If You're Not Butch, You're Not Much

The good Rabbi proved once again the appeal of Rush Limbaugh-style arguments to the cultural transformers. His couple of recent blasts at Old Life may have made him feel especially masculine, but I don’t think he advanced the discussion. Wait. This isn’t a discussion. It is arm wrestling (or some body part.)

But while Brett thinks that spirituality of the church Christianity “is no Christianity” because it fails to confess Jesus before men in a manly way — I guess only women read Old Life — what are we to make of his failure to be as critical of the Christian Reformed Church as he is of two-kingdom folks? Judging by his blog, he is as silent about the quirks of the CRC as I apparently am of U.S. secularizers and sodomites. Does that make him an effeminate minister (wouldn’t be a problem in the CRC, right?)?

Of course, he may not think the CRC is worthy of critique, though his comments on ordination and reception indicate ambivalence:

Today I underwent examination and passed unanimously and so I am now officially what I have been unofficially for the past 13 years, to wit, an ordained minister in good standing in the Christian Reformed Church. It seems the only minor issue was my strong rejection of open theism. I think I said that it was heresy and a canker that needed to be ripped out of the Church. I never would have imagined that sentiment could have been controversial in the least. There were also some questions about my rejection of women to hold ordained positions but apparently I convinced them that such a position isn’t akin to being a knuckle scraping troglodyte who habitually grabs and drags stray women by their hair. I probably should have worked harder to convince people that my position is the position that esteems women and reflects godly compassion for women while the contrary position in reality does just the opposite but I think most of the people in Classis’s position on that is pretty much set in concrete and not even my eloquence could have changed that.

I have mixed thoughts and emotions about my newly minted status with the CRC. First, I realize that the CRC is not a perfect denomination and has some challenges before it but as I map out the Reformed denominational landscape I do not see a denomination that isn’t without its substantial issues. In the end I think all of us, who are trying to be epistemologically self conscious about being Reformed, are, in many respects, in the same boat together, and together, regardless of what Reformed denomination we are in, we are either going to survive together or we are going to capsize together.

It does make you wonder if Rabbi Brett can be so patient with the CRC, why can’t he do the same with others with whom he so violently disagrees. Is it that neo-Calvinism of the Left is better than spirituality of the church? But if effeminate spirituality is an indication of no Christianity, what does it mean when the Rabbi apparently fails to live up to his own words within his own communion? (I qualify this because I am judging only by his blog.)

Why Fox News Isn't the Best Judge of Religion in Public Life

First the story:

In mid-December, six-year-old Isaiah Martinez brought a box of candy canes to his public elementary school. Affixed to each cane was a legend explaining the manner in which the candy symbolizes the life and death of Jesus. Isaiah’s first-grade teacher took possession of the candy and asked her supervising principal whether it would be permissible for Isaiah to distribute to his classmates. The teacher was informed that, while the candy itself might be distributed, the attached religious message could not. She is then reported to have told Isaiah that “Jesus is not allowed at school,” to have torn the legends from the candy, and to have thrown them in the trash.

Such is the account of Robert Tyler of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, who is serving as media spokesman for the Martinez family. Organizations such as Fox News and Glenn Beck’s The Blaze latched onto the story with purple prose and pointed commentary to rally the base. The Daily Caller described the teacher as having “snatched” the candy from Isaiah’s hands, “and then—right in front of his little six-year-old eyes—ripped the religious messages from each candy cane.” Fox News said “it takes a special kind of evil to confiscate a six-year-old child’s Christmas gifts.”

Turns out the teacher in question is a Christian and her former pastor explains what may have happened:

Such behavior would be entirely unbecoming of Christians even if the teacher in question were all the things she has been called. In fact, she is herself a pious and confessional Christian, though it would be impossible to discern as much from the coverage of much Christian media.

I know this because I was present at her baptism; I participated in the catechesis leading to her reception into the theologically (and, overwhelmingly, politically) conservative Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; I preached at her wedding; my wife and I are godparents to her children, as she and her husband (who is himself on the faculty of a Christian university) are to our youngest. Needless to say, I have complete confidence that her far less dramatic version of events is much the more accurate account.

Some will say that precisely as a Christian she should have had the courage of her convictions and allowed the distribution of a Christian message in her classroom. And yet, precisely because she is a catechized Christian, perhaps she understands that in her vocation she serves under the authority of others.

Perhaps it was wise in the litigious context of America’s public schools to confer with and defer to the supervising principal. Indeed, a lawsuit arising from virtually identical circumstances is still, ten years on, bogged down in the courts. If the answers to the pertinent legal questions are not immediately obvious to the dozens of lawyers and judges involved in this previous case, one can hardly expect them to be self-evident even to an intelligent primary school teacher. Thus, those critics who have dismissively counseled her simply to “read the Constitution” betray (in addition to a lack of charity) either an unhelpful naivety or a willful ignorance.

Of course, if you want to score points in some sort of publicity competition, demonizing this woman is not a bad strategy, though why Reformed Protestants also resort to such behavior (yes, I’m thinking the BeeBees and Rabbi Bret) is another question. But if you want to think through the layers of significance in such occurrences, maybe it’s better to check if as in this case the teacher belongs to a church and what her pastor thinks.

When Luther Sounded Constantinian

From Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate

We see, then, that just as those that we call spiritual, or priests, bishops, or popes, do not differ from other Christians in any other or higher degree but in that they are to be concerned with the word of God and the sacraments—that being their work and office—in the same way the temporal authorities hold the sword and the rod in their hands to punish the wicked and to protect the good. A cobbler, a smith, a peasant, every man, has the office and function of his calling, and yet all alike are consecrated priests and bishops, and every man should by his office or function be useful and beneficial to the rest, so that various kinds of work may all be united for the furtherance of body and soul, just as the members of the body all serve one another.

Now see what a Christian doctrine is this: that the temporal authority is not above the clergy, and may not punish it. This is as if one were to say the hand may not help, though the eye is in grievous suffering. Is it not unnatural, not to say unchristian, that one member may not help another, or guard it against harm? Nay, the nobler the member, the more the rest are bound to help it. Therefore I say, Forasmuch as the temporal power has been ordained by God for the punishment of the bad and the protection of the good, therefore we must let it do its duty throughout the whole Christian body, without respect of persons, whether it strikes popes, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, or whoever it may be. If it were sufficient reason for fettering the temporal power that it is inferior among the offices of Christianity to the offices of priest or confessor, or to the spiritual estate—if this were so, then we ought to restrain tailors, cobblers, masons, carpenters, cooks, cellarmen, peasants, and all secular workmen, from providing the Pope or bishops, priests and monks, with shoes, clothes, houses or victuals, or from paying them tithes. But if these laymen are allowed to do their work without restraint, what do the Romanist scribes mean by their laws? They mean that they withdraw themselves from the operation of temporal Christian power, simply in order that they may be free to do evil, and thus fulfil what St. Peter said: “There shall be false teachers among you,… and in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter ii. 1, etc.).

Just trying to complicate the minds of those (the BeeBees, the Reformed Rabbi, Doug Wilson, and William Evans) who think that 2k and Lutheranism are responsible for secularism, materialism, and Obamacare.


For those who think that we can have republicanism, constitutionalism, and Calvin’s Geneva (certain critics of 2k who live and work in the former Northwest Territory), Geoffrey Wheatcroft reminds about the contrast between pre-modern and modern times:

The challenge of Western modernity produced a remarkable ferment of speculation in the Islamic East, but not in a form that the West has found easy to understand. So “What went wrong” needs to be set in context. For many centuries political and philosophical thought had languished in the East, not least because the Ottoman rulers did not encourage it. As a consequence, the fruits of the European Enlightenment reached the East rather late. Thereafter, Easterners sought (and seek), in the eyes of many modern commentators, to acquire the superficial trappings of Western economic and material progress, without recognizing that these develop from a commitment to education, freedom of thought and enterprise, and an open, essentially secular society. . . .

I suspect that most critics of 2k would like Muslims to be 2k whenever the vigor of political Islam manifests itself. But if Christians want Muslims to keep Shar’ia law out of civil policies and legislation, why don’t they see a similar imperative for themselves. Wheatcroft duly observes that adapting to modernity in the West has not always been smooth:

Nor has progress always had an easy passage even in Europe or the United States. Resistance to a godless and secular society existed in rural areas (like Indiana and Ohio – editing mine) everywhere. Throughout the nineteenth century many conservative Europeans, completely unreconciled to the alien ideals of progress, abhorred every aspect of modernity. For the vast rural majority, especially in eastern and southeastern Europe, in France, Spain, and the mezzogiorno of Italy, these new political and social ideas had no meaning: the faithful usually believed what their priests told them. The resistance to change was not very different in the regions under Islamic rule. Andrew Wheatcroft, Infidels: A History of the Conflict between Christendom and Islam (297, 298)

But what happens for both Muslims and Christians is that the modern ones (the premoderns are not alive) embrace modernity partially:

The eminent political scientist Bassam Tibi has described this melange of tradition and modernity as “half-modernity,” which he calls a “selective choice of orthodox Islam and an instrumental semi-modernity.” Charles Kurzman puts it into a more precise context. “Few revivalists actually desire a full fledged return to the world of 7th century Arabia. Khomeini himself was an inveterate radio listener, and used modern technologies such as telephones, audiocassettes, photocopying, and British short-wave radio broadcasts to promulgate his revivalist message. Khomeini allowed the appearance of women on radio and television, chess playing, and certain forms of music. When other religious leaders objected he responded, ‘the way you interpret traditions, the new civilization should be destroyed and the people should live in shackles or live for ever in the desert.’” (314)

The take away is that both 2k advocates and critics are guilty of being half-modern; none of us follows the laws and policies of Calvin’s Geneva or Knox’s Scotland (though the Netherlands’ toleration of folks like Descartes and Spinoza may be much more of a model for contemporary Bloomington, Indiana and Moscow, Idaho – a historical point unknown to most Dutch-American critics of 2k – than any champion of Reformed Protestantism realizes). 2kers believe they have figured out a way to retain the truths and practices of the Reformation while also living in good conscience in the modern world. The way to do this is to recognize that the church, her truths, and ways are spiritual and do not bend to the logic of modern societies. This results in two standards, one for the church and one for the world. 2kers don’t expect the world to conform to the church.

Anti-2kers also believe they have figured out a way to retain the truths of the Reformation. They do this by insisting that the church’s morality be the norm for society. They do not insist that the church’s truth (doctrine) or practices (worship) be the norm for society, the way those truths and practices were the norm for Geneva and Edinburgh. By clinging to one ethical standard for church and society, without either its theological foundation or its liturgical consequences, anti-2kers think they are following Calvin and Knox. They are actually doing a good impersonation of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Neither side is directly following Calvin. One side is deviating in good conscience.


The good Rabbi posits once again that I am a dunce (along with all 2kers) for not recognizing that the church and the state are all part of one cosmic government under the authority of God. (One of his fans suggests I am not regenerate.) Actually, I do understand this. Anyone who has the slightest knowledge of divine sovereignty and powers delegated to parents, churches, and magistrates knows that God’s rule extends to the secondary means by which he orders all things.

The problem for the Rabbi is that he goes back and forth between this cosmic government and the specific relations between nations and their churches. Talking about divine sovereignty and human institutions in the abstract is one thing. Talking about the relations between church and state in a particular polity is another.

The signs of this confusion come when the Rabbi concludes:

1.) Darryl is saying Calvin was wrong and that Geneva was a unbiblical model. Sinful Calvin. Sinful Geneva. I’m sure glad we have a clearly superior model working for us now in these uSA that we can look to for an example.

2.) In an ideal social order the Pastors serve God by obeying God’s revelation for the Church and civil magistrates serve God by obeying God’s revelation for the Civil realm. The Pastors don’t work for the Government and the Magistrates don’t work for the Church. Both, however are subject to God in His revelation. This isn’t that difficult.

First, I am wrong to challenge the superiority of Geneva even though Christ and Paul did not establish a polity anything like Geneva. This would suggest that the Rabbi is not pleased with the early church that did nothing to make sure that the magistrate was following God’s law. Personally, I’d rather be in the camp of criticizing Calvin than the one that questions Christ. But most critics of 2k never really look at what’s happening in Acts to understand what the church’s mission properly is. Instead, they pine for the days when pontiffs in Rome were christening Holy Roman Emperors.

Second, the Rabbi takes as soon as he gives. Geneva by his reckoning was not an “ideal” social order because the pastors did work for the government. So Brett is no fan of Calvin’s town either, but this leaves him with no historical home (maybe that’s why he kvetches so much).

Third, this is easy stuff. Yes, despite the long and troubled history of relating religion to politics, from Israel to Kuyper’s Netherlands, it’s not difficult. Pass the mints.

One last point to notice is this notion of an “ideal social order.” The Rabbi presents himself as a true-blue political conservative and loves to deconstruct the social engineers on the Left who are trying to usher in the kingdom of justice and equality. He should know then that conservatives don’t believe in ideal social orders. They refuse to immanentize the eschaton. It’s the Stalins of the world who actually believe ideal social orders are possible. Conservatives simply endure the infirmities and woes of this world.

Turns out life in this world is difficult.

The Hits Keep Coming

Just when I was recovering from the sobering news of Jason Stellman’s decision to leave the PCA along comes Carl Trueman’s double-whammy of heaping scorn upon those “for whom the doctrine of the church and 2K are all they ever seem to talk about.” (For Stellman’s response, go here.) Trueman’s is a remarkable performance since Trueman admits his own 2k inclinations and reports on those in Sovereign Grace circles who also concede a better doctrine of the church would have saved them some grief. He also acknowledges that 2k avoids “the excesses of Christian America, Theonomy, and the various social gospels — left and right.” So Trueman is in the 2k camp, as his own book on religion and politics in the United States attests, along with his own high regard for Luther. But he is apparently not extreme about it, thus protecting his standing seemingly among the gospel’s co-allies. His is supposedly a moderate 2k despite his invocations of Marx, Nietzsche, and Led Zeppelin. This is where his decision to echo John Frame’s swipe at Machen’s warrior children comes in handy even if it is a blow that conflicts with Trueman’s own combative posture, as the Peter Lillback ‘s foreword to Republocrat confirms. (Trueman is a fan of boxing, after all.)

As unnecessary and contradictory as Trueman’s jab at 2k was, I don’t readily associate him with Rabbi Bret who also used Stellman’s announcement as yet another proof of 2k’s errors and harm. Never mind that the Rabbi’s interpretation of 2k’s dualism as the path into Roman Catholicism’s nature/grace divide would seemingly indict Trueman’s own positive accounts of Thomas Aquinas. The attacks on 2k never need to be consistent in order to be consistently negative. As Bill Smith remarked to me by email:

I believe that soon high churchism and 2K theology will be blamed for global warming, the lagging economy, the high price of gas, the decline of western civilization, the composition of RUF tunes and their twangy singing by females, the election of Barak Obama, praise bands and worship leaders, and the banning of biggie sized soft drinks. And, I am not surprised. I could see it coming.

Still, it’s a curious way to respond to Stellman since not even the Baylys used the occasion to pounce on 2k. Instead, they took Stellman’s decision as an occasion to go after Peter Leithart’s weak affirmation of Protestantism. Instead of affirming justification, Leithart rejects the exclusivity of Rome’s sacramental theology. Going to Rome will leave Protestants outside the sacramental fold. For the Baylys the division between Rome and Protestants is all about the doctrine of justification.

That was encouraging to read even if their critique of Leithart and defense of justification came a little close to stepping on the toes of their hero in the culture wars, Doug Wilson, who is in some way Leithart’s boss and fellow minister at one of Moscow’s CREC congregations. Wilson also could not help but reflect on the disputes between Leithart and Stellman in the Presbytery of the Northwest. He also welcomed Stellman’s coming around to the “biblical” understanding of justification:

With regard to sola fide, he is quite right to see the very narrow position he was nurtured in as contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to sinners, and the instrument of a God-given faith is what receives that gracious gift. But the gift received is that of living faith, breathing faith, loving faith, the only kind of faith the living God bestows. It is sola fide, not nuda fide. Stellman was wrong to identify his previous narrow view of sola fide as the doctrine of sola fide itself.

Where that puts Wilson and other Federal Visionaries on the matter of the Reformed churches’ confessions and Roman Catholic teaching is a mystery since Stellman led the prosecution of Leithart precisely on the conviction that the latter’s teaching was contrary to the Westminster Standards. Now that Stellman no longer finds the confession’s teaching agreeable, he has done what he thinks Leithart should have done — leave the PCA (going to Rome may be another matter). Meanwhile — keep your eye on the bouncing ball, Wilson agrees with Stellman on justification but doesn’t think he should leave the Protestant fold.

That confusion over justification — whether Federal Visionaries actually adhere to the Reformation’s teaching or whether their views are beyond the pale and more compatible with what the Reformers opposed — is the best place to situate Stellman’s regrettable decision. The source of this confusion was not 2k or ecclesiology. It grew prominent in the teaching of Norman Shepherd which gained a hearing among the proponents of Federal Vision and received defense from John Frame, the man who first ridiculed those who identify with Machen.

Scoring points against 2k of course has its appeal and plays well in certain circles. But 2k and ecclesiology have virtually nothing to do with this. If you want to look for the clearest defense of Reformed Protestantism and its teaching on salvation, the church, and worship — convictions and practices that were pretty central to the sixteenth century — you’d be clueless to ignore those who promote 2k.

Looks Like Peter and Paul Were "Radical" 2Kers

Here is Rabbi Bret’s benchmark:

In R2K “theology” the only time the Church can protest this seizure of sovereignty is when the state seeks to dictate to the Church about its formal worship patterns. But if the Church is only concerned about its formal worship patterns then why would the state ever have any reason to want to absorb a sovereignty that it views as irrelevant? In point of fact if the R2K church is telling its people that they must obey the state, the state may very well view the R2K church as already effectively one of its agents.

Here is what the apostles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ wrote:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:13-25 ESV)

The more some try to read their political opposition into Scripture, the more they resemble political Islam. Then again, he’s found a home in the Christian Reformed Church where the saints are gearing up to declare that global warming is a reality.

Can Frame, the Baylys, Kloosterman, Wilson, and Rabbi Bret Really Object to This?

David VanDrunen (whose Dutch heritage should count for more than it does among the nattering nabobs of neo-Calvinist negativism) recently conducted an interview with the folks at Credo Magazine. Two of his answers are particularly useful for explaining 2k (thanks to the Outhouse).

The first:

I like to describe the two kingdoms doctrine briefly as the conviction that God through his Son rules the whole world, but rules it in two distinct ways. As creator and sustainer, God rules the natural order and the ordinary institutions and structures of human society, and does so through his common grace, for purposes of preserving the ongoing life of this world. As redeemer, God also rules an eschatological kingdom that is already manifest in the life and ministry of the church, and he rules this kingdom through saving grace as he calls a special people to himself through the proclamation of the Scriptures. As Christians, we participate in both kingdoms but should not confuse the purposes of one with those of the other. As a Reformed theologian devoted to a rich covenant theology, I think it helpful to see these two kingdoms in the light of the biblical covenants. In the covenant with Noah after the flood, God promised to preserve the natural order and human society (not to redeem them!), and this included all human beings and all living creatures. But God also established special, redemptive covenant relationships with Abraham, with Israel through Moses, and now with the church under the new covenant. We Christians participate in both the Noahic and new covenants (remember that the covenant with Noah was put in place for as long as the earth endures), and through them in this twofold rule of God—or, God’s two kingdoms.

The “transformationist” approach to Christ and culture is embraced by so many people and used in so many different ways that I often wonder how useful a category it is. If by “transformation” we simply mean that we, as Christians, should strive for excellence in all areas of life and try to make a healthy impact on our workplace, neighborhood, etc., I am a transformationist. But what people often mean by “transformationist” is that the structures and institutions of human society are being redeemed here and now, that is, that we should work to transform them according to the pattern of the redemptive kingdom of Christ. I believe the two kingdoms doctrine offers an approach that is clearly different from this. Following the two kingdoms doctrine, a Christian politician, for example, would reject working for the redemption of the state (whatever that means) but recognize that God preserves the state for good purposes and strive to help the state operate the best it can for those temporary and provisional purposes.

The second:

I don’t think the church has any different responsibilities in an election year from what it has at any other time. The church should proclaim the whole counsel of God in Scripture (which includes, of course, teaching about the state, the value of human life, marriage, treatment of the poor, etc.). But Scripture does not set forth a political policy agenda or embrace a particular political party, and so the church ought to be silent here where it has no authorization from Christ to speak. When it comes to supporting a particular party, or candidate, or platform, or strategy—individual believers have the liberty to utilize the wisdom God gives them to make decisions they believe will be of most good to society at large. Politics constantly demands compromise, choosing between the lesser of evils, and refusing to let the better be the enemy of the good. Christians will make different judgments about these things, and the church shouldn’t try to step in and bind believers’ consciences on matters of prudence. It might be helpful to think of it this way: during times when Christians are bombarded with political advertisements, slogans, and billboards, how refreshing it should be, on the Lord’s Day, to step out of that obsession with politics and gather with God’s redeemed people to celebrate their heavenly citizenship and their bond in Christ that transcends all national, ethnic, and political divisions.

Since recent kvetching about 2k included the charge that the outlook has little substance and is hard to define, VanDrunen’s brief and clear responses should put to rest that particular complaint (especially for those too lazy to read the books that keep piling up on the 2k shelf). These remarks should also end criticisms of 2k since I can’t imagine how anyone could object to them. Actually, I can imagine that some will object but have a hard time thinking that the objections will be anything but perverse.

2K Cherries 2Hot 2Handle

The allegedly controversial character of 2k theology has prompted Lane Keister over at Greenbaggins to cease his review of John Frame’s recent book. He has also decided not to allow any more discussions of 2k at his blog. I understand Lane’s decision. I also concede that my sarcasm has contributed to his decision. For some reason, mocking someone’s objections does not bring out the best in those who object.

At the same time, some objections do no deserve a reasonable response. In fact, some who object to 2k have so made up their minds about the idea and its proponents that they will hear nothing in defense of the doctrine; they won’t even read the books written on 2k.

From the perspective of this 2k advocate who also doubles as a historian, two undeniable historical developments exist that 2k critics won’t accept — sort of like denying that the North defeated the South in 1865; you may not like it, but how do you deny what happened at Appomattox?

The first fact is that the critics of 2k do not advocate the execution of adulterers or heretics. This is pertinent because 2k critics fault 2kers for departing from Calvin and his holy Geneva. The problem is that the Baylys, Rabbi Bret, Nelson Kloosterman (and his favorite disciple, Mark Van Der Molen), Doug Wilson, and anonymous respondents at Greenbaggins don’t advocate the laws in Calvin’s Protestant Jerusalem. To the credit of theonomists, they sometimes do advocate the execution of adulterers and even recalcitrant adolescents. But 2k critics do not have the stomach for all of Calvin’s policies and laws. In which case, they have no more claim to Calvin as a standard for religion and politics than 2kers do. Yet, here’s the key. 2kers are honest. They actually admit that they disagree with Calvin. They actually acknowledge the deficiencies of those who try to follow the Old Testament for post-resurrection civil governments.

The second fact of cherry-picking proportions is that all of the Reformed churches that belong to the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council have rejected the teaching of both the Westminster Confession and the Belgic Confession on the civil magistrate. Not only have the mainline churches revised these confessions, but so have the conservative churches. (Ironically, Frame thinks I am unaware of the American revision of WCF in his review of A Secular Faith. This is ironic because if Frame were as aware of the revision as he thinks he is, he would see that 2k is not outside the confession that Presbyterians profess.) These revisions do not necessarily mean that every officer and member of these churches is an advocate of 2k. It does mean that the modern Reformed and Presbyterian churches have come to terms with modern governments and the disestablishment of Christianity in ways inconceivable to Reformed Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. And this means that the critics of 2k are either unaware of how little standing the original WCF chapter 23 or Belgic Art. 36 has in conservative Reformed churches. Or if they know of confessional revision and use the original documents to denounce 2kers, they are dishonest.

Or perhaps they are simply foolish (and impolitely so). One of the additional points I made about the importance of the Reformed churches’ teaching on the magistrate was this:

I have said it before and will say again, even before the Covenanters revised their Constitution and rejected the language of WCF 23.1 which Tfan affirms, even before this, the RPCNA explored a merger with the OPC which had already adopted the American revisions to the WCF. In other words, the RPCNA had a very different view of the civil magistrate than the OPC did and did not let that difference keep them from fraternal relations with the OPC. I do not see that same generosity or acknowledgement of orthodoxy for 2kers from 2k’s critics.

The fanatic of Turretin’s response was this: “Again, this is total ad hominem. Try to focus on your defense of E2k, not at criticizing your critics.”

How this is ad hominem I do not know, though my Latin is rusty. But even if in some fifth or sixth definition of ad hominem my comment qualifies, I do not see how this point is beside the point. 2k critics treat 2k not only as if it is entirely outside the bounds of confessional orthodoxy, but they also react to 2k as if it is a threat to the gospel. They believe it is antinomian, destroys Christian schools, and abandons society to relativism. But the RPCNA, even when they still affirmed the original WCF 23, did not consider teaching on the civil magistrate a deal breaker. Critics of 2k, like John Frame, do.

And some people like Lane Keister wonder why 2kers like me become sarcastically indignant. But for those wanting to keep the debate going, they are welcome here.

Ron Paul, Two-K, and Manliness

Rabbi Bret may be surprised to learn that he is a sissy because he is supporting Ron Paul. That is the testosterone filled conclusion of the Brothers Bayly who in a recent post have asserted that two-kingdom advocates and Ron Paul supporters share a similar trait — distaff cowardice. (I am not making this up.)

Ron Paul is to national politics what R2K is to the salt and light of the Church. Both Paulites and R2Kites have never seen a battle they want to fight. So instead they come up with sophisticated reasons why Little Round Top is the wrong hill to defend and Colonel Chamberlain’s bayonet charge was over the top. The wrong man led the wrong troops in the wrong charge using the wrong weapons at the wrong time and the wrong location.

In fact, watch these men closely and you find the only battle they’re willing to fight is the battle opposing battles. But of course, I use the words ‘battle’ and ‘fight’ quite loosely because both require courage. I don’t write this to demean them, but so readers will see the connection between their techniques, commitments, and character.

They’re the skinny boy in the corner of the schoolyard shouting “Nanny nanny boo-boo” at the real boys over on the baseball diamond trying to catch the ball, swing the bat, hit something, and run. Over in the corner of the playground with his back to the wall is R2K’s favorite cultural icon, Woody Allen, making jokes about how he refuses to play baseball because baseball is a stupid game with stupid rules played by stupid boys. But of course, he did try to play baseball once, and when the ball was flying toward his face, he misjudged where to put his mitt, he took his eye off the ball, and the ball hit him square in the face, and it really really hurt. He’s never forgotten it and now he makes fun of boys who play baseball.

All the boys who play baseball think he’s a coward, but he’s always surrounded by the other boys who got punched in the face with a baseball and decided never to play baseball again. They laugh at his jokes. Then there are the girls who never wanted to play baseball and don’t know a coward when they see one, and they think he’s kinda cute and sweet. They pity him for being an outcast and one day that pity will cause them to allow him to kiss them.

On the level of politics, the Baylys are clueless and always have been since they supported George McGovern in 1972 (though Ron Paul is closer to McGovern on foreign policy than the Baylys know — talk about not fighting battles). They are less interested in resisting tyranny than they are in establishing a regime of justice and morality. They don’t mind ignoring the distinct responsibilities of institutions and the separate spheres established by documents like constitutions and confessions in order to apply their moral truths justly everywhere. This puts their moral idealism much closer to the French Revolution than to the American, and makes their he-mannish bravery sound more like Robespierre than Madison. To justify the reign of terror, Robespierre wrote: “Terror is only justice prompt, sever, and inflexible — it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country.” Manly? Sure. Cruel? You bet. Despotic? No doubt.

On the level of biblical interpretation, I continue to wonder where their unrivaled affirmation of macho Christianity finds a warrant in Scripture. Was Jesus manly when he submitted to an unjust verdict and execution? Was our Lord feminized when he told his followers to forgive seventy-times-seven? Was Paul light in the loafers when he counseled moderation, self-control, and submission to authorities?

I get it. Jesus is going to return and will judge sins and the sinners who commit them. But the Baylys’ antics suggests yet another form of immanentizing the eschaton — a rush to judge, confront, and topple in the name of Christ here and now. They don’t seem to understand the inverse logic of the gospel. Christ defeats Satan by dying. The kingdom of grace beats the kingdom of Satan by forgiving sins. I don’t particularly understand what chromosomes have to do with this.

Postscript: I linked to one of the Baylys’ posts about men singing and how the church needs hymns on judgment and justice triumphing over wicked men for men to sing with gusto. This points to another part of the Baylys’ errors. They are also clueless culturally. They have never witnessed big, beefy men — namely, Welsh rugby players — while singing their national anthem.