The 600 Pound Modern Gorilla in the Church

This review of Jamie Smith’s new book, Awaiting the King, got me thinking about Smith’s understanding of cultural liturgies. Here are some quotes from the book in the review:

There is something political at stake in our worship and something religious at stake in our politics. (3)

Implicit in the practices of Christian worship is an economics, a sociology, a politics. (54)

The church’s worship does not “become” political when it is translated into policy or hooked to partisan agendas. The politics of worship is tied to the renewal of moral agency of the people of God, who are formed to be sent. (59–60)

[I]t is equally important that we see Christian worship as political in nature—not in the sense of being “partisan” or tied to “earthly city” special interest groups, but insofar as it is the enactment of a public ritual centered on an ascended King. (53)

Jonathan Leeman rephrases Smith this way:

Your trip to the mall, your Monday Night Football party, your standing for the national anthem both express your worship, identity, and morality and also shape them, for better or worse. You’re not just a “thinking thing,” you’re a desiring and a loving thing, and these various cultural practices shape your desiring and your loving, like the liturgies at church.

What Smith wants us to take away from the book, then, is more awareness concerning how the world’s liturgies affect and shape our worship and politics, and then to center our political life around the church’s liturgies. Doing so will cause us to take a more ambivalent posture toward public engagement.

What I don’t understand is how women’s ordination escapes Smith’s close reading of cultural liturgies. Is the ordination of women a way of resisting modernity or a capitulation to it? If watching football on Sunday afternoons is part of a liturgical tradition that undermines the sanctification of the Lord’s Day, why isn’t the ordination of women a sign of the church’s capitulation to individualism and egalitarianism? In terms of cultural tropes, after all, women’s ordination closer to shopping at Walmart than it is to supporting the mom and pop shop on Main St.

You don’t need to interpret women’s ordination in terms of orthodoxy or heterodoxy as Smith argued:

Now, no one for a second can deny that such views of sexual morality and marriage have been the historic teaching of the church. The weight of Scripture, tradition, and perhaps even “natural law” have sustained these views and beliefs for millennia. And one could argue that the silence on such matters in, say, Machen or The Fundamentals only reflects what was taken for granted, not what was unimportant. Certainly. And just because they are not matters of creedal definition doesn’t mean they are matters of indifference. The creeds don’t say anything about Christian nonviolence, for example, but that hardly means Christians are therefore free to adopt any posture or position they want if they follow the Prince of Peace.

But it is surely also worth pointing out that conciliar standards of orthodoxy do not articulate such standards. If the adjective “orthodox” is untethered from such ecumenical standards, it quickly becomes a cheap epithet we idiosyncratically attach to views and positions in order to write off those we disagree with as “heretics” and unbelievers. If “orthodox” becomes an adjective that is unhooked from these conciliar canons, then it becomes a word we use to make sacrosanct the things that matter to “us” in order to exclude “them.”

Precisely so. So if you depart from the historic position of the church on ordination, how are you sufficiently worried about cultural liturgies that promote ideas and expectations that make God’s people like the larger society? And if you believe that part of Protestant orthodoxy involves the sufficiency of Scripture, how do you go against clear biblical teaching on ordination and say you are committed to conciliar orthodoxy? How for that matter, are you going to be a reliable ally in disputes about matters of conciliar orthodoxy? The CRC may still confess the Canons of Dort, but will it refuse membership in ecumenical organizations that include Arminians?

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Family Trumps School (so says Bavinck)

(Thanks to our Grand Rapids correspondent) James K. A. Smith offers that latest case (in a popular form) for Christian schools and bangs all the percussion instruments that neo-Calvinists have assembled up front in their churches for worship (see what I did there?):

Christian Reformed communities have long understood a commitment to Christian schools as an expression of the promises we make at baptism—to be the “village” that supports the formation and education of our children. In a tangible expression of “kingdom economics” (see Acts 4:32-36), the entire community shares the burden of Christian schooling. Older generations support younger generations through giving to the Christian education fund, grateful for the generations before them that did the same. Only such a gift-giving economy can make it possible for Christian education to be a blessing for all in the community.

Let’s be honest: Christian schooling is a high-investment, labor-intensive venture. It requires sacrifices and hard choices. And it’s increasingly countercultural to pursue such a vision.

But when it’s carried out in the best spirit of the Reformed tradition—when Christian education is an intentional, intensive, formative curriculum bent on shaping young people as agents and ambassadors of God’s coming kingdom—the investment proves to be wise stewardship.

So it turns out that Christian education is not just a 19th-century hangover. It bubbles up from the very nature of the church as a covenant community. It’s an expression of the core convictions of the Reformed tradition. And we might need it now more than ever.

For the Bible thumpers among us, this case still falls short of explaining why throughout most of redemptive history narrated in Scripture schools — a modern invention — were not part of the prophets’ and apostles’ instructions. Yes, I understand the implications of covenant theology and yes I admire the solidarity that Dutch Calvinists have exhibited in both the Old and New Worlds — really. But Smith, along with those who preceded, do not address the priority (even audacity?) of the family in the nurture of children.

And so I wonder what Smith would do with Herman Bavinck, a not-so-shabby neo-Calvinist, and what he says about how basic the family is to God’s providential care for his people:

The family is and remains the nurturing institution par excellence. Beyond every other institution it has this advantage, namely, that it was not constructed and artificially assembled by man. A man chooses a woman to be his wife, and a woman chooses a man to be here husband, but if things go well, they don’t so much choose one another as they are chosen by each other; by means of a secret bond, in a manner ineffable, they are brought to each other. Children are then born from their intimate fellowship, but those children are granted to them, having a different sexuality, a different nature, a different disposition — perhaps different than what the parents would have wished and, had it been up to them, would have given their children. The family is no fabrication of human hands; it is a gift of God, bestowed according to his good pleasure. Even though the family has existed for centuries, we cannot create a likeness; it was, it is, and it will continue to be a gift, an institution that God alone sustains. (The Christian Family, 105-106)

Behind the family and its very existence is the providential control of God. And Bavinck is clear that such divine sovereignty is responsible for the diversity of families — perhaps even to the point of allowing some families to opt for and others to opt out of Christian schools:

The community of the family brings with it a treasury of relationships and qualities. The relation of husband and wife, or parents and children, brothers and sisters, hardly exhausts this treasury, for the relationship that a husband enjoys with his wife is altogether different than the relations a wife enjoys with her husband, and the relations of parents with children differs from those between father and mother and the children together, and between each parent with each child, and in this way the same family life proceeds in even greater specialization, as the number of members expands.

This is the case not only with the relationship but also with the qualities belonging to each family member. Masculine and feminine qualities, physical and spiritual strengths, intellectual, volitional, and emotional gifts, age and youth, strength and weakness, authority and obedience, affection and love, unity and diversity of interests, all of these come together in one family, unified and distinguished and blended together. (92)

So would Smith and other proponents of Christians schools have us ignore such diversity and force it all into conformity to the teachers (members of their own families with each of the diverse strengths and weaknesses of those backgrounds) at the local Christian school?

At least one side of Bavinck said, “no”!

Therefore the nurture that takes place within the family possesses a very special character. Even as the family itself cannot be imitated, so too one cannot make a copy of family nurture. No school, no boarding school, no day-care center, no government institution can replace or improve upon the family. The children come from the family, grow up in the family, without themselves knowing how. They are formed and raised without themselves being able to account for that. The nurture provided by the family is entirely different than that provided by the school; it is not bound to a schedule of tasks and does not apportion its benefits in terms of minutes and hours. It consists not only in instruction, but also in advice and warning, leading and admonition, encouragement and comfort, solicitude and sharing. Everything in the home contributes to nurture—the hand of the father, the voice of the mother, the older brother, the younger sister, the infant in the bassinet, the sickly sibling, grandmother and grandchildren, uncles and aunts, guests and friends, prosperity and adversity, celebrations and mourning, Sundays and workdays, prayers and thanksgiving at mealtime and the reading of God’s Word, morning devotions and evening devotions. (106-107)

So why can’t we leave the decision of education up to the institution divinely appointed for nurturing children?

Speak diversity to conformity!

When Jamie is Good He is Very Good

From James K.A. Smith’s review of Pete Enns, The Evolution of Adam (thanks to our Florida co-editor):

The meaning of Scripture is not limited to what human authors intended—which is precisely why the meaning of prophetic texts outstrips what human authors might have had in mind. As Richard Hays puts it, in some ways Christians read the Bible back to front. But the dominant methodology that Enns reflects has no functional room for appreciating this point, which is why he seems to think that defining what the “authors of Genesis” had in mind settles the matter. It doesn’t.

This sort of a-canonical approach also explains why Enns sees such a strange relationship between Genesis and the apostle Paul as a reader of Genesis. “Paul’s reading of Genesis,” he comments, “is driven by factors external to Genesis. Paul’s use of the Old Testament, here or elsewhere, does not determine how that passage functions in its original setting” (87, emphasis added). Well, that might be true; and Enns is exactly right to offer a corrective to irresponsibile habits of Bible reading that are little more than baptized eisegesis, reading into the Scriptures what we want to find there. But is the “original meaning” the determinative factor for the meaning of Genesis for us? We receive a canon of Scripture that recontextualizes each book—situating every book in relation to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which is why the “location” from which we read the Bible needs to be the practices of Christian worship. Worship is the primary “home” of the Bible and it is in worship that we cultivate those habits and virtues we need to read Scripture holistically.[8] That will certainly generate meanings of Old Testament books that could never have been intended by their human authors; but that doesn’t mean they were not intended as meanings to be unfolded “in front of the text” by the divine Author.

Enns’ approach leaves little room to recognize such recontextualization within the canon—nor does he accord any positive, constructive role to tradition (cf. 114). In fact, if it becomes a contest between “the authors of Genesis” and Paul, Enns sides with “the original meaning” of Genesis as the determinative meaning: “what Genesis says about Adam and the consequences of his actions does not seem to line up with the universal picture that Paul paints in Romans and 1 Corinthians […]. I do not think the gospel stands on whether we can read Paul’s Adam in the pages of Genesis” (92). To use Enns’ language, Paul attributes something to Genesis that the “authors of Genesis” are not trying to give us. Again, this account is entirely “from below,” as if it is Paul alone who “invests Adam with capital he does not have either in the Genesis story, the Old Testament as a whole, or the interpretations of his contemporary Jews” (135).

But now the problem above comes home to roost: what if there is an Author who is the author of both Genesis and 1 Corinthians? What did he intend? And could he intend meanings in Genesis that outstrip what the “authors of Genesis” intended? The church has always staked its reading of the Bible on the conviction that Scripture’s meaning exceeds what the original human authors could have intended. So we can’t neatly and tidily settle the cross-pressures we feel at the intersection of Genesis and contemporary science by simply limiting the meaning of Genesis to what was intended by its Ancient Near Eastern authors.

It seems to this average historian, this point is one that all of the discussion surrounding Christocentric vs. Christotelic readings misses. And Smith points to the importance of reading the Bible as a whole and as a book that may be best understood within the church rather than the Society of Biblical Literature.

2K as Rodney Dangerfield

I have to give credit to Jamie Smith for rattling the neo-Calvinist cage with a review of James Skillen’s recent book on Christians and politics. I agree with Jamie when he wonders out loud, can you believe we have another book about Christianity in the public square? Jamie’s liturgical side might also welcome a book on the sacraments, but he and I would likely diverge when he would want (I suppose) to talk about the sacraments in broad as opposed to my narrow (and vinegary) terms. Even so, I was glad to see Jamie mix it up with neo-Calvinists who need to get out more:

. . . what follows from all of this [Skillen’s book] feels either truistic or simply a theological rationale for a particular form of American constitutionalism—as if a “biblical” understanding of justice naturally entails the American project. “The question for Christians,” Skillen summarizes, “is this: How should we engage politically, guided by the vision of Christ’s kingdom that has not yet been revealed in its fullness?” That’s a pretty big, vague question. The answer seems at once predictable, tired, and hollow: “In the political arena, therefore, we should work for the kind of political communities in which those who fill offices of government act as public servants to uphold public justice for the common good, willingly accepting their equality with all citizens under the law.” Fair enough: but is anybody really going to disagree with that? If not, then we’re on the terrain of truism. The Good of Politics tends to do this: offer theological rationales for things you had already assumed were a good idea.

Jonathan Chaplin was someone whom Smith woke from his principled-pluralism slumbers:

Smith quotes Skillen’s summary of the political pay-off from such a vision of justice as that “we should work for the kind of political communities in which those who fill offices of government act as public servants to uphold public justice for the common good, willingly accepting their equality with all citizens under the law.” Yet he casually dismisses this vision as “predictable, tired, and hollow.” In doing so, however, he reveals less about the limits of Skillen’s accounts and more about his own failure to grasp just how globally distinctive this conception of politics really is, what an enormous achievement it has proven to be historically, and how radical and transformative it would be if American Christians actually took it seriously in their political thinking and acting. It is lazily dismissive to suggest that what Skillen’s vision amounts to is a “pretty standard liberal democratic game”—little more than “liberal proceduralism.”

I myself am fairly comfortable with a procedural republic — unfortunately, we are now a procedural empire (and we all know what empires yield — the not so good tyrant). But it seems to me that Smith has a point. If we want something a little more high octane at the Christian political theology pump, basically rolling out Christian arguments for liberal democracy isn’t going to rev the engine of anyone who walks on the antithesis wild side.

What is curious about both Chaplin and Smith’s pieces is that 2 kingdom theology isn’t even a serious option (as one way of making peace with a procedural republic or divine-right monarch or demented emperor). The working assumption of neo-Calvinists is that the spirituality of the church is not even worthy of attention. According to Smith:

On Skillen’s account, all of our political errors stem from “believing that Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, or not of this world, or only ecclesiastical, or only future.” In other words, the demons to be exorcised are dualism and clericalism: an anti-creational, a-cultural piety that cares only about heaven and/or a misguided desire to have the church rule the state. He sees this growing out of misguided beliefs. Specifically: “It is the combination of the belief that government was given because of sin and the belief that life on earth exists in negative tension with heaven that has lead to the development of almost every approach Christians have taken to government and politics.” Every approach except—you guessed it—Skillen’s (who, it should be noted, conveniently avoids the fact that John Calvin and Abraham Kuyper also saw government as a postlapsarian institution, necessary only because of the Fall).

If you identify dualism and clericalism as the threats, then your solution is going to be engagement and sphere sovereignty. In other words, if you think the problem is that Christians either don’t care about politics or want the church to run the state, then your “introduction” is going to emphasize the good of politics (and creaturely, cultural life more generally) in a way that is distinctly anti-clerical, persistently downplaying the church. And Skillen delivers, once again exhibiting the problem with the Kuyperian fixations on sphere-boundary policing. Bent on what he calls “de-ecclesiasticization,” the significance of the sacramental body of Christ is once again effectively marginalized. This standard Kuyperian trope de-politicizes the church (hence his rejection of Hauerwas’s emphasis on the church as polis) in a way that is not only wrong-headed but also mis-directed. This emphasis might be correct if there were hordes of people around looking to “establish” a particular religion or denomination as the official state religion. But is that really our problem now? Hardly.

Well, if you’re worried about the kind of generic prayer before townhall meetings that sounds Laodecian, you may actually be worried about the establishment of religion-and-I-don’t-care-what-kind-it-is.

But who says that dualism and clericalism are the threats that need to be subdued? I understand that Kuyper did. But did Jesus? Did Augustine? Was Kuyper the third Adam? Which is not to say that dualism and clericalism are the best ways of describing either the spirituality of the church or an Augustinian political theology (which says basically that because of the fall all of this talk of human flourishing is pagan). But have Skillen, Chaplin, or Smith considered the upside of dualism and clericalism? Which is to ask, have they not ever noticed that history is littered with instances that suggest Christian engagement or transformationalism is the real danger. (Sphere sovereignty seems to me a keeper, but one that actually constrains neo-Calvinists since they keep blurring the lines and taking every square inch captive.)

Just consider the religious voices that supported World War I. Here I will repeat quotations from a previous post:

The Bishop of London in 1915 said:

kill Germans — do kill them; not for the sake of killing, but to save the world, to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends. . . . As I have said a thousand times, I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everyone who died in it as a martyr.

The Bishop of Carlisle added:

But in this war there move and work spirits deeper, stronger, more revolutionary than any or all of these — spirits of good and evil, powers of heaven and principalities of hell, invisible spirits of goodness and wickedness of which men are the instruments and the world the visible prize. . . . This present war is essentially a spiritual war; a war waged on earth but sustained on either side by invisible powers.

Not to be outdone, Protestant clergy from Harry Emerson Fosdick to Billy Sunday signed a statement that urged the U.S. in 1916 to enter the war. Here is how their faith-based argument went:

The just God, who withheld not his own Son from the cross, would not look with favor upon a people who put their fear of pain and death, their dread of suffering and loss, their concern for comfort and ease above the holy claims of righteousness and justice, and freedom and mercy and truth. Much as we mourn the bloodshed [of war], we lament even more than supineness of spirit, that indifference to spiritual values which would let mere physical safety take precedence of loyalty to truth and duty. The memory of all the saints and martyrs cries out against such backsliding of mankind. Sad is our lot if we have forgotten how to die for a holy cause.

. . . the question of all questions for our immediate consideration is this: shall the ancient Christian inheritance of loyalty to great and divine ideals be replaced by considerations of mere expediency?

Or how about the religious rationale that informed the Cold War, at least if William Inboden’s book, Religion and American Foreign Policy, is reliable. He describes the “Truman Doctrine” this way:

In a 1951 address at Washington’s famed New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Truman preached a virtual sermon on America’s role in the world. He elaborated on the vexing relationship between the divine will, armed strength, American goodness, and communist evil. “We are under divine orders — not only to refrain from doing evil, but also to do good and to make this world a better place in which to live. . . . At the present time our nation is engaged in a great effort to maintain justice and peace in the world. An essential feature of this effort is our program to build up the defenses of our country. There has never been a greater cause. . . . We are defending the religious principles upon which our Nation and our whole way of life are founded. . . . The international Communist movement is based on a fierce and terrible fanaticism. It denies the existence of God and, wherever it can, it stamps out the worship of God . . . Our faith shows us the way to create a society where man can find his greatest happiness under God. Surely we can follow that faith with the same devotion and determination that Communists give to their godless creed.” The Cold War, in other words, had erupted not merely between two nations with contrary economic and political systems, but between two different religions. . . . Two ideologies and two systems asserted their rival claims to reality, neither one willing — or even able, if they would be true to themselves — to shrink from their confessions of truth. (114)

When you start entering the public square with religion, it becomes hard not to divide the world in antithetical ways. Truman was no Calvinist but weren’t neo-Calvinists, ever since 1789, habitually dividing the political world between the forces of good and those of — in the Church Lady’s voice — Say-TEN!

Do we really want a Christian political theology if it is going to keep baptizing the particular interests of nation-states as if those interests are those of Christ and his kingdom? Neo-Calvinists seem so intent on fixing today’s problems that they don’t seem to be capable of being sobered by the historical record of fixers who also rejected clericalism and dualism all the while collapsing the kingdom of God into the U.S.A., Germany, the UK — you name the pretty good nation.

But without 2k as an interlocutor, Smith may driven to look for sterner Christian engagement:

I wonder if. . . we don’t actually need a more robust embrace of “ideology” in this respect—a more forthright and unapologetic Christian politics that, in the name of the common Good and the good of politics, reconsiders Christendom for the missional project it was. That is the sort of question that reading Oliver O’Donovan and Peter Leithart has left me with. But it is a question that a reader of Skillen’s book could never understand.

Will Smith take the theonomic plunge and confirm what 2kers have always suspected about neo-Calvinism — it’s just one step from theonomy but marching lock step with the Federal Visionaries who pine for Christendom and Christian emperors.

Jamie Smith Gives, and Jamie Smith Takes Away

Erik has already commented that neo-Calvinists could learn from the Vatican, but the affinities between neo-Calvinism and Rome were even more striking in Jamie Smith’s recent post about Lumen Fidei. His remarks suggest that the real gateway drug for Protestant converts to Roman Catholicism is the sort of comprehensive Christianity that fuels every-square-inch transformationalism. Part of what makes neo-Calvinism appealing to evangelical Protestantism is that it offers so much MORE than salvation from sin and the need to evangelize daily. It talks about redeeming the whole world and promotes the value of every legal walk of life.

But just imagine how much more comprehensive Rome looks when it has 1500 more years of history, and an institution that (in addition to opposing the French Revolution, a neo-Calvinist requirement) put the Holy in Holy Roman Empire. If you want a culturally influential Christianity, Dutch or Dutch-American Calvinism looks like a piker compared to Rome.

This may explain why Jamie was so pleased by Francis’ first encyclical:

. . . the Pope rightly argues that the standpoint of Christian faith is not opting for un-reality—to believe the Gospel is not an irrational escape from “the real.” To the contrary, it is an invitation to participate in the One in whom all reality holds together. And this is an incarnational faith: tangible, sticky, concrete, embodied, in contrast to the vague Gnosticism that too often passes itself off as “Christian.”

So if Christians practice an otherworldly faith because Christ has gone somewhere else to prepare a home for his people, or because Paul tells us to set our minds on things above, or Calvin prays that we should not become too deeply attached to earthly and perishable things, these otherworldly saints are simply gnostics or fundamentalists.

And Smith goes on to quote approvingly Francis’ depiction of faith as a common (as opposed to a Spirit-wrought) good. Here’s Francis:

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope.

To which Smith adds:

I can’t imagine a better articulation of the faith that animates our work here at Cardus. The Reformation isn’t over, but the protest that has separated us might not be as significant as the Gospel that unites us. This Protestant is deeply grateful for the witness of Pope Francis to the light of faith for the common good.

I know it is a sign of doctrinalist, logo-centric nit-picking to compare Smith’s words to the confessional standards he subscribes. But how exactly does faith become a common good when you define it the way Heidelberg does? (Can’t you at least show that you know what the Three Forms teach and then try a form of reconciliation?)

Question 21. What is true faith?
Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

And what comes of the protest that separates Protestants and Roman Catholics when Heidelberg goes on to describe the centrality of faith to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness?

Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?
Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.

I understand and even admire the desire of Christians and NPR listeners to make the world a better place (even if I also think that desire can look fairly naive or self-righteous at times). But if you do grasp the otherworldliness of Christ, Paul, and the Reformers, you do understand that the good of a common life together on planet earth is remarkably inconsequential compared to a separate existence in heaven or hell. Gussying up the goods of western civilization, the humanities, Christendom, or social and political solidarity in talk of “the permanent things” still doesn’t cross the gulf that exists between the life that believers and unbelievers share in this world and the separate worlds they will inhabit in the world to come.

A Neo-Calvinist (almost) Gets 2K Religion

If you make worship a priority in understanding Christianity and the work of the church, good things often follow. Let me try to make that overly generic and positive maxim stick by pointing to the example of James K. A. Smith. He has for a while advocated the place of worship in the life of a Christian college. The idea seems to be that what brings faculty and students together in a common enterprise as Christians is worship and so the teaching and study that take place at a Christian college should be conducted in the light of this reality. I am not sure if Smith’s proposal (about which I have read only second hand accounts and some of his own posts) can overcome my own reservations about so-called Christian education. But I find it attractive on one level because Smith puts Christ and the worship he makes possible at the center of what it means to be a Christian or a Christian community. Instead of letting w-w define Christianity, Smith appears to be suggesting that worship is key to understanding and articulating the Christian witness.

His worship-centric case for Christian higher education may also explain his recent expression of reservations about neo-Calvinism. Here are some auto-biographical considerations from Smith:

I was converted and nurtured in a largely dualistic stream of North American evangelicalism, complete with a robust dispensational view of the end times and a very narrow understanding of redemption. It was very much a rapture-ready, heaven-centric piety that had little, if anything, to say about how or why a Christian might care about urban planning or chemical engineering or securing clean water sources in developing nations. Why worry about justice or flourishing in a world that is going to burn up?

So when I heard the Kuyperian gospel, so to speak, I was both blown away and a little angry. I was introduced to a richer understanding of the biblical narrative that not only included sin and soul-rescue but also creation, culture-making, and a holistic sense of redemption that included concerns for justice. I realized that God is not only interested in immaterial souls; he is redeeming all things and renewing creation. Christ’s work also accomplishes the redemption of this world. The good news is not the announcement about an escape pod for our souls; it is the inbreaking of shalom.

You might say I finally received an understanding of Christianity that gave me “this world” back. Again, in Kuyperian terms, here was an account of the biblical story that not only emphasized the church as institute (“churchy” church) but also the church as organism (Christians engaged in cultural creation, caretaking, and justice). Because I felt like this more robust, comprehensive understanding of the Gospel had been kept a secret, I harboured a kind of bitterness and resentment toward my fundamentalist formation. Having been given back the world, I was almost angry that my teachers had only and constantly emphasized heaven.

But now he fears that the neo-Calvinist emphasis on this world has removed the finality of heaven from considerations about transformation and redeeming the world:

. . . my Kuyperian conversion to “this-worldly” justice and culture-making began to slide into its own kind of immanence. . . . We become encased and enclosed in our own affirmations of the “goodness of creation,” which, instead of being the theater of God’s glory, ends up being the echo chamber of our own interests. In sum, I became the strangest sort of monster: a Kuyperian secularist. My Reformed affirmation of creation slid toward a functional naturalism. My devotion to shalom became indistinguishable from the political platforms of the “progressive” party. And my valorization of the church as organism turned into a denigration of the church as institute.

Smith goes on to assure himself and his neo-Calvinist readers that this secularized Kuyperianism is not the real Kuyper. Abraham Kuyper, he briefly asserts, maintained a balance between heavenly watch and this worldly endeavor. That may be true for Kuyper himself, though his own spotty record of church attendance in his later years (James Bratt may set the record straight) is not a good sign. What is more, the trajectory of Kuyperianism in Europe, South Africa, and North America is toward a secularized neo-Calvinism. I know this is some kind of logical fallacy. But at some point the Kuyperians need to look at history and wonder if a fly was in the original neo-Calvinist ointment.

My own theory on that fly is that neo-Calvinists don’t actually understand the Reformation’s accomplishments (although the prefix suggests they understand more than they let on). For instance, Smith follows Charles Taylor on the secularizing consequences of the Reformation:

As Taylor so winsomely puts it, one of the world-changing consequences of the Reformation was “the sanctification of ordinary life.” This was a refusal of the two-tiered Christianity in the late medieval ages that extolled priests and monks and treated butchers and bakers and candlestick makers as if there were merely second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. Nein!, shouted the Reformers in reply. If all of life is lived coram Deo, before the face of God, then all vocations are holy. Everything can and should be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) and as an expression of gratitude to God (Col. 3:17). In sum: there will not be a single square inch in all of creation over which Christ does not say, “Mine!” . . .

However, Taylor points out an unintended, “Frankensteinish” turn that was the result: by unleashing a new interest and investment in “this-worldly” justice, the Reformation also unleashed the possibility that we might forget heaven. By rejecting the dualism of two-tiered Christianity, the Reformation opened the door to a naturalism that only cared about “this world.”

This misconstrues the Protestant doctrine of vocation and misses the three-tier Christianity that the Reformation made possible. Luther and Calvin did not “sanctify” this world. Ordinary vocations did not become “holy.” How could anyone familiar with “A Mighty Fortress” (just how much theology to worshipers learn from hymns!?!):

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever.

How exactly you get the sanctification of all of life in this world out of those words is beyond me (though 2k sure does seem to fit that stanza naturally). The Reformers believed that this world was good, not holy. They believed that it was passing or fading away and therefore incapable of sustaining salvation that endures. A new heavens and new earth would require that. And when you put the Reformation in these terms before a neo-Calvinist, you invariably hear as a response, “fundamentalist.” Maybe, but that makes the Reformers fundamentalists (along with the New Testament). Another reason for adding “neo” to Calvinist.

But to Smith’s credit, he does see that the otherworldly character of the gospel is crucial for preventing an identification of human flourishing in this world with Christianity:

The holistic affirmation of the goodness of creation and the importance of “this worldly” justice is not a substitute for heaven, as if the holistic gospel was a sanctified way to learn to be a naturalist. To the contrary, it is the very transcendence of God—in the ascension of the Son who now reigns from heaven, and in the futurity of the coming kingdom for which we pray—that disciplines and disrupts and haunts our tendency to settle for “this world.” It is the call of the Son from heaven, and the vision of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven, that pushes back on our illusions that we could figure this all out, that we could bring this about. Shalom is not biblical language for progressivist social amelioration. Shalom is a Christ-haunted call to long for kingdom come.

Whether that means that Smith has abandoned trying to identify earthly goods with heavenly truths or is simply now going to be careful about too much optimism, it is a start. Finally, we have a neo-Calvinist recognition of the tension between this world and the one to come.

Jamie Smith's Surprising Concession

Early returns on James K. A. Smith’s critical response to 2k (largely David VanDrunen) are coming in and his remarks will likely keep alive debates about whether two-kingdom theology is alien (i.e., Lutheran) to the Reformed tradition. What needs to be said at the outset is that for all Smith’s criticism, it is measured and responsible as opposed to the hysterical misrepresentation in which John Frame, the Brothers B, Dr. K., and your average theonomist traffic. That may be an instance of being damned by faint praise. But anytime a 2k critic in Reformed circles actually treats a 2k proponent as if he is a Christian and a human being to boot these days, the critic deserves a compliment.

Also important to see is that Smith generally understands the difference between 2k and neo-Calvinism and expresses it accurately rather than resorting to caricature. For this reason, the contrast that Smith draws early in his essay is very useful for understanding the nature of the debate. According to Smith:

At its heart, the Kuyperian tradition has emphasized the Lordship of Christ over all things and hence affirmed creation and culture as realms of God’s redemptive in-breaking grace (Col. 1:15-20). Rejecting the functional Gnosticism of fundamentalism and otherworldly pietism, neo-Calvinists have emphasized a “transformative” project – or at least the importance of cultural labor that is restorative and redemptive – undertaken by a people fueled by grace and informed by revelation’s claims about how things ought to be. Redemption, then, is about bodies as much as souls and is about social bodies as much as individuals. In Christ, our creating and redeeming God effects a redemption that is nothing short of cosmic and nothing less than cultural. The wonderworking power released by the resurrection redeems us from punishment but also retools the arts to the glory of God; the ascended Christ grants his Spirit to empower us to overcome sin, but the same Spirit also equips us to probe into the nooks and crannies of cell biology, trying to undo the curse of disease. In short, the Great Commission is the announcement of the Good News that Christ has made it possible for us to take up once again humanity’s cultural mandate. God’s grace is as wide as his good creation, and he gathers us as a people to take up our creational task of forming and transforming creation for his glory.

You are a neo-Calvinist if you get goose bumps reading this.

In contrast, 2k stands for:

God’s grace is more circumscribed (than the Kuyperian vision). The gospel of grace is announced and enacted within the spiritual realm of the church, but in the temporal, civic realm of our cultural life – the work of building schools and families and libraries – we are governed by natural law. We meet Christ as Redeemer in the Word and sacraments, who births in us a longing for his coming kingdom; but in the rest of our mundane lives, we deal with God the Creator, giver of natural law. While Sundays give us a taste of the spiritual kingdom of heaven, the rest of the week we inhabit the earthly kingdom of the present. While in the church, we feast on the Word of God’s revelation, in our cultural lives in this temporal world we live by the “universally accessible” dictates of natural law.

Some of us might want to qualify how air tight these compartments of Word vs. natural law are in Smith’s description. For instance, the Bible does reveal general norms for family life which take place on the common days of the week. And believers should avail themselves, according to most 2kers, of the word and prayer during the days between Sabbaths. Even so, Smith draws a fair contrast between the two. And what is important to notice for the rest of his essay is how cultural the Kuyperian vision is and how ecclesial 2k convictions are. In fact, one could well ask Smith where is the church in his outline of the neo-Calvinist outlook? (One could wonder additionally if Reformed pastors during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were as silent about the church and so voluble about culture.)

Rather than arguing for the superiority of neo-Calvinism to 2k, Smith decides to criticize 2k – again, mainly VanDrunen – for misunderstanding Augustine. Smith believes that VanDrunen collapses Augustine’s two cities into Luther’s two kingdoms; the Calvin professor dodges entirely the 2k language in Calvin that makes the Geneva pastor sound a lot like Luther.

This is the heart of Smith’s article – to blame 2k for misunderstanding Augustine. It doesn’t address at all the merits of either neo-Calvinism or 2k and for that reason, according to this referee, Smith doesn’t lay a glove on VanDrunen. In fact, though I don’t have VanDrunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms with me in Turkey (can you believe it?), I am fairly certain that the Westminster California professor distinguishes clearly between Augustine’s two cities and Gelasius’ two swords, and that the real genesis of 2k is in the distinction between the temporal and spiritual powers that Augustine along with other early medieval authorities make.

Be that as it may, also notable about Smith’s essay is how his interpretation of Augustine puts the Bishop of Hippo far closer to modern 2k than to neo-Calvinism. In fact, Smith’s reading of Augustine and the way Christians interact with the earthly city, what he calls, “selective collaboration,” is almost exactly what 2kers are arguing for over against the hyped neo-Calvinist language of redeeming the culture or w-w.

While Augustine suggests the center of gravity for heavenly citizens’ political energy is ecclesial [when do neo-Calvinists ever say this?] and articulates a basic stance of suspicion and critique of the political as embodied in the earthly city, this does not translate into any kind of manichaean, absolutist rejection of participation in the politics of the earthly city [would Kuyper ever say this of the French Revolution?]. Rather, Augustine’s political phenomenology advocates selective collaboration based on four factors. (Bold text all about me and my thoughts)

First, the earthly city attests to “an ineradicable creational desire” such that the earthly city is a “sign” of the heavenly city.

Second, Augustine is attentive to the teleological nature of virtue in such a way that the earthly desire for virtue is to be preferred to vice. Meanwhile, the desire for earthly peace – “which is only a semblance of peace – is nonetheless preferred to its absence.”

Third, Augustine recognizes that some “cultural configurations are closer to being properly directed than others – [which] also permits an ad hoc recognition that there can be aspects of penultimate congruence even where this is ultimate, teleological divergence.”

Fourth, these affirmations of “even disordered communal love” do not translate into a program of deep affirmation or even Christianiization of the political configuration of the earthly city.” Smith adds, “Augustine is not Eusebius.”

The purpose of seeking some modicum of political peace in the earthly city is ecclesial: “that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life with all devotion and love.” This does not sound like a project for “transforming” the empire.

Neither does it sound like Kuyper and his followers. My own reading of Kuyper is that his practice was better than his rhetoric. In the demands of Dutch public life, he was willing to work within the limits of the nation’s political order for the sake of the church as institute and for the sake of God’s people. But to justify that work, he relied upon the antithesis in a way that drew a manicheaen contrast between the original Dutch republic and the French Revolution, and between a Christian w-w and the Enlightenment.

It seems to me that on the basis of Smith’s reading of Augustine the Calvin professor is a welcome contribution to the neo-Calvinist world. The reason is that he sees how ecclesial Augustine was. And one of the foremost concerns of contemporary 2kers is to restore to the church her unique calling. To do that requires jettisoning much of the transformational logic that leads to the “redemption of culture.” Redemption takes place in the church. Creation and providence take place in culture. Smith recognizes this in his description of Augustine, even when he uses the word “creation” instead of “redemption” to describe the ways of the earthly city.

Unwittingly, then, Smith has confirmed the 2k objection to neo-Calvinism. It appears that his real target is not the resurgence of 2k within Reformed circles but the overreach that regularly afflicts Dutch Calvinism when while reading Colossians 1 their knees go wobbly.

Kingdom Sloppy: A Big Bowl of Wrong

Readers of Oldlife may think I am too hard on Kuyper and neo-Calvinism. I know of one reader and commenter who regularly replies that I am just pointing out errors but that neo-Calvinism in its purity is — well — pure. Another respondent has admitted to some flaws along the way but nothing inherently erroneous about neo-Calvinism per se.

And then I receive a deluge of examples that suggest neo-Calvinism is not simply prone to abuse by a few of its proponents. Instead, repeatedly, neo-Calvinism blurs the distinctions between the church and culture (what we used to call the world), and consistently does not recognize the fundamental difference between redemption and cultural activity. Herewith some examples (and I have the good Dr. K. to thank for several of them).

The first comes from James K. A. Smith in an article he wrote for Pro Rege in which he tried to argue for more of a liturgical component for neo-Calvinism. (I actually think Smith has a point, especially when he conceives of a church-college as a worshiping community in which liturgy should be at the center of campus life.) But to defend his view, he observes a tendency within neo-Calvinism (and he is pro-neo-Calvinist) that is precisely what Old Lifers detect in Kuyperianism:

Kuyper has been inherited in different ways in North America, yielding different Kuyperianisms. While Zwaanstra suggests that “ecclesiology was the core of [Kuyper’s] theology,” one quickly notes that it is the church as organism that is the “heart” of his doctrine. This emphasis, coupled with some other emphases in Kuyper, led to a strain of Kuyperianism that actually had little place for the church as institute in its understanding of Christian engagement with culture. Indeed, there have even been strains of Kuyperianism that have been quite anti-ecclesial. On the other hand, Kuyper himself clearly saw a crucial role for the church as institute and devoted a great deal of his time, energy, and gifts to its welfare and reform.

Next comes a quotation, which also came to my attention through Dr. K., which seems to run rough shod over distinctions between redemption and creation, such that Bach, bordeaux, and republican governments become the fruit of the Spirit.

Reformational Christians are not very accustomed to relating the working of God’s Spirit to nature and to culture. The under-appreciation of the broader work of the Spirit betrays an incorrect vision of the relationship between nature and grace. Here, too often the point of departure involves an antithesis between the general and the special working of the Spirit. Only the latter is saving.

For the Reformation, grace is not opposed to nature, but opposed to sin. By grace, a person does not become super-human, but genuinely human. Grace restores and redeems nature, but it adds nothing new to nature. “The re-creation is not a second, new creation. It introduces no new substance, but is essentially reformatory,” according to Herman Bavinck. . . .

The Bible connects the work of the Spirit also to the gift of art. That applies to devotional music, to be sure. But architects and visual artists like Bezalel and Oholiab were also filled with the Spirit of God in order to be able to do their creative work [Ex. 31.6; 36.1-2; 38.23].

Christians may pray for the working of the Holy Spirit in their own lives, but also for the corruption-restraining working of the Spirit in society. That working extends to the meetings of literary guilds, of the advertising review council, and of the film rating commission. Where the Holy Spirit is absent, the demons of terror have free reign.

Therefore the church prays for the world this petition as well: “Veni creator Spiritus”—Come, Creator Spirit! (Dr. H. van den Belt, “Focus op bekering mag zicht op vernieuwing aarde niet ontnemen,” Reformatorisch Dagblad [13 June 2011])

We can see where such blurring leads when we look at a new initiative at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. I learned about this one thanks to the ever watchful eyes of the Brothers Bayly. (It should also be mentioned that the good Dr. K. seems to approve of Tim Keller because of the New York pastor’s use of Kuyper.)

The Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer PCA/NYC is hosting a conference this fall on the gospel and culture. The vision for this conference sounds like this:

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Rev 21:2

In this great climax of redemption, we get a glimpse of where all of history is moving, and the scope of God’s redemptive purposes extends far beyond what we could have ever imagined. God is at work preparing his bride, and this bride is a holy city—a city designed and built by God Himself. God has intimately invited us into this redemptive story, and when we understand how the story ends, the way we see and engage the city around us changes. When we begin to realize that God cares for New York City, in all of its dimensions and sectors, our eyes become opened to see His love and care for all that we often overlook. Our hope for this conference is that you will begin to see how real the gospel is in every inch of our city and to leave with a renewed sense of purpose and calling as you see hope-filled glimpses of the great City of Peace that is to come.

What is striking about this understanding of the gospel in the city is that the gospel seems to be there even if the church isn’t proclaiming the gospel or transforming the culture. It sounds like this wing of Redeemer believes that the gospel is already there in NYC and so Christians need to become more sensitive to it so they can see how God is at work everywhere. So much for needing to transform the city. The church needs to be culturalized.

To add plausibility to this interpretation, consider that one day of the conference will be devoted to “glimpses,” that is, a “cultural event (1) based in New York City, (2) experienced in community, (3) which points toward evidence of God’s glory and Sovereignty over all things.” Conference participants may gain a glimpse by engaging in one of the following suggested activities:

STARTER IDEAS — Food Tour · Metropolitan Museum · BAM · NYPhil · Brooklyn Heights History Walk · Brooklyn Bridge Architecture Walk · The Morgan Library · Times Square “Branding” Walk · Off B’way · Carnegie Hall · City Opera · City Ballet · IFC · Angelika · Lincoln Square Cinema · Jazz @ Lincoln Center · Fashion Show · Joyce Dance · B.B. King’s · NY Historical Society · The MET · Rockwood Hall · Living Room · 92nd St.

I have had some very good meals in NYC. They were better temporally than the meal of the Lord’s Supper that I now eat weekly at our OPC congregation (though the bread made by the pastor’s wife is very good!!). But I never suspected that when dining on Osso Bucco I was actually experiencing the coming of the kingdom of grace or the relishing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And I don’t think it is necessarily fundamentalist to distinguish peace, love, and joy from the creations of Winslow Homer and Woody Allen.

In which case, if the gospel can be construed so broadly, and if Kuyperianism has a tendency for the church as organism to outrun the church as institute, why won’t neo-Calvinists exert a little internal regulation and pot down the excess? For that matter, do the Allies at the Gospel Coalition really endorse Redeemer church’s understanding of the gospel and culture?

The culture cannot be saved — only created beings with souls can. But if you are in the habit long enough of thinking that cultures can be saved, then perhaps you start to adjust your understanding of the gospel and find salvation in the culture that you deem civilized (or hip).

Oldlife.org 101

Regular readers of Oldlife likely don’t need any explanation about the nature of this site but those unfamiliar with the medium or genre of blogging may need some guidance on how to read the posts published here. Genre may sound like a high-faluttin’ word to affix to a blog, suggesting some kind of artifice or even art to the mode of communication. But genre is fitting if only because a blog is a different kind of communication from older forms of publishing and readers who look at a post as if it were another kind of publication may hurt themselves as well as the author (I’m thinking here of the lack of charity or benefit of the doubt that some readers of blogs display, thus raising questions not only about the virtue of the author but also about the motives of the reader).

A blog – at least as I read them and participate in several – is somewhere between a Facebook page and an editorial in a magazine. Blogging is almost entirely personal since the author is his own editor in most cases; no editorial staff or marketing department oversees the writing. A blog is also a forum for thinking out loud – “here is something I read or observed, and I thought I’d write about it and see what readers think.” Magazines are in themselves ephemeral. I used to save old copies of magazines but soon gave up after several moves not only owing to sloth (or declining strength as aging happens) but also because highlighted articles were not as pertinent at the time of the move as they were when saved. If magazines lack permanency, blogs do so even more.

In which case readers, readers should not take a blog too seriously. It is not only an ephemeral medium but often times the author’s thoughts are highly transitional – again, this is a way of thinking out loud. James K. A. Smith recently explained the tension between a blog author’s intentions and readers’ expectations during some flack he took for thoughts he wrote in passing about a review of Rob Bell:

Um, it’s a blog post people. I wrote it in 20 minutes one morning after reading another piece of dreck by Lauren Winner. If it’s stupid, why comment on it? (There is a huge laughable irony about charges of ressentiment in the ballpark here–you can work that out for yourself.) . . . .

I must have missed the memo about the requirements for writing a blog post. Apparently, according to the self-appointed police force of the theological blogosphere, one is not allowed to comment on a topic unless one has first completed a dissertation in the field. Who decided only specialists could speak? Is there a reading list everyone’s supposed to have mastered before they can comment on an issue?

In other words, if readers don’t want to see what an author is thinking about, they don’t need to read the blog. But if they do, they shouldn’t expect the thoughts posted to be ready for prime time.

A blog is like Facebook (such as I imagine since I am not networked) in that it invites comments and an informal exchange of views. For this blogger, the responses are an important facet of the medium because it functions as a built-in letters to the editor. And just as a post can go up immediately in response to a recent event or development, so readers may respond immediately. The immediacy and the responsiveness of blogging is what makes it valuable in my judgment, and unlike most other forms of publication. It is also what makes it ephemeral. Who will read a post about the Phillies’ 2008 championship three years from now and think it poignant. Of course, some blogs do not allow comments, and I do not understand the point since part of the nature of thinking out loud is to start a conversation and see what others think as well.

At the same time, a blog is not like a magazine in that it does not reproduce well articles or material requiring hard or sustained thought. Some magazines, of course, have on-line content. But this is simply a way of reading a magazine article on-line. But a blog is more like the op-ed portion of a magazine – actually more like a newspaper because a magazine takes at least a week to be published; the newspaper comes out daily (most often) and the blog may occur semi-daily. But when bloggers are tempted to post papers or talks given at conferences, they become almost unreadable. Such material needs to be printed out, read with pen or pencil in hand, and given sustained attention – not read for three minutes before checking email or stock quotes.

Truth be told that the Nicotine Theological Journal has been delayed considerably by the distraction of blogging. And the reason has to do with the nature and immediacy of the blog; an article that I might write for the NTJ is generally too long for a blog, and the immediacy of a blog makes it a more tempting medium than a journal to make one’s thoughts public. Why wait three months to print my latest critique of Keller when I can publish it TODAY!!! at Oldlife.org.

In other words, readers of blogs need to lighten up. And readers of Oldlife, the on-line version of the NTJ, would best be advised to light up when reading the blog. Here at a blog, the most fitting form of smoke, as ephemeral as the medium, is a cigarette. For the journal, best to light up a pipe or cigar.

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.