Did Meredith Kline Believe in Paedo-Communion?

Steven Wedgeworth characterizes the first period of Federal Vision’s development this way:

The first stage worth discussing actually goes back to Westminster Theological Seminary in the 1970s. While the seminary had been founded as something of a continuing “old school” Presbyterian institution, the influence of Cornelius Van Til took it in a unique direction. John Murray and Meredith Kline also made interesting but often idiosyncratic theological contributions, and by the 1960s, Norman Shepherd, Richard Gaffin, Jay Adams, and John Frame added their own distinctives to the mix. The 1970s were a time of considerable controversy for WTS, mostly due to the Norman Shepherd controversy, but there was also a desire on the part of some of the leadership to make WTS more open to a broader and more evangelical landscape. This caused its own, rather different controversy, and certain critics claimed that the school’s legacy had been “sold out.”

Reading the literature coming out of WTS during the 1970s and 1980s, there arises the impression that various subgroups within the WTS were, at least unofficially, competing for the identity and vision of the school. Biblical Theology was certainly the dominant interest, but even here, there were opposing emphases. One writer has summarized the most prominent division between a “union with Christ” emphasis and a “Law and Gospel” emphasis.

It was during this time that many of the older FV thinkers attended seminary. Some attended WTS and were directly shaped by this era. Others attended elsewhere but paid attention to the controversies and read the literature. Most conservative Presbyterian and Reformed thinkers had looked to WTS as a guide during this time in the 20th century.

Another significant theological issue that came from this same background was the Christian Reconstruction movement, especially the Tyler branch. Christian Reconstructionism (very similar to “Theonomy”) refers to the idea that Christians ought to implement the Old Testament Scriptures and the Mosaic law code today, as much as possible. This movement began with the work of R J Rushdoony in 1960s, but the Tyler branch of Reconstructionism came to prominence in the early 1980s. They made key modifications to this project and put a new emphasis on ecclesiology, including the sacraments and the liturgy. The Tyler branch also broadened its vision from merely the Westminster Seminary legacy to include a certain sort of Continental Calvinism (pulling from the 16th cent. contributions of Martin Bucer, the 19th cent. German American Mercersburg Theology, and 20th cent. Dutch theologians like Klaas Schilder) and a contemporary liturgical renewal project inspired by Dom Gregory Dix and Alexander Schmemann (Mercersburg would also apply here). The most significant FV personality associated with Tyler Reconstruction stage is James B. Jordan, but Peter Leithart also shared some of this history. A few other names appear in this stage of the FV conversation but not in later ones, notably Peter Lillback and George Grant.

It is interesting to point out that Douglas Wilson did not share this same heritage. While he was certainly aware of these men and their writings, his own history comes from a broader Evangelical world. In fact, Douglas Wilson did not consider himself to be theologically Reformed until the late 1980s. He once wrote a booklet critique of the Tyler Branch of Christian Reconstructionism.

This pre-FV period history did not emphasize justification issues (other than in summaries of the older Shepherd controversy), nor did it argue that covenant theology needed to be significantly modified or reinterpreted. Instead, the men of this period claimed that their covenant theology was that of the Calvinistic or Reformed tradition, and they opposed it to the Baptistic or Evangelical theology of 20th cent. North America. The chief interests at this time were seeing families as covenantal units, showing the significance of paedobaptism for covenant theology and ecclesiology, and asserting an aggressive Christian social and political presence. Peadocommunion was already present among some of these men, though it was seen as a point of intramural disagreement. They also did reserve the right to part ways with the Reformation tradition, but this was always framed as a matter of incidental disagreement within their larger commitment to that legacy. James Jordan was also beginning to articulate his particular typological hermeneutics, a continuation and advancement of the redemptive-historical biblical theology taught by WTS. This period of FV development can be understood as starting during the late 1970s, and it reaches a definite transition point around 1990, when the Tyler church joined the Reformed Episcopal Church, James Jordan moved from Tyler, TX to Niceville, FL, and the Reconstruction movement began to fade in prominence.

This is the way I’ve seen other Federal Visionists or former Federal Visionists do historical theology. Because a diversity of voices were in the debates about the Westminster Confession of Faith, so today we should expect to see the same kind of breadth of views about different doctrines. In the same way, Federal Vision sprang from a diversity of voices at Westminster Seminary.

It raises a few questions. Is this why Federal Vision advocates were never very impressed with Machen? Wedgeworth’s history suggests that Federal Vision came from new directions at Westminster that took the school away from Machen’s vision.

Second, why did more people who aligned with Federal Vision go to Covenant or RTS Jackson than Westminster?

Third, does Meredith Kline belong to this history since the biggest critics of Federal Vision owed a great debt to Kline’s understanding of the Old Testament, covenant theology, and the relationship of cult to culture?

Spotting the Difference

Those who don’t distinguish between the sacred and secular:

Daniel Kirk:

There’s a lot of that going on in the Lectionary readings for the second week of Christmas. My podcast guest, Eric Barreto, looks at the heavenly, cosmic imagery of Ephesians and warns us not to too sharply draw the line between heaven and earth. The heavenly reality is the one that God wants to bring to earth as well.

Rod Dreher (quoting Robert Louis Wilken):

Can Christian faith—no matter how enthusiastically proclaimed by evangelists, how ably expounded by theologians and philosophers, or how cleverly translated into the patois of the intellectual class by apologists—be sustained for long without the support of a nurturing Christian culture? By culture, I do not mean high culture (Bach’s B-Minor Mass, Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew); I mean the “total harvest of thinking and feeling,” to use T. S. Eliot’s phrase—the pattern of inherited meanings and sensibilities encoded in rituals, law, language, practices, and stories that can order, inspire, and guide the behavior, thoughts, and affections of a Christian people.

Those who do:

Steven Wedgeworth:

“[Piper’s] logic is badly confused, as he fails to distinguish between the spiritual and temporal realms, misunderstands the civic role of the family, and conflates the question of preservation of life with vengeance and bloodlust in general. Thus, he is unable to offer any sort of corrective and may actually give a cure that is worse than the disease.”

Mark Jones:

It seems to me that Christ principally kept this command by laying us up for himself in heaven (Jn. 10:10). We are his treasured possession (Deut. 7:6). He raised us up, where we are seated with him (Col. 3:1; Eph. 2:6). In this way, as in all things, he and the Father have the same purpose and will, namely, to lay up people (i.e., treasures) for themselves in heaven: “… [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18).

Alan Jacobs (quoting):

As a believing Christian, I have come to a point where I find articles like Scruton’s increasingly frustrating. That large numbers of Europeans no longer embrace the Christian faith is obvious. But in this article, Scruton neither explains, nor defends, nor advocates the Christian faith other than as an instrumentality to buttress a select group of nation states, or as an instrumentality to inform elements of a culture he would like to see preserved. At least as described, Scruton’s is not a Christianity of radical practices of self-giving love that animated the early communities of the time of Acts of the Apostles. It is a Christianity from the top down. a bureaucratized belief system in which the value proposition lies not in the transformation of individual lives, but in providing some sort of ethical coherence to societies. Now, it may be a good thing for societies to possess ethical coherence – but that is a consequence far, far down the causal chain, and a long distance from the mission and purpose of Christian belief. Starting the discussion where Scruton does, he makes Christian belief the servant of state and culture (whatever he may think he is saying) rather than a set of beliefs that precedes and is therefore independent of state and culture.

If you look for a pattern, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and liberal evangelicals blur. Protestants see the difference between heaven and earth (at least sometimes).

Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Mystery-Averse Minds

In case you haven’t noticed, Christianity is riddled with dilemmas and perplexities. For instance, Christ tells his followers to have nothing to do with the world but then he leaves Christians in the world. Another is that Christ wins by defeat; by dying on the cross, Satan’s apparent victory, Christ snatches believers from the grip of the evil one. Yet another is the doctrine of the Trinity. Still another is that Christ is Lord and Christians should submit to a counterfeit lord by the name of Nero. If you wanted intellectual consistency, then you’d likely end up abandoning orthodox Christianity.

The intellect defying mysteries of Christianity do not prevent critics of 2k from pointing out 2k’s apparent inconsistencies. Neo-Calvinism’s condemnation of all dualism fortifies critics in their quest to iron out all of Christianity’s wrinkles and gives them the upper hand in public relations contests since St. Joe the Home Schooler is more likely to trust a simple and direct answer to his questions than one that begins “well, yes and no.”

A recent attempt to catch 2k in the clutches of inconsistency came from Steven Wedgeworth at his new blog, The Calvinist International. He asks whether a seminary that trains pastors belongs to the spiritual or temporal kingdom and follows the reasoning of Ryan McIlhenry from an article in Mid-America Journal of Theology, not a journal that one associates with fans of the Federal Visions (but opposition to 2k makes for strange bed bugs). At a conference at Westminster California, David VanDrunen responded to this question in ways inconceivable to the perplexity challenged. Dissatisfied by VanDrunen’s response, Wedgeworth argues:

. . . VanDrunen attempts to soften things with a general admission of complexity and a denial that “every single plot of ground” can be put into one kingdom or the other, he does not admit the more obvious point: his specific expression of the two kingdoms cannot be coherently applied in the world. This is because he is still attempting to distinguish the kingdoms along the lines of vocation. Churchy callings and, specifically, Bible-teaching, are the business of the spiritual kingdom, whereas more ordinary jobs like committees, administration, and custodianship are the business of the worldly kingdom.

But what business does a common institution have training up the leaders of the spiritual kingdom? Indeed, under the terms of de jure divino Presbyterianism, this would mean that the spiritual kingdom of Christ is in fact dependent upon the worldly kingdom for one of its essential marks. Is VanDrunen now also among the Constantinians?

Notice that VanDrunen’s response was complex. But the actual 2k doctrine, elaborated by Wedgeworth’s interaction with Calvin and Luther, will not admit of such complexity. In which case the proponents of 2k are really not 2k after all.

But once again, history to the rescue. You don’t have to be 2k to understand that the work of seminaries does not fit easily in any of the modern categories of politics, education, or religion. Back in the 1940s the OPC debated whether to adopt Westminster Seminary as a denominational institution. Each of the committee members who studied the matter and rejected the idea of an ecclesiastically overseen seminary — R. B. Kuiper, John Murray, and Paul Woolley — appealed to the neo-Calvinist notion of sphere sovereignty, an indication that they may have been channeling Kuyper more than Machen. And each member recognized that a seminary does not belong to the church, nor to the state, but — get this — to the family, a common institution that belongs to both believers and unbelievers. According John Murray (in his portion of the report):

The teaching of the Word of God given in the family and in the Christian school will indeed, as regards content, coincide with the teaching given by the church, but this coincidence as regards content does not in the least imply that such teaching should be given under the auspices of the church. In like manner a theological seminary should teach the whole counsel of God. A great deal of the teaching must therefore coincide with the teaching given by the church, and, furthermore, a great deal of it is the teaching that may properly be conducted by the church and under its official auspices. It does not follow, however, that the teaching of the Word of God given in a theological seminary must be given under the auspices of the church. The mere fact that, in certain particulars, the type of teaching given is the type of teaching that may and should be given by the church and may also properly be conducted under the official auspices of the church does not rove that such teaching must be conducted under the auspices of the church. This does not follow any more than does the-fact that the teaching of the Word of God given in the home and in the school is in content the same as may and should be given by the church prove that the family and the school should be conducted under the auspices of the church. A theological seminary is an institution which may quite properly be conducted, like other Christian schools, under auspices other than those of the church, and a great deal of its work is of such a character that the church may not properly undertake it.

So if Reformed theologians not known for advocating 2k recognize that the formal academic training of ministers does not easily fall within either the temporal or spiritual kingdoms as designated by the earthly institutions of state and church, is it really a problem that 2kers offer complex answers to questions about to which kingdom Westminster California belongs?

Which leads to one last quibble. My impression of Mr. Wedgeworth is that he is a nice enough fellow and does not intend to bray or holler the way some anti-2k bloggers do. But when he complains that VanDrunen’s “expression of the two kingdoms cannot be coherently applied in the world,” my jaws tighten. When will the critics of 2k acknowledge that the teachings of Calvin or Richard Hooker cannot be applied coherently to our world either, or that 2k looks a whole lot more coherent after the revolutions of the late eighteenth century than do Constantinian politics applied to a mixed body of citizens? Again, for the gazillionth time, the problems of state churches and the demands of diverse populations led all the Reformed churches to drop the Reformation’s teaching about the Christian responsibilities of the magistrate. This may mean that all the Reformed communions are incoherent in their application of 2k theology. But that problem is not the peculiar possession of 2k’s advocates. I’d encourage pastor Wedgeworth to send a letter to NAPARC.

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.

Do They Really Want What They Want?

Steven Wedgeworth over at Credenda Agenda has registered a critique of two-kingdom theology that uses David VanDrunen’s new book on natural law and the two kingdoms as the object of critique. Some of the usual federal vision suspects have lined up to promote Wedgeworth’s piece. Rabbi Bret writes:

Wedgeworth also spends time exposing how the Two Kingdoms, as defined by the Magisterial Reformers, covered different realities then the Two Kingdoms of Escondido fame. For the Magisterial Reformers the Two Kingdoms were defined as such that there was a diversity in unity. For Escondido the Two Kingdoms are defined in such a way that there is diversity (Nature realm vs. Redemptive realm) with no unity. (Hence the constant charge of Dualism.)

So you know it must be good.

Wedgeworth has two main complaints – one is that the idea of a spiritual and a temporal kingdom (or Augustine’s two cities) do not correlate with the church and the state. Wedgeworth writes:

It was precisely because the visible church existed in the temporal kingdom that Christian magistrates had a duty to protect and reform them. The princes were not to personally involve their office in crafting doctrine or worship, but they surely were involved in financing, defending, and promoting certain visible churches to the exclusion of others. Since all Christian laypersons were priests, the Reformers saw no problem with allowing princes to function as Christians in their particular vocation and to make use of their superior ordering abilities in the visible church. All of the Reformed confessions are in agreement on this point, as well, and so it seems impossible to remove this feature from the ecclesiology of the Reformation.

What Wedgeworth fails to acknowledge (aside from an inordinate fixation on Calvin as the standard of all things Reformed) is that Zurich and Geneva differed over the respective powers of the city council and church authority. Zurich was much closer to (if not guilty of) an Erastian model, with the magistrates reserving the right of excommunication, while Geneva worked hard to gain for the church the spiritual power of excommunication. In other words, the responsibility of the state to preserve the true religion is much more a legacy of Zurich than of Geneva and the difference is evident in the way that the Geneva Confession (1556) and the Gallican Confession (1559) refuse to attribute ecclesiastical powers to the magistrate the way, say, that the Westminster Divines did when in the original version of their Confession (subsequently altered by American Presbyterians in 1787) gave the magistrate the right to call and preside over synods and councils of the church. Can anyone imagine George Bush or Barack Obama presiding over the General Assembly of the OPC? (For that matter, can anyone imagine why a president would care to preside over a gathering of 160 pastors and elders?) And yet, that was the kind of power that a Zurichian arrangement bequeathed to one side of the Reformed brain.

(By the way, for the record this would make the Federal Visionaries pro-Zurich on political theology but pro-Geneva on the Lord’s Supper. Can you say “dualism”? Sure you can.)

While Wedgeworth’s point that the spiritual and the temporal do not equate to church and state, it’s pretty hard to read Calvin on the two kingdoms and not think that the civil and ecclesiastical polities lined up pretty neatly with the visible church and the visible state.

Therefore, to perceive more clearly how far the mind can proceed in any matter according to the degree of its ability, we must here set forth a distinction: that there is one kind of understanding of earthly things; another of heavenly. I call “earthly things” those which do not pertain to God or his Kingdom, to true justice, or to the blessedness of the future life; but which have their significance and relationship with regard to the present life and are, in a sense, confined within its bounds. I call “heavenly things” the pure knowledge of God, the nature of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom. The first class includes government, household management, all mechanical skills, and the liberal arts. In the second are the knowledge of God and of his will, and the rule by which we conform our lives to it.

Of the first class the following ought to be said: since man is by nature a social animal, he tends through natural instinct to foster and preserve society. Consequently, we observe that there exist in all men’s minds universal impressions of a certain civic fair dealing and order. Hence no man is to be found who does not understand that every sort of human organization must be regulated by laws, and who does not comprehend the principles of those laws. Hence arises the unvarying consent of all nations and of individual morals with regard to laws. For their seeds have, without teacher or lawgiver, been implanted in all men. (Institutes, II.ii.13)

Since Calvin puts government and household management – and not the church – under earthly things, it looks like the distinction between church (spiritual) and state (temporal) was in Calvin’s mind (and not just VanDrunen’s or Luther’s). Heck, it was even in the minds of the Westminster Divines when they wrote:

Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate. (WCF 31.5 original)

In other words, even in an Erastian environment with a king or parliament calling the church’s shots, Reformed churchmen were able to distinguish the differences between the civil and the ecclesiastical in ways that leave today’s Christendomians (read: theonomists) tripping.

To see how much the Reformed tradition identified Christ’s kingdom with the church you only need to look at the way that the Reformed catechisms treat the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer or Christ’s kingly office. Here is the Larger Catechism’s rendering of Christ role as kind:

WLC Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

In other words, the Reformers, whether influenced by Zurich or Geneva, were jealous to preserve the spiritual rule of Christ from being confused with the rule of the state, and to locate the spiritual rule of Christ with officers of his visible church.

Wedgeworth’s other objection to VanDrunen’s book is the distinction between Christ’s mediatorial (i.e. redemptive) and his creational rule. Wedgeworth believes this sets up an impossible scenario of a divided self where a Christian is “guided by his cultural spirit and imagination at certain moments of his life and by his religious spirit and imagination at others.” Why this is so hard to imagine I do not know. After all the Christian father who is also an elder treats his son differently when appearing before the session or when addressing him in the home, just as a Christian gynecologist treats a naked woman differently depending on whether he’s married to her and he’s her physician. Christians make distinctions of office and vocation all the time. If we can imagine doing it, why not someone who is more adept at juggling human affairs and diverse responsibilities than we are – namely, Jesus Christ.

But not to be missed is that if Wedgeworth wants to collapse the mediatorial and creational rules into one power, he is guilty of Roman Catholicism. At least, that was how David McKay explained it when expounding Samuel Rutherford’s account of church-state relations. McKay writes:

. . . Rutherford does maintain that Christian magistrates have a duty to promote the well-being of the church. He also insists, however, that “the Magistrate as a Magistrate is not the Deputie of Jesus Christ as Mediator,” a view that he goes on to describe as “the heart and soule of Popery.”(McKay, “From Popery to Principle: Covenanters and the Kingship of Christ,” in The Faith Once Delivered, p. 136)

Later in this essay, McKay also quotes George Gillespie to the following effect: Christ has all power “by the eternal generation, ad by the declaration of him to be the Son of God with power, when he was raised from the dead, Rom. 1:14.” According to McKay, Gillespie agrees that Christ has power to subdue the enemies of his church, but “as Mediator he is only the church’s King, Head, and Governor, and hath no other kingdom” (p. 139).

So while the Federal Visionaries and neo-Calvinists keep figuring out ways to redeem all of life – with the aim, I guess, of putting Christians in charge of everything so believers can be the ones calling synods and councils – they should remember first that the magisterial reformation started with the magistrate, not the church. Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Ursinus served at the good pleasure of the state; they did not call a church council and send petitions to the magistrates to adopt pro-Protestant policies. And if Federal Visionaries want the same circumstances today as those that informed the Reformation, they better start working on getting Doug Wilson or Neil Plantinga to run for office – preferably with a little more clout than the district superintendent of public recreation.

Or they could simply follow Calvin’s advice and remember that the effects of salvation are first, foremost, and ultimately, not cultural, political, legal, medicinal, or agricultural but spiritual. As Calvin put it at the beginning of his discussion of the magistrate, the problem with Federal Visionaries and neo-Calvinists is their addiction to the Judaic Folly:

But whoever knows how to distinguish between body and soul, between this present fleeting life and that future eternal life, will without difficulty know that Christ’s spiritual Kingdom and the civil jurisdiction are things completely distinct. Since, then, it is a Jewish vanity to seek and enclose Christ’s Kingdom within the elements of this world, let us rather ponder that what Scripture clearly teaches is a spiritual fruit, which we gather from Christ’s grace. . . (Institutes, IV.xx.1)