A Common Complaint from W-wers

Carlton Wynne objects to natural law and its influence among Reformed Protestants:

I believe this aspect of the Natural Law theory in view–that people can reason their way to actionable truths apart from God’s special revelation–is too optimistic about the powers of unaided reason after the fall. The general revelation of God in nature and beneath conscience must be “carefully distinguished from the reaction that sinful man makes to this revelation” (Van Til). The apostle Paul says that unbelievers “suppress the truth” that they know (including the truth of their moral obligation to God), that they are, at root, “hostile to God” (Rom 8:7); that they have become “futile in their thinking” (Rom 1:21). They are, Paul says elsewhere, “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph 4:18).

These are hard words, no doubt. But they point to one side of what has been called the “antithesis” between belief and unbelief, a moral and spiritual conflict of basic commitments that touch all that Christians and non-Christians think about and discuss. According to this Scriptural principle, fallen man is slavishly committed to his own moral autonomy, while Christians are to view all things under the Lordship of Christ and the light of His Word. This means that, at the deepest level, there is no mutually acknowledged common ground between Christian and non-Christian. And this, it seems to me, leaves NL proponents calling for peace when there is no peace.


If true, do you then only go to Christian physicians?

And if true, why would you ever let non-Christians into positions of political authority? If you assert the antithesis you wind up theonomic.

Will “common grace” really explain why you, a person who believes in the anti-thesis, choose a non-Christian physician or politician over Christian ones?

23 thoughts on “A Common Complaint from W-wers

  1. I don’t think CVT would acknowledge this statement, “This means that, at the deepest level, there is no mutually acknowledged common ground between Christian and non-Christian.” Did not CVT acknowledge a metaphysical point of contact, a metaphysical common ground? It’s been a while since I sharpen my knife on CVT, but this sticks in my mind. We confess via the WCF that there is a “light of nature” do we not?
    And what do you do with the reformation principle of simul iustus et peccator? Regeneration does not usually transform people and their thinking as radically as we might assume. Our common humanity provides us considerable commonality of thought.


  2. DH,

    Can we affirm the antithesis and natural law? Would you say there is a distinction between common secular intellectual endeavors that believer and non-believer share, and ultimate spiritual truth in which there is no common ground?


  3. When you are engaging in the liberal project of ignoring Jesus and acting with pagans against those who oppose the legal project, you tend to have to say uncle to “common grace” even if the confessions say “providence”. When you try to stay loyal to two kingdoms, you have to do some translation and transition between the kingdom in your heart that Christ already reigns over and the kingdom of “things below” where all of us together are still in charge.

    If only we could persuade the Muslims to agree that Sharia law is only for Muslims, and convince the puritans that the Mosaic law is only for Jews, certainly two kingdom Christians should agree that the law of Christ is only for those happen to believe the gospel. Since the law is not the gospel, obviously the law of Christ cannot be for everyone–the law of Christ is only from Christ as redeemer not Christ as creator. If we don’t divide our lives in that way, how can we be left with any influence over the democratic West? Sure, maybe our hearts and our churches are in exile, but we are not going to move into some monastery where we don’t call the cops to protect us.

    But even some Lutherans only use the word “grace” to refer to God’s unmerited favor by which God justifies sinners.


    God is always already present with us in the sacrament even in this age. So whatever happens to our bodies is of absolutely no consequence, because the real you is never under the dirt. Therefore we do not need to wait for Jesus to come because there must be exceptions where we use our bodies to kill other bodies.


  4. John Piper—When I was a child, I had a hard time getting excited about heaven. I’m sure that this was largely my fault. I probably didn’t love Jesus enough to want to be with him at any cost.
    John Piper–God’s final purpose for you is not to have your soul or your spirit floating around without your body in some ghost-like mansion in the sky. His purpose for you is to raise your body from the dead and to make it new and beautiful and healthy and strong.
    John Piper–Therefore, I can say with great confidence that if you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior AND
    FOLLOW HIM AS YOUR LORD, there is nothing good and happy in your life on this earth that will ever be lost


  5. It’s odd, Mark, that you locate legalism in two-kingdom theology.

    Contra your analysis, the law is given to all prior to the fall. No Scripture is given with it, outside of “don’t eat the fruit.” Yet the expectation is that the law will be kept, as even Cain understood.

    How then do you reject the idea that the law is written on the heart?

    I would say rather that one-kingdom theology inevitably makes the elders of the church rulets over all of society. This is certainly true amongst the Amish, and largely true amongst the Mennonites.

    Does that not challenge your framework?


  6. I did not use the word “legalism”. I have no idea what you mean by the word. I am not Mennonite or Amish—they even deny original guilt imputed from Adam. Mennonites have always been synergists (semi-Pelagians) when it comes to works in justification and sanctification.

    I think the problem in communication is my constant sarcasm.
    To be more straightforward, I agree with dgh that we should say “providence” not “common grace”. I agree with Mark Karlberg that we should not speak of “grace” before Adam’s first sin.

    I do believe that God’s law is for every creature, not only for those who are redeemed. God’s law is not to be confused with “legalism” Even though our only hope is Christ’s death as satisfaction to God’s law, our most basic problem is that we have disobeyed God’s law (and not only by imputation).

    Jeff, I thank you for the questions. There is no reason that you should take the time to understand “my framework”. But I can tell you that it won’t help in that regard to understand me through a “Mennonite ” framework. Most of the Amish folks I know are just as willing to agree that there are different laws for different folks as any two kingdom Lutheran.

    Some of us are “theonomic pacifists”. That does not mean that we pick and choose out of the Mosaic covenant what we think applies today. Nor does it mean that we need not exegete the Sermon on the Mount. But being “one kingdom or the other” does mean that Christ is not only the Redeemer but also the Creator and King. This obligation to God’s law does not mean that any of us in this age obey (100 percent is the standard) but it does mean that none of us is situation exempt.

    I do not agree with Calvin’s statement—“The magistrate, if he is godly, will not want to exempt himself from the common subjection of God’s children. It is by no means the least significant part of this for the magistrate to subject himself to the church, which judges according to God’s Word.”


    “Due to his opposition to Luther and suspicions that he was in league with the political insurrection of Thomas Müntzer, Karlstadt was expelled from Saxony by Duke John in September 1524. Karlstadt’s expulsion from Wittenberg preceded him being run out of other regions repeatedly over the next year until Luther appealed to Duke John to permit his return on the condition that he not attempt to spread his views. He fled Saxony in 1529 to aid the radical Melchior Hoffman in debates over the Eucharist with other northern German evangelical theologians, then later that year curried the favor of Luther’s prime Protestant opponent, the Swiss theologian Zwingli. Karlstatdt earned a position as vicar of Alstatt in Zurich, where would serve as pastor until 1534. Then,, Karlstadt resumed academic duties for the first time since 1523. He began teaching at Basel as chair of Old Testament, until his death from the plague in December 24, 1541.


  7. I think Carlton Wynne has a point but not one that is to be taken in an all-or-nothing way. Take natural law and homosexuality. Homosexuality has been found in 1,500 species and with beneficial effects. So whose version of natural law and homosexuality does any person take? Is it that of what Paul said or is it that which has been observed?

    But asking if we need to only go to Christian physicians makes an excellent point. And if one only goes to such physicians, the time to ask if one’s physician is a Christian is certainly not right before surgery.


  8. Curt,

    The most well-known homosexual animal is the dwarf chimpanzee, one of humanity’s closes relatives. The entire species is bisexual. Sex plays an conspicuous role in all their activities and takes the focus away from violence, which is the most typical method of solving conflicts among primates and many other animals.

    “Sex among dwarf chimpanzees is in fact the business of the whole family, and the cute little ones often lend a helping hand when they engage in oral sex with each other.”

    Lions are also homosexual. Male lions often band together with their brothers to lead the pride. To ensure loyalty, they strengthen the bonds by often having sex with each other.

    Ah, yes. Civilization enslaves us. Nature liberates. Forget all that “red-in-tooth-and-claw” stuff. It’s Leave it to Beaver in the wild.


  9. D.G.,
    And you forgot lions, dolphins, whales, crabs, worms and among the other 1,500 species and it provides benefits for the members of those species. But you missed the point. Why is it irrational for the unbeliever to know how prevalent homosexuality is in the animal world and to reason that homosexuality is natural?


  10. Curt, I’m going to regret this later, but I wanted to point out that Dr. Hart included lions in his response. Yeah, he missed your point. Probably most everyone does. The homosexual crustaceans appreciate your inclusiveness though.


  11. Curt,

    Why is it irrational for the unbeliever to know how prevalent homosexuality is in the animal world and to reason that homosexuality is natural?

    Because it would mean that there would be no continuation of the species if it was actual homosexuality.


  12. D.G.,
    It is whether we used the concept, not the word. When people see the information on homosexuality in the animal world, why is it wrong for them not to associate that with Natural Law? Why is it that, when people see homosexuality existing in nature, there is no reason for them to see that homosexuality is supported by natural law? Wasn’t Wynne talking about the ‘powers of unaided reason’?


  13. Robert,
    I don’t understand your reasoning. For it assumes an all-or-nothing existence to homosexuality in any species in the animal world. Haven’t we have ‘actual homosexuality’ in human beings and yet we have continued?


  14. Curt,

    Homosexuality is a direct threat to the propagation of the species is what I am saying.

    We need to distinguish regarding “natural” with respect to:

    1. What is
    2. What should be

    Paul’s discussions of natural revelation lean more in the “what should be” category. It’s why he can denounce homosexual activity. Looking around, we see homosexual activity is, but Paul tells us it should not be. And He assumes people will get it unless and until their minds are blinded to the obvious.

    From a purely naturalistic perspective, homosexual activity means genes from some are not passed on to others, depriving the whole species of their benefits.


  15. Curt, regret because my contribution to a blog full of intellectual prowess was only to point out to the local Marxist that the host did in fact include homosexual lions (gay pride?) in his reply. Sigh.


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