Eschatology Matters

Neo-Calvinists share with theonomists a post-millennial outlook. David Koyzis illustrates:

Yet the call to holiness and to living for the kingdom is as extensive as creation itself. Farmers, manufacturers, labour union stewards, musicians, artists, journalists, electricians and sewage line workers are not obviously preaching the gospel or attempting social reform. Yet if they are in Christ, they are agents of his kingdom in every walk of life.

It is telling that the authors of the statement neglect the eschatological dimension of the faith. Eschatology, or the doctrine of the last things, is not a mere add-on to our Christian walk. Rather, it gives us direction for the future. At the end of the present age are we to be removed from this world to spend eternity in a blissful ethereal realm of floating spirits? Or will the whole creation be renewed when Christ returns? Perhaps the authors are not in agreement on this, which could account for their silence. Nevertheless, the Bible itself is not so reticent: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-24). “For in him [Jesus Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20). “And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new'” (Revelation 21:5, emphases mine).

We live in the hope of the resurrection of the dead in a renewed creation, which awaits its final fulfilment at Christ’s return. In the meantime we are heirs of this promise in everything we do in God’s world.

That quotation has the classic marks of neo-Calvinism, a view of the kingdom of God that blurs distinctions between holy and ordinary vocations, between church and secular matters, regards growth in holiness as something that applies to non-Christian affairs. Above all, the classic way of seeing continuity between this world and the world to come.

Neo-Calvinism is especially defective about the nature of the saeculum, which is the age between the advents of Christ. Greenbaggins invoked Vos to explain the peculiar character of the period when the ministry of word and sacrament defines the church, in the words of the Confession of Faith, as “the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God” (which means the kingdom of Jesus is not Hollywood, New York City, Grand Rapids, or the Department of Health and Human Services:

Here is Vos (a Dutch Calvinist, mind you):

The significance of the unique organization of Israel can be rightly measured only by remembering that the theocracy typified nothing short of the perfected kingdom of god, the consummate state of Heaven. In this ideal state there will be no longer any place for the distinction between church and state. The former will have absorbed the latter.

Greenbaggins explains:

In other words, the present state of distinction between church and state is a parenthesis. One day in the future, a perfect theocracy (with no possibility of the people’s apostasy) will come into being in its fully ineradicable, eschatologically perfect state.

That parenthesis, the interadvental period, is the age of the secular. It is the time when church and state are distinct, when Christ’s reign as king is divided between ruling creation and reigning over the redeemed.

Those who deny that distinction, those who see a progression from Israel (good), to church (better), to glory (best) fail to acknowledge the difference that the interadvental period makes. It is a time when all efforts to immanentize the eschaton, either by bringing the past (Israel) into the present, or bringing the future (new heavens and new earth) into the now, are flawed because Jesus’ spiritual kingdom is not of this world.

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Could You Write this after 9-11?

David Koyzis tries to turn B. B. Warfield into a Kuyperian and quotes this:

For there shall be a new heaven, we are told, and a new earth. Under these new heavens, in this new earth, shall gather redeemed humanity, in the perfection of its idea, and in perfect harmony with its perfected environment. In the perfection of physical vigour: for what is sown in corruption shall have been raised in incorruption, what is sown in dishonour shall have been raised in glory, what is sown in weakness shall have been raised in power, what is sown in selfishness shall have been raised in spirituality. In the perfection of social organization and intercourse: for there shall be none to hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain, and all the people of the Lord shall have learned righteousness. In the perfection of spiritual communion with God: for then it is that the Lord shall make Himself known to His people and shall dwell with them, and they shall need no Temple to which men should require to repair in order to meet the Lord, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple thereof, and the grace of the Lord shall flow down the streets in a river of the water of Life washing into every nook and corner.

Such is the picture the Scriptures draw for us of the salvation of our God. And let us not fail to note that it is a picture of a saved world. As no sphere of human life is left untouched by it; as on its touch, every sphere of human life is transformed; so the completeness and the profundity of its renovation of man is matched by the wideness of its extension over man. It is the renewed heavens and the renewed earth that we are bidden to contemplate; and dwelling in them in endless bliss renewed humanity.

Hard not to think that with the British Empire chugging along, the Ottomans still in charge of an unruly part of the world, the Austro-Hungarians doing their part to keep order in the Balkans, and western dominance spreading around the globe, the world was getting better and that Christians (of a kind) had a large hand in that betterment. This quotation comes from a book published in 1913.

But when the world looks less stable and life less predictable, can any Reformed Protestant still be post-millennial? (And doesn’t Koyzis have a duty to protect Warfield’s good name?)

When You Need a Precedent for Civil Disobedience

Go to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoffer. That’s exactly what David Koyzis does in a curious way for readers of Christianity Today.

But first he clears the obstacle of 2k:

Of course, there was nothing wrong with following Rome’s legitimate decrees. Jesus had said so himself. When the Pharisees tried goading him into speaking against imperial taxes, he surprised them with words that form the touchstone of Christian reflection on civil disobedience: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). Some mistakenly interpret this to mean that there are two kingdoms—one belonging to God and the other to Caesar. But that would put God and Caesar on the same level. In reality, Caesar receives his authority, including his divine mandate to rule, from God. As Jesus affirmed before Pontius Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11).

Whether Koyzis knows better, the point of 2k is not that politics belongs to (the) man and religion belongs to God. For the guhzillionth time, 2k affirms that government of all stripes — family, church, state — comes from God. The issue is whether church and state have different tasks and so different jurisdictions. It sure sounds like even the Westminster Divines thought so. The task of the state is:

God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers. (23.1)

What the church does is not that:

Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto. (25.3)

Oh, that neo-Calvinists could keep straight what 2k is (as if all non-neo-Calvinists look the same).

Then Koyzis pulls an interesting feat. He notices that Protestants have no real tradition of civil disobedience until the Nazis and racism:

The Reformation forced Christians to reflect once again on the limits of Caesar’s domain. In previous centuries, when Western Europe was essentially a single Christian commonwealth, occasional clashes between political and church authorities rarely spilled over into the pews. But by the 16th century, the Reformers would face hostility from both pope and emperor.

Martin Luther may or may not have uttered his famously defiant declaration—“Here I stand. I can do no other”—before the Holy Roman Emperor. But he was certainly skeptical of civil disobedience. Condemning a German peasant uprising, Luther cited Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, justifying disobedience only when government tries to coerce faith.

Like Luther, John Calvin supported obedience to political authority, which he praised in the highest terms: “Its function among men is no less than that of bread, water, sun, and air; indeed, its place of honor is far more excellent.” He held that Scripture requires obedience even to a bad king, who may be carrying out God’s judgment. Calvin favored constitutional checks on the ruler’s authority, but he opposed individuals launching rebellions.

Two major 20th-century events decisively shaped the church’s perspective on civil disobedience: the rise of Nazi totalitarianism in Germany and the struggle for black civil rights in the United States.

As the church lady used to say, “well, isn’t that convenient.” Too bad Koyzis doesn’t explain how the persecution of Christians by the Roman empire or the wars between Protestants and Roman Catholics or the taxes of Parliament on British colonists were such a walk in the park compared to Hitler and Jim Crow.

Do We Need Transcendence to Plow Streets?

Neo-Calvinist praise from David Koyzis for Bruce Ashford’s contention that political liberals and political conservatives both lack transcendence:

Politics in the United States has, for some time, assumed a binary structure. On one side stand the Republicans, who represent conservatism. On the other side stand the Democrats, who represent progressivism. But what most Americans fail to see is that conservatism and progressivism are similar in one significant respect. Both ideologies are “moving targets” that lack transcendent norms, which leads to a nearly endless variety of social ills. It may, at times, be appropriate to be conservative, and at others progressive. But when these designations become normative, they become idolatrous.

This sort of observation seems to be tone deaf to the religious inflection of contemporary politics. Just remember all the national exceptionalism that appeals to the United States’ special (read divine) role in world affairs.

But this way of looking at politics also seems to be oblivious to the actual stuff of civic life, namely, ordinary affairs as opposed to supernatural aspirations. Would transcendence, for instance, really resolve the snow-removal crisis in Baltimore (thanks to our Pennsylvania correspondent)?

In Harford County, residents complained that their online snow tracker went dark overnight. Baltimore County officials fielded complaints from constituents who remained snowbound Monday. And some residents in Anne Arundel and Carroll counties griped about the pace of the cleanup.

But many residents also said they gained a greater appreciation for how their tax dollars are spent to carry out one of government’s most essential functions: keeping the roads functioning.

Facebook pages for nearly all of the area’s jurisdictions lit up with complaints and compliments for how snow removal crews were progressing.

For their part, elected officials don’t shy from public appearances during major storms, promising a diligent response and hoping to win political currency. And in Maryland, voters are typically more forgiving of any failures, said Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political scientist.

Not so where major snow events are more common. Crenson pointed to Michael Bilandic, mayor of Chicago in the late 1970s when a blizzard crippled that city for months.

“His snow removal efforts were so feeble he lost the next election,” Crenson said. Maryland voters “are likely to give their elected officials a pass.”

I understand the appeal of thinking the Lordship of Christ will fix what ails fallen life. After all, Christ is the great fixer. But sometimes, when Protestants or conservatives invoke divine or philosophical categories as the cure for political woes, I can’t help but think they have missed the point of politics.

Neo-Calvinist Reality Check

David Koyzis can’t help but notice that Kuyperianism didn’t work out so well:

As a young man I was shocked during a visit to Amsterdam to see the proliferation of “sex shops” and the brazenness of the city’s red light district. In the four decades since then the Netherlands has come to be known for its permissive attitude towards euthanasia, recreational drugs and, of course, sexual expression. What happened? And why did it happen so quickly, that is, within two generations of Kuyper’s death?

So what happened? Koyzis thinks that institution building got in the way of evangelism:

Kuyper’s efforts led to the establishment of a variety of explicitly Christian organizations parallel to their secular counterparts. (The painter Piet Mondrian grew up in this Gereformeerd subculture.)

As Kuyper’s heirs immigrated to North America, they brought over his penchant for establishing and maintaining Christian institutions of all sorts, including a network of Christian day schools, a Christian trade union, more than one political organization, and a network of institutions of higher education. I myself have long been committed to these efforts and have taught at one of these affiliated universities.

Nevertheless, I have found myself wondering whether Kuyper’s perhaps too peaceful coexistence with the forces of secularization in 1917 might not have been sufficient to maintain the subculture he led over the long term. Kuyper certainly wouldn’t have been pleased by his followers’ failure to evangelize, and pillarization needn’t lead to a lack of outward strategy, but historically such power-sharing agreements place a premium on reaching a least-common-denominator form of consensus and toning down differences. In a pillarized society, the distinct subcultures became adept at erecting and maintaining barriers against the other subcultures, yet the consociational arrangements they come up with have tended to be short-lived.

I am not going to enter into debates about consociations that may play to Koyzis’ strength as a political scientist, but the habitual turn of the neo-Calvinist mind to matters public and political instead of spiritual and churchly, may actually point to what went wrong. In point of fact, the institutions that Kuyper helped to found were valuable not simply for erecting a sense of Calvinist identity but most importantly for passing on the faith to another generation and keeping the existing ones in it. Whether those institutions were always necessary is one thing. But their aim I suspect was ultimately religious not temporal, that is, to propagate and maintain the faith once delivered. If all the Reformed Protestants who participated in Kuyper’s institutions had maintained the faith and if their children had remained in the church, chances are those institutions would still be vigorous and large.

But once those institutions became ends in themselves, the genie left the bottle along with subsequent generations. The issue is not evangelism vs. institutions — the old problem of the Pretty Good Awakening. It is keeping institutions on point. And the point is creating and sustaining believers who can say:

My only comfort in life and in death is I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

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.

Why Should Episcopalians Have All the Good Chants?

What I am about to write will put me in awkward company since both James Jordan, the godfather of visions federal and David Koyzis, one of many keepers of the Kuyperian flame, have also advocated chanting psalms. But I am not afraid of the genetic fallacy that attributes guilt by association. I have very little sympathy for Jordan’s musings or for Koyzis’ opposition to dualism. But I do agree with them that chanting psalms is a better way to sing them than any available to the modern church.

But I don’t need to go Federal Visionist or neo-Calvinist to find support for chanting. The good and reliable singers of psalms, the Reformed Presbyterians, also include a page in their Book of Psalms for Singing on how to chant. Their reasons for chanting are as straightforward as their tips for singing are helpful. What is more, Reformed Presbyterian arguments don’t dabble in the exotic, trendy, or liturgical. For them, the point is to sing psalms as given in Scripture.

Chanting has several advantages over metrical Psalmody, stemming from the fact that in chanting, the music completely serves the text. The music is not difficult or interesting in itself, but has character and meaning only in conjunction with the words. The meaning of the text is thus more immediate, and the parallel structure of the Hebrew poetry is more apparent. The difficulties of translating ancient non-metrical poems into sensible English rhyme are rendered unnecessary. Chanting encourages the use of entire Psalms rather than selections.

The one advantage that I’d call attention to is that chanting frees modern congregations from having to sing songs that rhyme. My own tastes in poetry are pedestrian, and I like poems that rhyme. I am particularly attached to the limerick and sometimes write them. My main challenge is finding words that rhyme. (Heck, I have enough trouble finding the right word when it doesn’t have to rhyme.) But I see no reason why the songs we sing in worship need to rhyme. And I sometimes see the toll that rhyme schemes take upon the constructions (or their translations) of poets for whom rhyming was unknown.

Adding to the burden of metrical psalms is the tune. Each song has a certain number of beats per line, which means that each turn has a specific meter. Modern hymnals devote one of their many indexes to meters, such as 7.7.7.8, so that you may find all tunes with that meter and sing texts with the same meter to any of the listed tunes.

This means that psalm translators for metrical purposes not only have to find words at the end of lines that rhyme, but must also use translations that have the right number of syllables per line. Which means that a metrical psalm is several steps removed from the genuine article.

Now, of course, the genuine article would be to chant the psalms in Hebrew, but that would prevent worship in a known tongue to anyone in the United States other than obsessive seminary students.

So why not remove the entire rigamarole of awkward translations fitted for conventions of modern poetry and find a good English rendition of the psalms to chant? The music of chants are flexible and, contrary to the RPCNA’s advice, are often beautiful. Four-part chants are down right stunning. And chants aren’t that hard. The conservative Presbyterians with whom I commune sing well any number of complicated tunes. If Episcopalians, a group hardly known for vigorous congregational singing, can chant, why can’t Presbyterians?

Is Creation for Evangelicals and Neo-Reformed what Donuts Are for Homer Simpson?

I am noticing a trend, trend-spotters that historians are, and it does not appear to be promising.

Over at Christianity Today, Scott Sabin, author of Tending to Eden, connects the dots among – hold on to your baseball cap – evangelism, “compassionate justice ministry,” and earth care.

On a global scale, restoration is a monumental task. We are unlikely to achieve it this side of Christ’s return, any more than we are likely to bring about world peace by turning the other cheek. However, kingdom thinking can serve to guide our planning and our individual choices. At Plant with Purpose, we have seen restoration happen. Rivers and streams that had withered have begun to flow again due to upstream solutions. They have become powerful illustrations of God’s ability to redeem and restore, both for us and for the farmers with whom we are striving to share Christ’s love. . . .

Much of the world is either directly suffering as a result of environmental degradation or reacting in numb despair to gloomy predictions. Both groups desperately need the hope of Jesus Christ. It is the hope they long for, a hope that speaks directly to the redemption of all creation and reminds them that God loves the cosmos.

The gospel is for everyone—from dirt farmers to environmental activists. It is good news that God cares about all that he has created.

Pete Enns picks up on those same connections between creation and redemption in a piece for Biologos.

Psalm 136:1-9 is similar. The psalmist praises Yahweh for creating the cosmos using language reminiscent of Genesis 1. But in v. 10, without missing a beat, this “creation psalm,” brings up the exodus. Then in v. 13 we read that Yahweh “divided the Red Sea asunder.” Again, this calls to mind Genesis 1:6-8, where, in creating the world, God divided the water above from the water below (see also Psalm 74:12-17 where God “split open the sea”). “Dividing” the sea is a theme the Old Testament shares with other ancient creation texts, as can be seen in the link above.

Creation and exodus are intertwined. The creator was active again in delivering Israel from Egypt. . . .

What we see in the Old Testament is raised to a higher level in the New. God’s redemptive act in Christ is so thoroughly transformative that creation language is needed to describe it.

John’s Gospel famously begins “In the beginning was the Word….” The echo of Genesis 1:1 is intentional and unmistakable. Jesus’ entire redemptive ministry means there is now a new beginning, a starting over—a new creation. This Jesus, who is the Word, who was with God at the very beginning, through whom all things were made, is now walking among us as redeemer (John 1:1-5). Those who believe in him are no longer born of earthly parents but “born of God” (vv. 12-13). They start over. The language of “born again” later in John (3:3) points in the same direction. . . .

Redemption is not simply for people; Jesus’ redemptive program is cosmic, as we can see in Romans 8:19-21. Creation itself awaits its chance to start over, its “liberation from bondage.” Cosmic re-creation finds its final expression in Revelation 22:1-5. In the beautifully symbolic language that characterizes the entire book, we read that the cosmos has become the new Garden, complete with not one but two trees of life, where there is no longer any curse.

The Bible ends where it begins, at creation. The goal of redemption all along has been to get us back to the Garden, back to the original plan of the created order. To be redeemed means to take part in the creative work of God. The hints are there in the Old Testament, and the final reality of it is ultimately accomplished through the resurrection of the Son of God.

To round out the redeeming creation line-up, David Koyzis yields the especially helpful service not only of connecting creation and redemption but also neo-Calvinism and Roman Catholicism.

Perhaps readers of Evangel also read On the Square, but if not, permit me to direct your attention to a wonderful article by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, which, but for a few sentences here and there, could easily have been written by an evangelical Christian of the Reformed persuasion: Fire On The Earth: God’s New Creation and the Meaning of Our Lives. I am struck by his redemptive-historical reading of scripture, which many of us may tend to think is the exclusive preserve of the Reformed tradition. Archbishop Chaput is to be commended for disabusing us of this misconception. Here’s an excerpt:

A simple way of understanding God’s Word is to see that the beginning, middle and end of Scripture correspond to man’s creation, fall, and redemption. Creation opens Scripture, followed by the sin of Adam and the infidelity of Israel. This drama takes up the bulk of the biblical story until we reach a climax in the birth of Jesus and the redemption he brings. Thus, creation, fall, and redemption make up the three key acts of Scripture’s story, and they embody God’s plan for each of us.

To be sure, the God who creates is the deity who redeems. But to miss the difference between creation and redemption, and to rush to identify them with a Homeric blessing – “mmmmmmmm redeemed creationnnnnn” – is to miss the import of this little thing we call sin. The creation was and is good. It did not fall. It does not need to be redeemed. Only fallen creatures need redemption. In which case, to miss the ways that creation and redemption differ is to repeat the same collapsing of categories that Protestant progressives effected one hundred years ago when they threw out the distinctions between natural and supernatural, divine and human, sacred and secular, to brew an ideology that would save the world.

For that reason, two-kingdom and spirituality of the church advocates are eager to either warn evangelicals and progressive Reformed types about the danger of their view, not only because confusing the creational and redemptive functions of Christ blurs a category that has been crucial to the Reformed tradition. It is also because such confusion inevitably mistakes improvements in standard of living for the fruit of the Spirit.

Koyzis Sees the Light?

At the First Things blog for evangelicals (is this a form of putting born-agains in a ghetto?) — Evangel — David Koyzis, frequent critic of 2k theology, raised objections about celebrating July 4th in church.

More than two decades ago I walked into the building of a megachurch near Chicago on the Sunday nearest the Independence Day holiday. I sat down prepared to worship the God who revealed himself uniquely in Jesus Christ, but I was disappointed by what I saw when I opened the bulletin. Every “hymn” was a national song of some sort, including the Star-Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful and My Country ‘Tis of Thee. At one point in the service the congregation was expected to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, apparently substituting for the Creed, which was nowhere in sight. I chose not to remain for the service, got up and left, feeling somewhat cheated.

I am not opposed to expressions of patriotic loyalty, which have their place and time. But I strenuously object to devoting an entire Sunday liturgy to what in effect is a glorification of nation. Nor am I keen on the presence of a national flag in the sanctuary and other symbols of nationhood.

Koyzis goes on to suggest that churches should turn these holidays into a call for and celebration of justice. (Psst. Be careful lest Glenn Beck find out.)

The point of mentioning Koyzis discomfort with celebrations of the U.S. (he is a Canadian) in worship is that if he can feel such unease, then it is possible for him to imagine the discomfort that Reformed confessionalists experience when neo-Cal’s like Koyzis glorify plumbing, banking, or nation-governing (i.e., political theory) into full-time Christian service or kingdom work. I mean, if you can see that Christ’s kingdom transcends the boundary dividing upper and lower North America, can’t you consider that the activities in which Christians engage on the holy day is categorically different from their work on common days? Or is Koyzis the only one allowed to think that equating the work of redemption with the work of creation and providence is a function of flawed theology?

Hard or Soft, The Anti-2K Position Displays the Judaic Folly

(Or, how to blow Dr. Ortlund’s mind.)

The hits keep coming. The line grows of people wanting to take a swipe at the two kingdom doctrine (while the silence on Lillback’s strange fire of Sacred Fire is deafening).

A while back, Comment magazine published a piece by David Koyzis that critiques the 2k position, and is now available online. (Koyzis also refers to Wedgeworth’s essay on VanDrunen’s new book as “trenchant.”)

As Koyzis has it, the 2k position is not faithful because of its defective view of creation. He writes:

There are, finally, good reasons why we cannot join the cause of the two-kingdoms Calvinists. Most basically, creation is much more than a provisional, probationary order with no enduring significance, as they appear to believe. It is rather God’s good handiwork (Genesis 1), which has fallen into sin through man’s disobedience, but that God has promised not to abandon but to restore and redeem through Jesus Christ in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65, Revelation 21). An implication of this creation is that God has shaped human beings to shape culture. With every breath we take and with everything we do, we cannot avoid fashioning culture, as Andy Crouch has perceptively recognized in his recent book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Far from being extinguished at the Second Advent, the works of culture will eventually be redeemed and brought into the service of God (Isaiah 60).

Of course, this creation has been marred by the fall into sin of our first parents (Genesis 3), which inevitably affects the exercise even of human reason in the nonecclesiastical spheres. It is naïve to assume that we are capable of reasoning in the various social and cultural fields free from the destructive impact of the fall. If the effects of the fall are complete, then in principle the whole of life, including the cultural pursuits for which we were created, are included in redemption as well. As Paul puts it, the whole creation groans in anticipation of what is to come, but it will one day “be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21-22). In the meantime, however, this groaning is accompanied by an awareness that the kingdom is, in some measure, a present reality, even if its final consummation lies ahead. Thus, as agents of this kingdom, we must continually test the spirits in every field of endeavour. How much simpler it would be if vigilance were required only in matters of church and liturgy and we could safely ignore everything else! But God has hard words for those who think that proper cultic observance alone will substitute for a lack of obedience in the rest of life (Isaiah 1:11-17, 10:1-4; Amos 5:21-4).

2k advocates fail, then, to manifest a “ whole-hearted devotion to God in Christ.” This devotion, according to Koyzis:

can be pursued only in the context of the church, understood as corpus Christi, the body of Christ. The corpus Christi certainly manifests itself in the institutional church, but also in marriages, families, schools, universities, labour unions and businesses, in so far as they are directed towards the glory of God and service of neighbour. In this respect, the body of Christ is not undertaking to bring heaven to earth, but is merely seeking to fulfill the central command to love God and neighbour in all of life’s activities. This is a vision worth giving up one’s life for—as numerous martyrs have done through the ages—but in the meantime, it is definitely worth living for as well. May God prosper the work of our hands and use it for his glory (Psalm 90:17).

Then comes Rabbi Bret’s response to the recent post here about the collision of worldviews at the worldview weary Christian Reformed Church Synod. According to Bret:

It is only Darryl’s strange worldview that is pushing him to say that “worldviewism” cost the church its heritage of Reformed confessionalism. . . . By Darryl’s own words it is not worldviewism that is costing the CRC its heritage. By his own admission it is the worldview of progressivism that is costing it, its heritage. This progressivism will not be turned back by a worldview (R2Kt) that can’t authoritatively say that progressivism is un-biblical. This worldview progressivism can only be turned back by a Christian worldview that recognizes the progressivism for what it is and offers Biblical answers. Darryl wants to damn the night but refuse to light a candle.

Bret concludes:

Look … in the end you can ride the rails to destruction on the train of progressivism or you can ride the rails to destruction on the train of R2Kt Gnosticism / Dualism. No matter which ride you choose you’re going to have to eventually pay the conductor. There is, after all, a thousand different ways to achieve destruction.

Not to be missed at Bret’s site is the comment from one Mark Chambers – women hide the children; you may want to hide yourselves while you’re at it. In response to Bret’s point that Hart’s problem with the CRC is “the disagreement that occurs between those who will transform culture actively in a liberal direction and those who will transform culture passively in a liberal direction by allowing the anti-Christ theology that informs the culture to go unaddressed,” Chambers writes:

Well I’d rather describe it a bit more graphically. Both the agressive and passive methods end in cultural rape. The liberal is an agressive rapist. The passive R2Kers on the other hand, like Hart and his ilk, strip naked, lay on their backs and say “take me”.

Kowabunga, dude! I’m assuming if Bret’s earthly kingdom will not do movie ratings.

Let me see if I can briefly identify the major difference between the 2kers and the anti-2kers, and why the anti-2k theonomic leaning position distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ. The bone of contention is the kingdom of heaven. What Prof. Koyzis and Pastor Bret fail to recognize is a teaching that they themselves profess when the subscribe the Heidelberg Catechism. According to Heidelberg, the keys of the kingdom are preaching and discipline:

83. Q. What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?

A. The preaching of the holy gospel and church discipline. By these two the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and closed to unbelievers.

84. Q. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and closed by the preaching of the gospel?

A. According to the command of Christ, the kingdom of heaven is opened when it is proclaimed and publicly testified to each and every believer that God has really forgiven all their sins for the sake of Christ’s merits, as often as they by true faith accept the promise of the gospel. The kingdom of heaven is closed when it is proclaimed and testified to all unbelievers and hypocrites that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation rest on them as long as they do not repent. According to this testimony of the gospel, God will judge both in this life and in the life to come.

85 Q. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by church discipline?

A. According to the command of Christ, people who call themselves Christians but show themselves to be unchristian in doctrine or life are first repeatedly admonished in a brotherly manner. If they do not give up their errors or wickedness, they are reported to the church, that is, to the elders. If they do not heed also their admonitions, they are forbidden the use of the sacraments, and they are excluded by the elders from the Christian congregation, and by God Himself from the kingdom of Christ. They are again received as members of Christ and of the church when they promise and show real amendment.

Since Koyzis likes to talk about implications of biblical teaching, the implication of this doctrine is that the church has the keys of the kingdom, and it is the work of the church, not schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties, to open and close the kingdom of heaven because the church alone has the keys.

A further implication is what possible redemption do schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties minister? Yes, I understand that they are fruitful for loving God and neighbor. But the last I checked, loving God and neighbor are the law, not the gospel. (Is it just me, or does the phrase, “cultural obedience” connote law more than gospel?) And it is only the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ’s righteousness, freely given to those who trust on him, that gets anything or anyone into the kingdom of heaven or heaven itself. What exactly am I missing here?

At the same time, to suggest that the work of schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties is kingdom work is to distort the gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason, as Koyzis well explains it, is that the works of the law (love of God and neighbor) become synonymous with redemption. In other words, to expand the heavenly kingdom by blurring the two kingdoms is to add a works righteousness to Christ’s righteousness.

So, to respond to Rabbi Bret, my beef with the CRC and its worldview is not only that it is progressive. I also object to worldviews like Rabbi Bret’s that are politically or culturally conservative because opposing abortion, if done for the wrong reasons, is as much a form of works righteousness as is adopting a mandate on global warming. If Rabbi Bret wants evidence of the way that a right-wing worldviewitis leads to churches fudging the gospel, he only needs to say, “Federal Vision.” Can he do that? Sure he can.