Why Would Tim Keller Accept Princeton’s Invitation?

Owen Strachan is at a loss to explain why Princeton Seminary has decided to withdraw the Kuyper Prize from Tim Keller:

How odd that this fracas has happened at Princeton. Princeton Seminary is the ancestral home of Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen. For a good long while, Princeton was one of the staunchest defenders of orthodoxy in all its gleaming brilliance, turning out thousands of Bible-loving, gospel-preaching pastors in days past. Princeton has long had ties to Abraham Kuyper, who delivered his famous “every square inch” Stone Lectures at the school in 1898. The Princeton-Kuyper-evangelical connection is alive and thriving at schools like Westminster Seminary, which produced sterling graduates like Harold John Ockenga.

Beyond thriving Westminster, as just one humble example, I will be teaching a July PhD seminar with my colleague John Mark Yeats at Midwestern Seminary on “Biblical Theology and Culture.” We will be discussing Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism. Baptists like me are thankful for our brother Abraham and his insights. Over 115 years later, the Kuyperian tree yet blooms, and on numerous campuses, the “Princeton Theology” yet lives.

But mark the irony: today, Kuyper could not receive his own award, as Michael Guyer noted. Nor could Hodge or Warfield or Machen—strong complementarians all—win such an honor, or perhaps even teach at the school they did so much to establish and strengthen.

Does Strachan not see the irony that Machen had to leave Princeton for Old Princeton’s theology to thrive? Doesn’t he understand the irony of the anti-Machen Princeton awarding (the pro-Machen?) Keller with a prize associated with the Calvinist orthodoxy of Abraham Kuyper?

Strachan interprets this episode as another indication of how deep the antithesis goes:

Don’t be confused: this world hates the gospel, hates God, and hates Christ (Romans 8:7). It calls faithful men and women of God to sit down and fall silent. But, in love for fellow sinners, we graciously refuse to do so. We will preach the whole counsel of God, including biblical sexual ethics, which glisten with divine craftmanship. We will rise to praise Tim Keller, a man who received a weighty charge from God, a man entrusted with much, a man who did not drop the baton.

That’s pretty arch for a defender of Keller since that world-hating-Christ meme has never been prominent in Keller’s we-can-redeeem-this approach to the big apple.

But if the world is all that, why would Keller recommend Gotham the way he does? And if the world hates Christ as Strachan says, why would Tim Keller not look at Princeton’s effort to award him as an indication that he may not have been as clear in his communication of Reformed orthodoxy? After all, when E. J. Young received an invitation merely to serve on Christianity Today‘s editorial board, he refused to identity institutionally with the church for whom Princeton Seminary is the theological flagship:

As you well know, Carl [Henry], there was in the Presbyterian Church a great controversy over modernism. That controversy was carried on by Dr. Machen in part. There were many who supported Dr. Machen in his opposition to unbelief. On the other hand there were many who did not support him. When matters came to a showdown and Dr. Machen was put from the church there were those who decided it would be better to remain within and to fight from within. . . . Since that time I have watched eagerly to see what would be done by those who remained in the church. They have done absolutely nothing. Not one voice has been raised so far as I know to get the church to acknowledge its error in 1936 and to invite back into its fold those who felt constrained to leave, or those who were put out of the church. . . . What has greatly troubled me has been the complete silence of the ministers in the church. They simply have not lived up to their ordination vows.

If Keller had been holding out for confessional Presbyterianism, Princeton never would have paid him attention. And if Princeton Seminary had ever checked Keller’s curriculum vitae, they’d have seen Westminster Seminary, the school founded by Machen, and wondered, “what were we thinking?”

If only the New Calvinists paid a little more attention to Old Calvinists, they might know that Calvinism is never sexy. As Mencken said for many mainstream media members, “Calvinism is but little removed in the cabinet of horrors from Cannibalism.” But instead, New Calvinists listened to Keller and thought, if he can make it in New York City, so can we.

Why Moderation and Charity Are Overrated

In Jake Meador’s review of Rod Dreher’s BenOp, he makes this passing observation of the NAPARC landscape:

A desire to preserve unity at the cost of clarity and an unwillingness to take a stance is not a solution and, in fact, will probably cause as many to drift as will a lack of charity and restraint in our rhetoric. Being in the PCA, this is the concern that occupies my mind more as it seems the greater danger in my immediate ecclesial context. I suspect that it is also the greater danger in most Catholic dioceses and many non-denominational evangelical churches.

Even so, a lack of charity and restraint in our rhetoric will lead some who might otherwise be persuadable to dismiss us. That seems the greater danger in the Southern Baptist Convention, if my read of things is accurate. It is also the greater danger in many reformed microdenominations such as the OPC and CREC, I strongly suspect.

For the record, the books that came out recently about the contemporary cultural bankruptcy had no ties to the micro Reformed denominations. They came from an Eastern Orthodox layman (Dreher), a Roman Catholic archbishop (Chaput), and a Roman Catholic layman (Esolen). Those are churches that have labored under the Christ and culture burden, have tried to make society Christian, and are now showing the effects of that weight.

What has the little old OPC produced about the current crisis (a conference on gay marriage that technical glitches prevented from being recorded?)? Nothing. It is still more or less wedded to J. Gresham Machen’s assessment of the Protestant mainstream and is more or less committed to passing on the faith without the assistance of America’s cultural or political institutions. But when a church simply tries to do what a church is called to do (see 25.3 of the Confession of Faith), it is in danger of showing a lack of restraint and charity?

Not to be missed is the kind of transformationalist vision that has become the PCA’s calling card of late. Perhaps the idea of being a church to the big city is charitable and restrained (though to anyone with half a brain it sure looks delusional to think you can teach Woody Allen’s New Yorkers to become Wheaton’s evangelicals). But from the perspective of the Protestant mainline, the PCA looks downright sectarian.

That may be the single recommendation for Rod Dreher’s book — to provoke those who want a seat at the table (or a mouthful of the Big Apple) to consider what it means to be a stranger and alien. I know Jake Meador already knows this. But sometimes his PCA identity gets in the way of his inner Stanley Hauerwas and he never says “boo” about PCA exceptionalism in the era of Tim Keller.

Endorsement Overkill

Rans

(Y)“During my college years the chapters reprinted in this volume along with other non–academic writings of Machen were a significant influence in my life, and I have returned to them from time to time, always with great profit. Written for his own day, they have lost none of their relevance and will continue to serve the cause of the gospel and the church’s wellbeing not only today but for generations to come.”
— Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

(Y)“In J. Gresham Machen, God gave the church an inimitable champion of biblical orthodoxy and gospel clarity. This book will show you why Machen is one of American evangelicalism’s most important 20th–century thinkers. More to the point, this book will ground you firmly in what it means to see in the face of Jesus Christ the grace and truth and glory of God.”
— Russell D. Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

(Y)“In these seven brief lectures, Machen follows the main spine of Christian truth….The Person of Jesus is Machen’s reminder to the church of who we are–a reminder we needed then, and that we need still. In these lectures, the mists of mysticism melt away, and the simple, elegant, profound truths of the Bible appear.”
— Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.

(Y)“J. Gresham Machen was a man of his times, enmeshed in protracted and penetrating conflict over the triumphant liberalism of his day. He was also a man who transcended his times, because he undertook, with rare learning and clear–sighted understanding, the defense of the faith ‘once for all entrusted to God’s holy people’ (Jude 3). His Christianity and Liberalism, for instance, written almost a century ago, still sounds amazingly prophetic. This present short volume brings together six of Machen’s radio talks of 1935, preserving Machen’s voice and emphases in an idiom that is more popular than his large books, but no less important. Machen is always worth reading.”
— D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

(Y)“J. Gresham Machen was one of the best thinkers and writers among Reformed theologians before his untimely death on New Year’s Day of 1937….Machen’s writing is always crisp and clear, without any compromise of cogent argument….When Machen finishes dealing with an unbelieving argument, I always feel that there is nothing more to be said on the unbelieving side.Even though this work is over eighty years old now, I would not hesitate to give it to someone who had doubts as to the deity of Christ, his miracles, and his resurrection.”
— John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

(Y)“Dr. Machen’s radio addresses on Christ, uttered over eighty years ago, are astonishingly contemporary when read today….To get maximum benefit from this book, read one address per day praying your way through it for worldwide reformation and revival today.”
— Joel R. Beeke, President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletic, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; Pastor, Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, MI

(Y)“The life and teaching of J. Gresham Machen are rightly revered by contemporary Christians who prize Reformed orthodoxy. Dr. Machen’s compelling voice lives again in the pages of this short book of radio talks on the divine Son of God. As a theologian for ordinary Christians, his clear and concise communication of biblical truth will draw new readers into a deeper and more personal knowledge of the risen Christ.”
— Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

(Y)“These pages constitute treasure that has been hidden far too long–J. Gresham Machen bringing his incisive scholarly mind to bear on the big issues surrounding the person of Christ. As well as clearly expounding Jesus’s identity, these pages excel in dismantling false assumptions, muddle–headed and illogical reasoning, and subtle mishandlings of the Scriptures. The Person of Jesus is simultaneously a superb primer on the teaching of the Gospels and a powerful illustration of how to ‘destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Cor 10:5).”
— Sinclair B. Ferguson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary

(Y)“J. Gresham Machen was one of the most prescient and courageous Christian theologians of the early 20th century. During his life, Machen was a clear and consistent voice for Christian orthodoxy and evangelical truth in the face of liberalism. This collection of lectures is a valuable addition to the Machen library. These lectures reflect the heart of Machen’s ministry and provide yet another compelling presentation of Apostolic Christianity. Machen’s works are as relevant now as they were when they were first written. These lectures are no exception.”
— R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

(Y)“When I was in seminary I discovered these radio addresses by J. Gresham Machen in which he offered a highly accessible and popular presentation of Christian doctrine, and Reformed doctrine at that. I was fascinated by the media savvy of Machen. These lucid radio talks preceded C. S. Lewis’s famous broadcasts by several years. I have read and profited from them for decades. Their arguments and illustrations have strongly influenced my preaching. I can’t recommend them enough.”
— Timothy J. Keller, Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, NY

Also Rans

“I first encountered J. Gresham Machen’s work as an undergraduate student grappling with modern challenges to the Christian faith. I found in him a mind passionate for the truth and a heart aflame with the gospel. Both of these traits shine through in these radio talks from the 1930s. We still need to hear what he had to say.”
— Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School; Executive Editor, Christianity Today

“Someone said recently that we need ‘a new Machen’ to speak insightfully to present–day theological confusions. That would be great. But, thank the Lord, the old Machen does continue to teach us. These wonderful addresses speak powerfully–and with refreshing clarity–to all of us today about the living Christ.”
— Richard J. Mouw, President Emeritus, Fuller Theological Seminary

“This is a superb volume: clear, lucid, precise, and easy to follow. In each chapter, one must not miss that Machen clearly makes his case for the historical factuality of Christ’s identity on the basis of the authority of Scripture. Machen brought the listener–and now the reader–into the serious antithesis between the biblical teaching about Christ and modernism’s teaching about Christ.His sharp, contrasting arguments will always be relevant in the life of the church. Hence, it would be well for Christ’s body not to marginalize Machen as a nostalgic symbol. His battle for Christian truth uncovers the folly of those growing increasingly flexible toward broadening the doors of biblical orthodoxy.”
— William D. Dennison, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Covenant College

“While these addresses, delivered by J. Gresham Machen in 1935, were important in their own time, they are perhaps even more urgent and necessary today. What more important topic is there than the person and work of Christ? Machen, a first–rate scholar, knew how to take the case to the people–and here he does exactly that.”
— Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College; Chief Academic Officer, Ligonier Ministries

“This is vintage Machen. He is lucid, logical, and unrelenting in defending what Scripture claims regarding God and the deity of Christ versus modern critics who would explain away or diminish those claims.”
— George M. Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

“These popular addresses show the heart of J. Gresham Machen: brilliant, clear, persuasive, calling everyone to faith and life in Jesus. They will bless and encourage all who read them.”
— W. Robert Godfrey, President, Westminster Seminary California

“Tight in argument yet pastoral in exhortation! What a treat! The revival of the uniqueness of Christ is to rediscover the gospel for today. The publication of Dr. Machen’s The Person of Jesus is an excellent contribution by Westminster Seminary Press, considering that the theological climate in Asia, let alone the whole world, is rapidly growing weak in its grips of who Jesus really is.”
— Kevin Woongsan Kang, Professor of Systematic Theology, Chongshin University and Theological Seminary

“Dr. J. Gresham Machen was one of the lions of reformed evangelical thought in the twentieth century. His clarity of thought and courage borne of a deep conviction and a personal walk with the God about whom he spoke and wrote suffuses every one of these fine radio addresses….With disarming simplicity they present the most important truths in the world and challenge us all to take them seriously. We need more of such clarity and directness today.”
— Mark D. Thompson, Principal, Moore Theological College

“All of the qualities that enabled J. Gresham Machen to make such an important contribution to English–speaking Protestantism–theological tenacity, clarity of mind, readability, and courageous conviction–are easy to see in this instructive and edifying collection of radio addresses on the person of Christ. These talks show once again that doctrine has consequences, with Machen as a superbly gifted guide to the significance of what the church confesses about Christ.”
— D. G. Hart, Author of Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America

“Almost eighty years after his death, J. Gresham Machen’s voice still speaks with clarity and timeliness concerning the person of Christ. In our time, when people question whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, Dr. Machen’s cogent exposition of Scripture in these radio addresses from 1935 provides needed clarity concerning the triune God and the deity of Christ.”
— William S. Barker, Emeritus Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary

“J. G. Machen was the towering intellectual defender of historic Christianity during one of the most turbulent periods in American church history….These talks on the person of Jesus, delivered in the heat of the battle, are not merely an important theological voice from the past; they will encourage your faith today.”
— Frank A. James, President, Biblical Theological Seminary

“These gems by J. Gresham Machen are essential reading now for thoughtful Christians. Historians of conservative Protestantism will also greatly benefit from these addresses….In these talks, Machen distills the core doctrines about the person and work of Christ that he fought so hard to defend against the acids of modernity. Listen for Machen’s voice as you read these transcriptions. Lend your ear to this man whose apologetic labors hastened his tragic, early death.”
— Douglas A. Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Sanity regained in a world gone mad. J. Gresham Machen flows with a heart of love for the Lord Jesus. Cool, clear, and fresh as a mountain stream, he bubbles with living water. Doctrinal indifference, a big issue in his day, is the black plague of ours. The antidote to truth decay is his clarity about who Jesus was, what he said and did, and, above all, how he lives and reigns today.”
— Paul Wells, Emeritus Professor, Faculté Jean Calvin

“Many know of Machen’s scholarly achievement and powerful support for historic Christianity over modern substitutes. Less well–known is his ability to convey what is lofty and profound in the simplest of terms. This little book restates the Bible’s depiction of God the Son in language easy to grasp….Machen’s remarks are as timely now as when first uttered. This is a superb survey of New Testament Christology and a powerful invitation to (re)discover the true Jesus, still Lord despite generations of naysayers and the complacency of his church.”
— Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

“Throughout his life, J. Gresham Machen wrestled with questions over the relationship between history and faith, between Jesus and Paul. Here in these radio addresses, we have his warm and winsome answers to those questions….It is a great gift to the church that these radio addresses are now being published; take up and read–be refreshed and strengthened in our common faith.”
— Sean Michael Lucas, Professor of Church History, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson

“These addresses on the person of Christ were forged long ago in the furnace of debate. They are, however, as fresh today, and as compelling, as they were when they were first delivered. Machen speaks with clarity, conviction, a matchless command of the subject, and with the wind of historic Christianity behind him.”
— David F. Wells, Distinguished Senior Research Professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“Dr. Machen’s talks are timeless, though set in the swirling currents of his day, because the Christ he described, the Christ revealed in the Scriptures by the Spirit, rises above time. His learned rhetoric, his passionate defense of Christian orthodoxy, his love of the Savior and his church make what you will find in these pages a delight to read, a source of spiritual strengthening, and a bulwark against the destructive effects of a contemporary scholarship that continues to denigrate the Creator, Redeemer, and only Judge of mankind.”
— John D. Hannah, Distinguished Professor of Historical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary

“This powerful little book on the deity of Christ fully displays what made Machen great. We see his relentless logic in the clarity of his thinking and the lucidity of his prose. The Gospels leave us no doubt that Jesus Christ is fully God, and Machen demonstrates that any other interpretation falls to the ground.”
— Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“This work certainly is a classic jewel. A ‘classic’ because, even though it dates back to 1935, this book is still fresh and relevant. A ‘jewel’ because it presents the person and work of Jesus Christ so clearly, convincingly, and appealingly to the reader. Dr. Machen’s voice can be heard again and we do well to listen to it.”
— Herman J. Selderhuis

“J. Gresham Machen is one of a select band of Christian writers of whom it can truly be said that ‘he being dead, yet speaketh.’ This reprint of some of his most important talks will be widely welcomed by those who appreciate his strong and learned defense of orthodoxy, and it will make his thought more accessible to a younger generation.”
— Gerald L. Bray, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

“With disarming brevity, Machen bracingly pleads with his reader for true belief in the true King of heaven and earth. I understand why even his theological sparring partner, Pearl Buck, respected her orthodox opponent so profoundly. Machen is clearly a spiritual gentleman, a worthy scholar, and a tender shepherd….Machen may well have no peer when it comes to clear, direct, and stirring expositional and applicational writing. Reader, prepare your mind and heart for a bracing read.”
— Joseph V. Novenson, Pastor, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

“Here is theology that floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. In these addresses Machen defends a high and biblical view of Christ with punch and quite stunning verve. Fresh, enlightening, and logically compelling, this is not only good theology but a model of good apologetics.”
— Michael Reeves, Director of Union and Senior Lecturer, Wales Evangelical School of Theology

Neo-Calvinists Made This Possible

How to be a Calvinist without subscribing the Three Forms of Unity (especially the Canons of Dort), Trevin Wax uses the same logic that allowed USA Presbyterians to be Presbyterian without subscribing the Confession of Faith:

I do wonder how David defines the contours of the Reformed heritage. At times, I get the impression that he is speaking of the Reformed tradition in its distinctively Calvinistic soteriological position. Certainly, one can speak of the “Reformed” in this way, but I suppose I come at this definition by considering the broader framework of the Reformation tradition.

For example, I don’t think of Os Guinness or Charles Colson as “Calvinists,” but as thinkers who have adopted and adapted the Kuyperian worldview and its distinctive approach to creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Perhaps my concern with proper definition says more about my own placement in this tradition, as one who doesn’t line up exactly with Calvinist soteriology and yet appreciates the worldview emphasis one finds within this tradition. I would include John Wesley under the Reformed moniker, even though he was an Arminian with his own Wesleyan twist on the doctrines of salvation.

Interestingly, when David lifts up contemporary treatments of the atonement from N. T. Wright and Fleming Rutledge as preferable to the classical Reformed tradition, he is lifting up heirs to that broader tradition. That’s not to say there aren’t differences between Wright, Rutledge, and the classically Reformed. Still, these writers operate within the basic Reformed worldview and outlook. So, when David differentiates his perspective from the “Reformed,” he does so by appealing to one wing of the Reformed tradition over against another.

Wax never knew Machen:

Even if all this were true, even if a creedal Church were an undesirable thing, it would still remain true that as a matter of fact many (indeed in spirit really all) evangelical churches are creedal churches, and that if a man does not accept their creed he has no right to a place in their teaching ministry. The creedal character of the churches is differently expressed in the different evangelical bodies, but the example of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America may perhaps serve to illustrate what is meant.

It is required of all officers in the Presbyterian Church, including the ministers, that at their ordination they make answer “plainly” to a series of questions which begins with the two following: “Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?” “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?”

If these “constitutional questions” do not fix clearly the creedal basis of the Presbyterian Church, it is difficult to see how any human language could possibly do so. Yet immediately after making such a solemn declaration, immediately after declaring that the Westminster Confession contains the system of doctrine taught in infallible Scriptures, many ministers of the Presbyterian Church will proceed to decry that same Confession and that doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture to which they have just solemnly subscribed! (Christianity and Liberalism)

Neo-Calvinism created this when it stressed culture over salvation, transformationalism over doctrine. Now we have cultural Calvinists, like cultural Jews and cultural Roman Catholics.

Thank YOU!

The Shelf Life of 2k — Part Four

Here’s the last intallment. You can read the others here, here, and here.

1. People often struggle with the entire 2K vs. Kuyperian/transformational debate because they are both advocated in rather abstract ways. It can sound like privileged white dudes reading Chesterton and finding holy ways to thumb their noses at the poor (2Kers) or balding men with ponytails growing soul patches and blogging in Starbucks about how ‘incarnational’ they are being (Kuyperians). Neither caricature really addresses the real world challenges of living out our faith corporately and individually amidst the challenges of, let’s say, rural poverty, or urban degradation. How would you suggest 2K thinking should play out so as to avoid sounding like we are advocating a laissez faire attitude to real social ills?

First, I’d reassert that rural poverty and urban degradation are not as important as man’s guilt before God and the eternal punishment that awaits all men. I don’t want to sound fundy or pietistic, but I really think this point needs to be stressed. We may fix family farms and we may turn Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell (two great characters from the HBO series, The Wire) into productive citizens. But family farmers and reformed drug dealers still await a judgment day. In that case, if the church lets the problems of this world cloud the reality and urgency of its preaching the gospel of forgiveness of sin and eternal life, then we are in a boatload of trouble.

Second, I do not see why J. Gresham Machen is not a good example of how individual believers can be involved in politics or society while still affirming the spirituality of the church and the enormity of the church’s burden to preach the good news. Machen was active in Democratic politics, wrote lots of letters to editors, joined political organizations, testified before Congress to oppose the Federal Department of Education. He was an active citizen, even while saying the church should not be engaged in politics. Here the distinction between the church’s calling as a corporate body versus the calling of individual Christians was key.

Now, of course, lots of contemporary transformationalists will not like Machen’s politics any more than they will like his ecclesiology. And that is a really interesting point here as well because if transformationalists (or any Christian) is going to advocate a certain policy or endeavor as being Christian, they are also making claims about what other Christians should do. And yet, if they do not have a biblical warrant for what they are claiming, if they are simply baptizing their own ideals about the good society with the sanctified motivation of Christianity, then they are actually violating Christian liberty by implicitly bind the consciences of Christians who do not share their view of the good society. In other words, it would be wrong to say God is a Democrat. And it would be wrong to say God is a Republican. He’s a divine right monarchist who transcends policy and legislation.

2. Can you ground 2K in scripture for us? Is this the teaching of the Bible?

If it doesn’t sound too defensive, I’d start by saying that a 1 kingdom view has not been shown to be the teaching of Scripture. It is curious to me that lots of people who object to 2 kingdom views go ahead and live with a two-kingdom reality. They are not insisting that the church rule over all things, or that Christians must be elected to public office, or that every cultural expression must come from a regenerate artist. Critics of 2 kingdom theology like to protest against it, but it hardly ever involves a one-kingdom argument instead. This may simply be an inconsistency. I think it also an acknowledgement of the limits of church power, and the reality of living in societies where believers and non-believers cohabit and must get along in some fashion.

The specific passages I go to for support for a two-kingdom view are obvious ones like Christ’s instruction, “Render unto Caesar. . .” along with his rebuke to Peter for using the sword against the ruling authorities. In fact, the gospels are replete with a recognition – it seems to me, of Christ submitting to earthly authorities, whether Jewish or Roman, all the while establishing his own kingdom. My own pastor has been preaching through Luke and it sounds like the distinction between what’s going on in the civil and national realm and what’s being inaugurated by Christ’s work and ministry is a theme from which one cannot escape in Luke, and that to try to turn Christ’s ministry into a program of social justice or political engagement really misses the point and grander significance of what he came to do. I believe the gospels show that Christ’s kingdom was spiritual and many Israelites could not fathom that because they were looking for a one-kingdom world where religion and the state would be fused

And then there are passages like Romans 13 where Paul tells Christians to submit to the magistrate – a heretical and persecuting magistrate at that. It certainly suggests that Paul was not thinking the rule of the state was on redemptive grounds. And when he says that the task of the magistrate is to punish evil, he is clarifying a function that is very different from the church’s which is to forgive sin.

I’d also point to the Great Commission as supporting a two-kingdom view. They way that the church disciplines the nations is not through political rule but through word (teach) and sacrament (baptize).

Some people object to the two-kingdom view for its dualism. I find it hard to read 1 Cor. And Paul’s distinctions between temporal and eternal things and not see that some kind of dualism is entirely fitting with biblical teaching

My pastor is also preaching in the evenings through Ecclesiastes. He is by no means a committed two-kingdom guy. He is simply trying to be a faithful minister and preach the text. And throughout this book – all is vanity – I keep wondering if the transformationalists have ever read Ecclesiastes, if it is for them what James was for Luther, an “epistle” (wrong genre) of straw

Last, I have in A Secular Faith used the example of Daniel to suggest how pilgrims and exiles negotiate the two powers. Daniel submitted to Chaldean rule and even excelled in their culture. But he drew the line at worship. His case suggests that Christians can engage with non-Christians in a host of common endeavors and that worship clarifies where such cooperation must cease.

3. Coming from Scottish Presbyterianism I have been accustomed to strong statements about the spirituality of the church. The language of 2 Kingdoms has a long and noble pedigree in Scotland (witness Andrew Melville plucking the sleeve of James the VI, calling him ‘God’s sillie vassal’ and reminding him that there are ‘two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland. There is Christ Jesus the King and Head and His Kingdom the Kirk, whose subject King James the Sixth is, and of whose kingdom not a king, not a lord, not a head, but a member.”)

The Covenanters saw themselves as defending ‘the crowns rights of the Redeemer’ against the impositions of the State. The Free Church at the Disruption of 1843 likewise stood on the spirituality of the church over against Erastian claims by the British government. Yet in all of those versions of 2 Kingdom thinking a strong linkage between Church and state was advocated. The Westminster Standards likewise advocated a strong Church-State connection, especially on the role of the civil magistrate (so strong that the Scots demurred saying it referred only to “kirks not settled” and the American church re-wrote that entire section of the Confession). Nevertheless the claim is often made that contemporary 2K thinking is the more historically reformed and Confessional position. How would you defend that statement in the light of older 2K ideas that favored religious establishments?

I never pretend to tell the British how to run their affairs – that’s the point of American independence. So I will rely on an Irish Covenanter to answer this question. In his contribution to a festschrift for the American Covenanter theologian, Wayne Spear, David McKay wrote that the RPCI’s testimony of 1990 was at odds with Samuel Rutherford’s understanding of Christ’s kingship. The RPCI affirmed that nations are “required to acknowledge and serve [Christ] in all their ways, and submit to His mediatorial authority as it has been revealed to them.”

But Rutherford, while committed to the Covenanter doctrine of Christ’s kingship over the nations, taught that “the Magistrate as a Magistrate is not the Deputie of Jesus Christ as Mediator.” In fact, Rutherford described what would become the modern Covenanter view of Christ’s kingship (as a mediatorial expression) as “the heart and soule of Popery.” [From Popery to Principle: Covenanters and the Kingship of Chirst,” in The Faith Once Delivered (P&R Publishing), p. 136]

The point is that one could affirm Christ’s kingship over the magistrate but regard it as part of his rule as creator rather than mediator, thus preserving the uniqueness of the visible church as the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (WCF 25.2).

4. It is often pointed out by transformationalists that the spirituality of the church was a distinctive of the Old School Southern Presbyterian Church, and that this doctrine was used to justify the church’s advocacy of the status quo with regards to slavery. While the abuse of a doctrine is not in and of itself proof that the doctrine is in error, do you think this sorry episode nevertheless exposes a danger for 2K thinkers?

It may pose a danger, but so might abortion, or prohibition. The point of the spiritual doctrine of the 19th century was that the church could not speak where Scripture was silent. It may look convenient for slave holders to say that the Bible is silent on slavery. But even northerners like Charles Hodge believes that slavery was not a sin. The link between slavery and spirituality of the church is overdone and can also be used against the transformationalists – the Social Gospel abandoned the gospel and was part of a transformational agenda.

So if we avoid the genetic fallacy and try to figure out what is at stake, it seems to me the question is whether we can be content with what the church is called to do. If we think that various social ills are of momentous concern and that the church needs to be enlisted for the cause, I think the question is still whether there is a biblical warrant for the church joining the cause. The other aspect here is whether the social cause of such great significance is of the same significance as the eternal verities of whether men and women know Jesus Christ as their savior. Such men and women may be poor or rich, may be free or suffer under tyranny, but ultimately those earthly conditions will not be as important as their relationship to Christ. This is not an excuse for the church to be silent or to harbor sin where Scripture is clear. Nor is it a case proves all suffering is evil and must be eliminated. (I sometimes wonder if transformatoinalists have considered that God actually uses suffering and are willing to accept it. Dick Gaffin has a great piece on this point, making it against theonomists, in the Westminster Seminary response to theonomy – it is that suffering may be that to which the church is called, and so eliminating suffering may not be the proper goal of the church.)

5. If we wanted to investigate further this idea of the 2Kingdoms can you suggest any books to read?

There are various entry points into this literature, none of them directly being classified as “two-kingdom” literature.

First are books on Natural Law which suggest that the Reformed tradition has always used creational norms, as opposed to biblical commands, for politics.

Stephen Grabil, Recovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Eerdmans)

David VanDrunen, A Biblical Case for Natural Law (Acton Institute)

I should mention that VanDrunen has a very big and good book coming out with Eerdmans next year on natural law and two-kingdom theology.

Second, are books on the differences between the covenant of grace and the covenant of works that have a bearing on the relationship between Christ and Culture.

Meredith Kline’s Kingdom Prologue (Two-Age Press??)

Michael Horton, God of Promise (Baker)

Third are the works of Reformed theologians from the past who articulate the 2k perspective in ways that contemporary Reformed Protestants often overlook.

Calvin’s Institutes should be consulted, especially where he discusses the kingly office of Christ, and book IV, chapt. 20 where he lays out the differences between Christ’s spiritual kingdom and the kingdoms of this world.

J. Gresham Machen’s essays on the church and society in Selected Shorter Writings (P&R Publishing)

Fourth are works on the doctrine of the church.

The Book of Church Order of the OPC, for instance, is very clear in chapter three about the spiritual nature of the church’s authority.

Stuart Robinson, The Church of God, An Essential Element of the Gospel (OPC, Christian Education). Robinson was a nineteenth-century Presbyterian whose book is arguably the best on the spirituality of the church from a redemptive-historical perspective, and a great biblical theological case for divine right Presbyterianism.

Geerhardus Vos, The Kingdom and the Church (Eerdmans). Vos only goes wobbly (read, neo-Calvinist) on a couple of pages. Otherwise, it’s a great expression of the spirituality of the church.

Fifth, the spirituality of the church also shows up when the church is doing its own reflection on the work to which it is called. The OPC’s Study Committee Reports are one example of this.

OPC Minority Report on Medical Missions (by Meredith Kline), General Assembly (1964) pp. 51-55.

OPC Report II on Women in the Military: http://www.opc.org/GA/WomenInMilitary.html#ReportII

Sixth are books from a Reformed outlook on religion and politics explicitly):

Darryl Hart, A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State (Ivan R. Dee)

Seventh, the spirituality of the church is part of an understanding of Reformed piety that stresses the Christian life as pilgrimage rather than one as crusader.

R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession (P&R Publishing)

D. G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism (Rowman & Littlefield)

Finally, not to be missed are works by other Christians and Protestants.

Augustine’s City of God is a classic statement on the double nature of Christian life in this world lived in tension between the desire of the nations and the work of the church.

Lutherans have also much to teach Reformed Christians about the two kingdoms:

Render Unto Caesar and Unto God . . . A Lutheran View of Church and State (LCMS Report from the Commission on Theology and Church Relations)

The Anonymous God: The Church Confronts Civil Religion and American Society (Concordia Publishing)

Reading about Machen in The Reformed Journal

Reformed Protestants 50 and up may have spent some of their reading hours with The Reformed Journal, a magazine of Dutch-American Calvinist provenance that came into existence as a forum for Christian Reformed Church progressives. I read it from my days as a seminary student until 1990 when it folded. I didn’t always agree with the politics or theology, but it was provocative and thoughtful.

Given the “progressive” character of the magazine, I should not have been surprised that TRJ’s regular contributors were slightly sympathetic but underwhelmed by J. Gresham Machen. That outlook bothered me because the deeper I went into the archives, the more impressed I was by the man who started Westminster Seminary and the OPC (with lots of help from others). In light of yesterday’s post with an excerpt from Machen’s testimony at his trial and with some reflections still fresh from the fall Presbyterian Scholars Conference (where several participants were experiencing the joy of post-PCUSA life but still not on board with Machen’s own version of that experience), I reproduce some high or low lights of TRJ takes on Machen.

First comes Rich Mouw’s argument that Machen’s departure actually hurt the cause of conservatism in the PCUSA (one echoed by George Marsden at the Wheaton conference):

Barbara Wheeler and I have argued much about the issues that threaten to divide us, but we share a strong commitment to continuing the conversation. She regularly makes her case for staying together by appealing to a high ecclesiology. The church, she insists, is not a voluntary arrangement that we can abandon just because we do not happen to like some of the other people in the group. God calls us into the church, and that means that God requires that we hang in there with one another even if that goes against our natural inclinations.

I agree with that formulation. And I sense that many of my fellow evangelicals in the PCUSA would also endorse it. The question that many evangelicals are asking these days, though, is whether God expects us to hang in there at all costs.

One of my reasons for wanting to see us stick together is that a Presbyterian split would be a serious setback for the cause that I care deeply about, namely the cause of Reformed orthodoxy. I spend a lot of time thinking about how people with my kind of theology, have acted in the past, and I am convinced that splits inevitably diminish the influence of the kind of orthodoxy that I cherish — for at least two reasons.

First, the denomination from which the dissidents depart is typically left without strong voices to defend orthodox. This is what happened in the early decades of the 20th century when J. Gresham Machen and his colleagues broke away from the northern Presbyterian church.

I know that this is not a very popular thing to say in this setting, but I happen to be a strong admirer of Machen. I think that he pretty much had things right on questions of biblical authority, the nature of Christ’s atoning work, and other key items on the theological agenda. But I have strong reservations about his ecclesiology and I regret that his views about the unity of the church led him to abandon mainline Presbyterianism. As long as he remained within the northern church, he had a forum for demonstrating to liberals that Calvinist orthodoxy could be articulated with intellectual rigor. When he and his friends departed, this kind of witness departed with them.

The evangelicals who stayed on in the northern church generally did so because they were not as polemical as the Machen group; they were also not nearly as inclined as the Machenites to engage in sustained theological discussion. This meant that the quality of theological argumentation in mainline Presbyterianism suffered for several decades — some would even say up to our present time.

Not to let facts get in the way here, but Mouw would do well to remember that the PCUSA brought Machen to trial and excommunicated him. Yesterday’s post shows that Machen was not eager to flee even if it would have been a lot more pleasant. Whether his actions were legitimate or constitutional is another question. But he asked about the constitutionality of PCUSA actions and that didn’t endear him to the people who stayed. In fact, they tried him for having the temerity to question the soundness of the Board of Foreign Missions — as if that’s never happened — and the administrative fiats that condemned dissent.

I too wonder if Mouw considers that from 1869 until 1920 the PCUSA became infected by the social gospel and Protestant ecumenism. During that very same time Princeton Seminary as the voice of Reformed orthodoxy in the northern church was still dominated by conservatives. What happened during the years when Princeton kept alive the theology that Mouw values? Princeton and it’s orthodoxy became marginal and then a nuisance — hence the reorganization of Princeton Seminary in 1929. The idea that had Machen stayed conservatives would have done better is naive and ignores what actually happened before Machen “left.” Plus, what kind of high ecclesiology settles for articulating “Calvinist orthodoxy with intellectual rigor”?

George Marsden and Mark Noll regularly wrote for TRJ and again the returns on Machen were not always positive. First, Marsden:

Both at the time and since critics of Machen have suggested that there was something peculiar about him. Most often mentioned are that Machen remained a bachelor and his very close relationship to his mother until her death in 1931. Neither of these traits, however, was particularly unusual in the Victorian era, which certainly set many of Machen’s social standards.

More to the point is that he does seem to have had a flaring temper and a propensity to make strong remarks about individuals with whom he disagreed. One striking instance is from 1913 when Machen had an intense two-hour argument with B. B. Warfield over campus policy, after which Machen wrote to his mother that Warfield, whom he normally admired immensely, was “himself, despite some very good qualities, a very heartless, selfish, domineering sort of man.” You can imagine that, if someone says things like this about one’s friends, that it might be easy to make enemies. Machen does not seem to have had a great ability to separate people from issues, and this certainly added to the tensions on the small seminary faculty. Clearly he was someone whom people either loved or hated. His students disciples were charmed by him and always spoke of his warmth and gentlemanliness. His opponents found him impossible, and it is a fair question to ask whether, despite the serious issues, things might have gone differently with a different personality involved.

This observation continues to baffle me, as if people do not distinguish public from private statements. Maybe we are only learning that lesson after Donald Trump, but historians generally know that in the archives you find people saying all sorts of things that they wouldn’t say in public. In private we blow off steam, unless we are all walking John Piper’s and sanctified all the way down. I also don’t understand why Marsden starts his sentence on Machen’s personality with the man’s opponents found him impossible. Hello. The feeling was mutual. But Machen as a sanctified believer was supposed to find his adversaries hedonistically delightful?

And finally, Mark Noll’s estimate on the fiftieth anniversary of Machen’s death:

By reading controversies within Princeton Seminary, Presbyterian missions, and eventually the Presbyterian denomination as battles between two separate religions, “Christianity and Liberalism,” Machen undermined the effectiveness of those Reformed and evangelical individuals who chose to remain at Princeton Seminary, with the Presbyterian mission board, and in the Northern Presbyterian Church. By committing himself so strongly to theological and ecclesiastical combat, Machen left successors who were ill-equipped to deal with the more practical matters of evangelism, social outreach, and devotional nurture. By pursuing the virtues of confessional integrity, he opened the door to sectarian pettiness.

No real sense here that blaming the victim is a potential downside of such an interpretation. The perspective seemed so often in TRJ to be that Machen was a man on a mission and looking for a controversy. The bureaucrats and seminary administrators were innocent. (Yes, the lawyer who defended modernists in the 1920s, John Foster Dulles, became the Secretary of State who crafted the Eisenhower administration’s Cold War policies — the very administration that the founding editors of TRJ questioned.) The Presbyterian hierarchy simply responded — with a hammer, mind you — to Machen’s provocations. That could have been the case but no one argued that. They largely reduced Machen to a cantankerous figure who got what most of us would expect if we rock the boat the way he did.

And now in hindsight I wonder what these same men would think of Abraham Kuyper who was also part of a church that came out of the Netherlands’ state church. Didn’t Kuyper’s GKN (Reformed Churches of the Netherlands) make it a lot harder for conservatives who stayed in the NHK (Dutch Reformed Church)? And didn’t Kuyper’s Free University make life more complicated for orthodox theologians who remained at Leiden or Utrecht? (In other words, why wouldn’t it be possible to imagine Machen akin to Kuyper? Why doesn’t the Kuyper glow trickle down to Machen? Because Kuyper became Prime Minister and Machen merely president of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions?)

And what of John Calvin? Was he wrong to leave France? Did he leave Huguenots in the lurch? Was the Roman Catholic Church worse off without Calvin’s ministry and theological reflection? Or does the mind boggle at the questions you need to start asking other historical figures when you become so demanding of a figure of which you disapprove?

Why Machen Left the OPC

He died (on this day eight decades ago).

Machen’s reasons for being a critic of the PCUSA — to the point that some thought he was impossible and failed to show Christian charity — were clear in his testimony before the Presbytery of New Brunswick (you know, the one that the Synod of Philadelphia created to make the revivalists feel welcome), the body that tried, found him guilty, and excommunicated him from the mainline church:

Suppose a minister obtains his ordination by promising to support the boards and agencies, as he is required to do by the plain intent of that addition to the manual of the Presbytery of New Brunswick and by the plain intent of the action of the 1934 General Assembly. Suppose he later becomes convinced that the boards and agencies are unfaithful to their trust. Let us even take an extreme case. Let us suppose that he has become convinced that those in charge of the boards and agencies are guilty of actual embezzlement. That case, is, of course, entirely hypothetical, but an extreme case does illustrate plainly the principle that is involved. Let us insist upon putting that extreme case. Here is a minister who has promised that he will, as long as he remains a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., support the boards and agencies as they are established by successive General Assemblies. He he has become convinced that those boards and agencies are positively dishonest, even with the kind of dishonestly that is contrary to the criminal laws of the land.

What course of action is open to such a minister? He is convinced that the boards and agencies are dishonest. The general assembly is convinced that they are honest. What shall he do in such a situation? . . . Only two courses of action are open to a minister who is in such a quandary.

In the first place, he may continue to support boards and agencies which he holds to be dishonest. That course of action would plainly involve him in dishonesty. An honest man cannot possibly recommend to people that they should give to agencies which he hold to be dishonest.

In the second place, a minister who is in such a quandary may withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. That plainly means evasion of the solemn responsibility which he has as a minister. I really wonder whether those who advocate this action of the General Assembly have ever thought this thing through. Do they really mean to tell us that just because a majority in the General Assembly has made a mistake one year and has placed in charge of the missionary funds of the church men who are dishonest, therefore a minister should withdraw from the church and allow that dishonesty to go on? I say that such conduct is an evasion of a solemn responsibility. No, it is the duty of a minister in such a situation to remain in the church and to seek by every means in his power to bring about a change in that policy of the General Assembly which he regards as involving dishonest. Meanwhile (and this should be particularly observed), he cannot for any consideration whatever give a penny to what he regards, rightly or wrongly, to be a dishonest agency; and still less can he recommend to any other persons the support of such an agency. . . .

I could never promise to support any human agency as a condition of my being ordained. I could not promise to support the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which I believe now to be sound in the faith. . . . It is at the very heart and core of my ordination pledge, in accordance with the law of the Presbyterian church, that I should repeatedly examine any agency that appeals to me for support in the light of the Word of God, and support it only if it is in accord with that blessed Word. Moreover, in determining whether it is in accord with that Word, I must be governed by my conscience, as God may give me light, and not by the pronouncements of any human councils or courts.

If that is contrary to Presbyterian law, then I should certainly be removed from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. But all the glorious history of the Reformed faith should teach a man if the Word of God does not teach him, that it is not contrary to Presbyterian law but is at the very heart of Presbyterian law. (Statement to the Presbytery of New Brunswick, 347-48, 349)

Those in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome, eat your hearts out.