Helm: Transformationalism Has Status Of A Private Opinion

In the dust raised by the current renewed appreciation of the Reformed doctrine of the two kingdoms, through the work of David Van Drunen and others, it is sometimes asked, in adopting the doctrine of the two kingdoms, what becomes of the divine cultural mandate? In the hands of Abraham Kuyper and the neo-Calvinists, this mandate has become the work of the kingdom, as distinct from the church, and part of the Christian’s endeavour to transform society by promoting Christian this and that: Christian education, politics, art, literature, care for the environment, and so on. This has become a familiar theme, some being sanguine about the prospects of such transformation, stressing the place that such endeavours have as an expression of God’s ‘common grace’, others from the same stable stressing the ‘antithesis’ between Christian cultural endeavours and those of the secular world. These attitudes have no more than the status of private opinions, the relevant attitudes and actions being neither commanded by the word of God as a part of Christian worship or conduct, nor required by the state.

To add ‘cultural transformation’ to Christ’s command to his first disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, would (in Calvin’s view) jeopardise Christian liberty, and no doubt we could add that it would be to privilege the educated middle-class Christians over their blue-collar fellow believers. A command, or a kind of culturally-correct pressure on Christians to transform society, could amount to a new law, and if it came to that it would infringe the spirituality of the church and the liberty of Christians.

But one might think of such ambitions as a matter of Christian liberty within society. If someone thinks that what they paint is ‘Christian painting’, then fine. There ought to be nothing to stop them painting in this vein, whatever they take Christian painting to be. Like choosing to paint the new baby’s bedroom pink. Neither kind of painting is commanded or forbidden so neither the colour of the baby’s bedroom nor the painting of a ‘Christian’ still life is a God-given requirement of Christian discipleship. Each may be done to the glory of God. As may sweeping a room. (I Cor. 10.31)

Paul Helm | “Calvin’s Two Liberties


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