One Way to Tell the Difference between Two-Kingdom Theology and Its Critics

Two-kingdomers want Reformed ministers to avoid compromising entanglements like those surrounding chaplains in the U.S. military. Critics of 2k want to keep women out of the military. That difference says a lot about the way each side views the church and the nation.

Thanks to Tim and David Bayly for reminding me of this important difference. In their typically slash-and-burn manner, they demean David Coffin, a well-respected PCA pastor and long-time defender of the spirituality of the church, for an interview in which Coffin said that mixing religion and politics was a “kind of apostasy.” The nerve.

It should be noted that the man who advocates a strict separation of Church and state in this interview is the same man who told my brother Tim, during the 2002 General Assembly debate, that the PCA should not oppose women serving as combatants in the U.S. Armed Forces.

So here’s a minister of the Word of God pedantically parsing his Biblical obligations in such a way that he can justify turning an official blind eye to one of the most depraved aspects of our culture’s destruction of women–almost as bad as urging them to kill unborn babies in their wombs.

To lodge his Uriah Heapish kowtowing to our culture’s attack on motherhood in the Westminster Standards is ludicrous. Has David read Reformed history–any at all?

Umm, the answer would be, yes. In fact, I’m betting Dave has read more Reformed history than the Bayly boys put together.

Mind you, I’m not wild about women serving in the military, nor about men for that matter who have to fight in places that would not matter to the United States if our nation had not super-sized its republican form and become an empire. I can certainly understand how mixing men and women in military situations could be a problem for tactical purposes. But I’m not sure that the Bible has a lot to say about the matter such that the church would call it “sin.” And I’m not sure that you would want to tell grandma Machen that she was wrong to defend her northern Virginia farm from Union soldiers who had designs on her chickens and cutlery during the Civil War. May not women defend themselves, their homes, or even their nation if circumstances warrant? Would the Baylys really conclude that a German woman, who could have saved the lives of her Jewish neighbors by shooting a Nazi soldier, should not pull the trigger because such an act would degrade her womanhood?

Meanwhile, the brothers B, who know about the pressures upon Reformed chaplains to compromise their convictions, don’t seem to mind ordained pastors serving as chaplains. The 2k objection to chaplains does not stem from anti-military prejudices or indifference to the spiritual needs of soldiers who are honorably and courageously serving their country. The problem for 2kers is that Reformed chaplains are having to submit to rules and work not only with liberal Protestant chaplains but also officers (some of them women — look out Tim and David!!!) from other faiths. Conservative Reformed churches would never allow this kind of cooperation in ecumenical or parachurch organizations. Some Presbyterian churches will not even join the National Association of Evangelicals because such membership would mean turning a blind eye to Arminianism. But the Baylys remain surprisingly calm when it comes to Reformed ministers serving alongside female Methodist chaplains in the military of the greatest nation on God’s green earth.

So once again, the anti-2k side takes an absolute stand on a debatable position, doubling down on the sex front of the culture wars. Meanwhile, 2kers avoid the culture wars for matters that directly bear on the witness and integrity of church officers.

If the Baylys actually knew Reformed history, they would understand they are on the wrong side of the Old School-New School controversy.

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Old Life in the Imperial Capital

Brian Lee, pastor at Christ Reformed Church (URC) in Washington, D.C., has put together another fall program of lectures and events, this year devoted to the theme of Christianity and Politics. I will be speaking with Michael Gerson, speech writer for George W. Bush, on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm. Terry Eastland, publisher of the Weekly Standard, will be moderating our discussion of evangelicals and American politics. (Terry’s presence is remarkable given the collapse of his beloved Braves. I don’t point this out to mock or chest thump but to express real empathy; if Terry takes Braves’ losses the way I go blue after a Phillies’ defeat, then his willingness to get out of bed is a tribute to his mental health.)

[Taken from CRC’s press release]
The full schedule follows (speaker bios below):

Sunday, October 9th,11:00 am — Michael Horton, “Evangelism and Social Justice”

Thursday, October 13th, 7:00 pm — Michael Gerson, Darryl Hart, Terry Eastland, “The Future of Evangelicals in Politics”

Sunday, October 16th, 11:00 am — Brian Lee, “Govern Well, or Be Governed?”

Thursday, October 20th, 7:00 pm — David VanDrunen, “Natural Law and Christian Politics”

Sunday, October 23rd, 11:00 am — David Coffin, “The Spirituality of the Church”

Events will be held at Christ Reformed Church’s new Logan Circle home, historic Grace Reformed Church (the church home of President Theodore Roosevelt), located at 1405 15th Street NW, Washington, DC. Reception to follow. Free parking is available (with validation) at the Colonial Parking Lot at 1616 P Street NW, one block west of the church. Call 202.656.1611 for more information or visit our website at http://www.ChristReformedDC.org.

Speakers:

Dr. Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, Host of the White Horse Inn radio program and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He has written The Gospel Commission and Where in the World is the Church, as well as The Christian Faith, a new highly-acclaimed one-volume systematic theology. He is a minister in the United Reformed Church.

Michael Gerson, opinion writer for the Washington Post and former head speech writer and senior policy advisor to President George W. Bush. He is the author of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, and Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America’s Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail if They Don’t).

Terry Eastland, Publisher of The Weekly Standard and is ordained as an elder at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Darryl Hart, visiting professor of History at Hillsdale College in the area of American Religious history and the author of numerous books on Christianity and Politics, including From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism and A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, and blogs on religion and public life at oldlife.org.

Dr. Brian Lee, founding pastor of Christ Reformed Church, Washington, DC, and holds degrees from Stanford University, Westminster Seminary California, and Calvin Theological Seminary. Prior to becoming a pastor Dr. Lee also worked in Washington on Capitol Hill, at the National Endowment for the Humanities, and at the Department of Defense. He studied Dutch Calvinism as a Fulbright Scholar in the Netherlands in 2001.

Dr. David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He has written Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought and Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. He is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and holds a Law Degree from Northwestern University School of Law.

Rev. David Coffin, Senior Pastor at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia.

Kuyperians and Theonomists, Say "Hello" to the Old School Presbyterians

I continue to be amazed by the decibels of hostility and venom heaped upon 2k. From bloggers like Nelson Kloosterman, James K. A. Smith, David Koyzis, Doug Wilson, Steven Wedgeworth, Rabbi Bret and the Bayly Bros., to your average and pseudonymous commenters at various Reformed blogs, many Reformed Protestants and evangelicals believe that 2k theology is either foreign because it is Lutheran or unbiblical because it exempts God’s law from part of life and nurtures dualism.

But for anyone who has spent time with Old School Presbyterians and Old Princeton Seminary, 2k feels comfortable like an old shoe, and that’s because one of the Old School’s hallmark doctrines, the spirituality of the church, is basically the Presbyterian version of 2k.

David Coffin, pastor of New Hope Church (PCA) in Fairfax, Virginia, recently preached on the doctrine of the spirituality of the church. A link to the first sermon is here. It is well worth hearing and filled with numerous quotations that neo-Calvinists and their theological cousins, theonomists, Federal Visionaries, and Erastians, have yet to fit into their schemes of denying dualism and making Christ Lord of every square inch, like the following from Calvin, who is commenting on Christ’s response to a request to settle a property dispute between two brothers (Luke 12:13):

Our Lord, when requested to undertake the office of dividing an inheritance, refuses to do so. Now as this tended to promote brotherly harmony, and as Christ’s office was, not only to reconcile men to God, but to bring them into a state of agreement with one another, what hindered him from settling the dispute between the two brothers? There appear to have been chiefly two reasons why he declined the office of a judge. First, as the Jews imagined that the Messiah would have an earthly kingdom, he wished to guard against doing any thing that might countenance this error. If they had seen him divide inheritances, the report of that proceeding would immediately have been circulated. Many would have been led to expect a carnal redemption, which they too ardently desired; and wicked men would have loudly declared, that he was effecting a revolution in the state, and overturning the Roman Empire. Nothing could be more appropriate, therefore, than this reply, by which all would be informed, that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual. . . .

Secondly, our Lord intended to draw a distinction between the political kingdoms of this world and the government of his Church; for he had been appointed by the Father to be a Teacher, who should “divide asunder, by the sword of the word, the thoughts and feelings, and penetrate into the souls of men, (Hebrews 4:12,)” but was not a magistrate to divide inheritances. This condemns the robbery of the Pope and his clergy, who, while they give themselves out to be pastors of the Church, have dared to usurp an earthly and secular jurisdiction, which is inconsistent with their office; for what is in itself lawful may be improper in certain persons. . . .

P.S. If Dutch-American Calvinists want to write off nineteenth-century American Presbyterians, fine. But don’t be surprised if those Presbyterians descendants remind you that it was the Presbyterians at Princeton that domesticated Kuyper and Vos for American Protestants. Without Benjamin Warfield, Abraham Kuyper and Geerhardus Vos would still be available only in Dutch.