Young Calvinists Discover Old Princeton

The Gospel Industrial Complex recently invoked two Princetonians to make points that generally elude the Young and Restless’ heroes.

Fred Zaspel writes about Benjamin Warfield’s views on race (which contrasts with the New Calvinists’ Homeboy, Jonathan Edwards). He even used Warfield’s critique of Southern Baptist Seminary’s president, W. O. Carver:

In a 1918 review of Hastings’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics27 Warfield takes issue with an article on “Negroes in the United States” by William O. Carver of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Warfield characterizes Carver’s article as cheerfully endorsing a permanently segregated America—“two races, separated from one another by impassible social barriers, each possessed of an ever more intensified race-consciousness and following without regard to the other its own race-ideals.”

Warfield objects, and argues instead for an integrationist position:

This [Carver’s viewpoint expressed in the encyclopedia article] is to look upon the negro as (according to one current theory of the nature of cancerous growth, at any rate) just a permanent cancer in the body politic. We may suspect that it is not an unaccountable feeling of race repulsion that impels Dr. Carver to repel with sharp decision the forecast that amalgamation of the races must be the ultimate issue. With continued white immigration and the large death rate of the blacks working a progressive decrease in the proportion of the black population to the white, is it not natural to look forward to its ultimate absorption? That is to say, in a half a millennium or so? That is not, however, our problem: for us and our children and children’s children the two races in well-marked differentiation will form but disproportionate elements in the one State. What we have to do, clearly, is to learn to live together in mutual amity and respect and helpfulness, and to work together for the achievement of our national ideals and the attainment of the goal of a truly Christian civilization.

Meanwhile, Kevin DeYoung appropriated J. Gresham Machen’s doctrine of the spirituality of the church to argue for preachers restraining themselves about politics (contrary to Tim Keller’s transformationalist outlook):

3. Distinguish between the corporate church and the individual Christian. We need believers in all levels of government and engaged in every kind of public policy debate. But there is a difference between the Bible-informed, Christian citizen and the formal declarations from church pronouncements and church pulpits. In the early part of the 20th century, most evangelicals strongly supported the Eighteenth Amendment, the Volstead Act, and Prohibition in general. When J. Gresham Machen made the unpopular decision to vote against his church voicing support for the amendment, he did so, in part, because such a vote would have failed to recognize “the church in its corporate capacity as distinguished from the activities of its members, on record with regard to such political questions” (Selected Shorter Writings, 394).

4. Think about the nature of your office and the ministry of your church. I studied political science in college, and I’ve read fairly widely (for a layman) in economics, sociology, and political philosophy. I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not.

That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would. I don’t want people concluding from my online presence that Christ Covenant is really only a church for people who view economics like I do or the Supreme Court like I do or foreign affairs like I do. Does this mean I never enter the fray on hot button issues? Hardly. But it means I try not to do so unless I have explicit and direct biblical warrant for the critique I’m leveling or the position I’m advocating. It also means that I try to remember that even if I think my tweets and posts are just a small fraction of what I do or who I am, for some people they are almost everything they see and know about me. I cannot afford to have a public persona that does not reflect my private priorities.

5. Consider that the church, as the church, is neither capable nor called to address every important issue in the public square. This is not a cop-out. This is common sense. I’ve seen denominational committees call the church to specific positions regarding the farm bill, Sudanese refugees, the Iraq War, socially screened retirement funds, immigration policy, minimum-wage increases, America’s embargo of Cuba, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, global economics, greenhouse gas emissions, social welfare, and taxation policies. While the church may rightly make broad statements about caring for the poor and the oppressed, and may even denounce specific cultural sins, the church should not be in the business of specifying which types of rifles Christians may and may not use (a real example) or which type of judicial philosophy Christians should want in a Supreme Court justice (another real example).

Again, Machen’s approach is instructive. He insisted that no one “has a greater horror of the evils of drunkenness than I” and that it was “clearly the duty of the church to combat this evil.” And yet, as to the “exact form” of legislation (if any), he allowed for difference of opinion. Some men, he maintained, believed that the Volstead Act was not a wise method of dealing with the problem of drunkenness, and that enforced Prohibition would cause more harm than good. Without stating his own opinion, Machen argued that “those who hold the view that I have just mentioned have a perfect right to their opinion, so far as the law of our church is concerned, and should not be coerced in any way by ecclesiastical authority. The church has a right to exercise discipline where authority for condemnation of an act can be found in Scripture, but it has no such right in other cases” (394-95).

Not sure where any of this is headed. But if you are postmillennial, you might take encouragement.

16 thoughts on “Young Calvinists Discover Old Princeton

  1. Here’s an interesting fact: PCA founder-lately-become-pariah Morton Smith named his son after integrationist Warfield rather than segregationists (or worse) Dabney or Thornwell. His son did the same with his own son, even adding the “Benjamin”.


  2. Though Machen has contributed much to our understanding the differences between theological liberalism and the Fundamentals of the faith, perhaps his views on politics and political involvement, just as Keller’s views on the same, need more scrutiny.


  3. DGH – “Meanwhile, Kevin DeYoung appropriated J. Gresham Machen’s doctrine of the spirituality of the church to argue for preachers restraining themselves about politics (contrary to Tim Keller’s transformationalist outlook)”

    When has Tim Keller ever said preachers should be unrestrained on politics? I’ve heard him say the exact opposite on multiple occasions. If anything Keller is scrupulously apolitical.


  4. Kevin may sound like 2K advocate, but I get the sense he sometimes writes to please certain categories of readers. He would spend his time better advocating robust Presbyterian ecclesiology. Try spotting any such practise on his church web site. Kevin sure is a fluent writer with a decent sized brain but is he calling the church to clearly defined Presbyterian practise or is he just an earnest evangelical at heart? His ecumenical stance, to the point of staunchly defending the ministry of CJ Mahany, shows his true colours.
    Looking to such New Calvinists to be straight uncompromising advocates of the tenets of Presbyterian practise, apart from their thoughts on 2K issues, is akin to believing Theresa May will deliver the Brexit the majority of people voted for – fat chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. vv, what does transform Manhattan mean? Only to have a worship service at three sites? It that’s it, then the OPC has transformed USA, Uganda, Haiti, and Quebec for starters.


  6. DGH – transforming Manhattan means Christians live out their calling as believers in a way that drives society in the direction of God’s Kingdom. It also includes being ready to share the hope within us, just as Peter exhorts us to do. It doesn’t mean preachers should be “unrestrained” about politics, which is precisely what Paul and Jesus tell us NOT to do.


  7. vv, “Christians live out their calling as believers in a way that drives society in the direction of God’s Kingdom.”

    You’ve got enough wiggle room in that for Jonathan Edwards and Walter Rauschenbush.


  8. DGH – touche! The work of transforming Manhattan (or any city) is the work of Christians, but not the institutional Church. Thus pastors have little “official role” other than exhorting their congregants from the Word and administering the Sacraments. Becoming embroiled in specific political issues is not the role of a pastor, and I’m pretty sure Tim Keller would agree.


  9. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: DGH – transforming Manhattan means Christians live out their calling as believers in a way that drives society in the direction of God’s Kingdom.

    “a doctrine of two ages layers the new creation on top of the old creation so that they are simultaneous. It presents a picture of the whole person (mind and body) living within the legitimate but fallen institutional structures of creation (family, state, and so on); and simultaneously a picture of the whole person, once regenerated, living by the power of the Spirit within the institutional structures of the new creation (church, ordained elders).

    Christians are capable of acting both according to the flesh and according to the Spirit. Which further means, activities of the flesh and Spirit will inform the activities of both creation institutions and new creation institutions. Hence, churches remain capable of sinful err, while Christian members of governments will be capable of making Spirit-informed decisions about the course of righteousness and justice. And vice versa.

    These institutions of family and state may occupy a different age than the church and its elders. But the present simultaneity of the ages means that God often employs the institutions of one age to serve the institutions of the other, whether in direct or typological fashion. The state exists to provide a platform for the church’s work of redemption, while the righteousness and justice of the church serves as a prophetic witness for the state.

    The love and faithfulness of a Christian husband and wife serve as a symbol of Christ’s love for the church, while the elders of a church should present an example of patient instruction for parents.” Jonathan Leeman


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