I would prefer not to encourage these guys (don’t worry, discouragement is coming) since the Calvinist International provides a highly dubious reading of Reformed Protestantism. But because the Aquila Report (an equal-opportunity aggregator, they even link to Old Life) gave their views on Hooker, Calvin, and political theology a measure of respectability, some response is in order. For a better and more thoughtful response, continue to keep an eye on Matt Tuininga’s blog (with whom the Internationalists have been carrying on a fairly vigorous debate).
In their own words, here is the heart of the matter:
The matter of the controversy can be briefly summed up. We say that the Kingship of Christ is of universal extent, and in two ways: the first spiritual, invisible, immediate and pertaining to the just, though eschatologically and cosmologically universal; the second temporal, visible, mediate and pertaining to all. We say the original two kingdoms of the Reformers means those two modes, the invisible and the visible, not the ministry and the magistrates, both of which are on the visible side. They say that the church is a politically distinct group of people who have no real investment in the temporal realm, but are temporally governed by ordained leaders representative of God by divine right, and that Christ’s kingship is exclusively over it and not over creation or the commonwealth. We say that the church is primarily invisible, but that its temporal profile is a vast multitude, the corpus christianorum, which in situations where the whole community has not recognized the kingship of Christ, constitutes a voluntary schola, but in situations where the community has formally and representatively recognized Jesus’ Kingship, is basically coterminous with the commonwealth. They call our position “Erastian” or “Zwinglian,” and say that Calvin was up to something fundamentally different.
(I have finally figured out who this “we” is — I do find its repeated use by the Internationalists dumbfounding since when I claim “we” on my wife’s behalf I generally pay for it once the guests leave. It is Wedgeworth and Escalante (E) who seem to have more agreement than most couples.)
This is, by the way, one of the oddest readings of church polity since it would seem to make the visible church a matter indifferent to the spiritual and invisible church. As long as you belong to Christ, it doesn’t matter what the preaching, sacraments, ordination standards, or worship patterns are in your own church. Of course, WE don’t say this, but it is an implication of THEIR view and seems to be how church life played out in the Church of England — a communion that their beloved Richard Hooker defended.
THEY go on to say:
In pointing to Hooker as the better reader of Calvin, and in saying that the idea of a Christian commonwealth is normative, we have been repeatedly, and despite repeated clarifications, misconstrued as “theonomist” or “Erastian” by Dr. Darryl Hart, who seems to think that we wish for an authoritarian State applying the Mosaic penal code, when the opposite is in fact the case. Neither Hooker nor Calvin is our regula fidei, and we are happy to adapt their principles appropriately within the context of the modern order of political freedom- an order which only follows from those Protestant principles. Still, we do claim the history for our side. We share the basic theological principles of the Reformation, and specifically those of Luther, Calvin, and Hooker. We hope our contribution can be the accurate genealogy and specific application of the older principles in the 21st century context.
What we have recovered is what seems to us the classical Protestant doctrine of politics. In particular, we have said that the two kingdoms do *not* directly correspond to the two estates of magistracy and ministerium, but rather, that both magistracy and ministerium are within the temporal kingdom. Our opponents do, however, identify the two estates with the two kingdoms respectively.
What is important to see is that WE claim not to be Erastian and THEY also claim that Hooker is the better interpreter of Calvin than Thomas Cartwright or anyone else who holds to jure divino Presbyterianism. That jure divino view, by the way, was an effort to assert the autonomy of the church from the oversight of the state and to claim for the visible church the real keys of the kingdom and the power of excommunication. One of the reasons that folks like Hooker didn’t want the church to have such autonomy or power was that it might give back to the papacy authority that Anglicans understandably didn’t want the Bishop of Rome to have. A contemporary application for those associated with Federal Vision is that if the church doesn’t have such authority, then Federal Visionaries won’t face church discipline, because the magistrate sure isn’t going to do it.
What gets particularly difficult for WE’s interpretation of Calvin and Hooker — not to mention Calvin’s own discussion of church polity in Book Four or Ursinus Zacharias’ commentary on the keys of the kingdom in his companion volume to the Heidelberg Catechism — is the way THEY invoke W. J. Torrance Kirby, a scholar of Zurich and England’s political theology who teaches at McGill University. In his book, The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology, Kirby would seem to regard Bullinger, Hooker, and WE as Erastian and as different — even hostile — to Calvin.
The influence of Zurich theology is particularly evident in the theory underpinning the political institutions of the Elizabethan Settlement, chief among them the Royal Supremacy, the lynchpin of the constitution. In his defence of the royal headship of the church in the 1570s against the attacks of the disciplinarian puritans Thomas Cartwright and Walter Travers, John Whitgift, then Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, relied closely on the political writings of Vermigli, Bullinger, and two other prominent Zwinglians – Gualter and Wolfang Musculus of Berne. Whigift’s so-called “Erastian” conception of society as a unified “corpus christianum,” where civil and religious authority were understood to be coextensive, takes its name from the Zinglian theologian Thomas Lieber . . . alias “Erastus” of Heidelberg. The controversy between Whitgift and promoters of the Genevan model of reform in England is in many respects a replay of the dispute on the continent between Erastus and Theodore Beza, Calvin’s successor in Geneva. Richard Hooker’s celebrated defence of the Elizabethan constitution published toward the end of the century is an elaboration of the same Zwinglian-Erastian political theology. It is worthy of note that Hooker’s patron while at Corpus Christi College in the late 1560s and early ‘70s was John Jewel, Vermigli’s disciple and secretary who had earlier followed his master into exile at Zurich. . . .
The heart and substance of Bullinger’s prophetical office with respect to England was to defend, to interpret , and to promote the Civil Magistrate’s pivotal role as the supreme governing power in the ordering of religion in the realm. . . Strange though it may appear, the institution of the Royal Supremacy with its hypostatic conjunction of supreme civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the Prince, constitutes for Bullinger a vivid exemplar of the unitary character of Christian polity, and also of the distinction and cooperation of magisterial and ministerial power. From the standpoint of Bullinger’s unique covenantal interpretation of history, it is certainly arguable that the Old Testament exemplar is more completely realised under England’s monarchical constitution than under the republican conditions of Bullinger’s own city and canton of Zurich.
In other words, if Kirby is right, contrary to WE, Hooker is not following Calvin but is tracking with the Erastians, Bullinger and Vermigli. At this point, WE’s point about continuity between Calvin and the Church of England would seem to go up incense. Also, THEIR reading of the Reformed tradition, which virtually ignores the important disagreements between Zurich and Geneva, looks like another case of historical cherry picking.
But aside from the historical debates, what the disagreement between WE and Tuininga also reveals is that opposition to the contemporary recovery of 2K is coming not simply from theonomists or neo-Calvinists but from Zwinglians. And what all of these forms of protest share is a high estimate of the state compared to 2k’s assertion of the church’s legitimate access to the keys of the kingdom. Whether it’s a case of not trusting the church, or sensing that circumstances need a solution more effective than word, sacrament, and discipline, the critics of 2k enlarge the kingdom of Christ so that the officers responsible for guns and bombs have power to enforce a Christian community.
I understand the frustration with church power. I wouldn’t want to be disciplined any more than Peter Leithart, and I recognize that church discipline is hardly binding in a society where religion is largely private and personal. What I don’t understand is pining for sixteenth-century England or Geneva. Calling on the magistrate to help with church work, after all, did not work out so well. Don’t these folks ever consider the important connections between established religion and liberal theology? Bullinger and Hooker perhaps could not since they were only a handful of decades into a disrupted Christendom or the rise of the nation-state. But for folks living over four hundred years from Erastianism not to see its faults is stunning.