Heidelcast 40: Christ, Culture, And Confession

We confess that Christ is Lord but what does that entail for the way Christians relate to the broader culture? Are we Christians because the culture is Christian? Do Christians separate themselves completely from the culture? Are we called to transform the culture or to dominate it? We confess that Christ is our sole Mediator and our king but do we confess that he relates to the magistrate in the same way he relates to the church? These are not easy questions to answer and Reformed folk have answered these questions in a variety of ways. In this episode the Heidelcast takes a crack at them by considering three different New Testament passages, by looking at a neglected Reformed confessional statement, and some examples from the history of the Reformed churches. We also talk with the Rev. Dr Brian Lee, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington D. C. about a difficult test case faced by the United Reformed Churches in North America.

Here’s episode 40:

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33 comments

  1. On an iphone or ipad all you have to do is click on the icon and iOS will take you right to the official apple podcast app if you have it installed and ask if you want to subscribe. Sweet!

  2. Brother Scott, I have a few questions. Thanks in advance.

    If the civil magistrate is a “minister of God”. Is the civil magistrate then, not personally but in his calling as a civil magistrate, required to uphold and secure that the land of which he is a magistrate uphold and observe either of, neither of, or both tables of the law of God? Why or why not?

    Second, and this can be seen as correlative of the first, in which manner can the pagan civil magistrate be a “minister of God” if he is not only ignorant of but opposed to the laws from Whom he has derived his authority and is Himself, both in his person and calling, opposed to the kingship of Christ over “all things”? (I Cor 15:27)

    Third, when the contemporary pagan civil magistrate offers legal protection to all groups of people, such as those of an LGBT persuasion, and criminalizes those who would testify against such a destructive lifestyle (as is happening now, just google Sexual Minorities Uganda vs. Scott Lively) how can the church of Christ possibly lead “a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty”? (I Tim 2:2)

    • Victor,

      1. Re Caesar as “minister of God.” What did Paul intend for us to think about Pagan Nero? He intended that we should consider that when pagan Nero (or Claudius or Domitian or whoever) punishes criminals, he does do on God’s behalf. What law did Paul expect Nero to uphold? The law that he knew. Which law is that? The law revealed by God in nature and in every human conscience. We must interpret Rom 13 in light of Rom 1-2. There is not a shred of evidence in Romans that Paul expected Nero et al to uphold, e.g., the 1st table of the decalogue, i.e., to enforce Christian orthodoxy. Remember, Nero killed Christians most unjustly.

      2. Paul calls Nero et al God’s minister. He doesn’t qualify it in any way. He doesn’t say that Nero is God’s minister if Nero affirms Christ as Lord or Mediatorial king. No, Nero is God’s minister, full stop.

      3. How did Christians live peaceful and godly lives when believers were being martyred under Nero or Trajan (c. 114). Paul and Peter did not condition this doctrine on the quality of the magistrate. See 1 Peter 2 and 4. We can’t change the terms of their teaching by adding qualifications where they did not.

      May we appeal to magistrates for justice and relief? Yes. May we appeal to lesser magistrates to restrain superior magistrates (federalism)? Calvin et al said yes. Some of them (e.g., Beza) argued for a more elaborate doctrine of resistance to tyrants based on this approach. See this series on Althusius.

    • Thank you brother.

      1. Are you saying that Nero, in the capacity of civil magistrate, based on the law he knew (as an unregenerate man might I say), punished God’s people on God’s behalf? I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly. In other words, are you saying that when a court of law persecutes a Christian for testifying against homosexuality, for example, it is acting on God’s behalf? Is the magistrate acting on God’s behalf with every law and decision he makes? Or only in those laws such as are approved by God’s law in scripture?

      2. Re Natural Law. You ask “What law did Paul expect Nero to uphold? The law that he knew. Which law is that? The law revealed by God in nature and in every human conscience.” Does it now follow then, since natural knowledge about the creator is embedded, albeit suppressed, in every human being’s conscience (Rom 1:18-19), that a civil magistrate is under obligation as minister of God to uphold and establish Theism?

      3. You say, “May we appeal to magistrates for justice and relief? Yes.” On what ground brother Scott? If the magistrate is acting on behalf of God when it punishes criminals, and if the law of the land says one if free to worship as human reason dictates, such as in the USA, how can Christians oppose any form of idolatry in the public arena in any meaningful way? Or perhaps, Christians shouldn’t advocate theism?

      4. Paul says, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…For he is the minister of God to thee for good.” What definition of good and evil was Paul working with? Was it one based on natural law? By quoting from the second table of the law (Rom. 13:9), was not Paul using the revealed will of God in the scriptures as his basis?

    • Victor,

      I’ll intersperse responses below:

      1. Are you saying that Nero, in the capacity of civil magistrate, based on the law he knew (as an unregenerate man might I say), punished God’s people on God’s behalf? I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly. In other words, are you saying that when a court of law persecutes a Christian for testifying against homosexuality, for example, it is acting on God’s behalf? Is the magistrate acting on God’s behalf with every law and decision he makes? Or only in those laws such as are approved by God’s law in scripture?

      Paul doesn’t address persecution in Romans 13. Peter does, however, in 1 Peter 2 and 4. In 2 he says that it’s one thing to suffer as a criminal. It’s another to suffer for the faith. In ch.4 he says that we should expect to suffer for the faith and he seems to envision that might come from the magistrate but behind that, of course, is God’s sovereign providence.

      I tried to say in the broadcast that, when he punishes criminals, Nero is acting as God’s minister. That’s what Paul says. Does he become something other than God’s minister when he persecutes Christians? Well, God is certainly using him but Nero, for his part, would be acting unjustly and would not be acting in accordance with his office, which Paul says, is to uphold justice.

      2.

      Re Natural Law. You ask “What law did Paul expect Nero to uphold? The law that he knew. Which law is that? The law revealed by God in nature and in every human conscience.”

      Does it now follow then, since natural knowledge about the creator is embedded, albeit suppressed, in every human being’s conscience (Rom 1:18-19), that a civil magistrate is under obligation as minister of God to uphold and establish Theism?

      Neither Paul nor any other NT writer says anything about the magistrate upholding Theism. The only thing that the apostles explicitly addressed was the punishment of criminals and the possibility of persecution (Peter).

      The Christians of the 2nd century did not ask the magistrate to enforce theism. They asked the magistrate to stop killing them please.

      3. You say, “May we appeal to magistrates for justice and relief? Yes.” On what ground brother Scott? If the magistrate is acting on behalf of God when it punishes criminals, and if the law of the land says one if free to worship as human reason dictates, such as in the USA, how can Christians oppose any form of idolatry in the public arena in any meaningful way? Or perhaps, Christians shouldn’t advocate theism?

      Paul did assert his rights as a Roman citizen with the expectation that those rights would be honored. How did he know to expect that? The people who took him to Rome for his appeal were not believers. They were pagans operating on the basis of their natural knowledge of the law, which, as you note, they were also suppressing (at least relative to God and Christ).

      4. Paul says, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…For he is the minister of God to thee for good.” What definition of good and evil was Paul working with? Was it one based on natural law? By quoting from the second table of the law (Rom. 13:9), was not Paul using the revealed will of God in the scriptures as his basis?

      Did Nero read Scripture? Was Nero following Scripture? The same law that is in the decalogue is, in substance, the same law in nature. Don’t you find it interesting that Paul quotes from the second table and not the first? As far as I can tell, Paul wants us to think that all humans, including pagan magistrates, know the 2nd table. On this see Calvin: http://rscottclark.org/wp-content/documents/1998rsclexnat.pdf.

    • Thank you for your responses brother Scott.

      I have one more follow up question in reference to…

      “Neither Paul nor any other NT writer says anything about the magistrate upholding Theism. The only thing that the apostles explicitly addressed was the punishment of criminals and the possibility of persecution (Peter).

      The Christians of the 2nd century did not ask the magistrate to enforce theism.”

      Brother Scott, based on your response above then, is it not a misapplication of the Westminster Divines and contrary to NT principles to apply I Tim 2:2 to question 191 of the Larger Catechism (quoted briefly below)?

      “Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition?
      A. In the second petition we pray…[that the church be] countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate.”

      Is it a fair assumption of mine that you are not in agreement with the above clause?

      In your view, is Article 36 of the Belgic Confession also misleading?

      “And the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word.”

      If I’m reading you correctly when you say that “Neither Paul nor any other NT writer [say] anything about the magistrate upholding Theism” then one must logically deduce from that that the above segments of our confessions are wrong on this point. Is that a fair assumption?

    • I know you’re an American Mr. Clark. I also am an American and know plenty more American Reformed Presbyterians who do not espouse the revised “American” revisions because we see them as an attempt to “remove the ancient landmarks which our fathers have set.” (Prov. 22:28.) This I suppose is where we will have to agree to disagree and where I end my query. Once again, your humble and meek attitude in your responses is commendable and laudable. Thanks for engaging me brother Clark.

  3. DG Hart made the point the other day that when WCF 31 was revised it seems LC 191 may have been missed by the revisers. Maybe, maybe not. I read LC 191 as addressing our prayer to God regarding the church in this world… that it be countenance and maintained by the civil magistrate. In other words a prayer such as, “Heavenly Father we ask that you grant that your church be looked upon with favor by our civil leaders and that they would see fit to enact laws that allow her freedom to grow and spread your gospel” is consistent with the LP 2nd petition. LC 191 doesn’t seem to be prescribing or mandating a duty of the state towards the church, especially in light of WCF 31 revised.

  4. Brother Scott, I would really appreciate any feedback on some inquiries I developed while listening to this podcast.

    A few versus come to mind:

    Psalm 2:7-12 NASB

    “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD :
    He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
    Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
    And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
    You shall shatter them like earthenware.'” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
    Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence
    And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
    For His wrath may soon be kindled.
    How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

    1. Does the Schoolmaster have no instruction for the earthly magistrate concerning the preservation of true worship and righteous liberty?

    2. Which nation has the Father not yet given to King Jesus? Which end of earth does Christ not possess?

    3. How serious should the judges of the earth take the warning? Shouldn’t the Church, unless they perceive it to be a strange thing to do homage to the Son, if they have opportunity to do so without the threat of persecution, as was not the case with Nero’s kingdom, warn the magistrate?

    Romans 13:3-7 NASB

    For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

    1. I will easily grant that all civil authorities are the minister of God, however, what, if not that very morality expressed in God’s law, do we imagine these ministers ought to be promoting?

    2. Your description of Nero and the oppressed church under his reign was helpful, but one cannot deny the blessing Nero, and his kingdom, would have enjoyed, with the Church, had he taken refuge under Christ’s Lordship. If it be their very purpose to restrain evil, what better resource on ethics and morality do civil authorities have, for the fashioning of laws that will either restrain or promote evil, than the holy scriptures?

    3. Isn’t it in the best interests of every nation that the civil authorities confess Christ as King and structure their kingdoms according to the virtue ethics of the scripture?

    Thank you for hosting this discussion.

    Sincerely,

    -Joshua

    • Hi Joshua,

      See the reply to Jason (above or below I don’t know).

      1. Where does the NT indicate that the magistrate, after the end of the old covenant, has anything to say about worship? Does Paul think that Nero has anything to say about worship? I might be wrong but I think even Symington says that the magistrate has nothing to say about the church’s worship.

      2. Why should we attempt to read the OT in this regard in a way that we do not read it in other regards? In other words, why do we want to change our hermeneutic (our way of reading Scripture) when it comes to the magistrate? I’ll tell you why people do it: because they know a priori what must be the case rather than following the NT pattern as we do on other matters. E.g., why aren’t most Reformed folk dispensational? Because we follow the NT pattern of reading the OT. We know that when we do that we see that there are not two peoples of God, national Israel and the church. We see that there is one people variously administered. We see that the center of Scripture is not national Israel but the Christ. I’m saying that we need to use the same hermeneutic. We need to let the NT interpret the old re the magistrate and we need to let the NT teach us how to interpret the old and to follow that pattern consistently.

      3.Re Rom 13. Did Nero have access to Scripture? Did Claudius? Did Domitian? Were they God’s ministers? What magistrate until Constantine and after made reference to Scripture in making policy? None. Yet all of them were God’s ministers.

      4. Why do we seem to have such a difficult time with the Reformed doctrine of natural law. Here is an entire category of posts on this. The Reformed, even under Constantinianism, always taught natural law. It is God’s revealed moral will/law for the civil realm. It is made to be known. It is known.

      5. Is it a blessing when Christian rulers consult Scripture? Sure but where in the NT (or the OT read properly) do we find this as a norm or even an expectation? Aren’t you making an implicitly utilitarian or pragmatic argument? Now weren’t not even trying to consider what Scripture actually says about magistrates and Christian vocation in the civil realm. Now we’re discussing eschatology and speculation about the future (what might be). We’re not even discussing “good and necessary consequences” from Scriptural teaching.

    • Brother Scott,

      Thank you for taking the time to reply to my inquiries. I am thoroughly enjoying this discussion, which is why must get some additional feedback.

      1. Where does the NT indicate that the magistrate, after the end of the old covenant, has anything to say about worship?

      1. Nowhere in the NT do I find a magistrate, contemporaneous to the apostles, concerned about the preservation of true worship within their kingdom, but the lack thereof is surely no prescription for the magistrate. Should the magistrate not be concerned about worship? Precedent has already been established by Christ’s command in Psalm 2. Where exactly does the NT assert a repeal of this law to the judges?
      Furthermore, because the inspired songs for worship testified of the Father’s decision to unfold, at Christ’s ascension to the throne, the reality of the Son’s rule amidst the enemies of His Kingdom, UNTIL He fashions those enemies as a footstool for the Son’s feet, the value of whatever the magistrate might say about this worship, led by the Son, should be appraised with its relationship to the Regulative Principle in view. Considering the times, I don’t find the silence surprising.

      2. Does Paul think that Nero has anything to say about worship?

      2. Why should Paul care about what pagan Nero thinks about worship? Paul’s uninspired speculations about the secret thoughts of Nero might not be helpful at all, and therefore, really have no bearing on matters concerning the truth.

      3. I might be wrong but I think even Symington says that the magistrate has nothing to say about the church’s worship.

      3. Noted, I’m interested to look into this.

      4. Why should we attempt to read the OT in this regard in a way that we do not read it in other regards? In other words, why do we want to change our hermeneutic (our way of reading Scripture) when it comes to the magistrate? I’ll tell you why people do it: because they know a priori what must be the case rather than following the NT pattern as we do on other matters.

      4. Not sure I follow. Are you supposing mutual exclusivity between a priori knowledge and a sound NT hermeneutic?

      5. E.g. why aren’t most Reformed folk dispensational? Because we follow the NT pattern of reading the OT. We know that when we do that we see that there are not two peoples of God, national Israel and the church. We see that there is one people variously administered. We see that the center of Scripture is not national Israel but the Christ. I’m saying that we need to use the same hermeneutic. We need to let the NT interpret the old re the magistrate and we need to let the NT teach us how to interpret the old and to follow that pattern consistently.

      5. I agree. However, the difference between our hermeneutics, with respect to the scope and quality of Christ’s reign, is not a matter of consistency, rather, is in the degree of optimism it holds. When did Presbyterians become so pessimistic about calling the nations to covenant with King Jesus?

      6.Re Rom 13. Did Nero have access to Scripture? Did Claudius? Did Domitian? Were they God’s ministers? What magistrate until Constantine and after made reference to Scripture in making policy? None. Yet all of them were God’s ministers.

      6. I understand that most magistrates have despised the law of God, nevertheless, I see no prescription for the magistrate here. What do we suppose the magistrate OUGHT to do in order to avoid the wrath of Christ?

      7. Why do we seem to have such a difficult time with the Reformed doctrine of natural law. Here is an entire category of posts on this. The Reformed, even under Constantinianism, always taught natural law. It is God’s revealed moral will/law for the civil realm. It is made to be known. It is known.

      7. And what do we make of the Reformed/Presbyterian doctrine concerning his mediatorial kingship, as confessed in our catechisms? Now here’s where consistency comes into play.

      WMLC, Question 45: How does Christ execute the office of a king?
      Answer: Christ executes 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.

      8. Is it a blessing when Christian rulers consult Scripture? Sure but where in the NT (or the OT read properly) do we find this as a norm or even an expectation?

      8. We don’t find in the NT/OT the singing of uninspired hymns as a norm or expectation for the church, but surely the regulative principle has been violated. Similarly, magistrates have also failed to reverence Christ’s mediatorial kingship when they ignore his warning.

      9. Aren’t you making an implicitly utilitarian or pragmatic argument? Now weren’t not even trying to consider what Scripture actually says about magistrates and Christian vocation in the civil realm. Now we’re discussing eschatology and speculation about the future (what might be). We’re not even discussing “good and necessary consequences” from Scriptural teaching.

      9. Of course that’s not how I’d characterize my own argument, but I can see why it might feel that way. Maybe it’s the tone, ethos, or eschatology of optimism, your picking up on. I will admit though, that I do appreciate the Truths in scripture as inherently being the MOST utilitarian and pragmatic.

      Thank you for your considerations.

      Sincerely,

      -Joshua

  5. Joshua,

    If I may, Psalm 2:7-8 declare that Jesus Christ is already King over all the earth.

    “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD :
    He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
    Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
    And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.”

    Yet Psalm 2: 9-10 speaks of Jesus destroying the nations …
    “You shall break them with a rod of iron,
    You shall shatter them like earthenware.”

    We see the sovereignty of Christ in HISTORY.

    The rest of Psalm 2 is the THEOLOGICAL use of the Law …

    “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
    Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence
    And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
    For His wrath may soon be kindled.” …

    Except for the Gospel in “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”

    In other words, Law and Gospel as applied to the civil magistrates.

    Thus, Psalm 2 doesn’t speak of the civil magistrates under the obligation to uphold the 1st table or even the 2nd table of the Law. The kingship of CHRIST is not dependent on earthly kingship. Rather, as Psalm 2:19 says, it is the other way round.

  6. Joshua,

    “1. Does the Schoolmaster have no instruction for the earthly magistrate concerning the preservation of true worship and righteous liberty?”

    Yes, but this belongs to the political use of the Law – which changes according to situation. This use of the Law is context-specific and its purpose to maintain order and stability (as per Romans 13). What was relevant (re your point 1) in the past may no longer be so in the present.

    “2. Which nation has the Father not yet given to King Jesus? Which end of earth does Christ not possess?”

    As it, Psalm 2 says that the Father (not the Church) GIVES the nations to the Son.

    “3. How serious should the judges of the earth take the warning? Shouldn’t the Church, unless they perceive it to be a strange thing to do homage to the Son, if they have opportunity to do so without the threat of persecution, as was not the case with Nero’s kingdom, warn the magistrate?”

    Yes, indeed. But this is the theological use of Law which should not be confused with the political use of the Law.

    The theological use of the Law is to kill and destroy in the ABSOLUTE/ULTIMATE sense; the political use of the Law is to restrain, curb and preserve in the RELATIVE/PENULTIMATE sense.

  7. Joshua,

    The promise of the New Testament is eschatological, i.e. the new creation is given to us in, with and under old creation. This is why we walk by FAITH, not sight. By FAITH, we receive this world back as a gift – which for the time being whilst awaiting the return of Christ for one last time, we are to take care for the sake of the neighbour.

  8. Mr. Clark,

    The opportunity to listen to your podcast was enjoyable, thank you.

    In regards to the discussion of how Christians ought to relate to the pagan cultures around them, is it safe to assume that, according to the scripture, we are commanded to advance the greatest of all cultures? -Christianity.
    Matt 28:19&20 comes to mind, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Other NT passages read similar. Believers are commanded to replace their pagan cultures with a Christian culture (Which could be characterized as living according to the scripture- Law and Gospel).
    It seems as though, with the Reformation, the Church regained some of the Christian culture that Rome had hidden.

    There is no doubt that some civil magistrates, who derive their authority from God, also recognize His rule in giving them authority, especially those authorities who have been converted. In this way, it would seem that the Roman 13 applies to (at least) the Christian magistrate as well as the Christian subject.
    But how do you deal with Psalm 2? Which speaks to the magistrate more generally, “Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence. And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled.”

    Would you agree that it is be better for the Church if the civil magistrate consists of Christians (and the more the better), who uphold the Law of God? (Which I contend is the best foundation for any rule of law.) It is certainly better than the U.S. Constitution, which pays no homage to the Son, and establishes a standard for moral law that is anti-Christ: the idolatry of human reason and pluralism.

    Is there any conflict (from 1 Thess 4:11) for a Christian who participates in a government hostile towards Christ? How will he live a quiet life and attend to his own business (fulfilling 1 Thess 4:11) if he is the civil official of the system hostile towards the law of God? Suppose it comes down to martyrdom or denying Christ…
    Can we contrast this with Peter and John (Acts 4 & 5) responding disobediently to their authority, “We must obey God rather than men”?

    Thank you,

    -Jason

    • Jason,

      As I tried to suggest in the broadcast, Ps 2 cannot be interpreted as if there were no NT. as if there were no pattern in the NT for interpreting the typological Scriptures (everything before Christ), as if Luke 24 et al did not exist, as if the national covenant made with Israel were transferrable to other nations after the cross. Ps 2 has to be interpreted in light of Christ, in light of the end of the national covenant with Israel, in light of the abrogation of the civil and ceremonial laws. Ps 2 must be interpreted the way the apostles consistently interpret the Psalms. How does the NT interpret Ps 110? That’s a good pattern. They consistently interpret Ps 110 to refer to Christ’s heavenly session now. Ps 2 teaches us, in light of the NT, that Christ is ruling the nations now. That’s why Paul doesn’t appeal to Ps 2 in Rom 13 because the national covenant is done. Ps 2 isn’t intended to be taken as instruction to civil magistrates but to teach us, in typological language, about Christ’s reign right now until his return.

  9. Mr. Clark,

    Thank you kindly for responding to my comments.

    I’m still a little unclear about your interpretation of Psalm 2. Although, I do understand that certain elements in the Psalms are typological, and therefore abrogated in the NT. The use of musical instruments in the worship serves as one example of a typological element that ceases with the NT. Likewise, do you claim that the command in Psalm 2 to the judges (“Do homage to the Son”) ceases with the NT?
    In other words, is this command only for rulers of the OT? If so, then is it wrong for rulers in our age to “Do homage to the Son”? If not, then, in what way is this command merely typological, and inapplicable to the rulers of our age?

    And, what does this teach us about Christ’s reign until He returns?
    Because, Psalm 2:6, 102, 110, and others, seems to indicate that Christ’s mediatorial kingship extends to the Nations as much as it does the Church. For example, Psalm 2:6 appears to reference Christ’s formal assumption of His throne and the inauguration of His spiritual kingdom when He is place at the right hand of the Father, by the Father himself, until all of His enemies are brought into subjection (“made a footstool for His feet”).

    Although, a national covenant with Israel has ceased in the NT, does it then follow that any kind of national covenant between Rulers (along with their subjects) and God is to misapply the OT in a NT situation?
    If this were the case, then does it follow that Christian Rulers have no warrant from scripture to rule their kingdoms in covenant with God?

    At this point, our eschatology becomes apparent. Are we optimistic about the Christ’s kingdom expanding and the advancement of the Law and Gospel among the peoples? Since Christians are called to disciple the nations (Matt 28), what would a Christian nation look like if it were not in covenant with God? And could we even call such a nation Christian?
    The Psalms repeatedly speak of ‘the nations (plural), the eyes of all, all nations, all peoples, all His enemies, etc.’ Now, it is difficult for me to imagine, because of the inclusive nature of the Psalms, that they pertain only to ancient Israel and their national covenant. Moreover, it is difficult to accept that Christ is ruling the Universe and His Church, yet has nothing to say to the civil magistrates.
    Finally, I agree that the Psalms teach us about Christ’s reign until He returns. But are they not, at the same time, teaching us how the Rulers rule, and ought to rule, in light to Christ’s reigning kingship?

    Thanks again for your insightful response.

    -Jason

  10. I was convinced of the duty of the civil magistracy to countenance and maintain true religion not by reading American reformers but by going to the roots and actually reading for myself what the Covenanters had to say about the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ over the nations. Sadly, this is often willfully ignored and covered up by the contemporary reformed reader. In its place, we get a pseudo-account of Reformed history and are consequently robbed of its riches and legacy.

    http://truecovenanter.com/civilgovt/four_questions.html

    • Pancho,

      Rutherford called the view that became the orthodox covenanter view, “the heart of popery.” Neither he nor Perkins nor Gillespie accepted Mediatorial kingship of Christ over the magistrate. There were a variety of Reformed views before, during, and after the covenanters.

      http://heidelblog.net/2013/09/variety-of-reformed-views-on-mediatorial-kingship/
      http://heidelblog.net/2013/04/perkins-on-the-mediatorial-kingship-of-christ/
      http://heidelblog.net/2013/09/rutherford-on-the-mediatorial-kingship-of-christ/

      Yes, all the Reformers were Constantinians. Those same writers also, however, taught explicitly a two-kingdom distinction. Since Constantinianism was not much held before Constantine and there’s no evidence of it in the New Testament, I think it’s possible to hold the Reformed view of two kingdoms without the addition of Constantianism. I didn’t learn my view from the American Presbyterians etc but I do think they were right. So was Kuyper.

      http://heidelblog.net/2013/05/the-revision-of-belgic-confession-article-36-on-church-and-state-1/
      http://heidelblog.net/2013/05/the-revision-of-belgic-confession-article-36-on-church-and-state-2/
      http://heidelblog.net/2013/06/surrounded-by-constantinians/
      http://heidelblog.net/2013/03/belgic-confession-art-36-magistrate-advance-gospel/

      Will someone please show me where the NT teaches that the magistrate must enforce Christian orthodoxy (i.e., the 1st table of the law) either explicitly or by good and necessary inference. One cannot assume the conclusion. That is called begging the question. One must explain and defend one’s premises (major and minor) and show how one’s conclusion follows from the premises otherwise the argument isn’t valid.

    • “Will someone please show me where the NT teaches that the magistrate must enforce Christian orthodoxy (i.e., the 1st table of the law) either explicitly or by good and necessary inference.”

      Dr. Clark, I would like to see your response to the following points, which seem to me to prove by “good and necessary inference” that civil magistrates OUGHT to enforce Christian orthodoxy.

      “All the Question then before us is, About the Extent of the Magistrate’s Power: Some will have it now under the Gospel, to respect only Civil Matters and Moral Justice between Men, but that he hath not Authority in the Institutions of Revealed Religion under the Gospel. Hence it would follow, that he is not obliged to maintain by Laws the Gospel-Institutions. But the Affirmative is that which I undertake to make good, and that by the following Arguments.

      1. From the Efficient Cause of Magistracy.
      2. From the Formal Cause of Magistracy.
      3. From the Final Cause or End of Magistracy.
      4. From Scripture-Precept, and Precedent.

      1. That ’tis the Duty of Magistrates to promote and preserve by Laws the True Christian Religion, will appear from the consideration of the Efficient Cause of Magistracy, which is no other than God himself. Now God may be said to be the Cause, and so the Author, of Magistracy, in a threefold respect, viz. By his Law Natural, Moral, and Positive.

      1. By his Law Natural, implanted and written in the Heart of Man, by which Mankind is enabled to know and understand both the reasonableness, necessity, and utility of Political Government, in order to promote and preserve the good of Societies.

      2. By his Law Moral, thus the Fifth Commandment establisheth the Relation, and enjoineth the Duties between political Fathers and Subjects, as well as between natural Parents and their Children.

      3. God is also the Cause of Magistracy, by his positive Ordinance and Appointment: Thus he appointed Magistrates, both Ordinary and Extraordinary, under the Old Testament; And we find also the Office and Power of Magistracy ratified and confirmed by the New Testament, under the Gospel; the Apostle tells us, That all Powers are of God, and that not only by his providential Allowance and Toleration, but by his special Assignation and Appointment; therefore said to be ordained of God, Rom. 13.1,2, & therefore the Magistrate is said to be the Minister of God, ver. 4. Hence we find that all that Justice which the Magistrate executeth, is called the Justice of God, 2 Chron. 19.6. They are also called Gods, Psalm 82.1,6, because they are God’s Deputies and Vice-gerents, representing his Presence and his Power in the World.

      Now it cannot reasonably be supposed, that God would thus delegate his Power and Authority in the World to Magistrates, and so signally dignify and authorise them, but in order to some special Service they are to do for God in the World: And ’tis most reasonable, and morally just, that the Magistrate having his Power and Authority from God, he should employ it best for his Service in the World, which he cannot do, but by promoting and maintaining True Religion.

      Secondly, This will further appear from the consideration of the formal Cause of Magistracy, to wit, The Laws; for ’tis the Law that giveth Form and Being to the Magistrate, and is the life and soul of Government. Hence are those Axioms, Lex facit Regem,—Rex nihil potest, nisi quod jure potest. Now Laws do originally derive all their force from Religion, because the Moral Law of God is the Supreme Law of all Nations, and therefore the Ground and Rule of all Human Laws; which Law of God, we see, doth in the first place take care for Religion and the Worship of God, as the bottom and ground of all Duties of Moral Justice between men. Our Saviour tells us, That the first and great Commandment of the Law is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, Luke 10.27, which doth indeed include and prescribe the most exact way of Religion and Holiness, that can be.

      Now this Divine Law being both the Foundation and Directory of all other Laws, it must therefore follow, That all Human Laws by which Magistrates ought to Govern, should in the first place provide for True Religion and the Worship of God; for the Moral Law of God being the Supreme Law, and Rule of Life for all Mankind, is therefore the Rule of all Laws and Government, and all Human Laws, that have the true nature of Laws, are grounded on it, or reducible to it, or else they are but Tyrannical Impositions. Hence it is that the political Laws of Nations are said to have a kind of Sacredness in them, which is to be understood when they are founded (as they ought to be) on the Principles of the Law of God, & their Agreement thereunto giveth Force and Obligation to them; for the Obligation of Laws ariseth from the good End they tend unto, and are useful for, in conjunction with the Lawful Authority that imposeth them.

      So that now the Law of God, being the Rule of human Laws, whereunto they ought to correspond in all the precepts thereof respectively; it follows therefore, that the Laws of Magistrates, in conformity to the Law of God, which, we see, giveth the preference to first Table-Duties, ought also in the first place to provide for the Exercise of True Religion, and the Worship of God, as the ground of all other Laws that respect Moral Justice amongst men.

      Thirdly, From the final Cause or End of Magistracy, which is threefold;

      1. The Glory of GOD.
      2. The Good of Societies.
      3. The Good of the Church.

      First, The Glory of God; which as it is the chief and ultimate end of Man, so of all God’s Ordinances and Institutions, for the sake and good of Mankind, that in and by them the glory of God may be advanced: God then being the efficient Cause of Magistracy, it therefore follows, that his Glory must be the principal End: now ’tis the proper End and Use of Religion, to give glory to God; and without the practice of true Religion, the Divine Perfections are not actually adored and advanced. If then the end of Magistracy be to advance and set up the glory of God in the World, he ought to set up and maintain True Religion, as the greatest Glory can be brought to God in this World.

      Secondly, The good of Societies is the subordinate End of Magistracy; for as the Fundamental Human Causes of Government is the Necessity of it for the Public Good, so the End of Magistracy in that respect, is, that the Temporal Good and Tranquility of Societies may be promoted and preserved.

      Now, if there were no higher Causes and Ends of Magistracy than this, (as we have already, and shall further prove there is) yet nevertheless, it would be the Duty of Magistrates to take care for Religion, because ’tis very certain, that True Religion doth best of all conduce to the Temporal good of Societies: This is plain not only from the Scriptures, that assure us, that Godliness is profitable unto all things, 1 Tim. 4.8, but also from the reason and experience of Mankind. Therefore we see, that even in those Nations that were void of the knowledge of True Religion, yet those that were Legislators and Governors amongst them, always with their Laws mixed some Precepts of Religion and Opinion of God, some pretending they received their Laws from God himself. Whereby we see that they thought, that Laws and Government could not stand without something of Religion; which tho’ their religious Precepts were superstitious and idolatrous, in the want of Divine Revelation, yet nevertheless it thence appears, That the Law of Nature taught them not only the necessity and obligation of Government and Laws, but also that the sense of Religion was the most necessary Foundation of it.

      And then it will follow, that if any thing of Religion be necessary for the temporal good of Governments, that the True Religion is then best of all, and most necessary, that being the Spring and Foundation of all Virtues, from whence is to be drawn, not only the best Directions for, but the strongest Motives and Engagements unto all those Duties of Moral Justice and Charity amongst men, which are so absolutely necessary, even to the temporal good of Societies. It would be easy to demonstrate, that True Religion is certainly the best Foundation of all Political Government, and of the Execution of Laws, the Obedience of Subjects, and of the Exercise of that Justice and Charity between men, which only can render the life of man peaceable and happy in this World. If then the End of Magistracy and Civil Government were only for the temporal good of Societies, yet it would follow, that ’tis the Duty of Magistrates, to advance and maintain True Religion, because it chiefly conduceth, and is so necessary to this End.

      Thirdly, and lastly, The Special End of Magistracy is for the good of the Church, and that because Magistracy is not a mere natural and human Policy, but an Ordinance of God, still remaining such now under the Gospel, Rom. 13.1.

      Now ’tis certain, that all the Ordinances and Institutions of God, both Moral and Evangelical, do now in special belong to the Gospel-Church; for whatever Advantages any of the Heathen World do receive at any time by any of God’s Ordinances and Institutions, (as particularly by this of Magistracy) ’tis but for the sake of the Church, as the Dogs eat of the Children’s Crumbs. For ’tis to be noted, That as the Scriptures themselves, so also all the Precepts, Promises, Rights, Privileges, & Ordinances, granted and confirmed thereby, or contained therein, belongs primarily and especially to the Church of God. So that Magistracy then being an Ordinance of God, and having its Foundation in the Law and Word of God, it must follow, that the End of Magistracy is especially for the sake and good of the Church, and not only for the World.

      As for that lawful Magistracy that may be found in Heathen Nations, or without the Visible Church, the Power is truly said to be from God, because the Office of Magistracy is founded on his Law and Ordinance; but the Execution of this Power hath been and is in most Nations wickedly abused, and perverted from the proper and special Ends of it, appointed of God, to serve the Ambition, Tyranny, and Lusts of men; the ground and occasion of which proceeds from the same common Original with all other Immoralities in the life of man, to wit, the defection of mankind from God, and the depravity of the Human Nature by Sin. But as ’tis therefore no wonder, that the Ends of Magistracy are perverted, especially in those Nations that have forsaken God and fallen to Idolatry; so ’tis no Argument, that Magistracy is only for the world, as some suppose, and not especially for the good of the Church.

      Thus we find, that to this end was Magistracy appointed by God under the Old Testament, but while the Church of God, in the first Ages of the world, was but in small Families, & sometime only in one Family; their Civil Government cannot so properly be called Political, belonging to a State or Common-wealth, as Oeconomical, or the government of a Family: Yet we find, that then the care of Religion did belong to the Lord or Governour of the Family. And indeed, all lawful Government whatsoever being from GOD, doth carry in it an Obligation to the Care of Religion, for those under their power. Thus God saith of Abraham, Gen. 18.19, I know him, that he will command his Children and his Household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.

      But when the Visible Church of God, to wit, the Israelites, was multiplied into a Body of People, and set at liberty, from the Yoke of Egyptian Bondage, and so capable of being formed into a political Body or Common-wealth, God himself instituted an ordinary state of Magistracy, to continue in all their gates, Deut. 16.18, (besides extraordinary Magistrates from time to time, as Moses, Joshua, &c.) and to the Supreme Magistrates especially, was committed the Care of the right Administration of Religion and the Worship of God, as well as of Civil Justice between men; by which Examples God himself teacheth us not only the necessity and obligation of having a Magistracy over a Body of People, but also the office and duty whereunto it ought to be applied.

      And tho’ under the Gospel all the Kings and Governours of the World were in the first Ages of the Christian Church, and have been, for the most part, ever since Enemies to the Church, yet it doth not therefore follow, that because they have thus perverted their power, that it ought not to have been applied for the Church’s good, under the Gospel; for we find that ’tis prophesied of Kings, and promised also to the Gospel-Church, that Kings shall be her nursing-Fathers, and Queens her nursing-Mothers, Isa 49.23. And this prediction and promise hath in it the force and obligation of a Command, upon all Kings and Magistrates in the World, not only to believe in Christ, but to become nursing-Fathers to the Church; which Expression cannot imply less in it, than to employ their Power and Care, as Magistrates, to promote, succour, and defend the Church. Hence Kings are exhorted to kiss the Son, Psalm 2.12, which is a token of Homage and Subjection to Christ, who is now King of kings, and Lord of lords, Rev. 19.16. And all Power in Heaven and Earth is given unto him, Matt. 28.18. And therefore some would have all Magistratical Power to be derived from Christ, as he is the Mediator of the Church.

      Moreover, if we consider how much good pious and godly Magistrates may do to the Church, it will from thence further appear, That Magistracy, under the Gospel, is for the good of the Church, as by promoting its Interest, preserving its Privileges and Ordinances, suppressing Heresies, purging out Corruptions, opposing its Enemies, &c. Now we argue thus; that, If God hath made the Christian Magistrate, by his power and place in the World, capable of doing so much good for the Church, ’tis certain then, {8} that he is morally obliged to do it, for that every person, in his Place and Calling, is, for the sake of the Church, to seek its Good. Psalm. 122.9, Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy Good.

      Fourthly, The last Argument to prove, that ’tis the Duty of Magistrates under the Gospel, to promote and preserve True Religion, is drawn both from Scripture-precept and precedent.

      As for Scripture-Precept, we find, that by the Law of God, Sins against Religion and Divine Worship, which respect the first Table commands, were to be severely punished by the Magistrate. Thus the Blasphemer was to be put to death, Lev. 24.16. The false Prophet or Teacher, that would draw off any from the true Worship of God, or him or her that committed Idolatry, were to be put to death; Deut. 13.9,17, and the City that fell to Idolatry, was to be smitten with the edge of the Sword, Deut. 13.15. Now the Magistrate bearing the Sword of Justice, and being the Avenger of God against evil doers, ’tis to be understood, that by his Authority and Direction this was to be done.

      And for Scripture-Precedent, we find, that those that were godly Kings and Magistrates under the Old Testament, purged the Church from Idolatry, when corrupted, and restored the true Worship of God, caused both Priests and People to keep the Law of the Lord. Thus good Hezekiah suppresseth Idolatry, and setteth up the true Worship of God, 2 Kings 18.4. Josias did the like, and slew all the Priests of the high places, 2 Kings 23.20. Jehu destroyed all the Worshippers of Baal, 2 Kings 10.25. And King Asa with the people made a Law, That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be put to death, 2 Chron. 15.13. And these are approved for so doing; whereas those Kings that took no care of Religion, but did either set up Idolatry, or did not suppress it, are branded for such as did evil in the sight of the Lord.

      Objection. But it will be objected, That what the Magistrate thus did under the Old Testament, for the Cause of Religion, was but the Execution of God’s own Laws, which he was obliged to do, but that this is no Precedent for Christian Magistrates under the Gospel, because those Laws are now abrogated, and there are no new Laws prescribed by God under the Gospel, for the inflicting of any punishments, either pecuniary or corporal, for any Offences against Religion; and therefore the Magistrate hath no Authority to make Penal Laws for this end.

      Answer. Tho’ it be granted, That the Gospel prescribes no punishments for Offences against Religion; and that the Judicial Law also, as it was peculiar to that Nation, so is not precisely binding on any Nation under the Gospel; yet it will not therefore follow, that Magistrates may not make Penal Laws for Offences against Religion: for then upon that ground he may not make Laws for Offences against Second-Table-Commands, as Murder, Adultery, Theft, &c. for the New Testament doth not prescribe any. And therefore, on this account, some have been so wild, to think that no corporal punishments should be inflicted under the Gospel, by Christian men.

      But ’tis generally agreed by all, That the natural and moral part of the Law of Moses, (to wit) that which is founded on Reason and Moral Justice, is still obligatory on all Nations; and ’tis certain, that a great part of the Judicial Law is but an Exposition and Enforcement of the natural and moral Law of God: Hence most of the Penalties inflicted by that Law, for Offences against any of the Precepts of the moral Law, we may find that the reason and ground of the Penalty may in many things be drawn from the moral nature of the Crime, as well as from the Will of God prescribing the kind of Penalty. Now it cannot be denied, that where the reason and ground of the Penalty, for such and such Offences, is natural and moral, there those Penal Laws are so far still in force, that they remain on Record, both as Precedents and Engagements on all Nations, to make Laws in conformity to them. And surely, where we cannot so clearly see the reason of the penalty, yet where the Offence against the Law of God is the same, there the Will of God imposing penalties, for such and such Offences against his Law, is the best Rule and Pattern for the Laws of all Magistrates in the world.

      Now, If the Abolition of the Jewish Pedagogy, and their Civil State, for which these Penal Laws were more peculiarly adapted, doth not null the power of the Christian Magistrate, to make Penal Laws, for the Violation of Second-Table-Commands, as for Murder, Whoredom, Theft, &c. Why should it any more null his power to make Penal Laws for the Violation of First-Table-Commands, as for Idolatry, Superstition, Blasphemy, &c. for the First-Table-Commands have still the precedent Obligation to the Second; and the Violation of them have the same moral Obliquity and Guilt as under the Law? Therefore Laws to punish those Sins, have the same {10} Reason and moral Justice in them as the other: Hence it will follow that Magistrates are under equal Obligations to impose such Laws as the other.

      Objection. But it will be further objected, That Jesus Christ hath only appointed, under the Gospel, the Ministry of the Word (which is the Spiritual Sword) for the propagating and maintaining the Christian Religion: And Men are invited to believe and embrace this Religion upon free Choice and Election, and upon principles of pure Conviction and Conscience, and not compelled or forced to it by the power of the Sword; and that ’tis not agreeable to the Gospel Dispensation, that the Christian Religion should be promoted by a Temporal power, or men punished for disobedience to it.

      Answer. For answer, this mistake of denying the Authority of the Civil Magistrate in the matters of Religion, comes to pass, by not distinguishing between those two distinct Offices, viz. of the Ministry, and of the Magistracy; which are Offices of different Order, that have each their peculiar Properties and Employments, tho’ both to the great and general end of the Glory of God, and also the Good of the Church: The Ministerial Office is properly founded on Christ’s Commission, as Mediator of the Church, to whom are committed the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, both of Doctrine and of Discipline; but the Office of the Magistracy is of another Order, and founded on God’s Law, as he is Rector of the World, to whom is committed the Sword of Justice, and that not only between man and man, but between God and man. Magistracy therefore is not properly a Gospel, but a moral Institution. Now, as the Gospel doth not abrogate, but on the contrary doth establish the Obligations of the moral Law, Rom. 13.13, so by consequence it doth not null either the Office, or any part of the moral Duty of the Office of Magistracy, but on the contrary doth ratify and confirm it, as it doth all other matters of moral Duty and Religion.

      ‘Tis true also, that our Saviour only appointed the Ministry of the Word for the propagation of the Gospel, for he came into the world in the quality of a Prophet and Minister, and so propagated his Religion, and in that Capacity commissionated and sent forth his Apostles and Gospel-Ministers: He did not intermeddle with the Office of the Magistracy, but left that to stand on its own bottom, as founded on the Law and Ordinance of God; for tho’ he were {11} a King, yet his Kingdom were spiritual, and not of this world; and therefore as he took not the power of the Temporal Sword himself, (as he might have done upon Divine Right) so he gave no such power to any of the Ministerial Order.

      And we find also that God Almighty, in whose power are the Hearts of Kings and Magistrates, did not use their Power and Authority for the promotion and advancement of the Christian Religion, at the first; which he might have done, by effectually calling and converting them by his Grace, as well as others, and so inclining their Hearts to improve their Power and Office for his Glory, as was their Duty to do; but he did not, and that, no doubt, in great wisdom, that so the Gospel being propagated, by such weak and contemptible Instruments as the Apostles were, without concurrence of the Civil Power, yea, and against such great opposition from them, might be given to the world one of the most convincing Evidences that could be, of the truth of the Christian Religion.

      But it doth not follow thence, but that it was then the Duty of Magistrates, even when they were Enemies to Christ, both to believe in him, and to employ their Power for the Advancement of God’s True Religion and Worship, for this they were morally obliged to do from the nature of their Office. And therefore Christ’s employing the Gospel-ministers in a Ministerial way, doth not dissolve those Obligations that lie upon the Magistrate, by the moral Law of God, to take care for the Advancement and Security of True Religion; for seeing the Office of Magistracy is continued under the Gospel, we need no New Testament-Precepts to enforce his Duty in this respect, which is incumbent on him, not immediately by any Gospel-precept, but by a previous Obligation, antecedent to the Gospel-Ministry, which is moral and perpetual, inherent in his very Office and Dignity; that having Authority from God, and being in his Stead in the world, he should employ his power best for God’s service and glory.

      And as the Magistrate is not disobliged to promote and preserve True Religion under the Gospel, from the office of the Gospel-Ministry, employed to that end, neither is it disagreeable with the Gospel Dispensation, that he should do so, more than formerly under the Law; for the difference between the Law and the Gospel doth not lie in any of the moral Obligations of Religion, but chiefly {12} in the Positive, and Typical, and Ceremonial part, which is now fulfilled by the Coming of Christ, and so done away: but the moral part is still the same, as under the Old Testament, and those few positive Doctrines and Institutions, that are peculiar to the Gospel, are all included in the moral Law; for the First-Table Commandments do comprehend all the Doctrines and Ordinances of the Gospel, and require belief of them, and obedience to them; and indeed, the moral Law doth comprehend the whole Duty of man, for it requireth Belief in whatsoever God shall reveal, and Obedience to whatsoever He shall command.

      Now I argue thus; That if the whole Law of God be the Foundation and Rule of Laws and Magistracy, (as we noted before) then certainly the Magistrate is Keeper of both Tables of the Law, or else he is Keeper of neither. Hence it will then follow, that all the Gospel Institutions, thus included in the First-Table-Commands, are under the care of the Magistracy, as well as those Duties that respect the Second-Table-Commands.

      Thus ’tis very clear, That the Magistrate under the Gospel is bound by the Law of God to employ his power and care for true Religion, and the Worship of God. And if so, then he ought, no doubt, to make Laws for the promotion and support of it, for that the power and office of Magistracy is exerted by Laws, to which Laws ’tis necessary that there be a Sanction of Penalties upon the Breach of them; for if the Magistrate have only a mandative and preceptive power in the matters of Religion, and not power to inflict Penalties for the Violation of Laws, he may be said to bear the Sword in vain in that respect. And ’tis necessary to Laws, that they be backed with Penalties, not only to further obedience, but also to maintain the honour of the Law, and the authority of the Magistrate.

      But as to the Magistrate’s forcing persons to believe in Christ, this he cannot do, because Faith is an Act of the Understanding and the Will; but where the Faith of Christ is not generally professed he may both require the Attendance of the Person on the publick preaching of the Word, and also prohibit and suppress all publick profession and practice of Idolatry and false Religion: But this is not the Case in such Governments, where all have taken up the profession of Christ and his true Religion, at least in the speculative and doctrinal part of it, and have vowed by Baptism to adhere to that Religion both in profession and practice. Also where some {13} have taken on them the Ministerial Function in the Church, and thereby have obliged themselves to the Duties of the same, in these cases, doubtless, the Christian Magistrate may, according to the example of good Kings, under the Old Testament, require and cause by good Laws, both Ministers and People to do their respective Duties in Religion, and impose penalties for defections or neglects agreeable to the merit of the fault; and for grievous Offences against Religion, as Idolatry, Heresy, Blasphemy, &c. when they are certain and apparent, may doubtless inflict corporal punishments, after the example of God’s own Laws.

      And that the infliction of corporal punishments for great Offences against Religion, is not disagreeable with the Gospel Dispensation, appears plainly by the Examples of Peter, Acts 5.10, who using an extraordinary Authority, above that of the Ministry, did wonderfully put Ananias and Saphira to death, for Sacrilege and Lying; and Paul struck Elymas the Sorcerer with Blindness for opposing the Gospel, Acts 13.11, which miraculous ways of punishments were accommodated to that present state of the Church, in the want of Christian Magistrates to succour and defend it, who were then so far from maintaining the Interest of the Church, that they were the greatest Enemies to it, and Persecutors of it: But yet nevertheless those Examples prove, that corporal punishments for great Offences against Religion, are consistent with the Gospel Dispensation.

      Thus, I hope, I have sufficiently proved the power and duty of the Magistrate under the Gospel, to promote and maintain by Laws the True Religion, and so pass on to the Second Question.”

      Also, what conclusions did you come to when reading Gillespie’s work?

      “THE MYSTERY OF MAGISTRACY UNVAILED:
      OR,GOD’S ORDINANCE OF MAGISTRACY
      ASSERTED, CLEARED, AND VINDICATED,
      FROM HEATHENISH DOMINION, TYRANNOUS
      AND ANTI-CHRISTIAN USURPATION, DESPISERS
      OF DIGNITIES, AND CONTEMNERS OF AUTHORITIES.”

    • Furthermore, in your reference to Rutherford’s quote, isn’t he writing about Church Government? Of course, the civil magistrate has no authority and headship OVER the church and church matters–Christ has instituted Presbyterianism as the proper government of His church. That’s not to say however that the civil magistrate has no obligation to be a “nursing father” to the church by maintaining and promoting God’s word in the civil realm.

      Calvin in his prefatory address to French monarch, King Francis, writes,

      “The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word. For the heavenly oracle is infallible which has declared, that “where there is no vision the people perish” (Prov. 29:18).”

      Now, my question is, How can any king or magistrate expect real prosperity, that is God’s blessing, in his realm without putting to use God’s word to rule his subjects? Did Calvin tell King Francis, Use the natural law that has been given you. Calvin goes on to state,

      “But our doctrine must stand sublime above all the glory of the world, and invincible by all its power, because it is not ours, but that of the living God and his Anointed, whom the Father has appointed King, that he may rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth; and so rule as to smite the whole earth and its strength of iron and brass, its splendour of gold and silver, with the mere rod of his mouth, and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel; according to the magnificent predictions of the prophets respecting his kingdom (Dan. 2:34; Isaiah 11:4; Psalm 2:9).”

      Again, What doctrine does Calvin claim must reign supreme and “stand sublime” if not the Christian doctrine? In other words, what doctrine was King Francis obligated to accept and promote throughout his kingdom?

      You state,

      “I think it’s possible to hold the Reformed view of two kingdoms without the addition of Constantianism.”

      What I suspect is the problem is that you don’t see the “civil kingdom” under the reign of Christ at all. And if you do, you see it belonging to Him as God and second person of the Trinity. That being the case, you have a real problem answering the question, When Christ said “All authority has been given unto me” why would He say “given” if this authority has been His from all eternity? In what sense was “all authority given to Him”? As God and second person of the Trinity or as Mediator? If as Mediator, then it naturally follows that the “civil kingdoms” of this world lay under His Mediatorial Kingship and they are in turn obliged to “Kiss the Son lest they perish.”

  11. It is the case that the requirement for women to take the Lord’s Supper and for the infants of both genders to be baptised as members of the covenant community are not explicitly stated in the New Testament, yet we understand this to be the case from good and necessary consequence and from the continuity between the testaments regarding covenantal membership in the church. The argument that the civil magistrate is required to keep and maintain the free preaching of the gospel of Christ is no different. It is not required that the New Testament “repeat” what is made clear in the Old Testament if the continuity thereof is assumed. See the case of the moral law regarding bestiality and any number of other sins whose immorality are not repeated by the writers of the New Testament. We do not argue that their regulation has not continued merely because there is no record regarding them in letters of Paul or others.

    The fact that Nero was a bad magistrate and sought to snuff out the bride of Christ changes not what his duty ought to have been and he shall be judged as one that must give account for his wickedness and the failure to keep the duty that was required of him.

    I have dealt with your use of Rutherford against Symington on the thread you have linked above.

    • Pastor Glaser,

      Continuity and discontinuity issues are difficult but in the case that the national covenant with Israel was unique and has, as we confess, expired, then we cannot simply assume that what God established with national Israel continued into the NT. We can, however, assume substantial continuity with Abraham because we have explicit NT warrant.

      Knowing something a priori isn’t the same thing as a good and necessary consequence. Constantinianism isn’t a good and necessary inference. It’s an assumption.

      Rutherford and Gillespie didn’t accept the covenanter doctrine. That’s a fact, right?

  12. Well in the sense Rutherford/Gillespie didn’t hold to the particular “mediatorial kingship” of Christ as argued by Symington et al then no they didn’t accept that part of the “Covenanter doctrine”. But that is kind of splitting hairs as they all ended up in the same place, just from different starting points as I noted in the comment on the Rutherford blogpost.

    However Samuel Rutherford and George Gillespie argued for the abiding validity of the Solemn League and Covenant and the general doctrine of social covenanting for later generations. One only needs to take a cursory glance at works like Rutherford’s “Pretended Liberty of Conscience” or Gillespie’s “Aaron’s Rod Blossoming” to see that. They would have been in full agreement (and were) with the Covenanters on that front. John Cunningham illustrates this in his work, “The Ordinance of Covenanting”.

    Also when it comes to Rutherford/Gillespie/Symington/Cunningham,etc… they would agree that “expired” means “expired” when it comes to the judicial laws. Especially since Rutherford and Gillespie were present when 19.4 was written and saw no contradiction between social covenanting and the Confession of Faith. There is no commonality between “American Theonomy” and Covenanter doctrine here (and in a number of areas, especially when it comes to establishment and the 2nd and 4th Commandments and the doctrine of the church in general).

    Bahnsen/Rushdoony Theonomy is and should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

  13. Dr.. Clark,

    In a post you referenced above you write,

    “Many Reformed folk who advocate for a return to some version of Constantinianism don’t seem to be aware of how it developed, that it was historically conditioned nor do they seem to be aware of how it often it backfired on the Reformed Churches. Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920), however, was aware and was quite right about it.

    ‘That the acceptance and carrying out of this principle almost always has returned upon the heads of non-heretics and not the truth but heresy has been honored by the magistrate.’

    One of the more ironic evidences for Kuyper’s claim is the martyrdom of the author of the Belgic Confession, Guy de Bres. He was put to death in 1567 by the state because of his Protestantism. He has opportunity to resist and he did not. He was committed in principle to Constantinianism and it took his life. If we have to choose between Kuyper and the Constantinian, right-wing, neo-Kuyperians, we should side with Kuyper.”

    If I’m interpreting your rhetoric correctly, what you’re saying, is Hey guys, let’s not demand that the civil magistrate impose a religion on the civil realm because it might backfire on us and we might end up with a papist who will persecute and kill Christians.

    If this is the road you’re taking Dr. Clark I must say I’m saddened by the lack of conviction to face persecution for what is right and honorable. Many a faithful Christian would love to face death like Guy de Bres knowing they have been faithful to Christ and testified to the civil magistrate about the magistrate’s rightful duty to honor Christ in his calling.

    I’m afraid this is what scares most Christians today about this particular doctrine of the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ: it will most surely result in persecution and even death. I say, so be it.

  14. But it does NOT stop “here” — the civil magistrates would then NECESSARILY (by good and necessary consequence) be BOUND to INTERNATIONALISE what is actually a CRUSADE. Hence, Rutherford called the view that became the orthodox covenanter view, “the heart of POPERY.”

    All for what? For the Gospel? For Christ’s kingship?

    Jesus says that His Kingdom is NOT of THIS world. And that we are to render unto CAESAR (Antichrist ruler) that which BELONGS to him.

    Where we can we find the orthodox covenanter in Psalm 2? Please show, demonstrate, and not just assume as Dr Clark says.

    Paying homage to Christ is already to simply RECOGNISE that Christ IS King. It says nothing nor can we infer that the earthly rulers are obligated to enforce the 1st table of the Law (or even the 2nd table for that matter except where relevant in so far as the outward conduct is concerned).

    Jesus DEFIED the Mosaic Law – breaking the Sabbath, refusing the stone the adulteress, eating and associating with outcasts and “enemies” of society … This is the POLITICS of Jesus … it’s plain as the sunlight.

    Dr Darryl Hart is right to say that at the end of the day, the transformationalists (and by inclusion the covenanters) and theonomists don’t differ except in degree.

  15. Mr. Loh,

    In response to a few of your comments:

    “Jesus says that His Kingdom is NOT of THIS world. And that we are to render unto CAESAR (Antichrist ruler) that which BELONGS to him.”

    Yet we confess and pray as the Lord Jesus did, “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

    “Paying homage to Christ is already to simply RECOGNISE that Christ IS King. It says nothing nor can we infer that the earthly rulers are obligated to enforce the 1st table of the Law (or even the 2nd table for that matter except where relevant in so far as the outward conduct is concerned).”

    If not by His commandments, then by what other standard do you measure whether the civil magistrate pays homage to Christ as King?

    “Dr Darryl Hart is right to say that at the end of the day, the transformationalists (and by inclusion the covenanters) and theonomists don’t differ except in degree.”

    This can not be the worst thing in the world, to pray and work towards Christ’s kingdom coming, and for it to transform the whole world, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

  16. Dr. Clark,

    The more I think about your view, the more I am impressed with the fact that it is not historically Reformed. You claim that the 1st and 2nd tables of natural law can be separated in their civil application, but you provide no argument for such a separation. It is not obvious that Paul makes such a separation; after all, in Romans chapter 1 Paul’s first point in demonstrating the depravity of fallen men is that they suppress the knowledge of God that they do have by virtue of creation (natural law) and make for themselves idols in the place of God. That indicates that Paul holds to the unity of the two tables of natural law; there is no hint or suggestion that fallen sinners only have access to the 2nd table and there is no hint that fallen man is being held accountable by God for transgressing only the 2nd table but not the first. The most immediate and obvious manifestation of man’s fallenness and disobedience and therefore judgment worthiness is his idolatry (his transgression of the 1st table). Romans 13 and the instruction concerning the magistrates duty to enforce righteous laws cannot be severed from the broader context of Paul’s teaching about natural law which we have just demonstrated from Romans does not separate the 2 tables. One can no more hack the tables of the law in two than one can separate the Old Testament from the New Testament. If the method which you use to explain the magistrates duty to uphold only the 2nd table of the natural law is permitted to stand it will leave the church with 2 sets of moral laws something you know the Westminster Standards do not teach (WLC 91ff; WCF 19:1-2; WSC 40-41). No one in the Reformed camp historically has ever held this view and it is in real danger of slipping down the slope to dispensationalism or something even worse.

    It is also worth stating for the record, even though I know you are aware of it, that Calvin and Bullinger, two 16th century theologians you refer to in your blogcast, both firmly held that the magistrate is obligated to enforce both tables of the law. But since many in your audience may not be aware of it, permit me to quote both here so that this historical evidence is on the record, as well as some quotes from a few other no-name theologians as well.

    Calvin:
    no one has discussed the office of magistrate, the making of laws, and public welfare without beginning at religion and divine worship. And thus all have confessed that no government can be happily established unless piety is the first concern….as if God appointed rulers in his name to decide earthly controversies but overlooked what was of far greater importance—that he himself should be purely worshiped according to the prescription of his law (Institutes 4.20.9)

    MARTIN LUTHER:
    If some were to teach doctrines contradicting an article of faith, clearly grounded in Scripture and believed throughout the world by the whole Church, such as the articles that we teach children in the Creed, such teachers should not be tolerated, but punished as blasphemers.

    MARTIN BUCER affirms the same things as he says:
    Accordingly, in every state sanctified to God capital punishment must be ordered for all who have dared to injure religion, either by introducing a false and impious doctrine about the worship of God or by calling people away from the true worship of God (Deut 13:6-10 and 17:2-5); for all who blaspheme the name of God and his solemn services (Lev.24:15-16); who violate the Sabbath (Ex. 31:14-15, and 35:2; Num. 15: 32-36); who rebelliously despise the authority of parentsand live their own life wickedly (Deut.21:18-21); who are unwilling to submit to the sentence of a supreme tribunal (Deut.17: 8-12); who have committed bloodshed (Ex.21:12; Lev. 24:17; Deut. 19:11-13), adultery (Lev. 20:10), rape (Deut.22:20-25), kidnapping (Deut. 24:7); who have given false testimony in a capital case (Deut. 19:16-21).” (Martin Bucer 1491-1551” The Fourteenth Law: The Modification of Penalties” in Pauck ibid. pp.378-9)

    Bullinger to King Edward VI in 1550:
    Having my warrant therefore out of the word of God, I dare boldly avow, that those kings shall flourish and be in happy case, which wholly give and submit themselves and their kingdoms to Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, being King of kings, and Lord of lords; acknowledging him to be the mightiest prince and monarch of all, and themselves his vassals, subjects, and servants: For in so doing the kingdom shall flourish in peace and tranquillity, and the kings thereof shall be most wealthy, victorious, long-lived, and happy. (Henry Bullinger, Fifty godly and learned sermons divided into the five decades containing the chief and principal points of Christian religion, ed. Thomas Harding (1849-52 Parker edn; 4 vols, Grand Rapids, 2004), ii, 4-5.)

    2nd Helvetic Confession Article 30:
    The chief duty of the magistrate is to secure and preserve peace and public tranquillity. Doubtless he will never do this more successfully than when he is truly God-fearing and religious; that is to say, when, according to the example of the most holy kings and princes of the people of the Lord, he promotes the preaching of the truth and sincere faith, roots out lies and all superstition, together with all impiety and idolatry, and defends the Church of God. We certainly teach that the care of religion belongs especially to the holy magistrate.
    Let him, therefore, hold the Word of God in his hands, and take care lest anything contrary to it is taught. Likewise let him govern the people entrusted to him by God with good laws made according to the Word of God, and let him keep them in discipline, duty and obedience. Let him exercise judgment by judging uprightly. Let him not respect any man’s person or accept bribes. Let him protect widows, orphans and the afflicted. Let him punish and even banish criminals, impostors and barbarians. For he does not bear the sword in vain (Rom. 13:4).
    Therefore, let him draw this sword of God against all malefactors, seditious persons, thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, perjured persons, and all those whom God has commanded him to punish and even to execute. Let him suppress stubborn heretics (who are truly heretics), who do not cease to blaspheme the majesty of God and to trouble, and even to destroy the Church of God.

    St. Augustine says: But how do kings serve God in fear, but by forbidding and punishing with devout severity those things which are done against God’s commandments? As a king, he serves him by establishing convenient laws to command that which is just, and to forbid the contrary:—as Ezechias served him, by destroying the groves and temples of idols, and those high places that were erected against the Lord’s commandment: as Josias served him, by doing the like: as the king of Ninivie served him, by compelling the whole city to please and appease the anger of the Lord: as Darius served him, by giving the idol into Daniel’s power to be broken in pieces, and by casting his enemies in among the lions: as Nabuchadnezzar served him, by a terrible proclamation, which forbade all men within his dominion to blaspheme the true and very God. Why should adultery be punished, and sacrilege left untouched? Is it a lighter matter for the soul to break promise with God, than a woman with a man? (Cited in Henry Bullinger, The Decades of Henry Bullinger, Minister of the Church of Zurich: The First and Second Decades, trans. H. I., ed. Thomas Harding (University Press, n. d.), 366-368.)

    Clearly, the Reformed tradition reaching back to Augustine does not hold to your bifurcated natural law formulation and neither is it clearly taught in Scripture. This presents a serious problem for your construction of the application of natural law to the civil realm by the magistrate and if you fail to address it, your position will be exposed as lacking credibility, and until you answer it thoroughly you should not ask anyone to take your position seriously (but then again, serious thinkers won’t anyway).

    Finally, your argument that only those who have studied political science in the academy or who have actually served the government in some fashion can credibly speak to the application of Biblical law to civil government invalidates everything you say here and reduces it to absurdity since you are not a political scientist nor have you served in elected political office. If that is your actual position you need to impose this gag rule on yourself and stop talking about your 2k views if you want to maintain the credibility of this particular position.

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