More On Cancel Culture

Steven Pinker is correct. It is Orwellian to demand jot and tittle conformity (in civil life—we live in a twofold kingdom).

It is also Orwellian to deny that “cancel culture” exists. Certainly it exists. It is gaslighting to contribute to it by denying that it exists. The evidence for its existence is right before us. About 15 signatories to the recent public letter defending free speech remained anonymous for fear of the consequences of being found to be politically incorrect.

Example: I am thinking of a simple declarative sentence that is undeniably true and reasonable but to say it risks the irrational wrath of the mob. I will not say it now because the potential cost outweighs the benefit.

That is cancel culture.

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

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7 comments

  1. True… and too many in the church because of Rom. 13 believe that automatic obedience is required to decrees restricting the means of grace if mandated in the name of “science.” Sad.

    • Jack,

      I was and am willing to submit to the magistrate’s regulations on public gatherings for the sake of the well being of the community. I think we owe that sort of obedience but it has become clearer now that, in too many places to name, magistrates are regulating public gatherings on the basis of the content of speech and not on the basis of public health (science). I don’t know that the science has changed. I do think that there are politicians who find the protests (and riots) to their advantage and thus ignore what science (as of now) seems to be telling us about gatherings etc.

      I’m in favor of gathering safely, with care for the vulnerable, remembering the risks associated with this virus.

  2. Prof. Clark—

    I must admit that I’ve thought the same thing as Jack wrote in this space—more or less—several times over the last months. There are many churches (and a celebrity expositor, or two) who have seemingly a very wooden-headed view of the Romans 13 mandate. You yourself have written that the civil magistrate has a definite responsibility vis-a-vis the civil sphere to uphold righteousness and not “bear the sword in vain”. This would suggest that it is possible to “bear the sword in vain”. The Westminster Confession of Faith does not render Christians powerless in holding the civil magistrate accountable—as you rightly state. But the rub seems to be in the how, when, and where. There has to be some sort of objective measure for Reformed folk to go at this—beyond an individual pastor or local session’s tolerance level at feeling “pushed around”. Could I pose a rhetorical question? It might come across as cynical, but why not view the secular State in the WORST light possible—as pertains to its relationship with a proper, orthodox Christian witness—so that the intellectual point of departure when discussing these things in the future already concedes a very nasty disposition between the “two kingdoms”. Put another way, why should churches continue to cede ground—in good faith—if we presuppose (axiomatically, I mean) that the State wishes us clear ideological and practical harm? Because whether or not the relationship between the two kingdoms was always this strained or not…it definitely is now. There is incredible ill will. I might also ask this: while our identity is in Christ, may we also not appeal to our identity as Americans? With all of our birthright privileges that identity involves? Because it seems to me that many right thinking secular men (ex. Thomas Sowell) DO have an axiomatic stance toward the secular State that Christians do not have, but OUGHT to have. Aren’t we enjoined to be as wise as serpents? Is there not a way to leverage my Presbyterian identity WITH my American identity? We don’t live in a theocratic State. And, I know the Reformed majority report on theonomy. But when I think of what the Puritans of the Mass. Bay Colony envisioned for us…as over against all of the ground that has already been ceded, then I get very disgusted. And I can’t help but think that all of the neo-Calvinists are saying, “See? We told you so! We told you so! We told you so!!” Sorry for the length of this comment! It all seemed necessary. Warmest regards—

    • Greg,

      Nero was not a nice man. He did not wish the Christians well. About a decade (or so) after the Apostle Paul wrote Romans 13 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Nero murdered a large number of Christians (according to Tacitus), whom he used as a scapegoat to cover up his own venality.

      In the early AD 60s the Apostle Peter, also under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote:

      Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (1 Pet 2:13–17).

      That is God’s Word. The apostles weren’t naive Nero or Claudius or any of the others. They didn’t condition their teaching upon the moral qualities or the good will of the current Caesar.

      In the 2nd century, the Christians, who were being martyred for no good reason, only asked to be left alone. We invented the idea of secular government when we asked to be allowed to be regarded as Roman citizens and residents without being required to participate in the state religion. They did not have to suppose that the state meant them harm. The state meant and did them harm. Nevertheless, they consistently described our relations to the world (e.g., Diognetus ch. 5) in terms of two cities/kingdoms or, as Calvin much later put it, a “twofold kingdom.” Relations were very strained. Still, they counseled submission and obedience up to the point the magistrate required us to disobey God.

      This is why I’ve been appealing to Acts 5:29.

      The Church And The Virus: Is This An Acts 5:29 Moment?

      Heidelcast 152: Calls On Church History, Theocracy, Biblical Languages, Final Salvation Through Works, Jesus’ Faith, And Civil Disobedience

      Now, we live in a representative (or democratic) republic, in which we get to participate in our own governance. We are also a revolutionary republic in which the “lesser magistrate” (Calvin’s term) resisted a king they regarded as a tyrant. It wasn’t a popular uprising. It was a resistance to tyranny but a rightly ordered congress of representatives.

      We still have access to those offices.

      This is the beauty of distinguishing a twofold citizenship. We exercise our citizenship in both places simultaneously.

      I’m not counseling naïveté regarding the state. We must be wise as serpents.

      There’s a fairly extensive library of posts, articles, and podcasts on religious liberty on the HB.

      Theonomy is a serious mistake and contrary to the Word of God and the Westminster Confession (19.4).

      Resources On Theonomy And Reconstructionism

      Yes, we have a theocratic past, including parts of the American colonial experiment. That past was rightly rejected by the American founders.

      You write of ceding the ground as if we Christendom/theocracy were the norm. I don’t accept that assumption. We’ve always lived in a twofold kingdom. We’ve never had any “ground” in the sense in which you seem to be using it, to cede.

      The neo-Calvinists? Have you looked at the Netherlands lately? Where have they transformed anything? What has a more than century of neo-Calvinism done for us culturally?

      • Prof. Clark—

        Thanks very much for your lengthy reply. I have followed the Heidelblog for only a year and a half (approx.), and have derived much from it. The last thing I want to convey is an argumentative spirit, or sarcasm—because that is not how I mean to present. What I write, I really do write in good faith. I will continue to avail myself of the extensive backlog of Heidelmedia resources—always learning, and always reforming.
        Relative to the WCF, it isn’t my purpose to argue on behalf of theonomists regarding 19.4 and 19.5–a)because I’m not one b) because I don’t have the theological or historical sophistication to do it—but it seems readily apparent that the best and brightest of them are thoroughly conversant with the Confession—and have sophisticated answers to both that point as well as the Romans 13 mandate. That is to say, if someone can be accused of a literal, wooden-headed reading of Romans 13, they might view the spirit of the Confession through the same lens. Ostensibly, even to the layman, these are very complicated considerations and involve nuances—even as we see our society shattering before us. This is not lost on you, either—as is evident from the things you are posting most every day. When I spoke of the neo-Calvinists, I had in mind those of the Van Tillian, American sort. Their mantra is “all of Christ for all of Life” and “there is no neutrality”. The other day in a post, you praised Van Til for accurately drawing a bead on evangelicalism—and distinguishing it from Reformed thought. Gordon Clark saw a seed of destruction in Van Tillian thought—and while theonomy might be a minority report, the spirit of Van Til still looms very large—at least in the OPC. All of that to ask: could the locus of a proper discussion concerning sphere sovereignty and a relationship of Christian to State be a function (at a remove) of the so-called “Clark/Van Til” controversy? At any rate, it seems to me that if a neo-Calvinist were to describe EITHER current day Holland OR the USA, their answer would be that the countries have gone a-whoring after false gods, and that their own first principles regarding a righteous State were either abandoned or never implemented properly—to begin with. Regarding the “two-kingdom” idea…are you familiar with Brian Mattson’s small book on that? I have NOT read it. But it is in my Amazon cart. It does have the imprimatur of John Frame—another Van Tillian—for what that’s worth. I have read Brian Schwertly’s e-books on the subject of paedocommunion (he’s against it), exclusive Psalmody (he’s for it), the Federal Vision (he’s against it) and theonomy (he’s for it). But there is a literature out there which does not presume a “two kingdom” idea. But you already know this. But if it’s possible to separate theonomy from the FV (Schwertly), and if Van Til is still relevant (despite his views on paradox and analogical knowledge), then I think the two-kingdom idea deserves a more full-orbed application for Reformed folk who are perfectly willing to admit that Christian churches and the families which make them up are drowning in unbelief and apostasy, but that having citizenship in either or BOTH kingdoms is extremely little consolation. So, we can vote. We have representation. We aren’t being jailed or martyred yet. So what? How can we feel “privileged” for the citizenship(s)? I understand the role of Nero and other malicious emperors which followed, but after all, we are living 2000 yrs. after Christ. The first and second century pagans were, in most cases, living in a pre-Christian society—were they not? We understand the Romans 13 mandate to submit is not conditional on the era, but you asked about my idea of Christianity having “ceded” something. Well, haven’t we? The loaf has been leavened for 20 centuries. Foreign missions have covered the planet. Doesn’t it strike you as having lost something if the average faithful Christian in the pew is being presented with State examples which do not take into account centuries upon centuries of Christian thought and heritage? You say that the colonial heritage was rightly adjusted by the secular founders—making reference to the correction regarding the Puritan theocracy. But it seems to me we went from aspiring to be “a city set upon a Hill” to an ethos of “let’s see if we can show our spiritual maturity and confessional fidelity by out-persevering Nero”. You will forgive me if I feel that we’ve made a very sorry exchange. And that’s why I’m confused. Here’s a rhetorical: what if Gavin Newsom were to say: “No Christian churches may meet indoors until there’s a Covid-19 cure. Period paragraph. Now, Christians, what are YOU going to do about it?? Do your worst”. Why should we be relinquished to house churches or parking lots or fines or whatever else, 20 centuries later? If the Puritans were Reformed and we are their heirs, and Van Til and Francis Schaeffer and others mean anything at all, I really don’t see how it’s possible to see otherwise—relative to us having ceded ground. You are right: “theocracy/Christendom” is not the norm. But neither is it the norm that Americans should have ever felt that there’s a secular hostility/threat toward them gathering on the Lord’s Day, or homeschooling, or any other number of blatant, contradictions which we are now forced to swallow every single day. And, what’s next? I don’t want to sound facetious or sarcastic, but I really can’t see how our “dual-citizenship” places us in very good stead—without concurrent demands on the civil magistrate to at least treat me as the American I am—by virtue of my birth. If I cannot appeal to my theology and its critical importance to Western civilization itself (“Christ and Civilization”, John Robbins, The Trinity Foundation), then I can certainly appeal to secular protections under the law. I hope I’ve clarified things adequately. Thank you for your time and patience. One last question: I also have NOT read Steve Halbrook’s “God is Just…A Defense of the OT Civil Laws”, but I’ve come across it. I wonder if you think it has any significant merit in advancing a counter view. Warmly—

        • Greg,

          Replies:

          Prof. Clark—

          Thanks very much for your lengthy reply. I have followed the Heidelblog for only a year and a half (approx.), and have derived much from it. The last thing I want to convey is an argumentative spirit, or sarcasm—because that is not how I mean to present. What I write, I really do write in good faith. I will continue to avail myself of the extensive backlog of Heidelmedia resources—always learning, and always reforming.

          Understood.

          Relative to the WCF, it isn’t my purpose to argue on behalf of theonomists regarding 19.4 and 19.5–a)because I’m not one b) because I don’t have the theological or historical sophistication to do it—

          With all due modestly, I do. It’s what I do. I’ve been reading/interacting with the theo-recon case since 1980. I am well aware of their arguments. They don’t hold water. There is a lot I don’t know but I do know this. I read and write professionally on 16th and 17th century texts and theology. That wasn’t true of Rushdoony or of Bahnsen nor is true of their many students. They were prolific but none of them were scholars of the 16th and 17th centuries. Bahnsen was a philosopher. He certainly wasn’t a biblical exegete. Theonomy in Christian Ethics was marred by tendentious exegesis. Rushdoony was, in his own way, not only prolific and brilliant, but he did not know what he did not know. It’s the autodidact’s great problem: there is no one to tell him that he’s wrong or what he needs to read or learn.

          but it seems readily apparent that the best and brightest of them are thoroughly conversant with the Confession—and have sophisticated answers to both that point as well as the Romans 13 mandate.

          Re: WCF 19.4 They have de-contextualized “general equity” and re-defined it in a way that reminds one of the way Postmodernists are wont to interpret texts.

          We know what general equity meant in the 16th and 17th centuries. I’ve documented it well enough here:

          General equity = natural law. What the WCF intends to say, what the divines intended to say is this:

          Whatever in the Mosaic judicial laws agrees with natural law is still binding. Whatever is distinctively Mosaic expired.

          If the WCF is right, and it is, Theonomy, in the Rushdoony/Bahnsen et al sense of the word is a non-starter.

          That is to say, if someone can be accused of a literal, wooden-headed reading of Romans 13, they might view the spirit of the Confession through the same lens. Ostensibly, even to the layman, these are very complicated considerations and involve nuances—even as we see our society shattering before us. This is not lost on you, either—as is evident from the things you are posting most every day. When I spoke of the neo-Calvinists, I had in mind those of the Van Tillian, American sort. Their mantra is “all of Christ for all of Life” and “there is no neutrality”. The other day in a post, you praised Van Til for accurately drawing a bead on evangelicalism—and distinguishing it from Reformed thought. Gordon Clark saw a seed of destruction in Van Tillian thought—and while theonomy might be a minority report, the spirit of Van Til still looms very large—at least in the OPC. All of that to ask: could the locus of a proper discussion concerning sphere sovereignty and a relationship of Christian to State be a function (at a remove) of the so-called “Clark/Van Til” controversy? At any rate, it seems to me that if a neo-Calvinist were to describe EITHER current day Holland OR the USA, their answer would be that the countries have gone a-whoring after false gods, and that their own first principles regarding a righteous State were either abandoned or never implemented properly—to begin with.

          For some folks any appeal to Romans 13 is dismissed as “wooden.” Again, this is what I hear/read from the theo-recons going back to 1980. They all dismissed Romans 13 because it didn’t fit their triumphalist paradigm. They are, most of them, ex-Dispensationalists, who never really shed their Dispensationalist hermeneutic. As I’ve mentioned before, Gary North manifests this in his book on common grace, where he attacks CVT and treats the Sermon on the Mount as an ethical parenthesis. Bahnsen does manifests a Dispensational hermeneutic in his handling of Heb 7:11-14. Both he and Lightfoot, whom I compared in a paper back in ’85-86 both booted that passage quite badly. Both of them had to make it go away because it didn’t fit their paradigm.

          On CVT, American neo-Kuyperians, and neutrality:

          I’m much influenced by CVT. He’s essentially right but his rhetoric re natural law ignored the Reformed tradition prior to Bavinck. It unleashed a lot of practical Barthians in the P&R world, whose only reference for natural law was Hugo Grotius. We’re long past the time where the neo-Calvinist sloganeering is very helpful.

          Yes, there is no neutrality (Kuyper was right about the antithesis) but Kuyper was also right about Gemeene Gratie. We have to live together in the world with pagans. We can set up our own schools (which too often are just conservative versions of the status quo) but at some point our kids emerge into the strange world where they will work cheek-by-jowl with pagans. There they will experience commonality. We all are subject to the Covid. That’s part of our doctrine of the fall and providence.

          Gordon Clark was a rationalist of a sort. He thought his intellect intersected with God. CVT was right in that argument. He was with the Reformed tradition in distinguishing theology as God knows it and theology as he reveals it to us.

          See the chapter in Recovering the Reformed Confession on this.

          On the Clark-Van Til controversy see:

          • “Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology,” in David VanDrunen, ed., The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: A Festschrift for Robert B. Strimple (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004), 149–80.

          You seem to want to excuse the neo-Calvinist failures in the Netherlands and the USA with the same excuse the Marxists use: the right people haven’t done it yet. If father Abraham couldn’t do it, no one can. It’s been downhill since Kuyper died. We have stoutly neo-Calvinist schools across the land who look increasingly little different from their secular counterparts.

          Regarding the “two-kingdom” idea…are you familiar with Brian Mattson’s small book on that? I have NOT read it. But it is in my Amazon cart. It does have the imprimatur of John Frame—another Van Tillian—for what that’s worth.

          No. I am decidedly unimpressed by Frame’s analysis of the 2K ethic.

          Instead of reading about the 2K (or as I would rather, the “twofold kingdom”) have you read VanDrunen and the primary sources for yourself? If not, isn’t that your duty to give that view its due before you go reading about it? When my students are writing term papers, I require them to read the primary sources first. That’s why they’re called primary sources. The surest road to confusion is to read the secondary lit first.

          I have read Brian Schwertly’s e-books on the subject of paedocommunion (he’s against it), exclusive Psalmody (he’s for it), the Federal Vision (he’s against it) and theonomy (he’s for it). But there is a literature out there which does not presume a “two kingdom” idea. But you already know this. But if it’s possible to separate theonomy from the FV (Schwertly), and if Van Til is still relevant (despite his views on paradox and analogical knowledge), then I think the two-kingdom idea deserves a more full-orbed application for Reformed folk who are perfectly willing to admit that Christian churches and the families which make them up are drowning in unbelief and apostasy, but that having citizenship in either or BOTH kingdoms is extremely little consolation.

          Schwertly writes from the point of view of the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ, does he not?

          You know that Gillespie and Rutherford both rejected that position, right?

          Consolation? Tell it to the Christian martyrs who confessed it before giving their lives for the gospel in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

          How does Christendom become the norm?

          So, we can vote. We have representation. We aren’t being jailed or martyred yet. So what? How can we feel “privileged” for the citizenship(s)? I understand the role of Nero and other malicious emperors which followed, but after all, we are living 2000 yrs. after Christ.

          It’s the same world and we ought to pay attention to Nero because that’s where things are/seem to be headed. That’s the natural state of things for Christians in the world.

          The first and second century pagans were, in most cases, living in a pre-Christian society—were they not? We understand the Romans 13 mandate to submit is not conditional on the era, but you asked about my idea of Christianity having “ceded” something. Well, haven’t we? The loaf has been leavened for 20 centuries. Foreign missions have covered the planet. Doesn’t it strike you as having lost something if the average faithful Christian in the pew is being presented with State examples which do not take into account centuries upon centuries of Christian thought and heritage?

          You want to make theocracy/Christendom the baseline. On what biblical basis? Where exactly did any NT author call for, teach, or imply theocracy or Christendom?

          You say that the colonial heritage was rightly adjusted by the secular founders—making reference to the correction regarding the Puritan theocracy. But it seems to me we went from aspiring to be “a city set upon a Hill” to an ethos of “let’s see if we can show our spiritual maturity and confessional fidelity by out-persevering Nero”.

          Again, on what basis other than what was, does Christendom become the norm? Why are you entitled to assume it as the baseline?

          You will forgive me if I feel that we’ve made a very sorry exchange.

          What makes you think that we can get back to a colonial Eden, if you will, even if we wanted to? Why are we even discussing this? It seems absurd. Do you want Presbyterians in charge of the state and punishing Baptists for doctrinal error? I don’t. There’s not a shred of biblical warrant for such a thing.

          And that’s why I’m confused. Here’s a rhetorical: what if Gavin Newsom were to say: “No Christian churches may meet indoors until there’s a Covid-19 cure. Period paragraph. Now, Christians, what are YOU going to do about it?? Do your worst”.

          Contra Gary North, it’s not as if our Lord Jesus didn’t prep us for this:

          “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you (Matt 5:38–42)

          When Jesus spoke those words, the Jews (including his disciples) were waiting for a Messiah to defeat the hated Roman enemies. Instead he came as a suffering Savior and he sent us to suffer. We have been blessed in this Republic to enjoy a degree of religious liberty such as the world has never hitherto known. We have squandered it and perhaps our time is running out. I hope not. Christians ought to exercise their civil liberties and seek to preserve religious liberty. We ought to pray fervently that this place remains free for the ministry of the gospel.

          Why should we be relinquished to house churches or parking lots or fines or whatever else, 20 centuries later? If the Puritans were Reformed and we are their heirs, and Van Til and Francis Schaeffer and others mean anything at all, I really don’t see how it’s possible to see otherwise—relative to us having ceded ground. You are right: “theocracy/Christendom” is not the norm. But neither is it the norm that Americans should have ever felt that there’s a secular hostility/threat toward them gathering on the Lord’s Day, or homeschooling, or any other number of blatant, contradictions which we are now forced to swallow every single day. And, what’s next? I don’t want to sound facetious or sarcastic, but I really can’t see how our “dual-citizenship” places us in very good stead—without concurrent demands on the civil magistrate to at least treat me as the American I am—by virtue of my birth. If I cannot appeal to my theology and its critical importance to Western civilization itself (“Christ and Civilization”, John Robbins, The Trinity Foundation), then I can certainly appeal to secular protections under the law. I hope I’ve clarified things adequately. Thank you for your time and patience. One last question: I also have NOT read Steve Halbrook’s “God is Just…A Defense of the OT Civil Laws”, but I’ve come across it. I wonder if you think it has any significant merit in advancing a counter view. Warmly—

          If we are so relegated, it is be the providence of God. Should we resist by peaceful civil disobedience?

          Did you listen to/reead my case re Acts 5:29?

          Are we at an Acts 5:29? I’m not sure. We seem to be getting close. Governor Newsom’s latest ruling seems capricious and almost vindictive. The authorities have squandered the public trust by lying about masks (they’re no help, wait, no, they’re vital! Wear them) and by seeking to use the virus as an opportunity to consolidate control.

          It’s not like I haven’t addressed these very issues. There’s a way to do this, to think about these issues outside of the neo-K, theocratic, theo-recon box:

          Shalom.

          • Prof. Clark—
            I apologize that I didn’t have the moments to properly reply to you yesterday—as you certainly deserved. I hope to remedy that now.
            A brief qualifier: yes, if something has appeared on The Heidelblog in the past year, or so, I very likely have read it in it’s entirety. Some things you post are very short quotations or video clips, etc., others amount to a multi-page document with footnoting. Of course, I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’m a fan. I’ve screenshotted many things from it to my Instagram stories (always giving credit👍🏻); I point whomever will listen in your direction. I even sent my mother a copy of your book (Recovering…TRC). I have read some Puritan primary sources, Calvin’s “Institutes”, Luther’s “Bondage of the Will”, you know, “The Puritan’s Progress”, things like that. So, my reading list of the 16th and 17th century PRIMARY sources is no doubt deficient. But I’ve read an AWFUL lot of books—although as I think about it, they date from the 19th and 20th centuries. I have a very sizeable layman’s library—that our pastors used to borrow from—when I was a teenager in the 1980’s. Christian Book Distributors received very frequent orders. I also own literally hundreds of old John MacArthur sermons from that era on cassette tape—with all the accompanying study guides—as I was stupefied at his ability to exegete texts—compared to what I was hearing in my local churches. I’ve read and am conversant in everything from Clarence Larkin’s dispensational charts to Dooyeweerd and Barth. Berkhof’s “Systemstic Theology” (along with Hodge) sat on my nightstand as a teenager. But, I used a Ryrie Study Bible—and I think, in those years, had a morbid fascination with what you term an “overrealized” eschatology. J. Dwight Pentecost’s “Things to Come” was something I could have taught. Perhaps one could say Rushdoony’s views are “overrealized”—in his sphere of concern. But people like that probably feel they’ve figured things out—that we have not. My reading has been broad—and diverse. Both Clarkian and Van Tillian, Thornwell and Hodge, Bavinck and Berkhof and Hoeksema. Btw, I came to know Hoeksema about 20 years ago (I’m 48), and his “Reformed Dogmatics” (2 vols.) is impressive. I think he was quite the dogmatician. I also own several books by the likes of David Engelsma, Herman Hanko, etc. I must say, when you talk about “common grace” and “natural law” and “nature vs. grace”, yes, I regard those categories as very troubling—because they have been the stuff of incredible contention and intramural debate in the Reformed world. Theonomy is not the only camp where these concepts have undergone a rigorous approach. I also own a great deal of Clark’s works from The Trinity Foundation—as well as those of John Robbins and others they publish. I only cite all of this to give you some scope of what I’ve been exposed to. I AM well read—at least compared to 99% of laypeople—and probably more than some seminarians and pastors. Incidentally, Herman Hoeksema comes down pretty squarely on the side of Gordon Clark in his book on the subject of that controversy w/Van Til. For what that’s worth. It’s not lost on you that Robbins was against Van Til and Van Tillians…so they’ve all fallen under his polemical axe—from Van Til himself, to Bahnsen, Frame, and even yourself. He wrote the most devastating review of MacArthur’s “The Gospel According to Jesus” that you could ever find—calling it neolegalism and a corrupted “gospel”. I don’t want you thinking I’ve only read theonomists/recons. I’ve read at least as much of their detractors. But I will say: I cannot see how you consider it a professional “liability” that Bahnsen (or Gordon Clark, for that matter) were philosophers. VanDrunen is a lawyer. You (I think) are considered a historian. Isn’t the ideal Reformed man an amalgam of all of these? I don’t think it’s fair to discount Bahnsen’s larger system by picking on some admittedly weak exegesis. There is a Chalcedon article which even ADMITS Bahnsen’s weak exegesis (written by Martin Selbrede)—regarding Jesus’ remark about the “jot and tittle of the Law not passing away…, etc.”. Then Selbrede goes on to say that Warfield gives an even MORE undiluted exegesis than Bahnsen—and that Warfield’s is beyond reproach. I could find that for you, if you’d like. John MacArthur is widely considered as good as anyone at exegesis—and for all that, he has tremendous theological woes and blind spots. Were he more of a “philosopher” he wouldn’t have made the serious and noted Christological missteps he made some years ago regarding incarnational Sonship. John Gerstner said he was too illogical and inconsistent to be a good heretic. You do know that Gerstner famously chastised John Murray over his view of the illicit offer of the gospel, right? I saw that John Murray was in a bibliography you posted yesterday. What Hoeksema thought about it, I don’t need to tell you.
            I know there are contentions in the Reformed world, but much that’s presumed by any majority should not be—or can not be. “Natural law” in particular troubles me—meaning that it’s really hairy turf. I read that Bahnsen was to do a large work on natural law—but died before being able to start it. Gary North believes he was the brightest student Van Til ever had, I think. I wonder what a Bahnsen in his 70’s would still affirm re: theonomy and what he would have by now modified or…disavowed. The other thing about natural law is that it has a very Thomistic, Roman Catholic ring…and is a term they use. I will read VanDrunen’s work on this—you have my word—but wasn’t he schooled at a Catholic law school? Connection?? You asked about Schwertly holding to a mediatorial view of Christ’s Kingship—yes, he does. This was also the view of the Scottish Covenanters—and he has written a book on the subject. The Reformed Pres. Church in N.A. still holds to this view, I believe. Schwertly might well be in that denomination; I don’t know. But didn’t J.H. Thornwell petition the Confederate States to adopt the Kingship of Jesus in their constitutions/documents? I think he did—and he was a very solid Southern Presbyterian. The Marxist jibe you gave me made me chuckle—the way I phrased my remark, I handed you that one on a silver platter. Touché. We know Marxism is irrational and a hostile worldview to Christianity. Whether it’s been appropriated halfheartedly or not is immaterial to my claim that we live in a constitutional republic—NOT a Marxist State. Nor, do we live under an Oriental despot. The highest law in the land IS our Constitution—and neither Gavin Newsom nor anyone else should expect obedience from those who recognize true authorities from despots. I heard Doug Wilson say (I already know what you’re thinking) that to give obedience to an authority that is operating outside of the bounds of his actual authority is itself sin—because we are according authority to someone who is in fact illicit. His view is that Romans 13 submission cannot be divorced from what actually constitutes the highest authority in the land—the Constitution. Concerning your remark re: neo-Calvinist schools…and their character being not so different from other schools, ok, I can buy that. Perhaps you’re right. I have no children. But to send children to public, government schools for catechesis in destructive nonsense is no alternative. Yes, we must socialize with secularists and we and they and our kids and their kids can all catch Covid-19, but it still seems impossible to escape the full-orbed considerations of The Great Commission. Even if theonomy in your words—is a non starter—the terrible cultural declensions under a secular common law, informed by common grace—is something which can only do something like give us 20,000 laws concerning guns. 20,000! It’s mayhem, and it is compromise, and it is sin. Wasn’t it Van Til who talked about Yahweh being patient in the O.T. regarding the view of sin? In that…they did not have full revelation and that we now have the full law and full revelation—in such a way that our behavior is now somehow less excusable. I’m paraphrasing and I’m sure I’m butchering it, but I think you understand the principle I’m trying to explain. I still maintain that we have 2000 yrs. of Christian thought, heritage, tradition, faith and morals—encapsulated in a republic with concepts of law derived from the Magisterial Reformation. No one just gets to be Nero in our era with the expectation of obedience. Whatever Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2? mean, ultimately, how is it reasonable to not take the centuries into consideration? Nero was a wicked Roman emperor who assumed the authority of deity. Our mayors, governors, and POTUS do not have the luxury of incarnational deity. The Christians of that era WERE being subject to that State—because that was the cultural, civic circumstances under which they existed. We do NOT. If the State cannot hold to Mosaic case law, then the least that can be expected is that it is held subject to its own existing legal matrix. For the life of me, I cannot see how this is off the mark. I hope that I was not remiss in answering anything you posed to me. If so, it was unintentional! Please let me know if I missed something or should elaborate further—

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