tuininga: until he can show that certain social reforms are evidence of the gospel, he needs to come down from his high horse about the deficiencies of the spirituality of the church and its proponents. I, for one, would love to believe that prison reform and abandonment of the War on Drugs as federal policy are part of “the transforming impact of the gospel.” But I have a hard time understanding how policies reformed and prisoners freed are signs of the coming of the kingdom when the people reforming the policies and the ex-cons don’t confess Jesus Christ as Lord.