Will Kevin DeYoung be Reduced to One Cheer?

I cannot give a thumb up the way Scott Clark did to Kevin DeYoung’s post about the spirituality of the church. As Scott implies, DeYoung’s point is useful for showing that the doctrine was part of the Reformed churches’ toolkit well before the sectional crisis in antebellum America. It was not the product of Presbyterians defending slavery. DeYoung is also helpful on showing that the doctrine protects the jurisdiction of the church from that of the magistrate or king.

the magistrate and the minister exercise jurisdiction over different spheres. The magistrate can only deal with external things. That is, he cannot make laws that demand certain affections or compel the conscience to believe certain things. The minister, on the other hand, has the right to judge inner dispositions and outward obedience, though the minister mainly deals with spiritual things (as his sphere) and only “handles external things for conscience cause.”

The problem comes when, and I’m not happy to put it this way, he quotes Charles Hodge:

Hodge strongly disagreed with Thornwell’s contention that since the church was only to preach the gospel that the church had no right to open her lips against the slave trade (p. 289). “Yes,” says Hodge (who was mostly a moderate when it came to slavery itself), “the Bible gives us no rule for deciding the litigated questions about public improvements, a national bank, or a protective tariff or state rights. But it does give us rules pronouncing about slave-laws, the slave-trade, obedience to magistrates, treason, rebellion, and revolution” (pp. 289-90).

This understanding of the spirituality of the church, then, keeps church and state distinct but allows ministers to pontificate when they read the Bible a certain way. Here is where the matter of the sufficiency of Scripture is crucial to the spirituality doctrine. The point of keeping pastors out of politics wasn’t simply to maintain checks and balances or some kind of differentiation of spheres. It was mainly to limit ministers to expounding the word of God. If the Bible speaks to a particular matter, ministers should speak to it. But where the Bible is silent, ministers should also keep quiet.

Okay, then, clever readers may be wondering, doesn’t the Bible speak to slavery? Well, it does but maybe not in the ways that Hodge or DeYoung or Frederick Douglass would find encouraging. Does anyone want to open the Bible to Exodus 21 and instruct southern slave owners about slave policy and tell the abolitionists to back down?

“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.

Or how about reparations (as Jemar Tisby advocates)? Should 2 Samuel 21 be the church’s standard?

Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” 2 So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. 3 And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the Lord?” 4 The Gibeonites said to him, “It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “What do you say that I shall do for you?” 5 They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, 6 let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.” And the king said, “I will give them.”

That sort of puts a point on it.

And how about the John-the-Baptist 30-year diet?

John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

Don’t even start on the John-the-Baptist line of men’s ware for those offended by the Gillette commercial.

So the spirituality of the church is not simply about distinctions between church power (spiritual) and state power (civil). It is also about the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the way of salvation.

Sometimes Scripture does speak to social and political matters. But because the biblical authors were so distant from ours, following their counsel about monarchy or about executing adulterers may not be what God wants his church circa 2020 to do. In other words, the Bible comes packaged in all sorts of historical circumstances that good interpreters generally know how to render so that women who don’t wear hats to church do not have to meet frequently with session or consistory.

If the Bible is a guide to life, then I guess you can consult it for political hot button issues like abolition and reparations. And if humans have no recourse to wisdom about daily living, including social and economic policies, then some Christians may think the Bible is the only source of answers. But if the Bible is an account of how God reconciled sinners to himself and how the church ministers that plan of salvation to God’s people, then Christians need to use the best insights from the unregenerate and the redeemed to achieve a modicum of peace and order this side of glory.


23 thoughts on “Will Kevin DeYoung be Reduced to One Cheer?

  1. It’s not clear that the Sermon on the Mount is a guide for this present age in which Satan is the natural ruler of one of our two kingdoms? After our Muslim enemies are dead, then the age to come will come, and at that point, the Sermon on the Mount will become practical (without being ta riumphalistic theology of glory) and then we all can love our enemies…?

    The Spirituality of Reformed churches depends on their clergy not being “biblicists”. Even though the Bible itself does not talk about Marxism, Reformed ministers must not keep quiet about the evils of abolitionism and “social justice”. Because being Reformed is more than offering “His death for you” but also involves a total world-view in which the rights of property against theft ( by magistrate or individual) are maintained

    When Reformed Confessions are revised, this never changes the substance of the Reformed world-view. The Sermon on the Mount is merely Jesus expounding the “substance” of the Abrahamic and Mosaic law which in turn were expounding the substance of the covenant of works given to Adam by the Creator. And since Jesus is not our creator but our redeemer, what Jesus said in that Sermon is not for all creatures and not even for the redeemed when the redeemed take up other roles outside the church. Because what God has predestined is always good, and if God didn’t want the Jews to own non-Jewish slaves, then the Jews would have never owned non-Jewish slaves. And if it was once good for Jews to practice polygamy, then it can’t be evil for Confederate Chrisitians to own slaves.

    Jean Lassere—You could justify anything by such reasoning in these cases. Jesus did not reproach Pilate for his presence in Palestine so He sanctioned the Roman occupation, and all military occupations generally; implicitly Jesus must then condemn all defensive wars against a foreign invasion. Jesus did not reproach the Herodians for their servile collaboration with the Romans, so Jesus sanctioned all collaborations, including the Vichy’s . Jesus did not reproach the Pharisees for their hostility to the Romans; so Jesus also sanctioned patriotic resistance.to the invader. Jesus did not reproach His disciple Simon for having offered violent resistance to the Romans, so He must have sanctioned all resistance movements. He did not ask Zacchaeus to give up his job as head of the publicans; so He approved of the Roman occupation, its system of collecting taxes, and implicitly a powerful nation’s right to colonise and exploit a weaker.


    The writer of Hebrews praises the faith of Rahab without mentioning anything about her being a prostitute, therefore neither John Robbins nor John Murray have the right to tell us not to dress up for church. Nor should ministers be talking about fake news and the midwives or why polygamy was sin even for Abraham.

    John Robbins—It is the law of the Christ that governs in Philemon’s situation, not Caesar’s. Philemon’s ownership of Onesimus was perfectly legal under the pagan laws of the Roman Empire, but Paul says that it was not morally
    proper… In his letter to Philemon Paul makes it clear that Christians must be governed by Biblical law, not pagan law, when the two differ. So even though slavery was legal in the Roman Empire and acceptable to many people, including Christians such as Philemon, it was not fitting…..Paul is planting the idea in Philemon’s mind that slavery is not a permanent condition: Paul is now a prisoner, but he was not a prisoner earlier. Paul was unjustly put in chains. Paul did submit to Roman law by sending Onesimus back to Philemon. Even more remarkably, Onesimus, by willingly returning to Philemon, was submitting as well. But their actions do not imply that Ro­man law regarding fugitive slaves was just: It was not. Nor does Paul ever cite Roman law as his reason for sending Onesimus back to Philemon.

    Deuteronomy 23:15- “You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates

    Theodore D. Bozeman, “Inductive and Deductive Polities”, Journal of American History, December 1977, p 722–, Old School contributions to social analysis may be viewed as a sustained attempt to defend the inherited social structure…The General Assembly found it necessary to lament the practice of those who ‘question and unsettle practice which
    have received the enlightened sanction of centuries’… The desire was to draw the ought out of the is…to make facts serve a normative purpose


  2. The JtB cologne probably would be a big hit. Eau de ewww.
    Regarding slavery as it was practiced in the US. Isn’t it sufficient to say that it just didn’t coordinate well with the command to love our neighbors as ourselves? Never mind the Exodus passage. Couldn’t the church have spoken against it based on this command? Particularly the cruel type of man stealing and family separation?


  3. @Jeff & VV I’ve given up trying to understand MM’s word salads. It’s unfortunate because I suspect that there are points worth engaging buried in there.


  4. DG,

    I read DeYoung’s article and generally agreed with it. Glad to see him grappling with this topic. Would that more in his circles do the same.

    About the slavery issue, wouldn’t I Timothy 1:10 (and perhaps its OT counterpart Exodus 21:16) be something that would meet the biblical criteria of both you and Hodge? The ESV translates it as “enslavers,” whereas the margin gives a broader definition of “those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery.” The Greek word is andra-podistas (kidnapper). BAGD p. 63 defines it as “slave-dealer, kidnapper.” I have heard the term translated as “man-stealer.” This form of slavery is different than the form found in OT Israel and in the NT among the Greeks and Romans. It also is much closer to the form of slavery used in this country.

    Seems to me that a minister could speak against this form of slavery without violating the spirituality of the church. I guess it depends how far he goes with it. If he merely expounded Paul’s condemnation of “man-stealing” I think that he stays in bounds concerning the spirituality of the church. If he went beyond the NT condemnation of “man-stealing” and started prescribing public policy from the pulpit, then he would be violating the spirituality of the church. Am I off base?


  5. -If the Bible is a guide to life then
    -But if the Bible is an account of how God reconciled sinners to himself
    -then Christians need to use the best insights from the unregenerate

    the Bible is everything the Lord says it is, and that doesn’t exclude living instruction- (2 Tim 3:16) profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness; with examples written for our instruction (1 Cor 10:11).
    Also, we should also always acknowledge where wisdom comes from – I think we’re told it can only be one of two places -This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. (James 3:15)


  6. Acts 7:2 Stephen said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham and said to him: Get out of your country and away from your relatives… Abraham settled in Haran. After his father died, God had Abraham move to this land you now live in. 5 God didn’t give him an inheritance in it, but God promised to give it to Abraham as a possession,
    and to his children after him, even though he was childless… Abraham’s children would be strangers in a foreign country, and they would oppress them 400 years. 7 I will judge the nation that they will serve as slaves… 8 Then God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision…

    Acts 7:52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become….54 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit,
    gazed into heaven. He saw God’s glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 56 “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. 58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him.

    Jeff:—We are loyal citizens of one kingdom, respectful strangers and aliens in the other.

    Hart—“Nero did not violate God’s law when Nero executed Christians who obeyed God rather than man”

    The sarcasm against “our redeemer not our creator” is against the Reformed worldview that says Jesus is therefore not a lawgiver which means that either the Ten Commandments given to Moses or the “equity” or “substance” of commands given to Adam or Noah have priority over anything Jesus might have said. Hauerwas— “Bonhoeffer returned to the issue of the “orders of creation” in a address in Czechoslovakia in July 1932. Again he attacks those who believe that we must accept certain orders as given in creation. Such a view entails the presumption that because the nations have been created differently each one is obliged to preserve and develop its own characteristics. He notes this understanding of the nation is particularly dangerous because “just about everything can be defended by it.” Not only is the fallenness of such order ignored, but those that use the orders of creation to justify their commitment to Germany fail to see that “the so-called orders of creation are not revelations of the divine commandment…Bonhoeffer notes this distinction is crucial for justifying the Reformation position on war and on the public use of legal violence. “But this distinction between private person and bearer of an office as normative for my behavior is foreign to Jesus,” Bonhoeffer argues. “ Jesus does not say a word about it.. ‘Private’ and ‘official’ spheres are all completely subject to Jesus’ command. https://uwaterloo.ca/grebel/publications/conrad-grebel-review/issues/fall-2002/dietrich-bonhoeffers-political-theology


  7. “The Sanhedrin did nothing but fight over the minutest points of the law, and their whole shepherding of the people proved to be nothing but a heavy handed yoke of manipulation. All their priorities were out of whack. They were grumpy. There was no joy, no confidence, no hope, no freedom, only sorrow and guilt, and whole bunch of fighting and division—tragic consequences of a ministry that kills instead of giving life.”


    Hart—How about the John-the-Baptist 30-year diet?

    yes, that john the pharisee guy was not content with the ordinary means of divine access in the synagogue, but added on other pietistic notions to the circumcision commanded to Abraham.

    Matthew 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones!

    Matthew 11: 2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, John sent a message by his disciples 3 and asked Jesus, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed,the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.6 And if anyone is NOT OFFENDED BECAUSE OF ME, they are blessed.

    Did john the pharisee think that the good news was social justice and experiences of signs and wonder?

    Matthew 11: 11 Jesus—-Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
    2 Corinthians 3: 13 We are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face in order that the Israelites could not stare at the the end of what was fading away, 14 but their minds were closed. For to this day, at the reading of the old covenant,the same veil remains. The veil is not lifted, because it is set aside only in Christ.
    Galatians 3: 25 But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian

    sarcasm alert— The kingdom of heaven is not yet in this age, so there is continuity of substance between all post-fall covenants, and though Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant there’s nothing new in this present age in which we still have some closed-mind preachers being pharisees misunderstanding the covenant. Since these preachers don’t get it, they talk about society’s injustice and sometimes magistrates cut off their heads for sedition.

    2 Corinthians 3 and Galatians 3 are not about a history of covenants because “the guardian” has nothing to do with discontinuity in substance because women are still women and slaves are still slaves, and women and slaves could always be united to Christ by faith and justified . Therefore any talk about “the kingdom of heaven” really means preachers adminstering grace according to the Confession, and not talking about social justice (or the evils of social justice)


  8. Did Machen advocate a moderate form of Constantinianism, or a moderate form of anti-Christendom?

    Machen–The intolerance of the church, in the sense in which I am speaking of it, does not involve any interference with liberty; on the contrary, it means the preservation of liberty. One of the most mportant elements in civil and religious liberty is the right of VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATION – the right of CITIZENS to band themselves together for any lawful purpose whatever, whether that purpose does or does not commend itself to the generality of their fellow men.

    Machen—you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day,

    Machen—Now, a church is a voluntary association. No one is compelled to be a member of it; no one is compelled to be one of its accredited representatives. You cannot expect from a church any cooperation with non-Christian religion
    or with a non-Christian program of ethical culture. There are those who tell us that the Bible ought to be put into the public schools, and that the public schools should seek to build character by showing the children that honesty is the best policy and that good Americans do not lie nor steal. With such programs a true Christian church will have nothing to do. .

    Warren Breckman—An aristocratic ethos, liberality in its Roman, medieval, and early modern forms supported .the concept of noblesse oblige. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the hierarchical ideal of social relations taught that gentlemen showed tolerance and munificence towards inferiors.

    https://newrepublic.com/article/152935/conflicted-soul-modern-liberalism. .

    And the gentleman in the bow tie says—-If the state does not regulate us in “the church”, then “the church” won’t say
    that any specific God revealed in any specific Bible regulates the state. We tolerate you. You tolerate us. We protect you from ignorant indviduals and them from you. Toleration is more than submission. Toleration means legitimacy as a
    positive good, and those who won’t agree should expect to have their heads removed if they do not leave the place where their magistrate is naturally sovereign. The difference between what God predestines and what God commands can never be a difference between good and evil


  9. Jeff, when you get done reading Rutherford, you might be interested in the essay referenced below exploring the variety of distinctions between Christ as Divine Creator and Christ as “Mediatorial King”. Or not. Not all pacifists are alike either. Most of us don’t confuse the words “force” and “kill”…


    “All three of the views are in contrast to theTwo Kingdoms view, commonly espoused, for instance, by professors at
    Westminster Seminary West. The difference lies in how the Kingdoms relate to each other. The Modern view of Church and State relations (historically known as Voluntaryism), holds that the civil government is to uphold only half of God’s Moral Law: only the 2nd Table of the Ten Commandments

    “In contrast to the Lutherans, the Reformed tend to attribute the universal Kingdom]specifically to the Second Person of the Trinity and only the economic reign, including the Mediatorial Kingdom to the God-man as Mediator.’…One reason, amongst many others, why Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom does not include the world is because a kingdom, by definition, must be for the good of its subjects (WCF 23.1; WLC #45). Yet Christ’s governing of all people and dashing nations and kings that resist Him through providential judgments (Ps. 2:8-12) is not for their good, but for the good of the Church, his Kingdom.

    “The view commonly held by Reformed Presbyterians also often holds to a Two Kingdom paradigm with a super-added universal Mediatorial Kingdom since Christ’s ascension; see for instance, Messiah the Prince, pp. 213-215 & 101-102, though the distinction between the Kingdoms becomes ‘only theoretical’. (Andrew Symington, Headship of Christ over the Nations)

    “Some persons of this view, though, would reject the Two Kingdom paradigm altogether and assert only one Kingdom in substance through history with two different ASPECTS, such as the Reformed Presbyterian David McKay (An Ecclesiastical Republic, pp. 62-76)


  10. Which reformed writer says this?

    “…the Reformed worldview that says Jesus is therefore not a lawgiver which means that either the Ten Commandments given to Moses or the “equity” or “substance” of commands given to Adam or Noah have priority over anything Jesus might have said.”


  11. The quick answer would be for you to start reading John Murray, or Patrick Ramsey (on the use of Leviticus in Galatians, ie the guardian, the schoolmaster).

    But I would prefer to focus on Reformed writers who do NOT think that Jesus is merely exegeting the Ten Commanments” David Van Drunen:—Crucial for understanding 5:38–42 is Jesus’ programmatic statement in 5:17 that introduces his subsequent commands: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” A common reading of this verse in my own Reformed tradition is that Jesus is about to clarify the Mosaic law in response to Pharisaical corruption of Moses. ..This reading is not an adequate interpretation of Jesus’ words. It fails to reckon with the radical, eschatological newness of the coming of Jesus and his kingdom so emphasized in the preceding texts in Matthew. The first use of the key Synoptic phrase, “I have come,” for example, hints at Jesus’ heavenly origin (and hence his authority to say what he is saying) … Jesus’ denial that he has come to abolish the law or the prophets indirectly offers further evidence of the spectacular newness of the kingdom of heaven… More concretely, the way in which Jesus’ commands unfold in 5:21–48 is ultimately incompatible with reading them as clarification of the Mosaic law over against corrupt Jewish interpretation.

    For me to point you to DVD or to Lee Irons or to David Gordon or to Matthew Tuininga does not mean that they agree with me about pacifism or about the magistrate or about the regulative standard for the magistrate, But it does mean that you should not equate any dissent about sabbath or about the equation of both tables of the Ten Commandments with “the moral law” as a resut of antinomianism. To me, it’s ironic that those who see problems with ecclestiatical antinominisn are so opposed to a church addressing the antinomian magistrate. is it already a “political pronouncement” when Machen insists that a church must make no “political pronouncement” ? Having a worldview against having a worldivew sounds like a contradiction. Or at the least, exempting one own’s view as not itself individualistic comes off as not only narrow but “sectarian”



  12. Dave,

    But technically, the U.S. practiced slave trade. Man-stealing was a feature of the other side of the ocean and awful. But I’m not sure you can apply man stealing across the board.


  13. I suppose if I bring up the “Year of Jubilee” and the release of debts and slaves, I will be classified as a Marxist. I guess that I am not a good Southern Presbyterian–or any kind of Presbyterian.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Blaine, don’t be hurt (or wear it on your sleeve). Paul tells slaves to submit to masters and this is part of loving neighbors. Paul calls himself a slave of Christ (he was bought with a price). If you want to sentimentalize loving neighbors fine. Apparently Paul didn’t. Whom should I believe?


  15. DGH – “But technically, the U.S. practiced slave trade. Man-stealing was a feature of the other side of the ocean and awful. But I’m not sure you can apply man stealing across the board.”

    So, if I buy a TV I know was stolen, it isn’t a violation of the 8th Commandment because I didn’t personally steal it?


  16. D.G.
    That’s a distinction I have not heard anyone make. I’m not opposed to it, just need to mull it over. Thanks for your thoughts.


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