The Christian Church has been instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Created by the Word of God and directed by the Holy Spirit, the Church confesses one Lord and Savior Jesus, His gospel and law. Therefore, as part of the Church and under the Lordship of Christ, we are called to speak the truth and expose deceit (Eph 4:15; 4:25).
In the light of Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine, we consider it necessary to strongly condemn the open and unjustified aggression aimed at destroying the statehood and independence of Ukraine and based on blatant lies from the lips of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and the country’s top leadership.
We reject Putin’s mythical narrative, which has nothing to do with historical reality, about the alleged artificial creation of the Ukrainian state.
We condemn Putin’s cynical lies about Ukraine’s alleged genocide of the people in the east of the country, lies that Putin uses to satisfy his own geopolitical ambitions, which are clearly contrary to God’s revelation (Deut. 27:17; Prov. 22:28).
We confess the real and unlimited power of God over all countries and continents (Ps 24:1), as well as over all kings and rulers (Prov 21:1), therefore, nothing in all creation can interfere with the fulfillment of the good and perfect will of God. We, together with the first Christians, affirm “Jesus is Lord,” and not Caesar.
We express solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We share the pain of those who have already lost their loved ones. We pray that all of the aggressor’s plans would be thwarted and put to shame. We call on all people of good will around the world to resist the lies and hatred of the aggressor. We call on everyone to petition for a cessation of hostilities and to exert every possible influence on the Russian Federation in order to stop the unmotivated aggression toward Ukraine. We ask you to pray for peace for the people of Ukraine and for courage and wisdom for Christian churches so that they continue to serve those in need.
We pray for our authorities and put our hope in the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who is, and remains, our refuge and our fortress, even in time of war (Ps 46).
Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Ukraine
Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary (Riga, Latvia)
Evening Reformed Seminary (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
Kyiv Theological Seminary
Odessa Theological Seminary
Poltava Theological Seminary
Reformed Theological Seminary of Donetsk (temporarily located in Kyiv)
Reformed Theological Seminary Heidelberg, (Germany)
Seminary in Western Russia (we withhold the name of the seminary)
Seminary in Western Siberia, Russia (we withhold the name of the seminary)
Taurian Christian Institute (Kherson)
Source | Feb 26, 2022
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- Background of the Statement
I don’ t have a facebook account, so I appreciate you publishing this summary. It is very helpful to me. I am praying for the Ukraine, but really have no specifics. So this helps.
Thank you for posting this. These are my people, those who have signed the documents. I am proud to be a Christian.
Wait, what? Bye bye 2k, hello theocracy
I have read through this three times. I don’t see any theocracy here. What am I missing?
Scott, when 2k is undermined (like this kind of statement does), theocracy fills the void. So what happened to not intermeddling in civil affairs and sticking to only ecclesiastical matters? How can any credible proponent of 2k possibly endorse this kind of statement? Is this becoming the spot for fair weather 2k? Spirituality of the church until one’s particular ideology is challenged?
There are two spheres in the 2K, aren’t there? Don’t Christians live in both spheres simultaneously?
What you’re advocating is Pietistic world-flight, not 2K. Calvin, who gave us the category “twofold kingdom” spoke to civil issues. No one is in the letter is advocating that the church as an institution speak to the magistrate.
Citizens speaking as such to their rulers/legislators is not “intermeddling”.
I still don’t see the theocracy here. Where is anyone advocating that the state impose or enforce religious orthodoxy? There is such a thing as natural justice and citizens have a right to pursue natural justice. An unjust invasion by one predatory nation of another is a violation of natural justice. Recognizing that reality is hardly theocratic.
Neither the HB nor the schools who drafted the statement are “the church.” They are schools. They have a natural relationship to the government (e.g., accreditation).
Scott, the very first statement reads:
“The Christian Church has been instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Created by the Word of God and directed by the Holy Spirit, the Church confesses one Lord and Savior Jesus, His gospel and law. Therefore, as part of the Church and under the Lordship of Christ, we are called to speak the truth and expose deceit.”
Evidently, this is the church speaking as the church, not ordinary citizens. I may be pietist (I’m not), but you’re being wooden. If this is just a statement by ordinary citizens then why borrow the ecclesiastical language if not to lend religious weight to a human opinion–by the way, I share the opinion that Putin is thoroughly bad because, yes, to answer your question about simultaneous spheres, I believe we have a foot in both. I have a similar opinion of Trump. But I don’t go around writing, signing, or promoting documents that thoroughly collapse faith and politics like this in order to bolster even my visceral opinions. They’re mere provisional opinions. Do piestists make these distinctions? Your accusation is way off mark.
So, tell me, what keeps you from signing the American Declaration circulated to all the URCNA ministers? How are you not making the world safe for your anti-2k critics? I know Michianana Man who could easily read this as a truce on your part.
These are seminaries speaking about the church, not as the church. Wooden perhaps but distinctions matter.
You still haven’t shown or explained how this document is theocratic or is collapsing “faith and politics.”
They aren’t demanding that Russia or Ukraine enforce religious orthodoxy or adopt the Christian faith. They are speaking at Christins to an injustice that is present occurring.
The Russians are invading them, in part, on religious pretenses. Putin has postured as some sort of rescuer of Christianity or Orthodoxy from Ukrainian Nazis etc. The Russian Orthodox church has come out in support of their master Putin. Thus, the seminaries are rightly explaining who is the proper head of the church: Jesus. How is the wrong?
I don’t think I was asked to sign anything and, in the case you’re mentioning, it seems entirely unnecessary since we have a Belgic Confession (as revised and adopted by the churches).
My convictions re Christ’s twofold kingdom remain unchanged. The evidence is extensive:
Resources On The Twofold Kingdom
Please keep discussing this, ZRim and Dr. Clark.
Issues like this, and the current PCA controversy over homosexuality, get to the heart of what 2K is or is not all about. Is 2K an effort to silence or at least mute biblical objections to what Scripture says is wrong, or is 2K an effort to say Christians must be careful to speak as individual citizens or as organizations rather than as the institutional church on questions to which Scripture does not speak with crystal clarity?
If all 2K means is the institutional church must use great exegetical caution before speaking officially, I think a lot of people will sympathize. That’s an echo of the Westminster Confession’s language.
If 2K isn’t what ZRim seems to say here that it is, people like Dr. Clark, who I think can fairly be described as a major academic advocate of 2K views, need to speak out and make clear whether Christians, inside or outside the sphere of the institutional church, have a right to speak up on what some would say are political questions such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On the other hand, if 2K means what ZRim seems to mean, it’s hard for me to see how Christians, using his logic, could oppose even the most evil regimes of human history, ones doing far worse things than the worst Putin has done so far in Ukraine.
WHAT Christians say on the issue is a different question from WHETHER Christians have a right to speak on the issue.
I’m well aware that the issues regarding Ukraine are complicated. The answers are not necessarily clear, and I haven’t publicly taken a position on what Putin is doing. If I’m going to comment from a Christian perspective, I need to understand much more about Ukrainian and Russian history than I do, as well as current on-the-ground realities of the moral standing of both governments and of the peoples they govern. I’ve been following the situation for close to two decades, and I think I know more than some of the “talking heads on TV” who are spouting opinions on subjects that I doubt they cared about until recently. but I am not an expert. My read is that both countries are full of seriously bad actors, and I’m sympathetic to the argument that Russian-speaking people in Ukraine’s outlying regions may want to join Russia if a free election could be arranged, which can’t happen under current circumstances, and hasn’t been possible for a long time, and Russia is at least partly to blame for that. However, even if Putin is right that large numbers of people currently ruled by the Ukrainian government want to return to Russian rule, none of Putin’s claims are sufficient to justify the armed military invasion now happening.
From a political rather than a Christian perspective, what concerns me greatly is that regardless of whether Putin is right or wrong, if he gets away with using force to enforce his claims on a neighboring country’s territory, we’re going to see similar and significantly more serious actions by other governments using force to extend their sphere of influence or to reclaim territory they believe to be theirs.
Do we really want to see President Xi try to reclaim his “renegade province” of Taiwan for China, saying he’s doing the same thing in his back yard that President Putin did in his back yard with Ukraine? Or on the other hand, do we want to see President Xi decide to send lots of weapons to North Korea on the grounds that he’s doing the same thing in his back yard that the Europeans and Americans did to help the Ukrainian government?
What happens in Ukraine isn’t going to stay in Ukraine.
Please keep discussing this, ZRim and Dr. Clark.
I don’t see what the Revoice/Side B controversy in the PCA has to do with a twofold kingdom. There is far too much loose talk/writing/preaching about “2K” by people who do not seem to have taken the time to do the most rudimentary reading.
Resources On The Twofold Kingdom
To be perfectly clear, for about a decade I’ve been using Calvin’s expression a “twofold kingdom.” Technically, I’m advocating ONE KINGDOM, which some of the critics, especially those influenced by Reconstructionism/theonomy/theocratic politics seem to ignore. Like Calvin, I’m trying to distinguish between the sacred and the secular (the common), the eternal and the temporal but without Calvin’s theocratic assumptions.
I don’t see how anyone could read the HB (do the critics even bother to read free, online resources?) and conclude that distinguishing between the two spheres of God’s kingdom leads to muting Scripture. Homosexuality? Has anyone seen the HB resources on Revoice/homosexuality/gay marriage etc?
Resources On LGBTQ And Revoice
I’ve been addressing political correctness, critical theory and a great lot of other issues:
Yes, the twofold kingdom has always entailed the spirituality of the visible, institutional church. If someone has a problem with that they should take it up with the Lord of the church who gave us our Great Commission and the keys of the kingdom. Neither of the keys entails the church giving advice to the civil magistrate. I wasn’t given a special endowment at my ordination whereby I became omnicompetent and neither did any other minister or consistory receive such a second blessing.
Citizens and groups (as I’ve said about a 1,000 times here) are free to do and say as they will within the confines of the law and the gospel.
Anyone who thinks that they can do as the mainline churches have done, and turn the church into the arm of a political party, without losing the church is simply not paying attention. If someone wants the church to be an arm of a party, join the PCUSA. They’ve taken 127 social positions and diminished themselves from 4 million members to just over 1 million (and that’s probably an exaggerated number still).
People keep assuming that “2K” is a set of conclusions. It isn’t. It’s a hermeneutical question: what does this passage mean for the twofold kingdom?
The church has a right to speak as an institution to the magistrate in exceptional cases but some people want the visible church to speak to the magistrate about everything. They are functional theocrats.
Zrim and I disagree about the application of the twofold kingdom (perhaps Zrim would rather say “two kingdoms,” which has plenty of support in the Reformed tradition).
I posted the statement for a couple of reasons:
1) It means that, at the time of the posting, the people who wrote it have not been killed by Russians. That was a real concern. I reached out to one person, at one of the schools but did not hear back. It was a relief to know that he was safe.
2) It’s worth considering what they had to say.
FWIW, I wouldn’t subscribe this statement. I don’t subscribe statements beyond the Three Forms. That’s why I wouldn’t sign (had I been asked) the statement proposed by some of the URC ministers.
You’ve raised important and fair questions, Dr. Clark.
I’m working on tax documents for two businesses today for a CPA appointment tomorrow. I cannot give your questions the depth and detail of an answer they deserve. But I owe you at least some response.
Here’s an (admittedly) inadequate start.
It seems clear that the academic proponents of 2K are grounding their positions in Reformed history and in (certain parts) of the Reformed confessional tradition. I respect that, even where I disagree. It’s a legitimate in-house debate that goes back at least to the early 1800s in the Reformed world, and arguably much longer.
It seems equally clear that some of the people identified with the 2K movement are running far beyond that.
What’s not always clear is whether the people running out in front are taking arguments to their logical conclusion, or whether they are deviating from and distorting the arguments of the movement’s leaders. Of course, that’s not a new question in ecclesiastical debates.
I’m glad to see this debate between you and ZRim. I hope you and he continue to flesh this disagreement out.
Regarding the PCA’s homosexuality controversy: As I’ve said to you publicly and privately, I’m very glad to see you taking leadership on that issue. I’m surprised. Perhaps I should not have been. For me to go into detail on why I was surprised requires a level of source-citing I simply cannot do today, and may well be unnecessary since I see you taking good positions, making good arguments for those positions, and clearly getting attention from people in the PCA who are willing to listen to people like you, or at least regard you as enough of a problem that they have to respond, when their practice for years was to ignore their critics in the conservative wing (or to use their words, the “unhealthy wing”) of the PCA.
I think the least that can be said is that 2K advocates who were making a case for gay marriages, or at an earlier time for domestic partnerships and similar halfway steps, caused serious questions about how strong their commitment was to a traditional biblical understanding of homosexuality. I get it that marriage is a function of the civil magistrate, not a sacrament of the church. I have a history on that issue dating back nearly four decades, and long ago I was (quietly) criticized by some Reformed conservatives for being inconsistent and keeping remnants of my liberal pre-conversion past.
But it’s not unheard of for people to advocate toleration for things they claim not to support, but with which they actually quietly agree more than they want to say in public. I got asked some hard questions in the 1980s and 1990s and the questions needed to be asked.
Reformed Christians have been speaking of “two kingdoms” and God’s “twofold kingdom” since the mid-16th century.
A lot of the critics of any 2k formulation are neo-Kuyperians of some kind who simply assume neo-Kuyperianism as normative. These folk tend to be rather disconnected from the older Reformed tradition.
You’re referring to Lee and Misty Irons. Lee has, as I understand it, repented of his support for same-sex civil unions. Misty has gone on to join the Revoice movement.
There is nothing about distinguishing the two spheres or distinguishing two kingdoms that necessarily leads to support for gay marriage or gay civil unions. That Irons’ once took those positions doesn’t imply anything about a 2K approach. I suppose that I could find self-identified neo-Kuyperians who support gay civil unions or gay marriage.
The pro-gay marriage/civil union position fails to account for an essential category, one with which the neo-Kuyperians also struggle: nature. Gay unions and marriages are contrary to nature. Natural law is a divine institution. The theonomists and neo-Ks fail to understand this.
Scott, the collapse of faith and politics in this statement seems obvious. Perhaps it’s not because what is being criticized is something one is sympathetic to. Try switching out Russia’s recent actions toward Ukraine with America’s toward Iraq 2003. See it now?
“We condemn Putin’s cynical lies about Ukraine’s alleged genocide of the people in the east of the country, lies that Putin uses to satisfy his own geopolitical ambitions, which are clearly contrary to God’s revelation (Deut. 27:17; Prov. 22:28).”
A political action is being criticized for explicitly Christian reasons. No, it is clearly NOT speaking “at Christians to an injustice happening.” Do you imagine Christians don’t know what’s going on? It is clearly speaking generally to make a public point about religiously condemning a political act.
It does not matter that Russian has ostensible religious reasons for its actions. Fight kingdom confusion with more kingdom confusion? But if you don’t like a political action, what’s wrong with using general revelation and natural law to criticize it? Is it not sufficient? Why the reach for religious reasoning? Isn’t this what some rightly ding some anti-Trumpers for doing, using the faith to bolster political opinion? It’s a technical dodge to say the criticism aims for Putin’s kingdom confusion. It’s clearly a condemnation of Russia’s actions regardless of alleged religious reasoning. You don’t need Scripture to condemn genocide, so why use it? Clearly to say that God condemns this specific political action and suggest who’s side of the politics God is on. This is what the religious right and left here have done and is what 2k critics like you have rightly called out for a long time. Why does all that disappear now that it’s Russia and an ideology you don’t like? Some might wonder if your American is showing.
Maybe you’re not satisfied with that. But if I’m right and the spirit of this statement is indeed a collapse of faith and politics, why is it ok for a school but not the church? Why not up the ante here? If I’m wrong and this is not a collapse of faith and politics, why not have the URCNA speak this same way now?
Schools are not churches. Schools are not the institutional manifestation of the Kingdom of God. They don’t preach the law and gospel by office, administer the sacraments, nor administer discipline.
Had churches issued this statement, I could better understand your passion but these are not churches. As a class of institutions, schools belong to nature more than to grace. Seminaries, I agree, straddle the line but they aren’t the church. At my school we don’t refer to chapel as “worship.” We don’t administer the sacraments during chapel. When I was asked to help administer communion at Wheaton I refused on the grounds that Wheaton, for all its virtues, is not the church.
Had I written any such statement, I would have stuck with natural law categories but I’m willing to cut them a little slack. Passions run high when bombs are falling around one’s head.
Scott, again, it’s a fair point as far as it goes but now it’s getting tortured to avoid the relevant point, which is that the spirit of this statement is just as muddled as any other socio-political statement by religionists. It’s not at all clear how a consistent 2k outlook can give a free pass to any person or institution which uses special revelation to pronounce so decidedly on any political phenomenon just because those entities “aren’t churches.” Convenient but not convincing.
Passions may run high when bombs fall, but that’s hardly a justification to let passion be an excuse for imprecision. But I guess it’s fashionable anymore to let passion cover a multitude errors.
ps if schools aren’t churches, and if the distinction is so vital here as to wink at kingdom confusion because bombs, then I wonder what you make of the URCNA CO 14 wherein elders are charged with promoting God-centered ones (read: Christian schools):
“…[elders] 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 ensure that everything is done decently and in good order.”
Schools aren’t churches, you’re right. So why are elders charged with promoting any particular kind of school?
Reformed elders have been charged with promoting Christian schooling for Christian families since the beginning of the Reformed churches. They are so charged because the Christian life doesn’t stop at the church door. As critical as I have and continue to be about neo-Kuyperian excesses and hyperbole (e.g., “Christian math”) there is a Christian world view.
There Is A Christian Worldview and it is the calling of the elders to encourage families to see that their children are taught to view the world through the lenses of Scripture. That language of the church order is usually interpreted fairly broadly but I think it’s a healthy thing for elders to encourage parents to see to the education of their children. Certainly they ought not to assume that our increasingly corrupt, dangerous, and inept public/state-schools are an adequate substitute for a Christian interpretation of the world.
That the mission of the church has limits we surely agree but it is also surely within the purview of the church to charge her members to sanctify their minds and to live the Christian life beyond the doors of the church. Christ is lord over both spheres. He administers those spheres distinctly but Christians ought to learn to serve him well in both spheres, right?
It should be noted that the elders are charged with promoting God-centered schooling but the church is not required to discipline members who decide to use the public schools.
Elders also charge their members not to steal, not to commit adultery, not commit idolatry, and to love their neighbors in various ways.
I am a faculty member of Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Ukraine. And I am the one who wrote a draft of this Joint Statement. And I am a proponent of 2k view. Please forgive us if there are not enough precision in our formulations. We corrected it literally in the basement, hiding from russian bombs. And we had no time to think much. Every minute could have been last for me and other fellow believers in the basement with me.
Dear Dr. Clark, thank you for reaching out to me. Had no time to respond. I promise write back to you soon. With much love in Christ,
We are praying for you all.
I think the comment by the Ukrainian seminary professor pretty much says it all when he writes this: “We corrected it literally in the basement, hiding from russian bombs. And we had no time to think much. Every minute could have been last for me and other fellow believers in the basement with me.”
A number of our older Reformed documents were written under similar circumstances when people’s lives were at stake and there was a very real risk that anyone found in possession of the documents would be executed, and in some countries, the execution would follow torture.
On the wall of the office of the president of Chongshin Seminary in Seoul, there’s a collection of portraits of graduates of the seminary who were martyred, either by the Japanese or by the Communists. Such incidents are not ancient history but within living memory of people who are personally known to a number of those who post or comment here.
Many of us correctly regard the Korean Presbyterians as an example of biblical fidelity under horrific persecution, even if we might not support some of the details of how the Korean churches operate. I sat in a ICRC meeting while one of the fathers of the OPC made that point to those present, knowing what the ICRC delegates would see in the next morning’s worship services in Korean Presbyterian churches. (His specific example was women taking the collection.)
It seems more than appropriate to extend a similar level of charity on the wording of statements issued by Ukrainian seminary faculty who are sheltering in their basements from Russian bombs. Our problems in the American church are pretty minor by that standard.
Nahum 3 Calvins prayer:
Grant, Almighty God, that since by thy awful judgments thou dost show thy displeasure at the pride of this world, we may be ruled by the spirit of meekness, and in such a manner humble ourselves willingly under thy hand, that we may not experience thy dreadful power in our destruction, but being, on the contrary, supported by thy strength, we may keep ourselves in our own proper station and in true simplicity, and, at the same time, relying on thy protection, we may never doubt, but thou wilt sustain us against all the assaults of our enemies, however violent they may be, and thus persevere in the warfare of the cross which thou hast appointed for us, until we be at length gathered into that celestial kingdom, where we shall triumph together with thy Son, when his glory shall shine in us, and all the wicked shall be destroyed. Amen.
Funny this comes up…! I cannot speak for our Ukrainian brothers, but at least we, as a church body in Germany, did not and would not sign such a declaration. As a seminary, we gladly did. As individual Christians, we also might.
I see in the news that some of the major end-times pundits are starting to make their errant interpretations of apocalyptic and prophetic books in the OT now that the Ukrainian invasion is underway. I’m trying to remember the last time they all surfaced – the Iraq invasion, maybe?
Here we go again.