What in the World (-w)?

If politicians or voters thought like this, wouldn’t the world be safer for theonomy?

The awareness that God acts in history in ways that we can only know in the context of our culturally determined experience should be central to a Christian understanding of history.

Yet the Christian must not lose sight of the premise that, just as in the Incarnation Christ’s humanity does not compromise his divinity, so the reality of God’s other work in history, going well beyond what we might explain as natural phenomena, is not compromised by the fact that it is culturally defined.

The history of Christianity reveals a perplexing mixture of divine and human factors. As Richard Lovelace has said, this history, when viewed without a proper awareness of the spiritual factors involved, “is as confusing as a football game in which half the players are invisible.”

The present work, an analysis of cultural influences on religious belief, is a study of things visible. As such it must necessarily reflect more than a little sympathy with the modern mode of explanation in terms of natural historical causation.

Yet it would be a mistake to assume that such sympathy is incompatible with, or even antagonistic to, a view of history in which God as revealed in Scripture is the dominant force, and in which other unseen spiritual forces are contending.

I find that a Christian view of history is clarified if one considers reality as more or less like the world portrayed in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.

We live in the midst of contests between great and mysterious spiritual forces, which we understand only imperfectly and whose true dimensions we only occasionally glimpse.

Yet, frail as we are, we do play a role in this history, on the side either of the powers of light or of the powers of darkness.

It is crucially important then, that, by God’s grace, we keep our wits about us and discern the vast difference between the real forces of good and the powers of darkness disguised as angels of light.

If historians can see the forces of darkness and light in the past, imagine the powers of Christian magistrates and voters in recognizing sin and righteousness in society.

The problem is, I don’t think the Neo-Calvinists really want to go there. But they do need to acknowledge how they made the world safe for theonomists.

7 thoughts on “What in the World (-w)?

  1. So we have two, not one, positions to avoid: radical transformationalism (theonomy) and 2kt where the Church is prohibited from speaking prophetically to the state. And yet, are there points each position that we use to create a hybrid of both transformationalism and 2kt?


  2. Curt,
    A fascinating thought. It makes me wish I was more tightly coupled to my Associate Presbyterian heritage. I would like to examine George Marsden’s book in light of my tradition. Those roots seem largely scattered with the merger of the United Presbyterian Church North America (the 100 year denomination) and the old United Presbyterian Church of the United States of America almost 60 years ago.


  3. When I ask folks if water baptism is law or gospel, sometimes they answer—we don’t know yet, on earth we can’t know.
    My question is about if families on earth are about God’s left hand, God’s “other work”, God’s legitimating a second kingdom in which “natural law” not grace rules. Even though no Christians need to be running the state on behalf of the pagans, some of us do have families, and many want to put the ethics of family into a box where grace has nothing to do with teaching children” how to get ahead in the real world”. God’s “other work ” means killing peasants and Jews

    I often hear something like this from people trying to tell other people to parent (and have great children like they do)——you need to use law in parenting, so your children will flee to grace in “spiritual things”

    Paul Zahl–“Law mars and destroys this relationship between parents and child, even when it is offered in the name of love. Grace, on the other hand, creates lifelong response of love. Every parent I know who has ‘lost’ his or her children sees the effects of the law. If only you could go back and reorder the relationship from the top down, to instantiate one-way love. Every parent I know who has the attentive love of his or her children is watching the effects of grace. Although there is neither a perfect correlation between grace-full parenting and the flourishing of adult children nor a one-to-one correlation between parents as law-bearers and adult children fleeing, there is still a close link between accepting love and its fruit, which his freed love in response, and stinting ‘love’ and its result, which is half-love, or quarter-love, back the other way (163, Grace in Practice)

    Proto–”The message of Ecclesiastes is highly problematic to the Dominion-builder who seeks to manifest the Holy Kingdom here on Earth. The history of heroes and villains largely disappears. In terms of the ups and downs, the rises and falls of men and their kingdoms… a coherent metanarrative is absent from Scripture. The struggles of this age may be contended with, interacted with and spoken of. But they are not ‘our’ wars. That which is esteemed in the eyes of the world is abomination in the sight of God. Winston Churchill, George Washington, Grant and Lee are not Christian heroes. Figures such as Richard the Lionheart, Charlemagne and Constantine are more servants of the enemy that citizens of Mt. Zion.”



  4. Thanks Mark,
    You, D. G. Hart, and D. E. Olinger have given me much to think about.
    Jesu juva.


  5. But isn’t neo-Calvinism a very young movement? A. Kuyper was only born 9 score ago. He was only a decade senior to my gr-granpappy Thomas Beveridge Turnbull. We are just beginning to get the temporal separation needed to see how such recent events will play out in history. We do all need to continue to do our infitesimally small part, that which we see as our Kingdom work. That which is so small can be used by our maker. SDG


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