Of Christian Plumbers, Unions, Meat Offered To Idols, And Tent-Making

Christian-plumberDarryl Hart raises an interesting question this morning about the adjectival use of “Christian” as applied to pursuits shared by Christians and non-Christians. This has been one of the most persistent and widespread questions facing believing Christians for the last century: how do Christians relate to the broader, post-Christian culture? Of course this is not an entirely new question. Christians in the second and third centuries wrestled with how to relate to their surrounding pagan culture. In our time, i.e., in the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment periods, under the influence of the 19th- and 20th-century neo-Calvinist movement there developed ways of speaking and thinking about Christ and culture that have been widely adopted by evangelicals beyond the neo-Calvinist movement. One of those ways has been to use the adjective Christian to modify what were once considered shared occupations or vocations.

Under the influence of neo-Calvinism, Reformed Christians in Europe and in the USA struggled over, e.g., whether Christians could be members of labor unions. Beginning in the 1880s, the Christian Reformed Church, which had deep connections to neo-Calvinism, addressed this question repeatedly at Synod. In 1927, the Protestant Reformed Church adopted a doctrinal deliverance forbidding membership by Christians in labor unions. Robert Swierenga, in Dutch Chicago: A History of Hollanders in the Windy City (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002) tells the story of the how the CRC sought to navigate this question. He notes that members of labor unions were not eligible for the office of elder. Of course, in Chicago and in other industrialized urban centers where labor unions wield tremendous economic and political power, these were not theoretical questions. In the 1950s, a CRC synodical committee recommended that Synod say that Christian may not join the AFL-CIO because of the violence and other problems associated with these organizations. Synod did not adopt the recommendation but rather expressed a preference for the formation of “Christian labor unions.” Indeed, there was a “Christian Labor Association” that “had been formed in the early 1930s” (Swierenga) but which had more success in Canada than in the USA, in part because of the ruthlessness of “secular unions” (Swierenga).

Bethany Jenkins wrote yesterday about The Gospel Coalition’s “vision for a church that equips its people to think out the implications of the gospel on how we do everything—from teaching to plumbing to accounting.” At first glance one might ask how a Christian could object to such language? After all, who opposes thinking through the implications of the Christian faith for every area of life? Put that way, no one should object. Correctly defined, there is a Christian worldview and there is Christian liberty. We will not all come to the same conclusions about the implications of the Christian faith for everyday life. The difficulty here, however, is that “the implications of the Christian faith” and the “implications of the gospel” are distinct terms. The Christian faith encompasses creation and redemption. This is my first problem with the expression, “the implications of the gospel.” Why not say “the implications of creation?” One of the most important points made by the early Christian apologists (defenders of the faith) both to the pagans and to the Gnostics, who sought to hijack biblical and orthodox Christianity, was that Scripture gives us an account of both creation and redemption. Against the Gnostics we argued that creation is inherently good (not evil). Against the pagans we argued that creation has a beginning (creatio ex nihilo), that matter is not eternal, that the Creator is distinct from the creation—a point we also made against the Gnostics. One potential difficulty in speaking about the implications of the gospel for plumbing is it contributes to the loss of an essential biblical category: creation. Further, one can argue that one reason why we do not see this sort of rhetoric in the Reformation and post-Reformation periods is because they had a more robust category of creation (or nature). They did not feel the need to relate everything to “the gospel” because they had a category of “creation” by which to analyze and answer some questions.

The second problem is the very definition of the gospel. When Jenkins writes of the “implications of the gospel” for plumbing of what is she speaking, how is she defining “gospel”? If we define the gospel as the incarnation, substitutionary obedience, death, resurrection of Christ, his ascension, and his return, then the direct “implications” for plumbing may be more difficult to tease out. With such a definition it makes it more difficult to speak of “Christian plumbing.” As I have argued many times in this space (e.g., on “Christian Banking,” on all of life as worship, and on the “social gospel“) we may respect the intent of this rhetoric while attempting to steer it in a more helpful direction.

It is beyond doubt whether God’s grace affects the way we live in response. The basic structure of the Christian faith is threefold: guilt, grace, and gratitude. As the Apostle Paul says, “You have been bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (Rom 6:20; see also 1 Cor 7:23). What implications, however, did the apostles draw? We are to live a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:2).  Is there anything in Scripture that suggests the adjectival use of “Christian” in the way it came to be used e.g., in the case of Christian unions or Christian plumbers? This is not to suggest that the CRC was not struggling with very real problems. Christians should certainly not simply “go along” with the status quo. The uncomfortable reality is that every association (i.e., alliance) that Christians have with non-Christians is complicated and ambiguous.

This is why the Apostle Paul addressed the problem of meat offered to idols as he did. In 1 Corinthians 8:4 he explained that idols have no real, objective, actual existence (1 Cor 10:19)—Paul was not a subjectivist. The food offered to idols by pagans is part of God’s good creation (1 Cor 8:6). Eating meat offered to idols is a matter of Christian liberty, which is limited not by the idols to whom pagans offer the food but by the law of love and the needs of a brother in Christ (1 Cor 8:11; 10:24). I am ordinarily free to eat that food but not if, in so doing, I cause a weaker brother to return to paganism. There is another limit: the distinction between the secular, or that which is common to believers and unbelievers, and the sacred, or that which belongs uniquely to God. Of course, in the general providence of God, everything belongs to him. He is the Creator and the sovereign Lord over all. We are thinking here, however, of things that are set aside to him uniquely as we set aside or dedicate a building or the elements of the Lord’s Supper. That act of dedication does not deny the general Lordship of Christ over all things. Paul says that  Christians are free to eat food offered to idols so long as it is a common or secular meal. The moment, however, such a meal becomes religious or sacred, at that moment we are, as we used to say, in state of confession (in statu confessionis). We may not participate in such a meal (1 Cor 10:20–21). Scripture says: “But if someone says to you , ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience… (1 Cor 10:28–29).”

In the pre-Constantinain era, i.e., before the rise of the state-church complex or Christendom, before the neo-Calvinist response to the Enlightenment, the Apostle Paul gave us categories for addressing these questions. He did not advocate the creation of alternative “Christian bakeries,” but he gave us a way of thinking about how to relate to the existing social institutions and practices. Paul himself was a tent-maker (Acts 18:3). Luke uses the interesting expression ὁμότεχνον, which is translated, “practiced the same trade” or the same craft. Matthew 13:55 uses a related noun (τέκτονος) to describe Joseph as a “craftsman” (Matt 13:55). Luke had no difficulty classifying Paul as a part of a group of skilled craftsmen, regardless of their religious faith. Paul had that in common with both pagans and Christians. I do not know whether there was a tent-makers guild but we have no record of a Christian tent-makers association. It seems that Paul was able to cooperate with fellow tent-makers so long as they were cooperating on tent-making and not in a religious exercise. In other words, Luke implies that Paul distinguished the secular from the sacred. This was an issue. In the Greco-Roman world trade guilds were overtly religious. Indeed, Christianity was suspected by some of being an alternative guild. Thus, membership in such a trade guild would have been highly problematic to say the least.1 Further, we may properly infer from Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 that the original impulse of the CRC in the 1850s, to forbid membership in the Masonic Lodge, was just right. The Lodge is a religious association competing with Christ’s church, a point that Swierenga seems to miss.

The Christian faith certainly has implications for the way believers carry out their vocations in this world. Paul said, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph 4:28; ESV) and “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23; ESV) and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (1 Thess 4:11). We are to do our work as those who belong to Christ. We are to work quietly and diligently so that we may something to give to our brothers and sisters in need. We cooperate with unbelievers on the basis of God’s general providence and our status as fellow image-bearers but we draw the line when it comes to religious association. The problem for the ways of speaking adopted by neo-Calvinism, in this regard, is that it does not distinguish between the Lord’s gracious transformation of persons and the transformation of vocations and institutions. There is little biblical evidence that the message of the gospel transforms particular vocations, much less institutions, but much evidence in every way that by the gospel the Spirit transforms those called to many different vocations and who co-exist Christians and non-Christians in a variety of social institutions.


1. “In Alexandria the different trades sat in the synagogue arranged into guilds; and St. Paul could have no difficulty in meeting in the bazaar of his trade with the like-minded Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2, 3), with whom to find a lodging,” Edersheim, u. s., p. 89 in W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Commentary, vol. 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 385.

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  1. I like the disctinction made between implications of creation vs implications of the Christian faith–though I don’t necessarily find as much fault with the latter has Clark does. What we have in the article above is an intramural battle between NeoCalvinists and 2Kers on how precise we need to be to describe joint ventures in the world which we share with nonChristians.

    The problem with the neocalvinism approach is that its distinct “Christian” definition of how to practice “secular” pursuits seems to assume that we have everything to teach and nothing to learn from our nonChristian counterparts in those pursuits. And from there, what are sometimes called implications becomes an attempt to write a NT version of Leviticus on a given pursuit.

    But the problem with the 2K approach is that legitimate objections to how things are done by societies, governments, nations, or other groups in the world can only be voiced by the individual Christians, not by the Church. Thus, the individual Christian can cite the world with doing things wrong (a.k.a., practicing injustice) while the Church, especially its leadership, remains silent in the face of sin. Thus, the 2K approach incapacitates the Church from challenging the status quo. The neoCalvinists do too but in their own way.

    Perhaps a better way to approach the NeoCalvinist desire to set the world right is not to define the Christian way of doing things, but to define the nonChristian, or unbiblical if you wish, ways of doing things and then to speak against them. Such better preserves liberty and recognizes that there can be a variety of “Christian” ways to approach a given pursuit.

    • Curt,

      Since you appreciate the importance of identity, you’ll understand when I say that I don’t see myself as a “2K” partisan. That’s why I’ve intentionally tried to use Calvin’s language, “twofold kingdom” for several years.

      As to silencing the church, if we’re talking about the visible, institutional church, I certainly don’t want to silence her! I want her to shout the message that the Savior gave to her: to preach Christ, his kingdom, his gospel, and to administer his sacraments, and the keys of his kingdom. The visible, institutional church is not commissioned, as an institution to speak beyond her competence. Hence we never see the Apostolic churches speak to any but spiritual issues. As I written countless times, Christians ought to speak to a wide-range of issues as members of Christian societies (agencies, committees etc).

  2. While I’m in general agreement with you here, why are we reluctant to apply the word “Christian” to Creation categories as if Creation is not Christ’s? A non-Chistian plumber is doing Christian plumbing after a fashion (to use C. Van Til’s lingo). In reality he’s using Christ’s gifts to him in Creation without acknowledging God and Christ as Creator or giving thanks. He gets along fine in the world (as Van Til says) and we can get along fine with him and even hire him for his excellent work (all the common grace stuff here), but plumbing as a Creational thing is still part of Christ’s “Mine!”

    • Terry,

      This illustrates one of my points. There really isn’t any such thing as “Christian pluming.” I think we agree that there is a Christian interpretation of the significance of plumbing (or hydrology or physics). I quite agree with CVT that everything belongs to God and that the non-Christian should acknowledge the Creator and that he is plumbing on borrowed capital, but we still haven’t established what it means to talk about “Christian plumbing.”

  3. Herman Hoeksema—“The attempt to maintain, on the one hand, that man is wholly depraved and, on the other, that he is able to perform good works leads to the view that good may be evil and evil may be good at the same time. It leads to the conception of the relativity of good and evil. Prof. Berkhof speaks of a good that is at the same time sinful and of sin that is relatively good. He speaks of good in the full sense of the word and “what is truly good,” implying naturally that an ethical act may also be half good and half evil.

    Berkhof considers the view that maintains that the natural man can only sin, an absolutism that is to be condemned. I consider this introduction of the notion of relativity into the sphere of ethics and morality positively pernicious, and the evil effects of this view are observed but too plainly in the actual life of the people of God in the world. A sphere of transition, a common sphere of life, is created by it, a domain where the righteous and the ungodly have fellowship with one another and live the same life. And a very superficial conception is formed by this philosophy of relative good and evil, of what is good before God. True consciousness of sin is well-nigh impossible in the light of this conception, and the true fear of the Lord is rooted out.” http://www.prca.org/resources/publications/pamphlets/item/1598-a-triple-breach-in-the-foundation-of-the-reformed-truth

    • Mark,

      Why not simply distinguish between common or civil good. Of course unbelievers do no spiritual good but it’s hard to see how we can deny that pagans can’t do civil or common good. Plumbing and paving roads is a common good that believers and non-believers do in common.

      As I tried to sketch in the post on worldview, there is a genuine difference between the way believers and unbelievers interpret the significance of reality but there is also a genuine commonality. I don’t think I would call it “fellowship” since that is a loaded term in view of 2 Cor 6:14.

  4. Scott,

    Why can’t we say that “creational plumbing” is “Christian plumbing”? I’m not one to advocate some gnostic element that Christians have that non-Christians don’t have. But when the non-Christian rightly does Creation (of course, only after a fashion since he doesn’t acknowledge God in it), he is doing it Christianly, since Christ says “Mine!” of all Creation.

    I think CVT would reject your distinction between the interpretation of the significance of a thing and the true knowledge of the thing itself (“after a fashion” and “getting along in the world” not being seen by CVT as true knowledge).

    Again, I ask, why are we unwilling to call Creation (and the knowledge of Creation) “Christian”?

    • Terry,

      Why must we speak of “Christian plumbing at all”? Why is it not a shibboleth? Is it biblical language? Is it confessional language? Is it Patristic language? Is it Reformation or post-Reformation language? The answer to all the questions is no. It is a late-19th/early 20th century way of speaking.

      I agree that CVT probably would disagree with the distinction I’m making. That’s fine. I don’t accept the notion that the non-Christian doesn’t “really” know plumbing. He does but he does not understand it or interpret it correctly. On this point I’m happier with the older Reformed way of thinking and speaking than I am with the neo-Calvinist way of going at things, which was too much indebted to the 19th century.

  5. Scott,

    Well, some of us regard CVT’s insights (and their foundation in neo-Calvinism) to be important planks in a Christian epistemology. Of course, some critics say there is no such thing as a Christian epistemology just as there is no such thing as Christian plumbing.

    What if we substitute “Crestionally Notmative” plumbing for “Christian” pliumbing? Does that sit any better with you? Perhaps it’s just semantics.

    Part of my reason for pursuing this direction is to steer clear of some uses of the word secular. I’m okay with the idea of secular and “common” as long as it doesn’t immediately get associated with “neutral”. I know you have been clear about this, but I’m not so sure that @oldlife and his gang have been. There are creational truth claims about the Crestor and the Creature’s due that accompany discovery and use of any creational truth. I’m all for common grace and the possibility of an excellent non-Christian plumber and natural scientists who can discover true things about Gid’s world. One option is to conclude that all such things are religiously neutral and common between believers and non-believers. The other option is to say, no, the unbeliever who discovers and uses God’s creation and truths about it is an idolator, worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. It seems to me that I’m tying in to an important Biblical thread with that idea.

    • Terry,

      I think it helps if we distinguish between ultimate and penultimate (and even ante-penultimate) issues. Plumbing belongs to the latter. Teaching history might belong to the middle but philosophy and theology necessarily belong to the first. Still, history chastens our rhetoric about using the adjective “Christian” too freely. Peter Ramus make exaggerated claims in the 16th century about doing away with Aristotle and producing a truly Christian philosophy but it was, in the end, more about branding than any true revolution. The Reformed orthodox gave a good bit of thought to how we know what we know long before the neo-Calvinists adapted idealism in the 19th century for Christian use. In fact we’ve had a variety of epistemologies over the centuries. The Alexandrians were influenced by versions of Platonism. Others were influenced by Stoicism. Later, much of the West appropriated and modified Aristotle for Christian use. The 17th century Reformed tended to continue that tradition, with their strong commitment to the general reliability of sense experience, which sets them at odds with much of the 19th century (idealism, a turn back to Plato). There is a distinctly and uniquely Christian understanding and explanation of the world but Scripture generally assumes that our sense and rational faculties work sufficiently to perceive sense experience and to think rationally. The great thing about CVT is that he starts out with God’s Word and seeks to defend the Christian faith, as opposed to starting out with some other sort of theism and then switching teams at the last moment. I’m less satisfied, however, with much of what I’ve read in neo-Calvinism generally about how we know what we know. I appreciate CVT’s faithfulness to the biblical and Reformed doctrine of sin and his account of its effects on the human intellect (and sense experience). He’s quite right to begin with God and with the Creator/creature distinction. In other words, where CVT carried on the tradition and defended it against the Enlightenment, he did well. As he always reminded us, we do not confess Van Til. We confess God’s Word in our standards.

      “Creationally normative” is a fine category. Plumbing only works because God is and his because providence is what it is. That’s the sort of categorical distinction I’m seeking. We don’t need to include everything under “redemption” (grace). We can analyze some things under nature (i.e., God’s general providence). I think neo-Calvinism (or some wings of the movement) unintentionally suppressed creation (nature) as a category. This is how we got ourselves into the rhetorical and theological cul-de-sac of “Christian plumbing,” which, as we agree, no one seems able to explain adequately.

      As you suggest, I think we agree that,in the nature of things (i.e., in light of the Creator/creature distinction and the very existence of divine revelation), neutrality is impossible. TCVT is right. God has sovereignly named the world. One either agrees with God’s naming (his revelation) or one does not. The rebel does not and he is inconsistent when he assumes God and his providence but denies him with his lips and heart. Theologically, there is an unbridgeable antithesis between belief and unbelief. That does not mean, however, that, under God’s general providence, that there is no commonality. Romans 1-2 imply that believers and unbelievers are perceiving the same natural revelation. Here I dissent from those wings of the neo-Calvinist movement that suggest that the Christian and non-Christian plumbers are looking at two different things. No, we are not. My perception of a thing does not make it what it is. The Christian and non-Christian are working on the same pipes but the Christian and pagan have two radically different accounts of the significance of their experience. Pipes do what they do because God has made the world as he has. In our attempt to articulate the very real antithesis between belief and unbelief, we should not fall into nominalism, e.g., that there is no relation between the name (nomen) “plumbing” and what the non-Christian plumber does. When we speak thus we’ve started to sound Gnostic again. The truth is that the non-Christian plumber is a rebel who needs to repent and believe but he’s still a plumber and we’re looking at the same pipes.

  6. thank you for the clear information; but don’t really understand 1) that ‘safer direction’ 2) the real peril of the ‘unsafe’ direction for as you say…..
    -“It is beyond doubt whether God’s grace affects the way we live in response.” and
    -“After all, who opposes thinking through the implications of the Christian faith for every area of life?” and
    -“Correctly defined, there is a Christian worldview and there is Christian liberty.” and
    -“The Christian faith certainly has implications for the way believers carry out their vocations in this world.”
    …and that’s exactly what seems to gets muddied often with ‘dis’respect of the intent shutting down sincere dialog. As you say “We will not all come to the same conclusions about the implications of the Christian faith for everyday life.”

    “Luke implies that Paul distinguished the secular from the sacred.”

    Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up to demonstrate my power in you and that My Name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”…” 21 does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

    “The second problem is the very definition of the gospel. The basic structure of the Christian faith is threefold: guilt, grace, and gratitude.”

    gospel: God’s grace work: justification, sanctification, glorification

    • Ali,

      Perhaps I should have said “more helpful” (as I’ve since revised the article to say). Using “Christian” that way creates expectations that, so far as I can tell, can’t be met or at least haven’t been met. No one has been able to say what “Christian plumbing is.” This leads to confusion about the Christian doctrine of vocation. Must a Christian be a “Christian plumber” to fulfill his vocation? Why can’t he simply do as Paul says and work as unto the Lord? Why is it not enough to love his neighbor as himself? Further, it raises the specter of the return of the medieval view of nature and grace, i.e., that there’s something inherently wrong with being a plumber so that it must be sanctified by the adjective Christian. This way of thinking is too close to the medieval notion that being a priest or a monk was clean and everything else was not. In the medieval world, vocation was restricted to the clergy and to monks. In the Reformation was taught that every Christian has a vocation and that, within the bounds of God’s law, they’re all good. Finally, for this reply, when everything (and not just sinners) must be “redeemed” (i.e., allocated to grace rather than to nature) then we lose the biblical and Reformation distinction between the common or the secular and the sacred. If everything is sacred, then, in effect, nothing is that this has not worked out well in the modern Christian approach to public worship. There are other issues but these are a few that I’ve noticed.

  7. Beyond confusing creation with redemption, the approach taken at TGC confuses law with gospel, to the detriment of both. Concerns about anointing the practice of plumbing with gospel grace can actually distract the Christian who is a plumber from conducting his business in accordance with biblical morality.

    In my church, we have an office-bearer who is a Christian and a plumber (and for that matter, a trade unionist!) One of the issues he and his brother had to work out about plumbing while Christian is the line between works of necessity and Sabbath-breaking. For instance, they’ll come to your house to stop the leak in your basement on Sunday morning, but once it’s stopped, they’re done. They’ll come out again on Monday morning to re-plumb your entire house if you want – but not on the Sabbath.

    Does anyone really think Jenkins and TGC are going to delve into this sort of question? Real-world, practical Christian living is likely to be ignored in the push to turn the plumber’s shop into some sort of gospelly, transformative “ministry.”

  8. Works of mercy – Are they creation or gospel? Should we give exclusively to Christian charities or is it legitimate to give to secular charitable organizations? Should mission hospitals accept non-Christian workers?
    I think these things are primarily creation activities. What we do need to ensure is that with any organization we give to there is freedom for Christians to engage in gospel activities. We don’t give to an orphanage that bars Christian chaplaincy, for instance.

  9. how ’bout:
    Must a Christian be a “Christian plumber” to fulfill his vocation? =Why can’t he simply do as Paul says and work as unto the Lord? =Why is it not enough to love his neighbor as himself?

    It’s this disingenuousness and ridiculousness to what is actually being said that is unfortunate, RSC:
    tjchantry: Concerns about “anointing the practice of plumbing” with gospel grace can actually distract the Christian who is a plumber from conducting his business in accordance with biblical morality.
    Real-world, practical Christian living is likely to be ignored in the push to turn the plumber’s shop into some sort of “gospelly, transformative “ministry.”

  10. But here is the $64k question (among Reformed Christians anyway): If a thing is located in creation and not redemption, and if to describe that thing as Christian is a misnomer, e.g. “Christian plumbing, baking, business, entertainment, art, economics, labor,” then what of education? Are not academics and learning common enterprises or things both un/believers can do and have equal chances in excelling? If plumbing is a facet of creation and it is therefore misguided to speak of Christian plumbing for the reasons you lay out here, can the same not be said of schooling?

    To that end: http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=302&cur_iss=Y

    • So teaching Creation rather than Darwinian Evolution is not specifically Christian (We know this, of course: Moslem Fundamentalists are quite happy with Creation), but simply teaching proper science. Darwinism is not just anti-Christian, but also no more than pseudo-Science.

      • John,

        I don’t think that Muslims are happy with creation. There is a Gnostic quality to Islamic teaching. Witness the sexual immorality of the 9/11 murderers et al. They are docetic about the human body and following the historic pattern they tend toward extreme asceticism or libertinism (or both). Sexual ethics under Islam in Iran are not what we might assume from the outside.

    • Zrim,

      Education has a difficult middle ground here. Some things within the educational project are antepenultimate (e.g., math) such that they don’t seem to touch on ultimate issues. Others are more explicitly religious, e.g., philosophy. Insofar as there is such a thing as a Christian interpretation of the world, and there is, then we should speak of Christian education but I think we agree that we should be more cautious in our rhetoric regarding using the adjective “Christian” (e.g., Christian math etc) unless we can say what specifically Christian about what we’re doing. Certainly more of education necessarily belongs to the common realm than some advocates of transformational approaches to education seem willing to admit.

  11. Dr Clark,
    First, thank you for your response.

    Second, what do you think of Calvin’s implementation of 2 Kingdoms when he at least approved of the government’s use of power to prosecute and burn witches and heretics? Did he not, in other instances as well, approve of the government using its power to enforce laws that would determine whether one should belong to the Church?

    • Curt,

      1. Calvin’s expression was “duplex regimen“, i.e., “twofold kingdom.” He thought of one kingdom with two, distinct spheres.

      2. As you must know, if only from reading the HB, Calvin was a Constantinian. He assumed the legitimacy of a state church but he did seek to make them two distinct institutions. He expected the magistrate to enforce the 1st table of the moral law.

      3. On this he was wrong. Outside the peculiar, temporary institution of the Israelite theocracy, the state has no mandate in nature or in Scripture to enforce the 1st table. I agree with Kuyper on this.

  12. matt:Ali, you didn’t say why the quotes were disingenuous and ridiculous.

    disingenuous, because is one really promoting, ‘plumbing -shop anointing, transformation?

    ridiculous, because how in the world is there a promoting of “distracting the Christian from conducting business in accordance with biblical morality” and “ ignoring real-world, practical Christian living “

    • Ali,

      1. I take it that you have not read much of the transformalist literature? They regularly use the adjective Christian to modify vocations such as plumbing. The article with which I was interacting did as much. The illustration used in the post makes the very claim I’m disputing. To test my theory that, under the influence of versions of transformationalism, the adjective Christian is applied almost without discrimination I searched for “Christian woodworking” and found this.The second post does the very sort of thing I’m describing here. I’ve been encountering this way of speaking and thinking (and indeed,have done it myself) for 30 years.

      2. The question is what is “real-world, practical Christian living”? Sabbath-keeping certainly counts.

  13. John, I understand what Christians doing education is (God created all things visible and invisible), but what is Christian education (there is a Christian way to teach and to learn)? I suspect the latter is often shorthand for the former, but not always, especially when there are whole institutions devoted to it which seem to imply the latter is really what’s at work. When does it become merely another instance of Christian ghetto or a form of intellectual/academic pietiism, more Christian environment than education?

    Scott, if “more of education necessarily belongs to the common realm,” then how would you justify the language in the URCNA CO Article 14 that charges elders to “promote godly [Christian] schooling”? Why are elders bound to promote something that doesn’t seem to have biblical warrant?

    • Zrim,

      There is a Christian interpretation of the world. That’s the business of Christian education, to teach young people and others to view the world through the lenses of God’s Word. That’s entirely proper. What is in question, in my mind, is what rhetoric we use to explain it and market it. In the wake of the Enlightenment, some neo-Calvinists (particularly some of the neo-Kuyperians) reacted by making some extravagant claims. I think Kuyper himself had a more highly developed doctrine of “common grace” than did some of his followers.

      I think the implications of that article have been discussed in classis (and perhaps at synod) and, so far as I know, no one in the URCs has been disciplined for sending their children to a public school.

      Frankly, given the state of public education today, elders ought to be exhorting Christian parents to be seeking alternatives on purely pedagogical grounds but they do have a duty to exhort parents to make sure that their children are being taught to interpret world from a Christian point of view.

    • Scott, I’m not thinking of discipline for “ungodly” schooling (though that may be an implication given the language). My question was what is the biblical warrant for charging elders to promote something that doesn’t have clear biblical warrant. Are you saying there is biblical warrant to promote a particular form of schooling/academics on a scale equal to that of promoting everything else listed. i.e. the purity of W&S, catechism, vitiation, evangelism, etc.”

      The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, promote God-centered schooling, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

      If so, then I don’t see why the implication isn’t discipline. After all, failure to attend W&S is grounds for it. But if there isn’t biblical warrant, then maybe it needs revision. Why is an un-actionable element sharing space with actionable elements?

      But if you have resources on the discussions that have taken place in classis/synod, I wonder if you could pass it on? When I brought it up in our URC during elder nomination, I only received quizzical looks, as if nobody had ever heard of this being discussed.

  14. RSC: The question is what is “real-world, practical Christian living”? Sabbath-keeping certainly counts.

    yes don’t we spend our lives being instructed and learning of faith, belief, living from God’s word, by His Spirit; for, speaking of entering rest, we have the Lord’s warning that because of unbelief many do not enter, not having profited from the good news and the word heard, because it was not united by faith (Heb 3-4)?

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