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The Natural Law State Church

April 16, 2014 10 comments

As I’ve argued previously, “natural law” two kingdoms theology logically results in theocracy for anyone who recognizes WCF/LBCF 19.2.

Well Kim Riddlebarger has made my point for me:

Then there are those in the current debate who contend, in agreement with Calvin, that it’s the civil magistrate’s duty to enforce the first table of the law. Well, as important as Calvin is in understanding reformed political theory, when Calvin speaks of the role of the civil magistrate, Calvin could not even begin to conceive of a secularist democracy that now rules Europe. And therefore his value in terms of his understanding of how the church ought to relate to the magistrate is limited because of the change in circumstances. And that, I think, is self-evident in the fact that all of the reformed confessions written at the time of the reformation have all been changed in the United States in the articles that deal with the churches relation to the civil magistrate, because the situation here is entirely different than it was in the days of the reformation. And the reformed churches, both Presbyterian and Reformed, acknowledge that.

Let me play a bit of advocacy here: What if Calvin’s right about the civil magistrate? And by the way, I tend to think he is, he’s on the right track here. What would the magistrate enforcing the first table of the law look like in a real world of Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress? Do we really want the magistrate, in it’s current form, to protect the church, it’s gospel, and it’s doctrine? There is a law of unintended consequences and we have to think very, very carefully about the consequences of taking particular actions. It’s one thing to argue, “Yeah, Calvin says we should recover the first table of the law, enforced by the civil magistrate!” Ok, I think there’s a good, biblical basis for that, and I’m going to argue for it. But what’s that gonna look like in the United States? We no longer live in an America with a generic Protestant political establishment…

-Kim Riddlebarger, In the Land of Nod, Part 1: Why This Has Been an Important and Controversial Doctrine @49:30

 

While Adam is building this temple garden in Eden he is under probation, where God has commanded of him perfect obedience. The question is, perfect obedience to what? Well, I would say to the moral law, which is later enshrined and codified in the two tables of the law we commonly speak of as the 10 commandments… Natural law reflects the same commandments written upon the human heart and subsequently revealed on the two stone tablets at Mt. Sinai.

-Kim Riddlebarger, In the Land of Nod, Part 3: Adam in Eden – Tracing the Redemptive Historical Themes of the Two Kingdoms @21:30 and 38:50

 

I think we have to be realists. One of the things that we’ll talk about is, it’s one thing for Christians to very triumphally say “Well, you know what we need, we need to recover the law of God as the standard for civil government.” Well, whether that’s true in theory or not is a separate question. The reality is, “Are we in our lifetimes ever going to live in a country, in a situation where we are under a theocratic state as Israel was in the Old Testament. And the answer to that is “No.” So a lot of the discussion that goes on about the ideal is only so much time wasting because the question we have to deal with, at least that I have to deal with as a pastor having to answer questions for people in my church and in my pews, is “How do we survive in this current situation?” And I’m going to argue that keeping those two kingdoms distinct is a very, very important starting point… So throw out the ideal. We’ll talk about the ideal. The ideal is important, I mean, we ought to look at what the ideal is to understand what ought to be so we can think about a theoretic about how we ought to approach stuff. But the fact is we live in a time and place when we are going to be a minority, a small minority of a minority and we’re going to have to get the best deal that we can in the political kingdom, in the civil kingdom. And that’s just how it is.

-Kim Riddlebarger, In the Land of Nod, Part 4: Adam Cast From Eden – The Birth of the Civil Kingdom @52:30

Thankfully, for the coherence of discussion, Riddlebarger is consistent in his natural law theory. If the civil magistrate is to enforce natural law, then it is to enforce the 10 commandments.

Note: Natural Law Two Kingdoms will not get you to the non-establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. It will land you in Geneva.

It is interesting to note Riddlebarger’s pragmatism. He says that the ideal (the enforcement of the 10 commandments) is not practical because we live in a different context under a secular government. He says the American reformed churches changed the confession because they were in a different context. But what led to this change in context? Was it the erosion of true religion? Was 18th century colonial American a pagan, secular society? No. 18th century America was very Protestant. What led to the change in context (change in government) is a change in how these men interpreted the Bible. It was not an appeal to natural law to the exclusion of Scripture. Rather, as Charles Hodge explains, it was primarily an appeal to Scripture, to an interpretation that disagreed with Calvin’s interpretation, that led to changes in how Calvinists viewed the state:

The American Church

The doctrine current among us on this subject is of very recent origin. It was unknown to the ancients before the advent. In no country was religion disconnected with the state. It was unknown to the Jews. The early Christians were not in circumstances to determine the duty of Christian magistrates to the Christian church. Since the time of Constantine, in no part of Christendom and by no denomination has the ground been assumed, until a recent period, that the state and church should be separate and independent bodies. Yet to this doctrine the public mind in this country has already been brought, and to the same conclusion the convictions of God’s people in all parts of the world seem rapidly tending. On what grounds, then, does this novel, yet sound, doctrine rest? This question can only be answered in a very general and superficial manner on the present occasion.

1. In the first place it assumes that the state, the family, and the church are all divine institutions, having the same general end in view, but designed to accomplish that end by different means. That as we cannot infer from the fact that the family and the state are both designed to promote the welfare of men, that the magistrate has the right to interfere in the domestic economy of the family; so neither can we infer from the church and state having the same general end, that the one can rightfully interfere with the affairs of the other. If there were no other institution than the family, we might infer that all the means now used by the church and state, for the good of men, might properly be used by the family; and if there were no church, as a separate institution of God, then we might infer that the family and the state were designed to accomplish all that could be effected. But as God has instituted the family for domestic training and government; the state, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives; and the church for the promotion and extension of true religion, the three are to be kept distinctive within their respective spheres.

2. That the relative duties of these several institutions cannot be learned by reasoning a priori from their design, but must be determined from the Word of God. And when reasoning from the Word of God, we are not authorized to argue from the Old Testament economy because that was avowedly temporary and has been abolished, but must derive our conclusions from the New Testament. We find it there taught:

(a) That Christ did institute a church separate from the state, giving it separate laws and officers.

(b) That he laid down the qualifications of those officers and enjoined on the church, not on the state, to judge of their possession by candidates.

(c) That he prescribed the terms of admission to and the grounds of exclusion from the church, and left with the church its officers to administer these rules.

These acts are utterly inconsistent with Erastianism and with the relation established in England between the church and state.

3. That the New Testament, when speaking of the immediate design of the state and the official duties of the magistrate, never intimates that he has those functions which the common doctrine of the Lutheran and Reformed church assign him. This silence, together with the fact that those functions are assigned to the church and church officers, is proof that it is not the will of God that they should be assumed by the state.

4. That the only means which the state can employ to accomplish many of the objects said to belong to it, viz. pains and penalties, are inconsistent with the example and commands of Christ; with the rights of private Christians, guaranteed in the Word of God (i.e., to serve God according to the dictates of his conscience); are ineffectual to the true end of religion, which is voluntary obedience to the truth; and productive of incalculable evil. The New Testament, therefore, does not teach that the magistrate is entitled to take care that true religion is established and maintained; that right men are appointed to church offices; that those officers do their duty, that proper persons be admitted, and improper persons be rejected from the church; or that heretics be punished. And on the other hand, by enjoining all these duties upon the church, as an institution distinct from the state, it teaches positively that they do not belong to the magistrate, but to the church. If to this it be added that experience teaches that the magistrate is the most unfit person to discharge these duties; that his attempting it has always been injurious to religion and inimical to the rights of conscience, we have reason to rejoice in the recently discovered truth that the church is independent of the state, and that the state best promotes her interests by letting her alone.

- Charles Hodge, The Relation of Church and State originally appeared in Princeton Review in 1863. It is now taken from a recently re-released book of essays by a variety of authors edited by Iain Murray, The Reformation of the Church.

So it was not an appeal to natural law that led to the undoing of state churches, nor was it a degrading of religion in society, but it was the proper interpretation and application of Scripture to the question of civil government. In this regard, Ron Baines has an excellent essay in the first issue of JIRBS titled SEPARATING GOD’S TWO KINGDOMS: Two Kingdom Theology among New England Baptists in the Early Republic.

Categories: two kingdoms

Kuyper on Natural Law

April 15, 2014 3 comments

[We insist] that sin refers to moral fall and guilt, and further, that this fall consisted in three things: a darkening of the light of reason, an impairment of the power of the will, and a corrupting of our affections. From this it follows that without spectacles, as Calvin expressed it, the book of nature can no longer be read, such that neither from nature nor from the light of our reason can we know whether, and if so, in what way, there is any means whereby we may escape the power and guilt of sin. From this flows the need for a further special revelation to be added to nature, having two purposes: both to teach us to understand again the book of Nature, and to open for us the path to reconciliation with God. So we receive a word of God in twofold form: A word of God within the creation, and a word of God with which he adds to created things (Band aan het Woord, 10).

Kuyper, quoted in Nelson Kloosterman – Peering Into a Lawyer’s Brief (Review of VanDrunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms)

I agree (though I disagree with the term “book of nature”).

Also referenced:

There is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in man after the fall, by virtue of which he retains some notions about God, natural things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral, and demonstrates a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behavior. But this light of nature is far from enabling man to come to a saving knowledge of God and conversion to him—so far, in fact, that man does not use it rightly even in matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways he completely distorts this light, whatever its precise character, and suppresses it in unrighteousness. In doing so he renders himself without excuse before God.

Canons of Dort III.4

Categories: two kingdoms

Confused Kingdoms

August 17, 2013 Leave a comment

All of this is to say: Michael Horton needs to stop being “baffled” at these characterizations of the Two Kingdoms paradigm. They are taught explicitly and emphatically in the very book he is recommending. Having spent a good deal of time carefully reading VanDrunen’s book, Tim Keller’s generalizations (the immediate source of Horton’s ire) strike me as perfectly reasonable and fair.

In my carefully considered opinion, David VanDrunen argues for an almost complete dualistic split between heavenly and earthly callings. If Horton wants to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and view them as unified and complimentary, I suggest he walk down the hall and have a nice, long visit with his colleague. Because from the looks of Horton’s blog post, the right hand at WSCAL doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

Categories: two kingdoms

The Two Kingdoms Doctrine, Part Two: John Calvin (Tuininga)

October 25, 2012 1 comment

Matthew Tuininga has posted part 2 of his discussion of the two kingdoms doctrine at Ref21.

Some highlights:

VanDrunen and other R2K advocates tend to narrow the reformed perspectives on church/state//Christ/culture to two: two kingdoms and transformationist. VanDrunen explains in his “Living in God’s Two Kingdoms” that transformationists believe Christians are to do what Adam failed to do as stewards of creation and that our work will transform creation in an everlasting way. With these “transformationists” in mind, Tuininga says:

any account of Calvin’s view of the way in which grace transforms nature has to come to grips with Calvin’s insistence that the goal of creation was always to be elevated and glorified into something greater than it was at creation. “For we cannot think upon either our first condition or to what purpose we were formed without being prompted to meditate upon immortality, and to yearn for the Kingdom of God (2.1.3). For this reason the gap between the present life and the kingdom is not simply a result of human disobedience; no matter how sanctified believers become, they still await the putting off of the mortal flesh and the transformation of the cosmos. [Which comes at Christ's return, not through our efforts]

An interesting tidbit I’d heard before and would like more info on (think Servetes):

In the 1536 edition of the Institutes Calvin argued that the sword should not be used to persecute heretics and false teachers (2.28). By the time the second edition came off the press he had already removed that passage (although it reappears, intriguingly, in the 1560 French edition). In all subsequent Latin editions he argued that government is to enforce the first table of the law as well as the second, both of which are expressions of natural law, the law of love, and of God’s timeless moral law, all of which for Calvin amount to the same thing.

Notice that for Calvin (and the confessions) natural law = moral law = ten commandments. In light of this, Tuininga challenges VanDrunen’s primary focus (trying to appeal to and reason from “natural law” without the aid of Scripture) by noting:

Finally, a third question pertains to Calvin’s distinction between natural law, or the moral law, and the written law of the Torah. Calvin believed it was insufficient to prove that civil government should enact a particular law or enforce a particular punishment simply because that law or punishment could be found in the law of Moses. Yet he clearly believed that Scripture is to guide Christian understandings of natural law. Contemporary two kingdoms advocates claim that in a pluralistic, democratic context Christians should be slower to use Scripture as a trump card in public debates, but they need to clarify how it is that Scripture informs Christian political engagement in a democratic and pluralistic society.

Of course, Tuininga is being a bit too kind. Radical 2 Kingdom’s argument is not that Christians should be slower to use Scripture in public debates, but that they should not use it at all. This is my main concern with R2K and has been the focus of most of what I have posted on this blog about it. I appreciate that Tuininga recognizes this problem and is doing what he can to push for revision/clarification. [update: Tuininga believes my concern is actually a widespread misunderstanding of VanDrunen. I disagree, but see what he says here: http://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/part-2-on-the-two-kingdoms-at-reformation-21/#comment-2065 ]

I’ll have some more thoughts/notes/quotes on R2K in the near future, Lord willing. In the meantime, you may be interested in reading Matthew Tuininga’s blog. I find plenty to disagree with there, but it gives you some perspective on where he’s writing from.

Categories: theology, two kingdoms

The two kingdoms doctrine: what’s all the fuss?

September 6, 2012 15 comments

A good, irenic post at Ref21:

One of the ways in which modern advocates could strengthen the two kingdoms doctrine is by further emphasizing and clarifying its fundamentally eschatological character, particularly in light of the fact that the two kingdoms are often confused with two spheres into which life is to be divided. It may be that part of the problem is a conflation of the two kingdoms doctrine with Abraham Kuyper’s concept of sphere sovereignty. But Kuyper’s spheres denote different areas into which human life under Christ’s lordship are to be divided; they do not designate the eschatological distinction between this age and the age to come. As such, the concept of sphere sovereignty is a sociological concept that is consistent with but different from the two kingdoms doctrine. We confuse the two when we think of the two kingdoms as two spheres (because they denote two governments) but forget that they also denote two overlapping ages. As 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5-6 make clear, because Christians live between two ages, they cannot turn everything they do into the kingdom of God, but they are to do everything that they do in obedience to Christ’s lordship.

http://www.reformation21.org/articles/the-two-kingdoms-doctrine-whats-the-fuss-all-about-part-one.php

Categories: theology, two kingdoms

James Anderson on DVD’s Natural Law 2K

February 16, 2011 2 comments

James Anderson has written a short blog post after reading VanDrunen’s “A Biblical Case for Natural Law” and “Living in God’s Two Kingdoms”. He does a good job of showing how Natural Law 2K is internally inconsistent.

Yet there is an even greater oddity here. VanDrunen’s 2K doctrine not only implies that he should oppose the display of the the Decalogue on a courthouse wall; it also implies that he could not oppose it as a point of public policy. Why? Simply because his 2K doctrine is based on the teachings of Scripture and not on natural law. (At any rate, VanDrunen makes his case for 2K doctrine from Scripture — it leans heavily on covenant theology — and it’s hard to see how one could make such a case apart from Scripture.) Since “politics is a matter of the common kingdom” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 194) and the common kingdom is ruled by natural law alone, any point of public policy based on 2K doctrine cannot be defended in the civil sphere as a point of public policy. This strikes me as very odd.

http://proginosko.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/two-kingdoms-ten-commandments-one-objection/

Categories: politics, two kingdoms

Good News for Two Kingdoms!

February 7, 2011 1 comment

I have good news for all you natural law two kingdoms advocates out there, like Darryl Hart: An uncontacted people group has been found in the Amazon!

Why is this good news for Darryl Hart? Well, because Darryl Hart believes very strongly that the Bible should never be used in determining public policy and state laws. It should never even influence people who make those laws. The problem is, it’s really, really difficult to find a society that is completely ignorant of and unaffected by the Bible – in other words, a society who relies only upon general revelation (which Hart says they must).

But now we finally have the solution! All we need to do is send someone into the jungle to observe how this tribe’s government functions, and then implement the same form of government here. That way we will finally be free of the Bible’s influence and we can finally have the type of government God wants us to have!

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