Alexander Hamilton Meets Abraham Kuyper

From our correspondent in The District comes this revenue enhancer:

It only takes $10 to sponsor a square inch of the Calvin College campus.

Your symbolic sponsorship will help equip the next generation of Calvin students with the knowledge, skills and experiences they need to serve as Christ’s agents of renewal in every square inch of creation.

What if I want to give to Calvin University?

I don’t know, when you turn Kuyperianism into something a fund-raising technique, it feels like you are Canadians playing Major League Baseball.

Neither Jew Nor Greek

Christians want their Christian culture. Fundamentalists had theirs and I am forever scarred. From Billy Graham’s movie, “The Restless Ones” and Ralph Carmichael’s “musical,” “Tell it Like it Is,” to Pacific Garden Mission’s “Unschackled” and Uncle Charlie on “Children’s Bible Hour,” I saw and heard enough attempts at Christian culture to want simply regular radio, music, and movies.

But if you are addicted to the prospect of Christian culture, then Roman Catholicism may have what ails you (or it did once):

Once upon a time—before modernity, to be precise—God was alive and robust, and religion united “theory and practice, elite and populace, spirit and senses.” With its capacious embrace of the soul and the body, religion—clearly epitomized, for Eagleton, by Roman Catholicism—has repeatedly exhibited the capacity to “link the most exalted truths to the daily existence of countless men and women.” More attuned to our most fundamental needs and longings than the modern cultural apparatus, it has been “the most tenacious and universal form of popular culture.” With its theology, philosophy, liturgy, and morality, Roman Catholicism embodied a grand synthesis of the human condition that embraced both scholasticism and the Corpus Christi festivals, the Book of Kells and the peasant’s prayers, Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Bonhomme. Eagleton fondly evokes the sensuous felicity of Catholic religious life, how faith finds material expression in “the odour of incense, the colour of a chasuble, the crook of a knee.” (The redolence of Eagleton’s own Catholic past—recounted in his 2003 memoir, The Gatekeeper—is evident throughout this book.)

Indeed, if you are a fundamentalist, you may find neo-Calvinist cultural expressions a much higher octane form of Christian culture. But then if you run up against the limitations of w-w and the not-so-historic nature of Kuyperian transformationalism, you may need the extra helping of civilization that comes with Christendom.

Either way, you are likely missing the a-cultural character of Christianity. Old Testament Israel was an embodiment of cult and culture merged. Christianity did away with that. That’s why Paul had to go to such lengths to find a way to include Gentiles in the covenant community. Christians lived as a separate spiritual people for most of their first three centuries until Constantine gave them the keys to the Christian kingdom. Ever since, we Christians have had to endure Calvinist philosophers, fundamentalist crooners, and not-so-observant Roman Catholic painters.

The lesson is don’t immanentize the eschaton, a point on which Vossians and Voegelinians would appear to agree.

Glenn Beck, the Kingdom, and Me (per usual)

Criticisms of 2k theology keep coming and a major source of opposition is the distinction between Christ’s rule as redeemer in distinction from his rule as creator. For some, this kind of division within Christ could wind up in the error of Nestorianism. And yet, I wonder how you avoid Rob Bell’s error of universalism without this distinction.

This is what I have in mind. Most Reformed Protestants would likely admit that Glenn Beck and I have different relationships with Jesus Christ as savior and lord (assuming these Protestants accept that I am a believer but you know what happens when you assume). As a citizen of the United States, Beck gets my respect and civil affection even if his conservatism is several steps removed from the genuine article. But as a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Beck and I are at odds; he is even my enemy because he is not part of the kingdom of grace.

In other words, when I pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come,” I am praying with regard to Beck that he become part of the kingdom, not that Christ would defend Beck and the rest of the church as part of the kingdom of grace’s battle with the kingdom of Satan.

Here a little confessional political theology may be instructive. If we read the catechisms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the explanation of the second petition involves not not civil or political realities but spiritual ones.

Here is Calvin’s catechism:

Master. – What understand you by the kingdom of God in the second petition?
Scholar. – It consists chiefly of two branches-that he would govern the elect by his Spirit-that he would prostrate and destroy the reprobate who refuse to give themselves up to his service, thus making it manifest that nothing is able to resist his might.
Master. – In what sense do you pray that this kingdom may come?
Scholar. – That the Lord would daily increase the numbers of the faithful-that he would ever and anon load them with new gifts of his Spirit, until he fill them completely: moreover, that he would render his truth more clear and conspicuous by dispelling the darkness of Satan, that he would abolish all iniquity, by advancing his own righteousness.

Here is Heidelberg:

Question 123. Which is the second petition?
Answer: “Thy kingdom come”; that is, rule us so by thy word and Spirit, that we may submit ourselves more and more to thee; preserve and increase thy church; destroy the works of the devil, and all violence which would exalt itself against thee; and also all wicked counsels devised against thy holy word; till the full perfection of thy kingdom take place, wherein thou shalt be all in all.

And here is the Shorter Catechism:

Q. 102. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

As I read these accounts of the second petition, I do not think much about nations, politics, or rulers (why should I, the Psalms warn me about princes). I also don’t see much about the rule of law (even if it is God’s) but I read much more about the power and authority of God’s word and Spirit. And I also don’t understand anything here that would lead me to think that Glenn Beck and I are both members of God’s kingdom. Instead, these answers presume a marked division between saints and unbelievers.

In other words, these answers point in the direction of Louis Berkhof’s account of the kingdom of God:

The Kingdom of God is primarily an eschatological concept. The fundamental idea of the Kingdom in scripture is not that of a restored theocratic kingdom of God in Christ – which is essentially a kingdom of Israel –, as the Premillenarians claim; neither is it a new social condition pervaded by the Spirit of Christ, and realized by man through such external means as good laws, civilization, education, social reforms, and so on, as the Modernists would have us believe. The primary idea of the Kingdom of God in Scripture is that of the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of sinners by the powerful regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, insuring them of the inestimable blessings of salvation, – a rule that is realized in principle on earth, but will not reach its culmination until the visible and glorious return of Jesus Christ. The present realization of it is spiritual and invisible. Jesus took hold of this eschatological concept and made it prominent in His teachings. He clearly taught the present spiritual realization and the universal character of the Kingdom. Moreover, He Himself effected that realization in a measure formerly unknown and greatly increased the present blessings of the Kingdom. At the same time He held out the blessed hope of the future appearance of that Kingdom in external glory and with the perfect blessings of salvation. (Systematic Theology, 568)

This quotation from Berkhof is congenial – duh! – to 2kers and before the Kuyperians and theocrats start to quote from him a couple of pages later where Berkhof speaks of the kingdom as bigger and broader than the visible church, that is, aiming at “nothing less than the complete control of all manifestations of life,” I understand that Berkhof is a mixed bag on this issue.

But this brings me back to Glenn Beck. If in a broader understanding of the kingdom, the complete control of Beck involves implementing laws and policies that he and his family will follow to the glory of God, then the rule of the Spirit and the eschatological concept of the kingdom as a spiritual and invisible enterprise located in man’s (and woman’s) heart, is lost. Or if the kingdom is so broadened to include unbelievers and believers in it, then you seem to enter the ballpark of universalism where all God’s children are God’s children – you know, the fatherhood of God and the siblinghood of all people.

We do have, however, an easy way around the problem. It is to distinguish between Christ’s rule over Glenn Beck as creator, and his rule over me as creator and redeemer. I don’t know of any other way to avoid the problems of Anabaptism or Constantinianism than by affirming this distinction. Without it, Glenn Beck is not my worldly foe, but my brother in Christ. (If only.)

If Only Kuyperians Were As Reasonable as Godfrey

Over at Confessional Outhouse, RubeRad (what’s up with those names?) has a quotation from Bob Godfrey’s address at the Westminster California conference on Christ and culture. Here it is:

As is often true in the history of the church, we [Kuyperians and 2K-ers] may not all perfectly agree what the Bible says, but I think we’re all agreed with the principle…The Bible is authoritative in everything that it says, about everything that it talks about. But I think we are also all agreed that the Bible, while authoritative in everything that it talks about, is not exhaustive in everything it talks about. The Bible tells us some things about history, but it doesn’t tell us everything about history. I believe it tell us some things about geology, but I don’t think it tells us everything about geology. I would suggest that it’s really only in three areas that we can say … it also speaks comprehensively, or completely, or exhaustively; we as Reformed Christians are committed to the proposition that that everything we need to know about doctrine and salvation is told to us completely in the Bible. … Secondly, we would say that the Bible is exhaustive in what it teaches us about worship. … And thirdly, the Bible tells us all we need to know about the Church and its government. … But I think we can probably agree as well, whatever our approach to Christ and culture, that the Bible does not speak exhaustively about politics. It says a lot of things about politics, it says a lot of things that are relevant to politics, but I don’t think any of us would want to argue that the Bible tells us absolutely everything we need to know about politics. Does the Bible even indisputably teach us whether we ought to have a democracy, or an aristocracy, or a monarchy? John Calvin says it doesn’t. … I don’t think anybody … would want to argue that every aspect of a platform proposed for a civil election could be derived from the Bible; I don’t think anyone would argue that. … So the Bible is authoritative in all that it says, but it doesn’t say everything about anything except salvation, worship, and church government.

I for one do not know a single advocate of two kingdom theology who would not affirm this. And the good thing about this statement is that it keeps first things first — doctrine, worship, and polity — while allowing for differences on other matters because the Bible itself does not pin down those other areas of human endeavor.

What is odd about RubeRad’s post is that he follows up Godfrey’s quotation with one from John Frame, that RubeRad regards as compatible:

Christians sometimes say that Scripture is sufficient for religion, or preaching, or theology, but not for auto repairs, plumbing, animal husbandry, dentistry, and so forth. And of course many argue that it is not sufficient for science, philosophy, or even ethics. That is to miss an important point. Certainly Scripture contains more specific information relevant to theology than to dentistry. But sufficiency in the present context is not sufficiency of specific information but sufficiency of divine words. Scripture contains divine words sufficient for all of life. It has all the divine words that the plumber needs, and all the divine words that the theologian needs. So it is just as sufficient for plumbing as it is for theology. And in that sense it is sufficient for science and ethics as well.

This strikes me as the typical Frame theological method of taking an inch and turning it into a mile. So people will agree with the idea that divine words are sufficient, some divine words apply to plumbing, and — voila — the Bible becomes as sufficient for plumbing as for theology. Hello!??! Do plumbers really need to study the Bible to plumb the way that theologians do to understand God and his revelation? As Fred Willard’s character in Waiting for Guffman said, “I don’t think sooooo.”

Either way, if more Reformed folks would follow Godfrey’s counsel than Frame’s logic, we might actually find that two-kingdom theology is not radical and that Kuyperian rhetoric is often bloated. Can we get a little reason around here?

Two Kingdom Theology is the Change We've Been Waiting For

Kevin DeYoung, over at DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed, has weighed two-kingdom theology and Kuyperianism in the balance and hopes for a middle ground in the following way:

I am loathe to be an apologist for the status quo, or to throw cold water on young people who want to see abortion eradicated or dream of kids in Africa having clean water. I don’t think it’s wrong for a church to have an adoption ministry or an addiction recovery program. I think changing structures, institutions, and ideas not only helps people but can pave the way for gospel reception.

Perhaps there is a–I can’t believe I’m going to say it–a middle ground. I say, let’s not lose the heart of the gospel, divine self-satisfaction through self-substitution. And let’s not apologize for challenging Christians to show this same kind of dying love to others. Let’s not be embarrassed by the doctrine of hell and the necessity of repentance and regeneration. And let’s not be afraid to do good to all people, especially to the household of faith. Let’s work against the injustices and suffering in our day, and let’s be realistic that the poor, as Jesus said, will always be among us. Bottom line: let’s work for change where God calls us and gifts us, but let’s not forget that the Great Commission is go into the world and make disciples, not go into the world and build the kingdom.

Is recovering the dignity of the sacred office (as opposed to every member ministry), returning to psalm-singing (as opposed to hymns or praise songs), or restoring the Sunday evening worship service simply preserving the status quo? Or is judging a Christian profession by one’s quiet and ordinary work rather than whether you are making a difference really so widely accepted that Kuyperian transformationalism is a welcome relief? If so, beam me up, Kevin.

For what it’s worth, White Horse Inn has posted responses to DeYoung and Kevin himself gets the last word.