New Schoolers, Neo-Calvinists, and Fundamentalists

After Darrell Todd Maurina kicked up some dust with his post at the Baylyblog on 2k, he made the following comment:

Men such as Dr. Darryl Hart have accused me in the past of holding the same position as the Bible Presbyterians and Carl McIntyre. That is an important accusation and it needs to be rebutted. If men such as Clark, Horton, Hart, and Van Drunen manage to successfully argue that they are in the heritage of Old School Presbyterianism while their opponents are New Schoolers, great damage will be done to the cause of those who oppose “Two Kingdoms” theology within the conservative Reformed world.

Well, if you look at the historical scholarship, Darrell, it gets even worse than you imagine. Consider first of all one inference that George Marsden drew in his first book, a study of New School Presbyterianism:

The most striking illustration of the similarities between nineteenth-century New Schoolism and twentieth-century fundamentalism is found in the sequel to the Presbyterian division of 1936. The newly formed Presbyterian Church of America itself was divided over a complex set of issues remarkably similar to those of 1837. The majority in the new denomination, led by J. Gresham Machen until his death . . . and then by his immediate associates at Westminster Seminary, took clearly Old School positions on each of the issues. The minority, which withdrew to form the Bible Presbyterian Synod, was led by the militant fundamentalist, Carl McIntire. McIntire, who had envisaged the Presbyterian Church of America as part of a wider “twentieth century Reformation,” soon found that he was not at home in a strict Old School tradition. The specific programs for which he fought were 1) toleration of a doctrine (dispenstational premillennialism) that the majority in the Church considered incompatible with the Westminster Confession of Faith; 2) continuation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, rather than forming an official denominational mission board; and 3) adoption by the General Assembly of a statement that total abstinence from all that may intoxicate is “the only truth principle of temperance – exactly the same statement first adopted by the New School General Assembly of 1840. These programs, together with McIntires’s claim to represent “American Presbyterianism (a former New School phrase), his avid (anti-Communist) patriotism, his zeal for revivalism and legalistic reforms, his emphasis on interdenominational cooperation, and his lack of concern for strict Presbyterian polity – all indicate a continuation of the distinctly New School traditions with the fundamentalist wing of Presbyterianism. . . .

Perhaps the greatest difference between the New School evangelical movement and fundamentalist was that the nineteenth-century movement was largely successful, while the twentieth-century movement was not. The New School was not characterized by an almost total repudiation of the cultural and scientific advances of the age. Rather, it met those challenges without losing its own respectability. The New School thus advanced toward the center of American cultural and religious life, while fundamentalism was forced to retreat to the hinterlands. This, of course, is a crucial difference and makes a characterization of the New School as proto-fundamentalist s misleading as proto-liberal. The New School was in many respects a constructive and progressive religious intellectual movement with marked success in shaping American culture at large. (247, 249)

In case Darrell and other New School-like Protestants get bogged down in McIntire’s peculiarities, the point here is not that Maurina or the Baylys are dispensationalists or tee-totalers. The point is that they put the nation and its politics ahead of their theological and confessional commitments the way New Schoolers did. They want an American Presbyterianism, a faith that shapes America. In contrast, the Old School was willing to consider Reformed Protestantism as something independent or a matter than transcended the nation. The New Schoolers were Americans first and Americans second. Old Schoolers (at least some of them) were Presbyterians first and Americans second. If the United States and Presbyterianism are not the same, the order in which you put “Presbyterian” and “American” matters. (For Presbyterians from Canada or Ireland that makes perfect sense.)

But for those inclined to think that Dutch-American (notice the order) Reformed Protestants escape these parallels and analogies, consider this point that James Bratt made in an article about Kuyper and Machen:

Put in Dutch Calvinist terms: if forced to choose, Machen would let the Christian cultural task give way to the confessional church; Kuyper would force the confessional church to take up the cultural task. Put in American Presbyterian terms, Kuyper had some strong New School traits where Machen had none. To be sure Kuyper’s predestinarianism was at odds with the New Schools Arminian tints and his movement had a low impetus for “soul-saving,” but his organizational zeal was like Lyman Beecher’s in purpose and scale, his educational purposes at the Free University recalled Timothy Dwight’s at Yale, and his invocation of the “city on a hill” to describe the church’s place in a world recalled the charter image of Puritan New England which was ever the New Schools’ aspiration. In fact Kuyper honored New England as the “core of the American nation” and shared its definition of Christian liberty as a communal opportunity to do the right thing. At that Machen would only shudder. He indicted the “angry passions of 1861″ by which New England trampled on southern rights, and defined Christian liberty as the individual’s protection from the wrong thing. When put to the test, Machen endorsed the political model of Thomas Jefferson. At that Kuyper would only shudder back. (“Abraham Kuyper, J. Gresham Machen, and the Dynamics of Reformed Anti-Modernism,” Journal of Presbyterian History Winter 1997 75.4, 254)

So if folks like Maurina are going to talk about lines of historical continuity in the Reformed world, they may want to get their ducks in a row. And by the likes of these historians who taught/teach at Calvin College, the ties among Lyman Beecher, Abraham Kuyper, Carl McIntire, Francis Schaeffer may be stronger than the anti-2kers imagine.

At Least 2k Doesn't Produce Carrie Nations

Or, even our Lord told Peter to put the sword away.

So here is the strange sequence of events in BaylyWorld.

Last Thursday (April 11), Benjamin D. Curell, a deacon at Clearnote Church (where Tim Bayly is pastor), broke into a Planned Parenthood facility, apparently carrying an ax. His action was to protest the abortions conducted at the building.

The congregation responded by disassociating itself from one of its officers:

Yesterday morning the pastors and elders of Clearnote Church learned that Ben Curell, a deacon of the church, had been arrested for vandalizing Planned Parenthood. No one in the church knew about his plans. We are convinced Ben’s actions were not justifiable civil disobedience. The elders and pastors have met with Ben and admonished him.

Throughout history faithful Christians have confessed that from conception children bear the image of God. Therefore, we at Clearnote Church have encouraged and will continue to encourage Christians to peacefully and lawfully witness against the great evil of abortion.

We have counseled Ben to repent and submit to the civil authority that God has placed over us for our good. This authority reflects and points to the judgment of God before Whom we all one day must give an account.

Notice that the idea of “encouraging” Christians peacefully and lawfully to witness against abortion is precisely what 2k advocates approve. Such a witness goes on in all sorts of ways that avoids the breast-beating of a blog. But peaceful and lawful witness is not what the Baylys require of their 2k enemies. Typically the Baylys don’t encourage but demand, and if they don’t see evidence of objecting to abortion they question the faith of someone who is not as publicly outraged as they are:

Under the Third Reich, were the true shepherds silent in the midst of the slaughter of millions of Jews, sodomites, mentally handicapped, gypsies, and Christians? Then, what about us? When the day arrives and the light reveals our work as shepherds, will it be seen that we have been faithful witnesses against the anarchy and bloodshed all around us? Or will it become clear we have built with wood, hay, and straw?

There are many church officers today who are collaborators employing doctrine to justify their silence. Let me be clear: I am not saying these men are unconverted, but rather that they are unfaithful.

Notice as well that Clearnote’s statement on Ben Curell adopts an attitude toward civil authorities that comes directly from the 2k playbook — that God has placed even not so great authorities over us, for our good no less. That notion of civil authorities has not been one that you can discern in many Bayly posts. For instance:

Our presidents, governors, and mayors ceaselessly toil at enforcing the worship of their gods and the only thing up in the air is which gods the pinch of incense adores: the Only True God or Molech.

This is these United States today. On every street corner, we have altars to Molech where pagans and Christians alike sacrifice our own offspring to demons–something Scripture tells us is so very evil that it never entered the mind of God (Jeremiah 19:5)–and Christians drive by on our way to our church-house, silencing our consciences by assuring ourselves confessing Christians aren’t putting Covenant children in the fire, only pagans do that; that as Christians we have no duty to oppose the fire since the Westminster Divines told us not to meddle in affairs rightly belonging to the jurisdiction of the civil magistrate; that whether the civil magistrate should outlaw the slaughter is a question of public policy not addressed by the general equity of the Law; that pagans have always given their children to the fire, so what’s new; that if we speak up against Molech’s bloodlust, we’ll only alienate the pagans rendering them even more resistant to the pure, unadulaterated, scrupulously clean Gospel message; and on it goes.

But do we hear about any of this incident or Clearnote’s statement at the Bayly blog? No. Instead, it is business as usual when it comes to verbally tarring and feathering 2k. On April 15 the Baylys ran a long-winded piece by Darrell Todd Marina against 2k. Here’s a flavor of the verbal barrage:

However, the more radical “Two Kingdoms” people believe something much worse, namely, that once a question has become “politicized,” Christians ought to avoid preaching on it because it will identify the church with a political party or a political position and drive people away.

The key question ought not to be whether we will offend people and drive them away, but whether we will offend God and be driven by Him out of His presence regardless of how many people fill the pews of our churches. God has strong words to false prophets who seek to please people rather than pleasing God.

What we must ask is whether God has spoken to an issue in His Word. If God has spoken, the church must speak. If God has not spoken, the church must stay silent.

I have engaged Maurina several times before and he still can’t fathom the difference between policy and legislation, on the one side, and what the Bible says about a specific matter on the other. Christians may agree on certain moral norms and have completely different understandings of what the state’s role in executing such morality involves. It’s the same old myopia that afflicted Machen’s fundamentalist and modernist critics. Because he did not support the Progressive reform of the 18th Amendment, for instance, his friends and enemies thought he favored drunkenness. And Maurina has the audacity to suggest that 2k stems from ignorance about politics. It is his own ignorance that draws a direct line from biblical teaching — which may require some exegesis — to the law of the land. I oppose lying. Does that mean I advocate an amendment to the Constitution that adopts the ninth commandment? (When was the last time you heard 2k critics, by the way, oppose mendacity? How would they like hearing that their silence on laws opposing lying means they favor falsehoods?)

But the issue here is not Maurina, it is the repeated bellyaching of the Baylys against 2k in a way that misrepresents 2k advocates and that denies the implications of the Bayly’s shrill jeremiads, especially when all of their talk about Hitler, martyrs, persecution, and courage may actually encourage men like Ben Curell to pick up an ax, much like Carrie Nation, to uphold God’s law. Their rhetoric and logic is irresponsible but may actually be responsible for encouraging folks like Mr. Curell to think they are acting courageously and righteously when they vandalize private property.

Consider the following:

Now then, are the two Bush brothers up to the job? Are they faithful public servants? Will they do what is necessary to save Terri’s life? Will our civic fathers face down the cowardly legislators and judges? Will they show themselves men and rescue Terri from her oppressors?

Both men ought to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ We, the citizens of these United States deserve a straightforward answer to this question.

It would be easy for both the President and Governor to think their duties have been fulfilled and that no reasonable person could expect more from them. They’re wrong. We expect them to be men and stand–now!

If they are determined to abdicate their responsibilities and abandon the citizens under their care and protection, let them say so. Then we the people will have been put under notice that the rule of law is dead and we’re on our own.

The civil authority ceases to have authority when he abandons those at the margins of life to their oppressors. Are President and Governor Bush willing to acknowledge that the courts have betrayed their vows to uphold the Constitution? And will they do what is necessary to remedy the courts’ betrayals of those duties?

You know, “When in the course of human events” and all that.

Or this:

As it’s now against the law for Christians to do anything physical to stop the dismembering of the 1,300,000 unborn children slaughtered each year just down the street from us, soon it will also be illegal for Christians to preach or say anything warning the sexually immoral that their conduct is an abomination to God–and that, unless they repent, they will perish eternally.

Here’s a little prognostication: those believers and their pastors who find saying “No” to abortion distasteful and prefer to say “Yes” to crisis pregnancy centers are likely the same Christians and pastors who, as the cost escalates, will also find saying “No” to sexual immorality distasteful, preferring to say “Yes” to the joys of Christian marriage and morality. Those who feel most comfortable witnessing to the Faith in the “God loves you and has a wonderful man for your plan” or “God loves you and has a wonderful wife for your life” sort of way.

God’s “No” is already a stench in the eyes of Emergelicals, but soon it will become illegal, too. And those who have been timid in these days of the feminization of discourse and the slothfulness of cheap grace will turn and run for their lives when prison terms are added to the cost of biblical preaching and witness.

Or this:

I say it again: secularism is a religion that is utterly intolerant of true Christian faith. It started by privatizing Christian faith and now it’s moved on to removing privacy from our lives and obliterating every mediating institution that could put a check on its totalitariansim.
The day is quickly coming when followers of Christ will be hounded from jobs, business ownership, professorships, the practice of medicine, teaching in the state’s religious schools, owning rental property, preaching in public, publishing and selling books, getting letters to the editor published, getting a degree at the state-funded religious colleges and universities, and the list goes on and on. We will be utterly unclean and every effort will be made to bar us from the public square. When a federal judge forbids legislators from praying in Jesus’ name to open a legislative session, he’s not impeached in disgrace, he’s elevated to a higher court. But it won’t end there.

Even in the privacy of our homes, we’ll be imprisoned by the state. Its religious totalitarianism will seek to control our discipline of our Covenant children, our obedience to God in being fruitful, the way we give birth and die, our practice of church discipline, what’s preached in the privacy of our worship in our church-houses, what our children do sexually, whether our minor children are able to murder their unborn children, even the media we do or do not consume in our living rooms. You think I’m alarmist, but just watch–if you live long enough. And it should be a bit of a wake-up call for you to realize a number of the things listed above are already done deals. For instance, your minor daughter can have an abortion without your knowledge, and the religious educators of our secularist taxpaper-funded schools can help them hide the murder from you.

One more:

Brothers and sisters, we are citizens of a representative constitutional democracy with heavy privileges and duties that flow from that system of government. We are not under a Roman Emporer. We are under ourselves and we ourselves have the legal duty to guard the commons God has been pleased to bequeath to us from the hard work and shed blood of our faithful Reformed forefathers who created these United States.

If we learn anything from the Early Church under the Roman Empire, it’s that empires like Rome and the Secular West must oppress and kill every Christian who believes all authority in Heaven and earth has been given to the Lord Jesus and we must go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything He commanded knowing He is with us to the end of the earth.

Intolleristas are bloodthirsty for exclusivists. It was this way with the Early Church under Rome and it’s this way with the Late Church under Western Secularism. Separation of church and state is the death of Christian evangelism and discipleship unless Christian evangelism and discipleship becomes as vapid as the R2K monomaniacs.

Christian life, worship, evangelism, and discipleship are utterly incompatible with Western Secularism’s pluralism. Every single time a man under the Lordship of Jesus Christ tries to clothe our naked public squares, he will be shouted down by those convinced they don’t have gods and they don’t worship and they are as broad-minded and tolerant as can be.

The real wonder is that Mr. Curell or someone like him did not vandalize a seminary or a church where 2k views prevail.

Postscript: it looks like a pattern in the Curell family (and it looks like the Baylys may oppose civil disobedience only when conducted with a weapon — or they don’t respect deacons as much as pastors.)