Worldview Politics

As I have come to understand it, a Reformed world-and-life-view is a hard outlook to acquire. It starts and requires regeneration by the Holy Spirit, or so it would seem since a worldview is a basic reality to a person’s existence. Seeing through the glasses of faith, accordingly, requires having faith, something that comes only through effectual calling. This worldview also needs doses of philosophy and theology so that viewers of the world have the intellectual equipment to construct the theories and apply truth to real life. A worldview goes so deep, as readers of Machen keep reminding me, that even the great Westminsterian would say that “two plus two equals four” looks different to a Christian compared to a non-believer. (Though it is still unclear whether all settings in life – from the family dining room to the halls of Congress need to bear all the weight of such metaphysical significance. For instance, does the unbelieving cashier need to admit her reliance on borrowed capital before I receive my change? I don’t think so.)

Since a worldview is such an acquired taste, I have found it unendingly odd to see people without a Reformed world-and-life-view defending those political candidates and their intellectual influences who possess a Reformed world-and-life-view. I find this particularly odd since the proponents of worldview would typically regard those without a worldview as being at odds with their understanding of total truth. I am referring in particular to recent posts by journalists and religious historians who discount the dominionist spin that is still being put to Michele Bachmann and Francis Schaeffer. (Truth be told, I talked to one of these authors – Charlotte Allen – for the better part of an hour while she was preparing her column. And I was frustrated to see that the illumination I may have offered did not make a dent in her aim of discrediting the bias of liberal journalists. She even took down the exact title of my recent book to include in her column. Oh, the missed fame! Oh, the loss of royalties!!!!!!!)

No matter what the folks without a correct worldview make of Francis Schaeffer’s ties to dominionism, it is hard to read his account of the antithesis and find trustworthy people like Ross Douthat, Charlotte Allen, and Matt Sutton who apparently do not have either the faith or the theological and philosophical training to attain to a worldview.

Here’s one example from How Should We Then Live?

. . . in contrast to the Renaissance humanists, [the Reformers] refused to accept the autonomy of human reason, which acts as though the human mind is infinite, with all knowledge within its realm. Rather, they took seriously the Bible’s own claim for itself – that it is the only final authority. And they took seriously that man needs the answers given by God in the Bible to have adequate answers not only for how to be in an open relationship with God, but also for how to know the present meaning of life and how to have final answers in distinguishing between right and wrong. That is, man needs not only a God who exists, but a God who has spoken in a way that can be understood. [81]

I wonder what Douthat, Allen, and Sutton think about the power of their own intellects as they survey the reactions to Bachmann and Schaeffer. Or have they been checking their perceptions against the pages of holy writ?

But if the non-worldviewers are a little uncomfortable with Schaeffer’s distinction between the Bible and autonomous reason, they might experience real pain when reading his application of the antithesis to the American experiment. About the Moral Majority he wrote in A Christian Manifesto:

The Moral Majority has drawn a line between one total view of reality and the other total view of reality and the results this brings forth in government and law. And if you personally do not like some of the details of what they have done, do it better. But you must understand that all Christians have got to do the same kind of think or you are simply not showing the Lordship of Christ in the totality of life. [61-62]

It does seem strange that a Reformed world-and-life-view would find its fulfillment in a political organization comprised of Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews, and headed by a fundamentalist Baptist. But we are talking about the United States, which H. L. Mencken called “the greatest show on earth.”

Schaeffer did not stop there. He also argued that the United States was the fruition of the gospel:

The people in the United States have lived under the Judeo-Christian consensus for so long that now we take it for granted. We seem to forget how completely unique what we have had is a result of the gospel. The gospel indeed is, “accept Christ, the Messiah, as Savior and have your guilt removed on the basis of His death.” But the good news includes many resulting blessings. We have forgotten why we have a high view of life, and why we have a positive balance between form and freedom in government, and the fact that we have such tremendous freedoms without these freedoms leading to chaos. Most of all, we have forgotten that none of these is natural in the world. They are unique, based on the fact that the consensus was the biblical consensus. And these things will be even further lost if this other total view, the materialistic view, takes over thoroughly. We can be certain that what we so carelessly take for granted will be lost. [70-71]

Again, I wonder where Schaeffer’s defenders fall on the spectrum of the two competing worldviews, and how much they actually embrace the biblical consensus that allegedly informed the work of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Ben Franklin.

The problem here is not that people should consider Schaeffer to be scary. Like many of his defenders have said, either explicitly or implicitly, he really didn’t mean what he seemed to say. He was not really so intolerant as his antithetical outlook demonstrated. He did not want a theocracy. But if that is so, then just how important is this worldview thing? If it results in high-falutin’ rhetoric and pragmatic reality, then what is the point of promoting all of those books and institutions that teach a worldview?

The problem that really needs some ‘splaining is not whether Schaeffer is scary but the strange disparity between the deep-down diving nature of worldview – it is part and parcel of new life in Christ – and how easily accessible it is, and even attractive, to those without such a worldview. A high octane version of worldview should reveal and make poignant the discrepancies between the lost and the saved, between the philosophically initiated and the believing simpletons. But it does not. A worldview, even of the antitheticial variety taught by Schaeffer, is for non-worldviewers like a puppy mutt – maybe not the first choice to take home from the pound but still a cute dog. Was the antithesis really supposed to be so easily domesticated?

Of course, I understand the angles that historians and journalists have in this contretemps over Bachmann. A writer like Douthat – whom I admire greatly and read for profit – may not qualify as a Kuyperian or neo-Calvinist-lite – but he can see the value of evangelical readers of Schaeffer to electoral politics in the United States. He also sees a way to point out the bias of liberal journalists, such as when they score points against Bachmann’s spiritual influences but not against Obama’s. All is fair in the coverage of religion and politics.

But the reception of Schaeffer and the watering down of worldview sure does cheapen what was supposed to be such a distinct and unique part of Reformed Protestantism. I wonder why more worldviewers are not objecting to the debasement of their valuable coin.

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Lay Plumbing

Since relocating to Michigan I have not only had to think about whether Christians plumb differently from non-Christians. I have also had to think and act plumbingly.

First, I had to purchase a toilet auger to unblock a clogged septic line.

Then, I had to figure out how to displace a large puddle that had emerged in our “Michigan basement” after several heavy rains. A wet-dry shop vacuum allowed the removal of 14 gallons of water fairly easily.

And then I needed to consider the various features of dehumidifiers in order to prevent such puddles in the basement from repeating and growing. And this has led to further consideration about installing a sump with its related pump in order to allow the dehumidifier to keep working without having to empty its water receptacle.

In which case, a sump pump might allow putting the washer and dryer in the basement, as well as the installation of a sink for the sorts of cleaning and rinsing that are less than desirable in the kitchen or bathroom.

If I did not know better, I would be tempted to think that God is mocking my repeated (and perhaps overused) point about Christian plumbing (or the lack thereof). But at least this much can be said in defense of 2k: so far the creational wisdom of the local hardware store staff has yet to steer wrong this mortgage payer who is not doctrinaire about water and its movement within and outside the home.

Hard or Soft, The Anti-2K Position Displays the Judaic Folly

(Or, how to blow Dr. Ortlund’s mind.)

The hits keep coming. The line grows of people wanting to take a swipe at the two kingdom doctrine (while the silence on Lillback’s strange fire of Sacred Fire is deafening).

A while back, Comment magazine published a piece by David Koyzis that critiques the 2k position, and is now available online. (Koyzis also refers to Wedgeworth’s essay on VanDrunen’s new book as “trenchant.”)

As Koyzis has it, the 2k position is not faithful because of its defective view of creation. He writes:

There are, finally, good reasons why we cannot join the cause of the two-kingdoms Calvinists. Most basically, creation is much more than a provisional, probationary order with no enduring significance, as they appear to believe. It is rather God’s good handiwork (Genesis 1), which has fallen into sin through man’s disobedience, but that God has promised not to abandon but to restore and redeem through Jesus Christ in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65, Revelation 21). An implication of this creation is that God has shaped human beings to shape culture. With every breath we take and with everything we do, we cannot avoid fashioning culture, as Andy Crouch has perceptively recognized in his recent book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Far from being extinguished at the Second Advent, the works of culture will eventually be redeemed and brought into the service of God (Isaiah 60).

Of course, this creation has been marred by the fall into sin of our first parents (Genesis 3), which inevitably affects the exercise even of human reason in the nonecclesiastical spheres. It is naïve to assume that we are capable of reasoning in the various social and cultural fields free from the destructive impact of the fall. If the effects of the fall are complete, then in principle the whole of life, including the cultural pursuits for which we were created, are included in redemption as well. As Paul puts it, the whole creation groans in anticipation of what is to come, but it will one day “be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21-22). In the meantime, however, this groaning is accompanied by an awareness that the kingdom is, in some measure, a present reality, even if its final consummation lies ahead. Thus, as agents of this kingdom, we must continually test the spirits in every field of endeavour. How much simpler it would be if vigilance were required only in matters of church and liturgy and we could safely ignore everything else! But God has hard words for those who think that proper cultic observance alone will substitute for a lack of obedience in the rest of life (Isaiah 1:11-17, 10:1-4; Amos 5:21-4).

2k advocates fail, then, to manifest a “ whole-hearted devotion to God in Christ.” This devotion, according to Koyzis:

can be pursued only in the context of the church, understood as corpus Christi, the body of Christ. The corpus Christi certainly manifests itself in the institutional church, but also in marriages, families, schools, universities, labour unions and businesses, in so far as they are directed towards the glory of God and service of neighbour. In this respect, the body of Christ is not undertaking to bring heaven to earth, but is merely seeking to fulfill the central command to love God and neighbour in all of life’s activities. This is a vision worth giving up one’s life for—as numerous martyrs have done through the ages—but in the meantime, it is definitely worth living for as well. May God prosper the work of our hands and use it for his glory (Psalm 90:17).

Then comes Rabbi Bret’s response to the recent post here about the collision of worldviews at the worldview weary Christian Reformed Church Synod. According to Bret:

It is only Darryl’s strange worldview that is pushing him to say that “worldviewism” cost the church its heritage of Reformed confessionalism. . . . By Darryl’s own words it is not worldviewism that is costing the CRC its heritage. By his own admission it is the worldview of progressivism that is costing it, its heritage. This progressivism will not be turned back by a worldview (R2Kt) that can’t authoritatively say that progressivism is un-biblical. This worldview progressivism can only be turned back by a Christian worldview that recognizes the progressivism for what it is and offers Biblical answers. Darryl wants to damn the night but refuse to light a candle.

Bret concludes:

Look … in the end you can ride the rails to destruction on the train of progressivism or you can ride the rails to destruction on the train of R2Kt Gnosticism / Dualism. No matter which ride you choose you’re going to have to eventually pay the conductor. There is, after all, a thousand different ways to achieve destruction.

Not to be missed at Bret’s site is the comment from one Mark Chambers – women hide the children; you may want to hide yourselves while you’re at it. In response to Bret’s point that Hart’s problem with the CRC is “the disagreement that occurs between those who will transform culture actively in a liberal direction and those who will transform culture passively in a liberal direction by allowing the anti-Christ theology that informs the culture to go unaddressed,” Chambers writes:

Well I’d rather describe it a bit more graphically. Both the agressive and passive methods end in cultural rape. The liberal is an agressive rapist. The passive R2Kers on the other hand, like Hart and his ilk, strip naked, lay on their backs and say “take me”.

Kowabunga, dude! I’m assuming if Bret’s earthly kingdom will not do movie ratings.

Let me see if I can briefly identify the major difference between the 2kers and the anti-2kers, and why the anti-2k theonomic leaning position distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ. The bone of contention is the kingdom of heaven. What Prof. Koyzis and Pastor Bret fail to recognize is a teaching that they themselves profess when the subscribe the Heidelberg Catechism. According to Heidelberg, the keys of the kingdom are preaching and discipline:

83. Q. What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?

A. The preaching of the holy gospel and church discipline. By these two the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and closed to unbelievers.

84. Q. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and closed by the preaching of the gospel?

A. According to the command of Christ, the kingdom of heaven is opened when it is proclaimed and publicly testified to each and every believer that God has really forgiven all their sins for the sake of Christ’s merits, as often as they by true faith accept the promise of the gospel. The kingdom of heaven is closed when it is proclaimed and testified to all unbelievers and hypocrites that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation rest on them as long as they do not repent. According to this testimony of the gospel, God will judge both in this life and in the life to come.

85 Q. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by church discipline?

A. According to the command of Christ, people who call themselves Christians but show themselves to be unchristian in doctrine or life are first repeatedly admonished in a brotherly manner. If they do not give up their errors or wickedness, they are reported to the church, that is, to the elders. If they do not heed also their admonitions, they are forbidden the use of the sacraments, and they are excluded by the elders from the Christian congregation, and by God Himself from the kingdom of Christ. They are again received as members of Christ and of the church when they promise and show real amendment.

Since Koyzis likes to talk about implications of biblical teaching, the implication of this doctrine is that the church has the keys of the kingdom, and it is the work of the church, not schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties, to open and close the kingdom of heaven because the church alone has the keys.

A further implication is what possible redemption do schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties minister? Yes, I understand that they are fruitful for loving God and neighbor. But the last I checked, loving God and neighbor are the law, not the gospel. (Is it just me, or does the phrase, “cultural obedience” connote law more than gospel?) And it is only the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ’s righteousness, freely given to those who trust on him, that gets anything or anyone into the kingdom of heaven or heaven itself. What exactly am I missing here?

At the same time, to suggest that the work of schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties is kingdom work is to distort the gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason, as Koyzis well explains it, is that the works of the law (love of God and neighbor) become synonymous with redemption. In other words, to expand the heavenly kingdom by blurring the two kingdoms is to add a works righteousness to Christ’s righteousness.

So, to respond to Rabbi Bret, my beef with the CRC and its worldview is not only that it is progressive. I also object to worldviews like Rabbi Bret’s that are politically or culturally conservative because opposing abortion, if done for the wrong reasons, is as much a form of works righteousness as is adopting a mandate on global warming. If Rabbi Bret wants evidence of the way that a right-wing worldviewitis leads to churches fudging the gospel, he only needs to say, “Federal Vision.” Can he do that? Sure he can.

And You Thought New York City Was Hard to Transform

indinaImagine the hurdles that Kuyperians in Indiana who practice law are facing. In fact, look at the vow this allegedly wholesome mid-western state, known for Booth Tarkington and high school basketball – if only they’d invented hot dogs and motherhood – requires of attorneys.

Rule 22. Oath of Attorneys
Upon being admitted to practice law in the state of Indiana, each applicant shall take and subscribe to the following oath or affirmation:

“I do solemnly swear or affirm that: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana; I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers; I will not counsel or maintain any action, proceeding, or defense which shall appear to me to be unjust, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with crime in any case; I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me, such means only as are consistent with truth, and never seek to mislead the court or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law; I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client at every peril to myself; I will abstain from offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged; I will not encourage either the commencement or the continuance of any action or proceeding from any motive of passion or interest; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.” (From Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and the Discipline of Attorneys)

The nerve of the Hoosiers. No acknowledgment of God as the creator and sustainer of all things, of Christ as redeemer of his church, no sense that notions of truth and falsehood, justice or crime come from the holy standard of God’s revealed will. Even worse, no mention of a Reformed world and life view, though I suppose the mention of God helps this go down better and lifts Indiana out of the vicious depths of Gotham.

But you do have to wonder how someone committed to the Lordship of Christ in every square inch could take such a vow. Isn’t Indiana guilty of proposing a common realm in which Christian and non-Christian lawyers must serve? And wouldn’t a Christian lawyer who took such a vow be acknowledging the existence of such a common realm. (Of course, it’s not neutral either; Indiana attorneys must always root for IU to beat Michigan.)

The answer could be the difference between theory and practice. Ideally, every square inch should be ruled by Christ, but of course it doesn’t work out in practice. If this were the explanation, then why mock those who try to find a theological rationale for such a common realm (which is what two-kingdom theology attempts)? After all, a two-kingdom attorney would have no problem taking such a vow. His conscience is clear because he knows the older Protestant teaching on the civil magistrate was afflicted with Constantinianism and that expectations for a Christian state died with the passing of Israel.

But the attorney who regularly chastises two-kingdom proponents for selling out the Reformed faith and then turns around and lives with rules of Indiana’s common realm of rules for attorneys, well, that seems remarkably inconsistent if not a tad perverse. It’s as if he’s a Kuyperian in only parts of his life, like the holy times when dropping the kids off at the Christian day school and attending the school board meeting, and then in the common realm living the rest of his day under the rule of Indiana’s legal institutions. How dualistic!

The Myth of Worldview Antithesis

Kuyper2Our friend and constant critic, Baus, likes to point out the incomplete reading of paleo-Calvinists in the wonders of neo-Calvinist wisdom. He also regularly recommends the work of Roy Clouser as providing a significant criticism of secular thought and the incompleteness of any thought or system that leaves out religion. Neutrality is not only a myth but a no-no.

So I was surprised to find a piece by Clouser in which he argues that faith is the most basic part of human identity, but will actually yield a Rodney King-like world in which people of different faiths will hold hands and sing “We Are the World.” This is antithesis with a heavy dose of synthesis.

On the one hand, Clouser insists that beliefs control all forms of human thinking so that faith affects all theories about the world and the way we live in it. He writes:

If theories differ according to the religious beliefs controlling them, then those of us who believe in God should have distinctive theories from those who do not share our biblical Faith. It is for this reason [my] book concludes with blueprints for constructing or reinterpreting theories so as to bring them under the control of belief in God. These include guidelines for a theory of reality, a theory of society, and a political theory, all of which consciously attempt to make the Judeo-Christian idea of God their controlling presupposition.

On the other hand, Clouser believes that such theoretical and religious differences will not result in antagonism. Instead, these differing blueprints of the world and ourselves will result in relations very much like those in a liberal, democratic social order. He responds to the question of whether such deep and profound differences will divide people and set them at odds:

For it means that theories are the products of spiritual faith communities working out explanations which differ relative to their religious beliefs. Moreover, the position goes beyond simply uncovering that religious control has in fact occurred. It argues that such control is unavoidable because the role of religious belief is embedded in the very nature of theoretical reasoning. In addition, it acknowledges that because theoretical reasoning is always faith-directed there can be no religiously neutral faculty or procedure by which religious beliefs themselves can be adjudicated. So won’t this position result in isolating the “isms” of philosophy and science and encouraging intolerance among them? . . .

The answer to such questions is that nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, pointing out the root causes of theory differences does not itself produce intolerance or lack of communication on the part of those who differ, any more than it produces the differences themselves. Intolerance and unwillingness to communicate with those who disagree are the fruits of the sin that infects human nature, not of uncovering the ultimate cause of disagreements. . .

The second part of our reply is even more important. It is that uncovering the religious roots of theoretical perspectives actually opens the way to more fruitful communication than is otherwise possible. . . . recognizing that all people have religious beliefs which regulate their theorizing can allow thinkers a mutual respect of one another’s large-scale theory differences as expressions of their alternative faiths. They may then be able to appreciate why others, starting from their contrary religious beliefs, developed their opposing theories in just the way they did. On this basis they can then explore any points of contact and agreement they may have, as well as gain greater insight into the nature of their genuinely irreconcilable differences. And this may all be done without the temptation of either side to view the other as sub-rational.

Wow! Who knew that religion was such a source of friendship and mutual good will? Sure, creeds were divisive and resulted in military conflict before the Enlightenment, and sure, the Irish are still conflicted over religion not to mention those delicate matters of Middle Eastern politcs. But apparently worldviews are swell and will give us what creeds couldn’t – a utopian world of peace and harmony.

Clouser leaves me wondering how seriously he takes faith. If it goes all the way down in one’s worldview and yet is not bothered by the false god or idol motivating my fellow interlocutor, citizen, or neighbor, how much does that faith take seriously the first of the Ten Commandments? Could it be the Clouser, like many neo-Calvinists, talks a better game of antithesis than liberal, democratic secular society allows him to practice?