NTW Takes a Whack at Two Kingdoms

First, critics of the “two-kingdoms” ethic should reckon with the company in which it puts them. Mike Horton explains. Could it be that they are moved by the same sets of concerns and categories of analysis or even of exegesis? Second, it turns out that, despite some orthodox affirmations, the system still ends up in moralism.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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16 comments

  1. You seem to say there are only two alternatives: the two-kingdom view or moralism.

    Of course, if the contemporary advocates of a two-kingdom view had Calvin’s two-kingdom view, they would be theocrats.

    That’s just to say there are more possible permutations than simply the contemporary (neo)two-kingdom view or moralism. There is indeed a view that is critical of the contemporary neo-twokingdom view and is not moralistic, and sides with the neo-twokingdom’ers against the NewPerspective moralism.

  2. Baus, I agree. But it seems no matter how many times folks point out these types of distinctions to the W2K advocates, they continue to shun them in favor of simplistic either-or categories. But hey, these guys love dualisms. Check out John Frame’s review of Horton’s book “Christless Christianity” for an in-depth examination of the failure to make proper distinctions. http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2009Horton.htm

    • Frame isn’t the fellow to whom one wants to appeal in defense of distnctions. Misrepresentation, moralism, and latitudinarianism – he thinks Osteen has a point! and he thinks Norm Shepherd is a brilliant theologian – yes, but distinctions, no. Even John’s friends and defenders are embarrassed by this gaffe.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Rest assured, the alternative to which I refer is not Frame’s. I’m a rabid anti-Framean.

        But my point about alternatives remains.

      • Dr. Clark, I have a lot of respect for you and your stance on the confessions, but here it seems that an uncharacteristic flavor is being exhibited–ad hominem. It shouldn’t matter who Dr. Frame respects or distances himself from. As I see it, others who have commented on his books also have lauded him for his work in covenant theology. Should we then characteristically distance our critiques in a similar fashion? “Well Ferguson said something good about Frame, and Frame think Osteen has a point. Let’s not credit him either.” Dr. Frame has always been a middle-man. Back when WTS had the incipient trials with Bahnsen’s theonomy, Frame was even then a cautious man–shouldn’t we all be that way? In fact, his essay in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, he only seems to mitigate the tension rather than a full blown critique. This is Frame characteristically.

        • According to Meredith Kline, Frame’s multiperspectivalism blurs important differences. Multiperspectivalism is error-prone precisely because it attempts to mitigate inherently contradictory views.

          In a follow-up to a 1986 Westminister California Seminary faculty forum on theonomy, Kline concludes his critique of Frame’s contribution with “Is it an acceptable method of doing theology?” It’s online:

          http://www.covopc.org/Kline/Kline_Critique_Perspectivalism.html

    • Dualisms are cool, yes, but triadalism is actually the key to 2K.

      But if Frame is right then the RPW gets applied to all of life (bye-bye, liberty) and worship includes “bring your dog to church day.” Is it really that hard to figure out that if everything is grace then nothing is?

    • So, Dr. Frame scolds Dr. Horton for his “serious indictment” of the American church, but concludes with a similar charge that Dr. Horton’s theology, of all things, is dangerous to the church. Is this the Bizarro world? Does he really believe that Dr. Horton, of all people, poses a threat to the church? Wow.

  3. Frame doesn’t like Horton’s book? Well, what else is knew? Frame didn’t care for Richard Muller or David Wells and repeatedly disagrees with Van Til-but thinks very highly of Norman Shepherd and has defended the Federal Vison. Hmmm, but he doesn’t like Horton’s latest book…

  4. Looks to me that Frame’s only “gaffe” was comparing Horton with Scripture, and then having Horton come up short. That truly will be a gaffe to someone intent in pushing their agenda instead of the Bible. I can’t wait to see someone try and show that Frame is using the Bible incorrectly in his analysis of Horton.

  5. Frame disregards so adamantly the Law and Gospel distinction: http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2002Law.htm
    So I’m not surprised on his review on the Gospel Driven Life.

    I’m confused because he gives a positive book puff on Concise Reformed Theology (1992) by J. Van Genderen and W.H. Velema, but the book book drenched with and affirming this law and gospel distinction.

      • In regards to the Law and Gospel distinction this link is helpful http://www.wscal.edu/clark/classicalcovtheology.php#On_Law_and_Gospel

        Funny, Frame attacks the White Horse Inn in regards to the distinction:

        “The sharp distinction between law and gospel is becoming popular in Reformed, as well as Lutheran circles. It is the view of Westminster Seminary California, Modern Reformation magazine, and the White Horse Inn radio broadcast. The leaders of these organizations are very insistent that theirs is the only biblical view of the matter. One has recently claimed that people who hold a different view repudiate the Reformation and even deny the gospel itself. On that view, we must use the term gospel only in what the Formula calls the “proper” sense, not in the biblical sense. I believe that we should stand with the Scriptures against this tradition.”

        Yet he promotes a book with a book puff so drenched in it:

        50.3 Law and Gospel

        1. The Word of God comprises law and gospel. In the law God reveals his will to us. His law encompasses much more than the “ten words” of Exodus 20 (Deut. 5), although the Decalogue is indeed of fundamental significance for the relationship between the Lord and his people. The core of the commandments is the commandment to love (Matt. 22:37-40). The gospel proclaims to us salvation in Christ. It comes to us in the promise of the gospel.

        Through Luther the distinction between law and gospel became an important theological theme. It cannot be equated with the distinction between the Old and New Testaments, although it was customary to do so from the early centuries of Christianity till the Middle Ages. The result was that the gospel came to be viewed as a new and more perfect law.

        Luther reacted to the legal interpretation of the Gospel, which he associated largely with Rome, by contrasting the law and the gospel. At no price could the law be confused with the gospel. Luther defined both the law and the gospel in terms of their roles: The law serves to identify sin and the gospel serves to forgive sin. While the gospel contains the promise of Christ, it is the role of the law to demand, to accuse, and to condemn. According to Luther, this is not the only, but definitely the most important role of God’s law.

        For the classic Reformed view we refer especially to Calvin. According to this Reformer, the distinction between the law and the gospel is consistent with the unity of the Word of God. In the covenant of grace, demand and promise, law and gospel go hand in hand. The gospel grants what the law requires.

        From Concise Reformed Dogmatics – J. van Genderen and W.H. Velema

        (pages 771-772, Chapter 14 The Means of Grace, The Word as a means of grace. The italics belong to the authors)

  6. Also,

    5.2 Special Revelation

    When a distinction is made between general and special revelation a description or definition of special revelation is in order. Bavinck provided the following one: It “is that conscious and free act of God by which, he, in the way of a historical complex of special means (theophany, prophecy, miracle) that are concentrated in the person of Christ, makes himself known–specifically in the attributes of his justice and grace, in the proclamation of law and gospel–to those human beings who live in the light of this special revelation in order that they may accept the grace of God by faith in Christ or, in case of impenitence, receive a more severe judgement. One might opt for a shorter formulation: it is that revelation of through which, by special means which have their focus and climax on Christ, he has disclosed a way of life for sinners, whom he grants to live in this light.

    From Concise Reformed Dogmatics – Genderen and Velema
    (52, 53. )

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