Dr. K's Two K's

One of the odder aspects of Nelson Kloosterman’s objections to 2k is the way he blows hot and cold on Reformed Protestantism. On the one hand, he bangs the drum of Reformed particularism, invoking Kuyper and Van Til to argue that 2k is not sufficiently Reformed. This is a version of “if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much.” And because 2kers differ with Dutch Reformed worthies, they are suspect.

On the other hand, other American Protestants get a pass. When it comes to Rick Warren or Chuck Colson (and I don’t mean to dishonor an admirable man who recently died), Dr. K. forgets the standards of Kuyper and Van Til and lifts at least one thumb if not two — to match with his own version of Dr. K’s 2k’s. I understand that Colson claimed the influence of W-Wism as outlined by Kuyper. But sometimes W-W loses sight of the churches’ confession and leads Protestants to join forces — even in the name of the gospel — with Roman Catholics.

In other words, Dr. K. is at times provincial, never moving outside the orbit of Dutch Reformed sources, and at other times treats celebrity American Protestants like the Indiana farm boy who visits Yankees Stadium the first time.

Recent praise for Warren and Colson notwithstanding, Dr. K’s recent quotes from Dutch scholars have me wondering if even the Dutch Reformed are the most reliable guides to Christ and culture.

First, he cites the work of J. Bouma on ethics and says, “Here you will find a substantive, competent, and classically Reformed analysis of one of the issues lying at the heart of the current NL2K discussion. It deserves—and will repay—careful study and reflection.” If you read the attached chapter, you’ll see Douma make a point that is pretty basic to the 2k position:

Nobody can deny that after proper reflection we can reach shared conclusions about many issues. If that were not the case, we wouldn’t be able to speak of living together in a civic community. Often such issues involve the arena of what is legal and illegal. Everybody has some notion of what unfairness and discrimination are. Numerous human rights are clearly formulated and can be accepted as universal claims in the struggle against gross injustice. Everybody knows the rule of thumb, “what you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others.” That rule belongs not only to the Christian way of life, but appears in other cultures as well. Sometimes we have the experience that non-Christians armed with this rule of thumb will expose injustice more effectively than Christians have. Removing poverty, developmental assistance, organ donation, and many more issues provide examples that show the outworking of “universal” arguments.

Within our pluralistically arranged society, Christians also need to work together to reach agreement about various issues. If that doesn’t succeed, they need to consider whether a compromise can be struck.

So the antithesis pedal doesn’t have to pushed to the floor all the time. And it’s even okay to suggest a different approach follows in a world comprised of believers and unbelievers. I wonder where I’ve heard that.

But then Dr. K. goes to the old country again with a mystifying point (implicitly) about the Holy Spirit and good plumbing:

For some Christians it is perhaps confusing that the Spirit who is given to us in Christ should also be active in technicians or artists who are totally unbelieving. We could distinguish between the work that the Spirit performs as Creator (proceeding from the Father and the eternal Son) and the work that he performs as Redeemer (proceeding from the Father through the incarnate Son who now sits at the Father’s right hand). This distinction signifies no separation, for the creating and maintaining work of the Triune God is tied to his redeeming and restoring work.

The statement that “the Holy Spirit works only in the hearts of believers,” seems to me to be formulated too narrowly, with the result that people have trouble with the rest of the Spirit’s work. I would change that statement this way: “The redeeming work of the Spirit of Christ occurs only in the hearts of all those who are reborn unto faith: at that point the human heart is opening up for that same Spirit who has always been doing his creating and maintaining work in all people, very often without these people giving God the honor for that work.”

This is from Jakub Van Bruggen who teaches at the Theological University in Kampen. This is a very strange construction because it self-consciously blurs the antithesis. Lost is the distinction between creation and redemption. Lost as well is the distinction between beautiful art, good plumbing, and extortion. For if the Holy Spirit is at work in non-believers when they create beauty, is the Holy Spirit also at work in non-believers when write beautiful poetry to seduce a married woman?

It seems to me this is just another version of Christians trying to take credit for whatever is good in the world in a way that is filled with a host of theological problems. But it does keep you from being 2k even if it means you confuse the categories that are basic to the work of redemption.

I wonder if Dr. K. could spot those problems if he could sort out American Protestants better.