Saturday, March 21, 2009

Objection 2 to W2K

Obj 2: The Scripture does not sustain a clean division between “public” and “private” faith.

Discussion starts here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Objection 1 to W2K

Objection 1: W2K reduces, rather than enhances, liberty.

Argument and discussion here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An exposition of W2K

Prolegomena Part 1

I'm hoping to provide a space here for Dr. Hart to exposit the W2K position. Doing so will require figuring out multiple authorship.

Update: this discussion has moved here.

JRC

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Own History with W2K

Prolegomena Part 2

I first encountered explicit W2K theology while taking John Muether's Church and World class at Reformed Theological Seminary. I really liked the course. Dr. Muether challenged me in particular to consider the full implications of the spirituality of the Church and the dangers of the Church taking political power unto herself. It was at this time that I was first introduced to Meredith Kline's "Intrusion" concept -- that Israel occupied a special niche within God's redemptive plan, so that the Law was a republication of the Covenant of Works, yet not for salvation but rather for corporate probation.

At the time I was just emerging from dispensationalism and into a Reformed understanding of the Covenants. Kline's hypothesis seemed far too similar to the dispensational view of Israel, and I mostly rejected it.

This opinion changed when I took Jeff Jue's Church History classes at RTS. Dr. Jue patiently explained the typological nature of the Intrusion and Kline's careful distinction between salvation by grace through faith through the Abrahamic covenant and the distinct corporate and typological probation of the nation-state of Israel. It was essentially what Muether had explained, but sometimes I have to hear things twice.

Dr. Jue also recommended reading Kingdom Prologue and The Structure of Biblical Authority. This I did, and came out the other side amazed at the depth of Kline's thought and his skillful coordination of disparate Biblical ideas. I wrote a paper for the class comparing Calvin's view of Church and State to Kline's (and yes, I went for the cheesy title pun on Calvin and Kline). In it, I argued that Kline was essentially rearticulating Calvin's theology of Church and State. The paper got an A-. Dr. Jue disagreed with my thesis, noting that my understanding of Calvin overestimated his degree of separation between Church and State. Years later, I agree with him. :) Calvin was not a W2K guy.

Still and all, I continue to be impressed with Kline's basic thesis: that the OT judicial law was canon for the nation-state of Israel only, and that Israel represented a special suspension of God's common grace, never to be repeated until the eschaton. For this reason, I have never been attracted to the Bahnsen, Chilton, or Rushdoony forms of theonomy.

For Kline, as I understand him in Kingdom Prologue, there is a basic distinction between the City of Man and the Kingdom of God. The City of Man, first built by Cain under God's sanction, is under the reign of common grace and is to be ruled not as a theocracy but according to common grace; the Kingdom of God (located post-Christ in the covenant community) is ruled according to the Scripture.

While I appreciate Kline greatly, I am still troubled by an abiding question that first struck me in Dr. Muether's class: if a Christian happens to find himself in the position of magistrate, how then should he judge? Assuming that the job of the magistrate is to restrain evil (Rom 13), on what basis should (s)he define the word "evil"?

That is, if we can agree that the Church has the calling to preach the Gospel rather than to directly transform society -- and I do agree to this! -- still and all, what guidance can Kline's W2K theology give to the Christian who happens to be the magistrate?

The question is not academic. My pastor is a former FDA administrator; various members of my church work in the Federal government in various three-letter agencies. There is a real need for Christians in government to understand how to carry out their jobs with integrity and obedience. This need is amplified when we consider that in America, everyone is a participant in government. L'Etat, c'est nous. So how should we govern?

This question came rushing back to me as I watched, and then jumped into, the dialog on GreenBaggins concerning Church and State. The answer I received from self-professed W2K-ers (Dr. Hart, Zrim, and Todd) was that Natural Law should be the basis for governance, exercised in Christian liberty.

I'm perfectly happy with the notion of "Christian liberty." To my mind, ecclesiastical laws that bind the conscience beyond the warrant of Scripture are anathema.

But coming as I do from a philosophical bent, the notion of "Natural Law" raises all manner of red flags with me. First, Natural Law ethics has been thoroughly discredited in philosophy. And second, an appeal to Natural Law as the basis for deciding right and wrong appears to either (a) be a cover for smuggling in the Scripture, much as Roman Catholics use "natural law" to smuggle in Church teaching, or (b) be an appeal to an entirely different ethical standard entirely -- a form of heteronomianism. There are other objections also which will come in part 3 of this dialog, but this point is central for me.

So I stand now at this point: While I fully support the goals of encouraging the Church to be the peculiar and obedient people of God, and of encouraging the Church to concentrate on its mission of taking the Gospel to the nations; still, Kline's W2K appears to me to run off the rails when we hit the question, "How then shall we govern?"

Finally, I owe Dr. Hart an answer to this question:

Jeff, if God’s word is sovereign over all of your life, and you are a plumber, what does the Bible say about your practice of plumbing?

Dr. Hart, what I think you want me to admit is that Scripture prescribes neither copper nor PVC, so that plumbing is a "common" enterprise, governed by Natural Law.

Unfortunately, I don't think in that framework. Instead, I consider John the Baptist to be illustrative. When asked by tax collectors what they should do to show the fruits of repentance, he told them how the 8th commandment applied to their profession: Don't collect more than you are supposed to. When asked the same question by soldiers, he told them to refrain from extortion and false testimony.

For JtB, the moral content of the 10 Commandments was translated into their situations into specific ethical advice. He certainly didn't dither around the issue of the "commonness" of tax collecting!

Likewise, the Scripture might not use the words "copper" or "PVC." But if it turns out that some material (like polybutylene) is junky, then the 8th Commandment requires me as a Christian plumber to use something else. In the case of lead piping, the 6th Commandment would apply!

We sometimes don't see this, because in America a shoddy workman is usually out of work. But in many countries, or in certain sectors in American business or government, the only incentive to do a craftsmanlike job is God's command to "work as unto God and not unto men." This implies that God's commands have their tendrils in all that we do, since loving God and neighbor are commanded whether in the "common" sphere or the ecclesial.

What I'm suggesting is classic Frame-ian ethics: the Scripture helps us to read out the norms and the situation in light of our existential motives; the meaning of those norms in our situation is what we ought to do.

Interestingly, this approach still retains a high degree of Christian liberty. Unlike the theonomist who might wish to divine specific instruction on copper and PVC from the text of Scripture (or the symbolism thereof!), I am suggesting that the individual bears a large responsibility for determining what the Scriptural norms mean in his particular situation.

Hence, an outside agent may not be able to provide specific blanket advice in all situations. Thus, your reading of me that I have an "idea of a biblical position on everything Christians do" is quite wide of the mark. The Scripture leaves many details unspecified; and yet, every action that we take is either of faith, or else not. Our actions come out of a love for God and neighbor, or else not.

So Scripture *does* speak to all of life, from a normative perspective. And yet, it does not specify all of life, from a situational perspective. On this latter point, we agree.

It remains to be seen whether we can find other points of contact.

JRC

Monday, March 2, 2009

2K Theologies

Part 1

The conversation over at GreenBaggins has sometimes drifted into a discussion of the relationship of Church and State. Among the different positions is what has been termed "Westminster 2-Kingdom Theology." With Reformed roots back to Luther's 2-Kingdom theology, the Westminster variety springs from a consistent application of Kline's structure of the Covenant.

One of the foremost advocates of W2K is Dr. Darryl Hart, adjunct at Westminster Seminary, California, and author of A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors The Separation of Church and State (Ivan R. Dee, publ.; distributed by Amazon and others). He has agreed to share his views here.

Dr. Hart, for the sake of your time and to keep things decent and in order, I would like to propose the following format.

  • First, I would like to explain my own contact with 2K theologies and W2K in particular. This will, perhaps, expose misunderstandings on my part; certainly, it could be a point of departure for the conversation.
  • I am hoping that you can then provide a clear Scriptural exposition of the W2K position.
  • Then, I will respond with concerns and/or points of agreement.
  • And you can have the last word.

Does that format work for you?

JRC