Things That Don’t Help The 2K Discussion (Updated)

Calvin on the Two KingdomsR. C. Sproul, Jr published a post on Thursday 26 September answering the question, “What is 2k Theology?” (HT: David Murray). It gets some things right, some of what it says is a matter of opinion and debate, and some of what it says isn’t helpful.

What It Gets Right:

  • He gives a reasonably fair account of what most R2K (Reformed Two Kingdom) folk are trying to say when he recognizes that most are saying that Christ is Lord over all things. He writes, “It affirms that God’s law and His Son rule the world in two related but distinct ways.”
  • He recognizes that R2K advocates are trying to distinguish the way Christ rules over his church from the more general way he rules over all things.
  • He recognizes that R2K folk appeal to natural law as part of their account of how God’s rule is to be administered in the realm outside the visible church.
  • He recognizes that, according to advocates for the R2K view, the visible “church is to be about the business of Word and sacrament”
  • He notes that R2K theology “rightly reject[s] the common temptation among evangelicals to wrap up our theological convictions in the American flag, to confuse God’s kingdom with these United States….”

Debatable Points (With Responses)

  • He writes, “The function of the state is to support and operate under “natural law.” The Bible is of little use in this context as it was given to God’s people specifically. Natural law was given for all men everywhere.”

The claim that “the Bible is of little use in this context” is exaggerated. Of course Christians are guided by Scripture in everything they do. We interpret reality through the lens provided by Scripture. There is a Christian worldview. Yet there are limits to the proper use of Scripture, as Sproul himself acknowledges in his post. He himself says that too often people have identified policy details as if they came directly or even inferentially from Scripture when, in fact, they are prudential judgments about which Christians may well disagree. There are other practical limits to the use of Scripture in public policy matters. One might read from Scripture at a city council meeting but to what end? Whether one ought to do so is a matter of wisdom.

  • He characterizes the R2K view as arguing that “what the church is not to do, however, as the church, is speak into the first kingdom. The church, according to this view, is neither called, equipped, nor permitted to prophecy against the sins of those outside the kingdom.”

Even the Westminster Confession of Faith, written in a context where the magistrate was expected to enforce the first table of the law, recognizes that there are limits to what the church as a visible assembly, as an organization (as distinct from organism) can address. Thus WCF 31:4 says:

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

I’m not aware of any advocate of the Reformed Two Kingdoms analysis who disagrees with this language or sentiment. Sproul seems uncomfortable with the very idea of the spirituality of the visible church, fine, but the idea that the visible church is limited in the way she addresses the magistrate is hardly a 2K distinctive.

As to addressing broadly cultural issues and developments, that is a matter of debate. For my part, I preach the text of the Word of God as it is before me. If it speaks to abortion (or whatever) then I speak to it. Should the church as church speak to particular social issues? It is interesting that our confessional documents did not do so extensively. Certainly we must apply God’s Word to all of life and we must apply the moral law carefully and extensively, on analogy with our confessions and catechisms. More on this below.

  • He suggests that R2K, “at its worst” tends to silence the prophetic voice of the church.

What counts as the “prophetic voice” of the church is a subjective matter. Confessional folk used to be concerned about becoming “social gospellers” and for good reason. Historically, when the church has adopted someone’s “social gospel” they have tended to lose the actual gospel. If we think that we can adopt a “social gospel” without losing the actual gospel, that we’re different from Rauschenbusch et al, that liberalism won’t happen to us, then we’re naive.

The there are practical questions as well as theoretical problems. Once the visible church begins to speak to social ills specifically, where does it stop? Let’s say we begin at abortion. What about human trafficking and the sex trade? What about genetically modified foods (GMOs)? I’m not suggesting that abortion and GMOs are morally equivalent but having begun to speak to “the issues” as ecclesiastical entities, how do we stop?

Should we condemn Herman Ridderbos for writing?

[The] absolutely theocentric character of the kingdom of God in Jesus’ preaching…implies that its coming consists entirely in God’s own action and is perfectly dependent on his activity. The kingdom of God is not a state or condition, not a society created and promoted by men (the doctrine of the ‘social gospel’). It will not come through an immanent earthly evolution, nor through moral action; it is not men who prepare it for God. All such thoughts mean a hopelessly superficial interpretation of the tremendous thought of the fullness and finality of God’s coming as king to redeem and to judge. —Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (HT: Reformed Reader)

Where in the New Testament does one find a single unequivocal example (or even good and necessary inference) of the visible, institutional church speaking to any one of the social ills that plagued the Greco-Roman world?  Was the Apostolic church guilty of silencing the “prophetic voice” of the church? What about the second-century, post-Apostolic church (i.e., the so-called Apostolic Fathers)? The Treatise to Diognetus (c. 150 A.D.) certainly seems more like a 2K ethic than a transformational ethic:

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life… For while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. The live in their own countries but only as nonresidents, they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted. —Epistle to Diognetus (c. 150 AD), 5.1–11.

There is nothing in the Treatise to Diognetus or in the Epistles of Ignatius, or Barnabas or 1 Clement to indicate that those pre-Constantinian Christians thought of the role of the visible church in society in the way that Sproul seems to suppose to be the orthodox way of thinking of such things.

What Doesn’t Help (With Responses)

  • To his credit, he recognizes that, in the contemporary discussion, R2K has two senses: Reformed Two Kingdom and Radical Two Kingdom. Then he uses the acronym without indicating in which sense he’s using it.

I suppose there are “radical” proponents of the two kingdoms analysis but I should like to know who they are. Presently they seem more like straw men than real participants in the discussion. Calvin (see below) distinguished clearly the two kingdoms at their root (radix). Why wasn’t he a “radical” proponent of two kingdoms? He concludes his post by writing,

  • “[m]ay we who are Reformed ever affirm this radical truth- there is one King, and one Kingdom.”

Certainly he is free to argue for his own view but in the context in which he is ostensibly trying to present issues clearly and fairly to a someone new to the discussion it seems odd to conclude in a way that gives the impression that the most orthodox thing is to affirm one King (about which there is no question) and one kingdom.

The distinction between two kingdoms is a basic Protestant distinction that was used by Luther and Calvin in the 16th century.  RC Jr’s account completely omits that fact and the fact that the many mainstream Reformed writers employed this distinction since Calvin. Here is what Calvin wrote about this distinction:

Therefore, in order that none of us may stumble on that stone, let us first consider that there is a twofold government in man (duplex esse in homine regimen): one aspect is spiritual, whereby the conscience is instructed in piety and in reverencing God; the second is political, whereby man is educated for the duties of humanity and citizenship that must be maintained among men. These are usually called the “spiritual” and the “temporal” jurisdiction (not improper terms) by which is meant that the former sort of government pertains to the life of the soul, while the latter has to do with the concerns of the present life—not only with food and clothing but with laying down laws whereby a man may live his life among other men holily, honorably, and temperately. For the former resides in the inner mind, while the latter regulates only outward behavior. The one we may call the spiritual kingdom, the other, the political kingdom. Now these two, as we have divided them, must always be examined separately; and while one is being considered, we must call away and turn aside the mind from thinking about the other. There are in man, so to speak, two worlds, over which different kings and different laws have authority (Institutes 3.19.15; Battles edition).

To be sure, Calvin employed this distinction in a different context, i.e., in a Constantinian context in which it was assumed that the magistrate would enforce Christian orthodoxy by using the power of the civil sword to punish heretics and other violations of the first four of the Ten Commandments (i.e., the first table of the law). Since the 18th century, however, most orthodox Reformed folk have recognized that Calvin and much of the Reformed tradition was wrong about their view of the magistrate in this respect. Few Reformed folk have argued since the 18th century that the magistrate should enforce the first table. In the 18th century the American Presbyterians revised the Westminster Confession. In the 19th and 20th century the Dutch Reformed Churches revised the Belgic Confession and acknowledged the error of Constantinianism.

Calvin was not alone in speaking this way. William Perkins used the same categories in A Cloud of Faithful Witnesses (1607):

This serves to descry unto us the blind errour of many ages afore us, wherein it hath been thought, and is by Papists at this day, to be a state of perfection, to live a Monke or Hermite out of all societies, in some desart place, and there to spend their whole life in contemplation only, and that voluntarily: and they magnify this estate so much, that hereby they think to merit eternal life at the hands of God. But these believers did neither voluntarily, nor with opinion of merit, betake themselves to this solitary life, but on necessity. And indeede this kind of life hath no warrant in Gods word: for every Christian is a member of two Kingdoms; of Christs Kingdom of grace, and of that particular state where he dwelleth: and by reason hereof, hath a twofold calling; a temporal, and a spiritual calling. In both of which, he must walke diligently, so long as he can, doing the duties both of a child of God, and of a member of that commonwealth where he liveth. Now, when a man goeth voluntarily to lead a solitary life, he forsaketh his temporal calling altogether, and performes the other but negligently: for he withdrawes himself from many duties of piety, whereby the people might be furthered to Godward; which none can do with a good conscience (p. 195).

David Paraeus, Collegiorum Theologicorum Decuria Una (1611), 403 uses the same categorical distinction.1 George Gillespie, Male Audis (1646), 55 employed the two kingdoms distinction against the Erastians.2 Johannes Cloppenburg, Gangraena Theologiae Anabaptisticae (1684), 220–221 used it,3 and Thomas Watson, A Body Of Practical Divinity (1692), 458–59 used this distinction.4

Even though this way of speaking and thinking was uncontroversial among confessional Reformed writers for centuries, nevertheless I’m happy to speak of one kingdom with two spheres. I’ve been arguing this since 2009.

  • Perhaps the most objectionable aspect of the column is the beginning, where he lists a series of bewildering acronyms: “…iaoc to npp and fv (that is, the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision), now comes R2k.”

There’s nothing wrong with listing acronyms, of which 2K is now one. What is wrong, however, is the nature of the acronyms used. There are a number of acronyms he might have used, which wouldn’t prejudice the discussion, but he chose instead to contextualize his discussion of 2K (two kingdoms) by invoking the Federal Vision (start here) and New Perspective errors. These are both serious errors of theology that all the confessional Reformed churches have repudiated. Whatever one thinks of the attempt to revive and employ Calvin’s 2K distinction for our time, to associate it with doctrines that have damaged the gospel is most unhelpful, to say the least. It seems like guilt by association.

The use of a distinction between two kingdoms as a way of analyzing questions regarding church and state has a long and distinguished pedigree in Reformed theology. It may be mistaken but, unlike the FV and NPP, it has not been judged to be so by confessional Reformed churches.

This is a difficult debate. Why make it more difficult needlessly?

For further reading/listening:


1. I. Duplex regimen in homine statuitur: Unum in anima seu interiore homine positum, aeternamque vitam respicit: quod verbo Dei & operâ ministrorum Ecclesiae peragitur: Alterum ad instituendam civilem externamque morum iustitiam pertinet, quod circa politicum magistratum situm est. Nam huius etiam praesertim si sit Christianus, ministerio uti solet Deus, ad suae Ecclesiae gubernationem, conservationem atque protectionem.

2. The distinction of the twofold Kingdom of Christ, an universal Kingdom, whereby he reigneth over all things as God: and a special Oeconomical Kingdom, whereby he is King to the Church only, and ruleth and governeth it, is that which being rightly understood, overturneth, overturneth, overturneth the Erastian principles.

3. V. In Ecclesiis Reformatis creditur ex verbo Dei, fuisse à Deo iam olim in V. T. institutum duplex Regimen, duplici officio gubernationis, quâ Politicae, quâ Ecclesiasticae, distinctum. Ut quantumvis nonnunquam Officium utrumque sustineret Persona una, vel partim vel in solidum: tamen distinctâ ac geminâ ad id vocatione divinâ opus fuerit: absque qua non magis Regi fas erat invadere Propheticum aut Sacerdotale munus, quam Prophetae aut Sacerdoti Regnum.

4. Resp. Negat. 1. He doth not mean a Political, or Earthly Kingdom. The Apostles indeed did desire, 1. Christs Temporal Reign, Acts 1. 6. When wilt thou restore the Kingdom to Israel. But Christ said his Kingdom was not of this world, Joh. 18. 36. So that when Christ taught his Disciples to pray, Thy Kingdom come, he did not mean it of an Earthly Kingdom, that he should reign here in outward Pomp and Splendor. 2. It is not meant of Gods Providential Kingdom; Psal. 103. 19. His Kingdom ruleth over all; that is, the Kingdom of his Providence: This Kingdom we do not pray for, when we say Thy Kingdom come; for this Kingdom is already come: God exerciseth the Kingdom of his Providence in the World, Psal. 75. 7. He putteth down one, and setteth up another: Nothing stirs in the World, but God hath an Hand in it; He sets every wheel a working; He humbles the Proud, and raiseth the Poor out of the Dust, to set them among Princes, 1 Sam. 2. 8. The Kingdom of Gods Providence ruleth over all; Kings do nothing but what his Providence permits and orders, Act. 4. 27. This Kingdom of Gods Providence we do not pray should come, for it is already come: What Kingdom then is meant here, when we say, Thy Kingdom come? Answ. Positively, there is a twofold Kingdom meant here. 1. The Kingdom of Grace, which Kingdom God exerciseth in the Consciences of his People; this is Regnum Dei μικρὸν, Gods lesser Kingdom, Luke 17. 21. The Kingdom of God is within you. 2. The Kingdom of Glory, which is sometimes called the Kingdom of God, Luke 6. 20. and the Kingdom of Heaven, Mat. 5. 3. When we pray thy Kingdom come, (1.) Here is something tacitly implied, That we are in the Kingdom of Darkness; 1. We pray that we may be brought out of the Kingdom of Darkness. 2. That the Devils Kingdom in the World may be demolished. (2.) Something positively intended, Adveniat Regnum Gratiae & Gloriae, 1. We pray that the Kingdom of Grace may be set up in our Hearts, and encreased. 2. When we pray Thy Kingdom come, we pray that the Kingdom of Glory may hasten, and that we may in Gods good time be translated into it: These two Kingdoms of Grace and Glory, differ not specifically, but gradually, they differ not in nature, but only in degree; The Kingdom of Grace is nothing but the inchoation or beginning of the Kingdom of Glory; the Kingdom of Grace is Glory in the Seed, and the Kingdom of Glory is Grace in the Flower; the Kingdom of Grace is Glory in the Day-break, and the Kingdom of Glory is Grace in the full Meridian; the Kingdom of Grace is Glory Militant, and the Kingdom of Glory is Grace Triumphant: There is such an inseparable Connexion between these two Kingdoms Grace and Glory, that there is no passing into the one Kingdom, but by the other. At Athens there were two Temples, a Temple of Virtue, and a Temple of Honour, and there was no going into the Temple of Honour, but through the Temple of Vertue: So the Kingdom of Grace and Glory are so close joyned together, that we cannot go into the Kingdom of Glory, but through the Kingdom of Grace. Many People aspire after the Kingdom of Glory, but never look after Grace; but these two which God hath joyned together may not be put asunder: The Kingdom of Grace leads to the Kingdom of Glory.

39 comments

  1. Some related posts by RC Sproul, Jr., which might add context:

    THURSDAY, MARCH 28, 2013
    Ask RC: Should American pastors ever preach warning us of our burgeoning police state and the erosion of our liberties?
    http://rcsprouljr.com/blog/ask-rc/rc-american-pastors-preach-warning-burgeoning-police-state-erosion-liberties/

    TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2013
    Ask RC: Why won’t my pastor preach against abortion?
    http://rcsprouljr.com/blog/ask-rc/rc-wont-pastor-preach-abortion/

    This section from the end of his June 4 post will, I think, pretty clearly indicate his position on addressing “political issues” from the pulpit:

    ___

    The two real reasons I suspect pastors won’t preach on abortion are these. First, not knowing what to do. That is, not that they don’t know how to preach a sermon, but that they don’t know how to encourage the saints to respond to abortion. It’s rather anti-climactic to thunder against this great evil and when you get to the application say, “So write a check to your local crisis pregnancy center.” Pastors don’t know what to do, though they of all people ought to. What we need to do is repent and believe the gospel. That’s the solution to every problem. Of course write checks to the local crisis pregnancy center, out of repentance. Vote for fully pro-life statesmen, out of repentance. Stand with 40 Days for Life in repentance. Take a busload to the annual March for Life in Washington, not to demonstrate political might, but out of repentance. Go to your local mill, preach and pray repentance.

    Which brings us to the second real reason- pastors won’t preach against abortion because of their own guilt. They may have procured an abortion somewhere along the way. They may have counseled others to procure an abortion somewhere along the way. Or they may simply feel the guilt that they haven’t preached on this before. The solution? Repent and believe the gospel.

    Abortion is THE great evil of our day. The preaching of the Word is the great power of any day. Until shepherds preach like lives and eternity are at stake, which they are, then lambs will continue to be devoured by wolves while hirelings look on. Against abortion preach repentance.

  2. Scott, thanks for this. It’s a very helpful dissection and analysis of some of the misunderstandings and even distortions of reformed two kingdom theology. Especially profitable are the historical witnesses you cite. Would that more commentators availed themselves of a thoughtful reading of not only past Christian writers on this topic but also of those in the present.

  3. Brother,

    Thank you for your response. I was eager in that brief piece to at least describe r2k in such a way as its proponents would recognize it. While we may end up debating the debatable points, and as well the points on which we disagree, I’m only commenting on what I consider your rather odd beef that I used iaoc, nap and fv as illustrations of acronyms that can be bewildering to newbies and outsiders. It seems you fault me for using these examples because the debate on r2k is Reformed intramural while the debate on iaoc, npp and fv is not. Well that’s true. But you may as well complain that these are inappropriate illustrations of theological acronyms to be used in this discussion because r2k has a number in it and the others don’t. That is, the comparison wasn’t this group has only letters, that group has a number nor this group is intramural that group is not, but only this group is recent jargon acronyms, as is r2k recent jargon acronym. Make sense? God bless.

    • RC,

      It seems to me that someone coming into this question via your Q/A post would infer that any 2K analysis is as dangerous as the FV and NPP, with which you classed it. I’m not speaking to intent. I’m noting how it will be understood. My point is that the disagreement over the legitimacy and proper use of a 2K analysis isn’t on the same order or in the same class as the controversy over the FV and NPP, which was about the article of the standing and falling of the church.

    • Pretty sure not only that I didn’t imply that (thank you for agreeing on that) but that virtually no one would infer that. I think your fear is misguided. But at least here we were able to put that inference to rest.

    • RC,

      If I was trying to orient folks to who you are and I listed your name (for whatever reason) with Al Capone and Babyface Nelson, might not people get the wrong idea about you?

    • They certainly might. But if you said, “Some people use initials for their names, like JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Another guy who uses initials is RC Sproul Jr.” I would not worry that people might think you were suggesting I write stories beloved by children. There are plenty of similarities, and plenty of differences between me and those gentlemen. But the only one you would be referencing is this similarity- initials for a name. It would be gratuitous, a non-sequiter for anyone to think anything else was being said.

    • Unintended consequences?

      Doesn’t your example reinforce my point? Being linked with CSL and JRRT is nothing but positive.

      Since it’s objectionable, and If there’s nothing substantial at stake, then why not find some other acronyms? I googled “Reformed acronyms” and found this list.

    • rcjr – “Just when you realized the role of iaoc to npp and fv (that is, the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision), now comes R2k.

      rcjr – “the comparison wasn’t… but only this group is recent jargon acronyms, as is r2k recent jargon acronym.”

      ??

  4. It’s interesting that Watson’s two-fold approach to the spiritual kingdom was 1) the individual believer’s conscience, and 2) the consummation. Reading versions similar to yours, Mr. Clark, one gets the impression the spiritual kingdom centers on the church and the consummation.

    Watson was consistent with the quote you provided from Calvin as well. For Calvin, the spiritual kingdom was about the inner man (the “life of the soul”) where the political (or temporal) was about governing outward behavior (which would include the church since the church is not the Holy Spirit).

    • Craig,

      1. Yes, I edited your post. If people want to read that they can find it on their own.

      2. My point was not to say that every invocation of the 2K is the same. My point is to say that Reformed folk have been using the two kingdoms or twofold kingdom for a long time and it is misleading to leave the impression that it is some sort of novelty.

      3. I quite disagree with your analysis of Calvin. I’m still working on Watson. When Calvin distinguished “spiritual” and “temporal” he wasn’t thinking only in internal/external categories. He was involved in a long-running dispute with the city council, who were reluctant to cede control of the churches to the company of pastors. When he said “temporal” he was referring to the civil authorities. When he said “spiritual” he was referring to the institutional church. He very much wanted to see two distinct (if overlapping) jurisdictions established. Among Calvin scholars, I don’t think that’s a controversial reading of Calvin.

      4. Perkins was doing the same thing (as had Beza about the same time). When Perkins correlated spiritual with the visible church and temporal with the civil realm, he made clear what Calvin was doing.

      5. What is clear about Watson is that he distinguished clearly between a general providential reign and a particular spiritual reign in the church. In this he was saying something similar to Gillespie and Rutherford.

    • No problem, Dr. Clark. It was a nuanced article that I thought you would appreciate and others would benefit from. One of the criticisms you had for the article you linked to was that it lacked nuance (I don’t actually agree with you, but not going to nit-pick).

      Hopefully interested readers can find the article to which I pointed to…the observations I made above were not my own, but the result of the work of others who no longer have the benefit of attribution…a subject of some regular occurrence on an uncited blog of which this comment now appears.

  5. Dr. Clark,

    I’m just trying to come up to speed on understanding the two kingdom doctrine, so I offer these questions:

    1. Can you recommend any good resources for understanding and applying the R2K doctrine? My guess is Dr. VanDrunen’s work will be at least one of them!

    2. Can you summarize the contributions of Abraham Kuyper and how he has influenced thinking and application regarding the kingdom of God (or point me to a resource that does – which may be included in #1)?

    I’ve found it interesting that a seminary prof is teaching a class at my (non-denom evangelical) church, which may be using material from one of his books that endorsers say as an updated adaptation of Kuyper. I’m not in the class but my wife is, so am trying to bring myself up to speed.

    Thank you!

  6. Dr. Clark

    ps- I see some mention of Kuyper in your “worldview” link above, so that should get me started! Thanks again. Dan

    • Oh brother – I completely missed the links at the end at first reading! Thanks for compiling all these resources.

  7. Dr. Clark,

    Dr. Riddlebarger’s lecture and your current post have enabled me to see how I’ve made a distinction between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. My view is nowhere near as nuanced and developed as R2K. That being said, I enjoyed reading the footnote under number four, especially the portion differentiating between the kingdoms of light and darkness.

    There’s one more thing that I’d like to add before I wrap this up. At the risk of adding to the alphabet soup of abbreviations are already begun with FV and NPP, I believe that the NAR movement is very formidable even though its Charismatic/Pentecostal roots are way outside of the confessionally Reformed.

    In my own study into the NAR movement, I’ve discovered a strong link between Christian Reconstructionism and Dominionism. I guess my point is that I’d love to see this two kingdom discussion spill over into other segments of the church beyond the Reformed camp. The Reformed Postmillennialists have linked arms with some of their Charismatic-Pentecostal brothers.

    Big picture view, I’d love to see Christ followers outside of and inside of the Reformed camp link arms toward the goal of biblically based engagement with the culture that differs from the Dominionist-Reconstructionist bent. There’s just something about those two movements, which come off as man-centered rather than Christ-centered.

    Have an excellent week.

  8. Thanks again, Dr. Clark, for initiating a sane, reasoned, and balanced discussion of a “hot” topic. Too many of these exchanges lately have been full of heat, with little light. I also appreciate your bringing us back again and again to the testimony of the Reformed confessions. Maybe as both camps anchor more in our historic testimony, they will stop talking past each. As happens so often, the answer has been there all along, if we would just pay attention to it (that is, read the documents!).

  9. Perhaps the most objectionable aspect of the column is the beginning, where he lists a series of bewildering acronyms: “…iaoc to npp and fv (that is, the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision), now comes R2k.”

    I don’t see this as objectionable. He didn’t include R2K in a list with just NPP and FV; IAOC was also there. A little bit larger quote is “…shorthand is valuable, but challenging. Just when you realized the role of iaoc to npp and fv (that is, the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision), now comes R2k.” If anything, R2K is parallel in this construction to IAOC, not to NPP/FV.

    If you had not labeled this as the “most objectionable aspect of the column”, perhaps RC would have addressed a more significant objection in his brief visit to the HB.

  10. The Ridderbos quote does not in any respect contradict the concept of the church having a prophetic voice spoken to the state. Rather than distracting with asking where the prophetic voice of the church “stops” on a particular moral issues, the key question that remains unanswered in this debate is where does the prophetic voice even “begin” for the R2k advocates.

  11. Frank,

    I honestly do not understand why this is difficult. The prophetic message of the church is the gospel. It follows exactly the same contours of prophetic oracles in the OT, where the message was simple – repent unto life or continue on the current course and experience wrath and judgement.

    The church, through her officers, received their commission to proclaim this message from Christ, and was given the same sort of promises of the prophets of old who were called to proclaim their messages from God (“Lo, I am with you…”). The church’s prophetic role is not directed to social institutions such as the state in the inter-advental age, rather to individuals who must respond to the message of the cross.

    Even where we see the problem of sin transect politics and the state – for example, with homosexuality or abortion, the only lasting resolution to the spiritual problems behind these are not political policies, rather the gospel that saves sinners. And, it is the salvation of sinners and the building up of the saints that comprises the prophetic calling (among other roles) of the church.

  12. Some are still wondering what makes 2k more radical than Reformed. Is it radical when reading the likes of DTM and wondering if some understand that social (and political) gospels can come in conservative dress?

  13. On one hand, this seems like another interfamilial dispute between the forces of the Reformed that seldom reach beyond those specific denominational boundaries (everybody else is too busy reading Joel Osteen’s fortune cookies). But it sounds like something useful for all evangelicals, and in that way I wish it did reach beyond. To an outsider, it sounds an awful lot to me like some of the anti-2K people are trying to blow on the lingering coals of Rushdoony, to keep them from going out completely.

    Your WCF does say that the general principles of equity of the civil law still apply, even though Israel’s civil laws was limited to the promised land and in the economy of God have expired. So there is plenty of Biblical material to draw upon for preaching community ethics. Amos 1-2 is a good section to illustrate how God held the nations to a broader standard than Israel. The Lord pronounced judgments against the Gentile nations for violence, unjust war, theft, and murder; then judged Judah and Israel for covenant-breaking.

  14. This is great blog post that helps to move the discussion on 2K forward.
    However, there still seems to be an entire category missing out of this discussion.
    Initially, I came to 2K theology as an ardent supporter and proponent, in opposition to my first experience with folks who followed the Rushdoony/Reconstructionist mindset within my previous congregation. Latching onto Dr. VanDruden’s 2K theology and reading articles at this site and some like it at that time helped me incredibly and I’m extremely grateful for it.

    In terms of ecclessiology and the role of the visible church the teaching is clear and undeniable.
    However, by focusing only on the ecclessiastical nature of the mission an role of the church as a “gathered” physical body, I’m afraid that the missing link is found in where people life the majority of their lives and vocations — outside of the visisble, gathered church — ie, what is historically called the “apostolic” church or “church sent”.
    The missing link is that our contemporary 2K theologians have disassociated themselves with anything vocationally located outside of the visible church. This may be helpful and beneficial to the professional clergy – sessions, elders, pastors in how they are to govern — or even those inside the pearly gates of our reformed seminaries who are teaching those men how to perform their vocations in those settings.
    However, to the laity, I find that the lack of equipping of the “sent church” is an enormous scorch mark on how we speak about 2K in our days. The results of this are far-reaching: including elevating the vocation of the clergy as being above the roles of those called into other vocations in society (which is highly anti-reformational).
    I would love to see 2Kers especially R2Kers(reformed) address this aspect of the church more often — not just who we are and what we are as the gathered, visible body, but also what it looks like to be the faithful “body sent”. I’m not talking about the church giving rules for government or participating in liberal social programs. I’m talking about equipping the saints to live as Ambassadors of Christ. As Non-Citizens of the world kingdom – because there absolutely should be a distinction between us and those who are not in Christ.
    Otherwise, we risk becoming nothing more than either narcissistic navel gazers, what Rev. Jack Miller famously called the “Ingrown Church” years ago or people who are deceived into following the pattern of this world 6 days a week and attempting to follow the pattern of our King on the Sabbath only.

    Hopefully, this will be worked out to better effect in the future as the 2K dialog continues. Thank you.

  15. “Whatever one thinks of the attempt to revive and employ Calvin’s 2K distinction for our time, to associate it with doctrines that have damaged the gospel is most unhelpful, to say the least. It seems like guilt by association.”

    I heartily concur with such sentiments, though this cuts both ways. Those of us who reject modern variants of 2K in favour of classical appropriations of the doctrine (the establishment principle as taught by Calvin, Bullinger, Bucer, the Westminster divines, the early Scottish Covenanters, et al) should not be yoked together with the FV or NPP heresies or modern aberrations (American theonomy, Kuyperianism, the Religious Right, and so on).

    • That comment was sent from the British Library! The manuscripts department has closed, so what better way to spend free time before the flight than reading this great blog!!

      Cheers,

      Daniel

  16. Dr. Clark,

    You said: “The claim that “the Bible is of little use in this context” is exaggerated. Of course Christians are guided by Scripture in everything they do. We interpret reality through the lens provided by Scripture. There is a Christian worldview.”

    You may truly believe this statement, but I don’t think it is representative of the R2K movement. First of all, Daryl Hart, Zrim, Jed, and others absolutely HATE the word worldview and deny that such even exists. Hart refuses to even admit that he has a metaphysic, epistemology, or ethic.

    So if you concede the existence of a worldview, let alone a CHRISTIAN worldview, that puts you in a different category than these folks.

    Also, I have had people like Zrim and Hart both claim that the Bible says NOTHING at all about how the world should run. That’s an almost verbatim quote. If you do believe the Bible speaks to the world’s affairs, in any capacity, then you have a major philosophical schism between these other Christian thinkers.

    Perhaps I am not telling you anything you don’t already know, and if so, would you say these other thinkers are in a different camp than yourself? RR2K???

  17. Jon,

    Can you please describe where I have ever “hated” worldview. I believe such a thing exists, but I also do not think there is such a thing as a/the quintessential Christian/Reformed worldview. The term has been used and reused into oblivion, so much so that it has become a useless meme.

    The fact of the matter is “worldview” is as a valid description of someones ideological/religious outlook is conditioned on far more than intellectual inputs. There is culture, historical and geographical location, economic factors, technology, and deeply personal drivers such as upbringing and psychological disposition. All of these things converge in such a way that mere intellectual opinions or even creedal subscription are hardly sufficient to account for an individual or a social unit of like-minded individuals to hold a worldview that can transcend these realities.

    I am far more in favor of Christians seeking to work through the implications of their faith as it transects their own historical situation. There may be many common features between my worldview and that of Reformed believers in 17th century Brittan, but there will be so many areas of critical difference that we can hardly share the same worldview, much less that there is one identifiable orthodox Christian worldview.

    What I see certain neo-Calvinists and theonomists (to be fair not all, especially on the neo-Cal spectrum) is seeking to unify the Reformed world around a mythical universalizing worldview that will achieve our purposes, or what is viewed to be God’s purposes, in history and within human culture and the political economy. To me this is an absolute fools errand, because the forces that shape these are far beyond the control of any one group, especially a group that comprises significantly less than 1% of the population in N. America, where so much of these efforts are aimed.

    The far better path, in my opinion, is for Christians and ministers that are members of Reformed churches to seek to be faithful in their vocations. For the laity, this means working hard as unto the Lord, and maintaining a faithful Christian witness where God has placed them. For ministers this means faithfully proclaiming the gospel, calling sinners to repentance and faith, and building up the saints with the Word of God during their earthly pilgrimage. I am far more modest in my aims admittedly, but I fear that in many ways we fail to even do this. How then do we think we can go on to do what God has not called us to, namely, change the tide of culture and history? That is for God to do, and he has been doing it since the dawn of history, and whether in human accomplishment or depravity he has and will continue to accomplish his purposes without our help.

  18. Jon, that seems pretty exaggerated. But some 2kers would much prefer older categories to modern ones and so talk about Christian faith as opposed to Christian worldview. Faith is a biblical and religious category, the latter more cultural and pragmatic.

    There is also the distinction between people and institutions. Only people can be Christians (both particularly and collectively), but not so much institutions. There can only be Christian believers and churches, but Christian governments, businesses, and hospitals? Maybe in Christendom but not Christianity. If that’s true then talking about the Bible as a manual for how to govern the institutions of the world doesn’t make nearly as much sense as a revelation for how redeemed people are to first believe and then to live, as in indicatives and imperatives.

    So, again I ask, is this sort of perspective what’s dinged for being rrrrrradical? If so, I still don’t get it. How is any of this off the rrrrrreservation?

  19. Yes,
    Rejecting the 20th C. religious jargon: “Xian worldview,” that defies explicit definition and has become a shibboleth (how’s ’bout dat term!) among the militant transformationalists, is what Hart and Co. stand for. And I, for one, am in the Amen corner.

    It sounds so convenient: to reduce the vast complexity of the whole world and its constituent human societies to a set of universal postulates extrapolated (not extracted) from a “perfect” (really?), God-given set of rules that Christian overlords will benevolently administrate. Because no one will ever argue about present or future implementation, once the imams, er, theologians have discerned the applicable equity… There you go, blueprints! It’s worked so well in the past, right?

    What’s that? The problem was the “best” people weren’t the ones in charge? Meaning the ones with the “right” interpretation of how society ought to look? In other words, the ones who agree with you? How convenient.

    There’s a lot of Revelation mystery that is beyond my puny powers of unraveling. But I get the parts that depend on Daniel. Daniel tells us about the natural tendency of people who get Power over other people. They become Beasts, or part of the the Beast. Daniel was mainly interested in the time before the 1st Advent. John is interested in the time before the 2nd. Nothing really changes.

    The idea that this or that country is going downhill because “real” Christians are no longer calling the shots is myopian-hubris. The “influential” Church got off its gospel message, and took up the social-gospel. In the mid-to-late 20th C., most of the rest of the Church took the baton from the gassed-out mainliners. Now, the flagging moral-majority wants the Church that sat out the first two rounds to “save Xianty and the Nation” by following the same Pied Piper.

    Is it true, they were just waiting for the 3rd stringers to get in the game, and win it for the gipper? Who’s going to be left to preach the gospel, if we toss it overboard for a mess of influential cultural pottage? It’s a miracle if I can get my own children to follow me in the faith; how much of my diminishing energy do I have to divert from my tiny flock to getting a local ordinance passed? How much of our dwindling ecclesiastical resources do I not send to the mission field, but instead send to some hobnobbing greaseball lobbyist in Washington?

    These are exactly the things we are being told we need to “get behind” as the Church, the unified-in-one-clear-worldview Church. And the Devil take you if you think the Vote is more of a sham and manipulation in today’s political environment, than a Holy Sacrament in God’s Country.

    Christians, whose citizenship is in heaven, make pretty good citizens of whatever land in this transient age they happen to live by being more disinterested than interested in its constructs. When they crave power at the top, in order to implement their “vision,” they become just another “anointed” faction (T.Sowell) jockeying for position at the helm of the ship of state, Titanic.

  20. ” … It cannot be denied that Methodism and Moravian Brethernism suffered from a narrowness of the Christian vision. Neither paid sufficient attention to the first article of the Apostle’s Creed, namely, that God is the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. The earthly terrains of art and science, literature and politics, family and society were not recognized in their full meaning and significance and were therefore also not reformed and renewed on the basis of Christian principles. Resting in the wounds of Jesus or being converted and then going out to convert others seemed to be the entire content of the Christian life. Sentimentality and an unhealthy sensibility often characterized the first state and frenzied and thoughtless activity the other. Consciousness was often suppressed for the sake of emotion and will, and there was no harmony between man’s capacities and powers. The freedom of the Children of God – dominion over the world, the grateful enjoyment of every good gift given by the Father of all light, the faithful exercise of the earthly calling, the open eye, the broad view, the spacious heart, none of these came to fruition. The Christian life was often seen to be alongside, sometimes above and occasionally even at enmity with human life. Here Christianity was not like leaven that mixes with the dough and leavens the whole life.”

    Dr. Herman Bavinck – 20th Century Dutch Reformed Theologian
    The Certainty of Faith – pg. 48-49

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