Monday, September 13, 2010

Radical Two Kingdoms - Both Anti-Biblical and Worthless

Jason Stellman wrote an article (link) in which he suggested that preachers preaching against the sins of the nation is somehow improper. I can't imagine an article that would be more universally dismissed by not only all the Reformers but also by all the Presbyterians and Puritans from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Even the Reformed Baptists from that period would likely share the same assessment of this article, despite their stronger view of separation of church and state.

Preaching against sin is not some sort of optional aspect of the gospel ministry. Nor is it proper to draw the dichotomy that Stellman draws, when he writes:
Just admit it: the fact that you’re angry with me right now and want to engage me in political debate in the combox only proves how much you benefit from a two-kingdoms ministry each Sunday, one that refuses to oppress and wound your consciences and insists rather on preaching sermons to you about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on the third day. I mean, if things get a bit out of hand on this blog after a post such as this, imagine how violent things would become after church if our ministers pulled stunts like this from the pulpit?
Yeah, yeah - we know. People don't like being told that they are in sin, or that their nation is dishonoring God by having unjust laws or unjust policies. They might even leave the church, if the pastor preaches against the horrors of abortion or against injustices in war.

But that's one of the duties of the gospel minister. Preaching sermons about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection on the third day are great, and there is nothing wrong with them, but ... ministers must preach the whole counsel and that includes convicting sinners of their sins. Mr. Stellman may not like doing it, it may not fit nicely in his radical version of two kingdoms theology ("radical" as opposed to the classical version of Calvin, Knox, Turretin, and John the Baptist, who had no problem speaking out against the sins of their contemporary political regime). Nevertheless, if Mr. Stellman is to be faithful to God's word, he must address sins from the pulpit.

But the Radical Two-Kingdoms (R2K) notions that Stellman is promoting are not just anti-Biblical, in that they suggest that ministers may not properly preach against the sins of the nation, they are worthless as can be seen from this:
Since my goal is not to engage specifically the Baylies' main point, I will say this: abortion is a horrific evil, and though I have no idea what should be done about it from a political standpoint, I see it as a sin for which those who participate in it will be held accountable if they do not repent. (In fact, I know of no 2K proponent who would take any other position than this, which makes it kind of weird that I feel the need to say it.)
Even if someone were to say that we should just throw away the Old Testament and ignore the sentence of God against those who take human lives unjustly (Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.), still one would think that R2K would be able to use the light of nature to get some idea of how to handle such matters. If, however, upon throwing away Scripture, the R2K proponent has "no idea what should be done" by the civil magistrate about such a heinous sin as infanticide, what earthy good is R2K?

Perhaps Stellman will not listen to me (and why should he - I'm just some pseudonymous guy), but perhaps he'll consider listening to Paul's inspired counsel to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-2
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

-TurretinFan

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

John Frame is writing a book on The Escondido Theology. Until that is out you may peruse his reviews of Horton's, Clark's and Vandrunen's books (all of which incorporate R2K thinking. So read Frame's critique of this nonsense at:
http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles_date.htm
Read the 1st, 2nd, and 4th articles listed.
Godith

ChaferDTS said...

TF, thanks for the article. There is nothing wrong at all with preaching againist sin that is taking place within a nation. The prophets of the OT preached againist the sins of Israel.In the great commission the preacher of the Gospel can preach againist the sins of a nation and call for them to have faith in Christ based on His death on the cross for our sins and his resurrection from the dead on the third day. National repentence is a good thing in addition to individual repentence.

Anonymous said...

I think you mis-quoted 2 Tim 4:1-2 unless it's some version I didn't check. Be "ready" instead of "be instant"

Turretinfan said...

Anonymous:

Yes, there's an old translation known as the King James Version or Authorized Version. It used to be quite popular. A few old fogies still use it. I'm one of them.

- TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Thanks, ChaferDTS! That does seem to be one message of the book of Jonah.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I fully agree with you TurretinFan: Radical Two Kingdoms is both anti-Biblical and worthless.

Good arguments against Professors R. Scott Clark, Darryl Hart, and other R2K'ers.

natamllc said...

I think Stellman is onto something here?

What do you think?

"Since my goal is not to engage specifically the Baylies' main point, I will say this: abortion is a horrific evil, and though I have no idea what should be done about it from a political standpoint,....!"


Isn't here with those words the irony rings truest?

I would point out something by it.

Here's Jesus' Words:

Luk 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
Luk 24:46 and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,
Luk 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations,
beginning from Jerusalem.
Luk 24:48 You are witnesses of these things.
Luk 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."


Jesus' spoken Words opened their minds to understand the Scriptures! And I suppose, Thou Shalt Not Kill and the meaning was clearly conveyed?

Here's Paul:

Act 26:19 "Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,
Act 26:20 but declared
first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
Act 26:21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.


Another Pauline Truth:

Col 1:3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
Col 1:4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,
Col 1:5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

Col 1:6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:
Col 1:7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
Col 1:8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.


What is the point?

While it seems to him he has "no" idea what should be done about abortion politically,
it doesn't God or you, TF, or me and many others who have a clear admonition what needs to be done!

You see that Jesus "located" the preaching of the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms "locally", "Jerusalem", He also "located" the preaching of the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms "locally" personally for Paul to begin at "Damascus".

And Paul clearly understood the "way" God does this, as we see he writes about it being done "locally" at Colosse through the Spirit's "preached" Word through Epaphras.

I cannot recall the Politician's name, an Irishman, big, I believe, who coined the phrase, "all politics is local". Yet before that, it was clearly understood that "all" salvation is local, like, received into one's heart and put on one's mouth, after hearing the Word of Faith which we preach.


Really, though, Elect Salvation happens one soul at a time and the Holy Spirit is in charge of it. Maybe, rarely it happens in a major crowd gathered. See Acts 2 and 4.

The politically correct thing to do is simply not the Biblically correct thing to do! Such was life yesterday, such is life today. Tomorrow, well tomorrow, what will it hold but what Jesus said about it, here:

Luk 22:37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.

Jason Stellman said...

TF,

Thanks for your post. I won't have time to linger here today and answer everyone's objections, but I would like to clear up a misunderstanding.

My position is not that a minister should not rebuke people for their sin. If you read my post more carefully I think you would see that that is not my point.

My point is that there is such a thing as going beyond Scripture in our desire to have a prophetic voice to the culture, thereby violating people's consciences by placing on them burdens that go beyond God's Word.

For example, if your minister said from the pulpit that you need to repent for wearing clothing made by sweatshop labor, or that you need to drive a car that gets at least 30 mpg, or that refusing to eat locally-grown food is wrong, most believers would consider that ecclesiastical tyranny (which, as you know, the Reformers and Westminster Divines were very concerned about).

Now maybe you would have no problem being told such things. If that's the case, then I don't blame you for calling my position "worthless." But if you agree with me that such teaching is an extra-biblical binding of the conscience, then what's the problem?

Neal said...

But isn't the 2K question not about placing burdens that go beyond God's word, but about what God has revealed and how it applies to the culture? Is there no room for the 2nd use of the law? I don't see anything about sweatshops or fuel economy in the Bible, so I think the fear of pastors of being "prophetic" in those kinds of ways is unwarranted. Now there may be pastors out there doing that, but you deal with them by calling them to repentance.

Turretinfan said...

"My point is that there is such a thing as going beyond Scripture ..."

I fully agree that there is such a thing as going beyond Scripture. Hopefully that's an area that everyone from the most radical 2ker to the most radical reconstructionist can agree on.

Perhaps I misunderstood the dichotomy between oppressing/wounding consciences and preaching sermons on Jesus' life, death, and 3rd-day resurrection. It sounded like a dichotomy between law and gospel, though perhaps you meant it to be understood differently.

The "worthless" comment is connected with the idea that your view of "two kingdoms" (a seemingly quite radical one) leads to having no idea what a government should do to honor the 6th commandment when it comes to unborn children.

-TurretinFan

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

Here's one problem with your analogy: When one engages in ethical reasoning he applies norms to facts. If someone said we ought not drain the swamp because of the harm it would do to creation, we need to look at the facts and find out if the moral command is applicable to our situation. We need to find out if, in fact, the resulting damage will occur.

So, while there may be a right or a wrong on the positions you mention, it is the case that the facts of the matter are difficult to assess. Take driving the gas guzzler. There seem to be experts on both sides of the issue, and, the Bible doesn't have anything to say about what gas does to mammy earth. So a moral indictment would be problematic here as the norm (be good stuards) is too difficult to apply to the situation.

But let's look at abortion. Here's the relevant factual premise: the concepti/fetus is a human being.

Pastors may easily speak out and condemn this practice from the pulpet. The Larger Catechism's statement on the 6th commandment make it clear that even voting to keep/make abortion legal would be a sin. So if the matter became state's right, and it was on the ballot as a keep legal or make illegal vote, it would be immoral for any Christian to vote for it to be kept legal, and a pastor should condemn the act of voting for it as a violation of the sth commandment.

Do you agree with the last paragraph?

Paul Manata said...

pulpet, er, pulpit

ChaferDTS said...

"Thanks, ChaferDTS! That does seem to be one message of the book of Jonah. "

You are very welcome.Jonah is a favorite part of the Old Testament I always enjoyed reading.

Jason Stellman said...

TF,

Perhaps I misunderstood the dichotomy between oppressing/wounding consciences and preaching sermons on Jesus' life, death, and 3rd-day resurrection. It sounded like a dichotomy between law and gospel, though perhaps you meant it to be understood differently.

I am a firm proponent of the role of the indwelling Spirit of the risen Christ in the NC, and his enabling of God’s people to fulfill the law of Christ, so no, I do not mean to pit gospel preaching against the call for holiness and sanctification. The dichotomy is between oppressing people’s consciences by forcing them to endure extra-biblical commands (see the examples I listed above) on the one hand, and preaching Christ on the other.

So again, my main point is simply that wanting your pastor to speak prophetically to the culture is a tricky thing, especially when he starts rebuking YOU for wearing Nikes instead of rebuking all those pagans that his audience already disagrees with.

A good prophet doesn’t just preach to the choir, for judgment begins at the house of God.

Jason Stellman said...

Neal,

But isn't the 2K question not about placing burdens that go beyond God's word, but about what God has revealed and how it applies to the culture? Is there no room for the 2nd use of the law? I don't see anything about sweatshops or fuel economy in the Bible, so I think the fear of pastors of being "prophetic" in those kinds of ways is unwarranted. Now there may be pastors out there doing that, but you deal with them by calling them to repentance.

Yes, that is what the 2K view is intended to do.

No, the Bible doesn’t talk about sweatshops, but it does talk about loving your neighbor (a concept that Jesus greatly expands in the Good Samaritan parable). Now if conservatives can stretch the eighth commandment to the point of applying it to our government, calling taxation theft, then I see no reason why another minister can’t stretch the second greatest commandment of the law to make it prohibit NAFTA.

My point is obviously not to advocate this kind of thing, but simply to point out that a non-2K approach does a lousy job of protecting people from such ecclesiastical tyranny.

Jason Stellman said...

Paul,

Look, I have no problem saying that abortion is a sin (did you actually read my post? I stated this very clearly, even saying that those who participate in it will be accountable on judgment day). I also said that I know of no 2K guy who would take any other position than this on the issue.

That said, if you want me to be prophetic and call the culture to repentance, you can't get mad at me if I pick a different topic, since 99% of our prophetic ministers are dealing with abortion pretty regularly. In fact, my guess is that one of the reasons people want their ministers to condemn abortion so loudly is that none of them engage in it, making it a pretty safe thing to rant and rave about.

I mean, if you want me to be "relevant," then the last thing I'll do is scream about abortion to a group of baptized presbyterians. I'd rather yell at the men in the crowd for neglecting their families by working 60 hours a week.

(See? I bet some readers here work 60 hours a week and are mad at me! How would you like it if I preached entire sermons about how many hours are OK to work, and how many are too many?)

Paul Manata said...

Hi Jason, thanks for the response.

I did not say that you said it was not a sin. And if you think that area is covered and so you want to comment on other matters, then fine (but it would be apropos when preaching on the sixth or in a Sunday School class on the Larger Catechism). I also do not want you to be "relevant," but I appreciate the overused buzzword---to use it is to be relevant! But apart from all you said, and my agreement with you, I'm afraid you didn't answer the question.

First, I pointed out a relevant area of difference between the moral issues you raised and abortion. But let's leave that alone. I asked if you agreed with what I said here:

"Pastors may easily speak out and condemn this practice from the pulpet. The Larger Catechism's statement on the 6th commandment make it clear that even voting to keep/make abortion legal would be a sin. So if the matter became state's right, and it was on the ballot as a keep legal or make illegal vote, it would be immoral for any Christian to vote for it to be kept legal, and a pastor should condemn the act of voting for it as a violation of the sth commandment."

So, do you?

Jason Stellman said...

Paul,

Bear with me, because I think this is very tricky....

If there were a choice on a ballot to keep abortion legal or criminalize it, I think the obvious answer would be to vote for the latter (and I would not have a problem saying so officially).

But I highly doubt that would happen. What happens instead is that we have the choice between two (or more) people, some of whom are pro-life, and others of whom are not. In this instance, I think it is wrong for me as a minister to tell people that they may only vote for the pro-life guy. The reason I say this is that, chances are, the pro-life guy is only pro-life on abortion, but not on other issues such as war or the economy. So if I am going to forbid people from voting for an anti-lifer, then I'll need to forbid them from voting at all. I mean, McCain was hardly pro-life in my book, and neither was Bush.

So to answer your question, if it's a single issue on a ballot that's one thing, but if it's a part of a candidate's overall agenda, it's way more complicated, at least in my eyes.

There's a lot more that can be explored, such as whether the root causes of an evil can be attacked without criminalizing the evil itself, but it's probably best to leave that stuff alone for now.

Turretinfan said...

"How would you like it if I preached entire sermons about how many hours are OK to work, and how many are too many?"

I think the challenge would be to keep it Biblical. But assuming that you were really bringing the Word of God to bear against excessive devotion to work, who could rightly complain?

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"a non-2K approach does a lousy job of protecting people from such ecclesiastical tyranny"

One can have ecclesiastic tyranny regardless of the topic of the sermon, when a minister goes beyond the Word of God. Declaring that people must believe in the Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, and Bodily Assumption of Mary are great examples of ecclesiastical tyranny that the "2k" approach does nothing to stop.

On the flip side, a classical Reformed approach (think Calvin, Turretin, Pictet, Twisse, Gomarus, Knox, and so forth) limits the authority of the minister by requiring him to substantiate what he teaches from the Word of God. That's true whether he is condemning an unjust ruler, preaching against price gouging by merchants, or counseling a couple that is considering divorce.

- TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"The dichotomy is between oppressing people’s consciences by forcing them to endure extra-biblical commands ..."

But no "Protestant" (regardless of their view on the separation of church and state) believes that ministers have the right to force people to endure extra-Biblical commands on their conscience.

Surely none of your "non-2k" opponents would disagree with that, except the Romanists. Even the most Rushdoonian reconstructionist recognizes that God's Word is the limit on a minister's authority to bind the conscience.

- TurretinFan

Neal said...

Jason,

No, the Bible doesn’t talk about sweatshops, but it does talk about loving your neighbor (a concept that Jesus greatly expands in the Good Samaritan parable). Now if conservatives can stretch the eighth commandment to the point of applying it to our government, calling taxation theft, then I see no reason why another minister can’t stretch the second greatest commandment of the law to make it prohibit NAFTA.

Your point is well taken, but I don't see why we can't just take the approach of not going beyond what scripture teaches, whether the issue is taxation, life issues, fuel economy, etc. Now perhaps the Bible has something to say about all of these topics, either directly or tangentially, and yes there is a fine line where extrapolating from broad commandments to specific applications can be tricky and should be avoided by ministers where there are clear differences of opinion on application, but that does not preclude the minister from speaking to that which is very clear from the Biblical text. Infanticide seems to be one of those issues for which the Bible has a clear position.

But even in some cases where application is more difficult, I think ministers can't just ignore certain things going on in the world. Think about southern slavery for example. I doubt there was much condemnation of it coming from southern pulpits, but do we really want to say that ministers were correct not to have spoken out on such an issue? Even if one were to take the position that the Bible does not offer a blanket condemnation of slavery, it does have some very direct commandments on how masters are to treat their slaves.

I'm not really a "1K" guy, as I believe that there are two kingdoms, but I don't think they are as easily separated this side of glory as suggested by Westminster. We must live in and raise our families in both the heavenly and earthly kingdoms, and it seems to me that for the sake of our covenant children anything we can do to improve the earthly kingdom is not something we should neglect. I say this as a member of a church with a pastor that is very 2K, and I very much appreciate the Christ-centered focus of the preaching, as it should be, but application of the 2nd and even the 3rd use of the has been very lacking, and our church is experiencing some very real internal struggles as a result. Happily there are signs that this may be changing a bit for the better as our pastor becomes more experienced, but I think that perhaps new Westminster grads are not as equipped to deal with these issues as they should be largely due to radical 2K theology.

Paul Manata said...

Jason, thanks. I tend to agree. For what it's worth, the issue could become single issue on a ballot if it became a states' right matter. Also, your 2K pal Steve Zrimec said that it would not be wrong for a Christian to vote to keep/make abortion legal even if it was a single issue. Further, if she were Reformed, he said you would not have the right to condemn her for her vote if you found out about it.

the reason I and others ask about this, and even offer up scenarios that may or may not happen, is because many times you 2Kers sound like what you're saying would apply to those situations that are ostensibly wrong. This has been a major blockage in getting your view out there and people are stuck debating something that shouldn't need to be debated. FWIW, I'd suggest careful qualifications need to be built into your arguments.

natamllc said...

HA!

TF: On the flip side, a classical Reformed approach (think Calvin, Turretin, Pictet, Twisse, Gomarus, Knox, and so forth) limits the authority of the minister by requiring him to substantiate what he teaches from the Word of God. That's true whether he is condemning an unjust ruler, preaching against price gouging by merchants, or counseling a couple that is considering divorce.

Now, of course, that part of that paragraph about this idea is sort of limiting to the congregations that gather to "think" such because it is indeed quite limited in scope in the sense of the population of the world and just how many of them gathered that can read and write so they could read Calvin, Turretin, Pictet, Twisse, Gomarus, Knox, and so forth or so the Minister can preach them?

I have been to a lot of places where everyone including the Minister doesn't read or write. They just understand the language they were taught by hearing growing up and speaking it and with that the experience that comes from the words they are taught as they are taught with accompanying experiences!

"Ok, I said don't touch! Now you know why?" And so the learning goes by experiencing the meaning of the spoken words conveyed.

"Pictet" you say. Who is he? :)

Turretinfan said...

Pictet is the son Francis Turretin always wished he had. He ended up succeeding him as the leading professor of theology in Geneva after Turretin's death.

natamllc said...

Oh, I see:::>

Turrentinfanofpictetfan!