Differentiation of Ecclesiastical and Civil, Differentiation of Ecclesiastical and Civil (rinse, chant, and repeat)!

Tim Bayly is at it again with a post containing his talk at a CREC gathering. It is another instance of that Framean habit of mind which blurs categories simply because topics sort of sound or look alike. In this case, he is for integration — as in integrating faith and politics, faith and learning. But he also believes he can score points against 2kers by upholding the integration of races. So bringing up the racism of Southern Presbyterians who affirmed and taught the spirituality of the church is another way of making the point that 2kers are against integration — that is, we split church and state, faith and learning, whites and blacks.

The problem is that Tim can’t quite stay on track. He brings up his father’s decision to start a Christian school in the 1940s located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The integration here is faith and learning, and racial, since well before the Civil Rights movement Tim’s dad founded a school that welcomed blacks and whites. But what proves integration also proves separation. The Baylys school was not part of the public school system. It segregated Christians from non-Christians (and even other Christians) in the public schools. You can’t have integration all the time in a neo-Calvinist world that runs on the fuel of anti-thesis. In fact, the Bayly’s MO is largely one of underscoring the difference between true Christians and fake ones, between people who are good for America (Christians) and those who aren’t (professors at Covenant Seminary and gays). Integration can’t quite circle the square. But that’s okay. It allows Tim to feel superior in an integrated way.

The difficulties in Tim’s assessment also lead to such woppers as this:

Who is the Reformed group who is whole-hog into patriotism today? Which men are wrapping themselves in the flag, crying out “my country, right or wrong?” Who are the Reformed men who are zealous to gag God’s prophets of righteousness, instead casting their lot in with the ACLU, the powers that be inside the Beltway, and the chattering classes up and down the seaboards, Eastern and Western as they all chant: “Separation of church and state! Separation of church and state!”

I think the answer is supposed to be 2kers, but last time I checked, it was 2kers who actually wonder out loud about the propriety of patriotism in Christian circles, such as the display of the U.S. flag in churches. 2kers have also been known to avoid commenting on politics, thus leaving the subject to the deliriums of folks like the Baylys and other neo-Calvinists. Try telling these guys that Christ’s kingdom transcends the politics of any nation and see who starts bellyaching about “my country.”

Even so, Tim goes to Cornel Venema for apparent help to undermine any sense that the 2k position enjoys some kind of standing historically among the Reformed churches:

…the two kingdoms doctrine is alleged to be the venerable, original position of the Reformed churches. …(This) historical claim on the part of two kingdoms advocates… represents a tendentious reading of the historical record.

The difficulty for Venema and Bayly is that the Reformed churches have historically affirmed a differentiation between the civil and ecclesiastical spheres.

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. (WCF 23.1)

That’s the magistrate’s duty. It is hardly the same or comparable to the church’s:

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)

And that has something to do with what synods may or may not do:

Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate. (31.4)

This may not be exactly an endorsement of the separation of church and state, but the distinction between civil and ecclesiastical spheres is certainly more in the 2k ballpark than one where integration rules, which means it is far more venerable and original that Venema indicates. I mean, if you want the integration of church and state, you likely don’t distinguish overly precisely the work of the church from the task of the magistrate, which is exactly what is missing in those who advocate a Christian America or Christian schools. Introduce the distinction between the civil/temporal and ecclesiastical/heavenly and these folks think you are a bastard child of Thomas Jefferson.

And then if you question whether the church or Christians or both should be inaugurating God’s kingdom, the way Calvin did, then you are definitely a blasphemer. And yet, those early Reformed Protestants seemed to be able to keep their wits about the direction of history and not trying to associate cultural or political advances or set backs with God’s divine plan:

THE SECTS. We therefore condemn all who deny a real resurrection of the flesh (II Tim. 2:18), or who with John of Jerusalem, against whom Jerome wrote, do not have a correct view of the glorification of bodies. We also condemn those who thought that the devil and all the ungodly would at some time be saved, and that there would be an end to punishments. For the Lord has plainly declared: “Their fire is not quenched, and their worm does not die” (Mark 9:44). We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt., chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18, and apostolic teaching in II Thess., ch. 2, and II Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different.

I have no doubt that being a confessional Reformed Protestant is hard. It is easier to look at big churches, celebrity pastors, and religiously boisterous politicos as bearing the marks of the coming kingdom. Seeing the world through the eyes of faith, and not being duped by externals or cultural decay requires sobriety, restraint, and patience in ways that conflict with our own desire for either justice to prevail or self to be vindicated. But if Calvin could summon up such discipline even in the glory days of Reformed Geneva, surely Tim Bayly can do the same in the face of Obamacare:

We must, therefore, know that the happiness which is promised to us in Christ does not consist in external advantages—such as leading a joyful and tranquil life, abounding in wealth, being secure against all injury, and having an affluence of delights, such as the flesh is wont to long for—but properly belongs to the heavenly life. As in the world the prosperous and desirable condition of a people consists partly in the abundance of temporal good and domestic peace, and partly in the strong protection which gives security against external violence; so Christ also enriches his people with all things necessary to the eternal salvation of their souls and fortifies them with courage to stand unassailable by all the attacks of spiritual foes. Whence we infer, that he reigns more for us than for himself, and that both within us and without us; that being replenished, in so far as God knows to be expedient, with the gifts of the Spirit, of which we are naturally destitute, we may feel from their first fruits, that we are truly united to God for perfect blessedness; and then trusting to the power of the same Spirit, may not doubt that we shall always be victorious against the devil, the world, and every thing that can do us harm. To this effect was our Saviour’s reply to the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is within you.” “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation,” (Luke 17:21, 22). It is probable that on his declaring himself to be that King under whom the highest blessing of God was to be expected, they had in derision asked him to produce his insignia. But to prevent those who were already more than enough inclined to the earth from dwelling on its pomp, he bids them enter into their consciences, for “the kingdom of God” is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,” (Rom. 14:17). These words briefly teach what the kingdom of Christ bestows upon us. Not being earthly or carnal, and so subject to corruption, but spiritual, it raises us even to eternal life, so that we can patiently live at present under toil, hunger, cold, contempt, disgrace, and other annoyances; contented with this, that our King will never abandon us, but will supply our necessities until our warfare is ended, and we are called to triumph: such being the nature of his kingdom, that he communicates to us whatever he received of his Father. Since then he arms and equips us by his power, adorns us with splendour and magnificence, enriches us with wealth, we here find most abundant cause of glorying, and also are inspired with boldness, so that we can contend intrepidly with the devil, sin, and death. In fine, clothed with his righteousness, we can bravely surmount all the insults of the world: and as he replenishes us liberally with his gifts, so we can in our turn bring forth fruit unto his glory. (Institutes, II.15.4)

Locating the Source of 2K Objections (aside from theonomy and Neo-Calvinism)

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 (W) 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.[4] 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.