Monday, March 21, 2011

R. Scott Clark, Religious Freedom, and Two Kingdoms

Reformed pastor and professor R. Scott Clark recently posted an article on his blog ("Religious Freedom Watch: Feds to Force Schools to Monitor Facebook?"). A reader asked me how Prof. Clark can do this while holding to the Escondido position on the two kingdoms.

I should preface my response by saying that I don't know whether R. Scott Clark takes as extreme a view of the two kingdoms as Darryl Hart or others who are associated with Westminster West. So, I hope no one will take this article as representing R. Scott Clark's views. Instead, the article takes Prof. Clark's post as an opportunity to comment on an important issue.

The Escondido position on the two kingdoms seems to be that the church generally should not be involved in political affairs. This issue looks like a political affair, therefore (one might think) the church should not be involved in it.

I think most of the Escondido folks would say it is ok for a minister to comment on political things on his personal blog. Perhaps some would not, but I think most are ok with that - as long as he doesn't use the pulpit for those political comments.

But imagine if Prof. Clark had raised the same point from the pulpit. I think that some of the Escondido folk would have a problem with that, in that it would seem to involve the church getting involved in political matters.

This, however, would create an odd tension. Why? Because the Westminster Standards (in the American revision) as well as the Belgic Confession (in the American Revision) call for the civil magistrate to protect God's church. Yet, the duties of the civil magistrate are always a political matter.

So, can the church speak to political issues or not? Or is there an exception for certain political matters and not others? If there are exceptions, it starts to look like the prohibition on political speech by the church is ad hoc. And if the church can speak to political issues, then why are the Escondido folks so upset when people like the Bayly brothers preach sermons on highly politicized topics like abortion?

-TurretinFan

26 comments:

natamllc said...

Although more costly, since I still pay taxes and some of those taxes fund public education, my family have paid for our sons to attend our own private school run by the men of my Church.

We submit to the state testing annually and our students are always in the highest scores scholastically. We provide vocational training and jobs when their primary education ends. Some have gone on to higher education and are doing quite well. Some of our sons have joined the military branches and are learning to operate highly sophisticated pieces of equipment, flying planes, helicopters, tanks, etc.

What the article by Clark underscores for me is this pervasive weakening of the father roll is educating his children in society and by weakening the role of the father in the home or school or job world, it also weakens the strength of the Biblical family.

The Church as a whole worldwide and in local arenas is to be set apart for Holiness and Godliness and True Worship within the context of the world and the nations of the earth. We are to be in the world, not a part of it as a contributor to the clear obvious rebellion against the Will of God on earth as His Will is in Heaven.

I think this Psalm fairly expresses Godly intent about a man's headship, fatherhood and role in everyday societies around the world:

Psa 67:1 To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song. May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
Psa 67:2 that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
Psa 67:3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Psa 67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Psa 67:5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Psa 67:6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.
Psa 67:7 God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

natamllc said...

I would like to add some other verses to inhere to my previous comments that come out of this statement and these questions in your article, TF:

Yet, the duties of the civil magistrate are always a political matter.

So, can the church speak to political issues or not? Or is there an exception for certain political matters and not others?


I would say the "duties" of the "praying Church" by their prayers should include all political matters.

Can the Church pray about political issues? Yes, I believe we have Biblical mandate to do just that. I do not believe there are "any" exceptions in light of what Paul instructed Timothy and taught that this be taught to the Spiritual House he was sent to equip:

1Ti 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
1Ti 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
1Ti 2:3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
1Ti 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.


The key phrase there is this: "... that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."

Although we see the word "all" used in those verses, when we see the word "we" used, "we" are able to understand that all doesn't always mean all.

We, "all" True Believers, ought to pray for "all" men, seeing some of those men have civil rule over "all" men, including those of us "all" who are the Church in "all" the world.

It is our duty to pray prayers to God so that He will cause to come to pass our unique peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

It is not "all" the time that this will happen. We also have been trained that, if necessary, we will suffer for Christ's sake just as He suffered as Peter indicates might just happen to some, here:

1Pe 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
1Pe 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1Pe 4:14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"And if the church can speak to political issues, then why are the Escondido folks so upset when people like the Bayly brothers preach sermons on highly politicized topics like abortion?"

Can one possible explanation be that the R2K-Escondido people are Pharasaic hypocrites?

Lockheed said...

Perhaps the Escondido fellows are concerned that political speech can replace the gospel in the pulpit? The pulpit is a place to speak the Word of God to the people, and that in itself should dictate a worldview that tends toward one end of the political spectrum, but the pulpit is not a place for the minister to rally for a specific political cause in itself. I don't think that applies necessarily to blogs.

Turretinfan said...

Lockheed:

No doubt you are right - and that is worthy concern. And the tea-totallers are concerned about drunkenness (which is also an important concern). But a prohibitionist mentality is not the solution in either case.

-TurretinFan

John Bugay said...

Can one possible explanation be that the R2K-Escondido people are Pharasaic hypocrites?

I wouldn't say that at all. I think folks have uncovered some weaknesses in their theology. But I don't thing that in turn is motivated by anything evil or hypocritical, but rather is motivated by a desire truly to understand the church's place in the world.

But that's the sort of thing that we're all doing.

natamllc said...

John,

excellent comment! I commend you my friend!!

Act 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
Act 26:19 "Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,

Tom said...

Dr. Clark took notice of this post and offered a response, but it is rather formulaic.

The question still remains, regarding the original blog post about a higher civil magistrate telling lesser magistrates how they are to conduct themselves, on what basis does one committed to Escondido-style two kingdoms even raise this as a problem? Natural law?

Tom said...

John,

The mark of a true scholar is to interact with the source material in an objective fashion. This means dealing honestly with material that does not support your thesis.

Much of the material coming out of Escondido these days is being criticized for precisely this reason. An example is the use of selective quotes of the source material.

In his response to this blog Dr. Clark quotes from a portion of Calvin’s Institutes. That’s fine, but does it give us the entire picture of Calvin’s two kingdom view. The same Calvin wrote this:

The duty of magistrates, its nature, as described by the word of God, and the things in which it consists, I will here indicate in passing. That it extends to both tables of the law, did Scripture not teach, we might learn from profane writers; for no man has discoursed of the duty of magistrates, the enacting of laws, and the common weal, without beginning with religion and divine worship. Thus all have confessed that no polity can be successfully established unless piety be its first care, and that those laws are absurd which disregard the rights of God, and consult only for men. Seeing then that among philosophers religion holds the first place, and that the same thing has always been observed with the universal consent of nations, Christian princes and magistrates may be ashamed of their heartlessness if they make it not their care. (4.20.9)

Other similar examples could be cited. Escondido does not even acknowledge the possibility of there being “Christian princes and magistrates.”

This language is decidedly contrary to how the Escondido crowd is defining two kingdoms these days, but it was the common view of Calvin and most of the early Reformers. There is a necessary place for the revealed word of God in the civil realm. As Calvin said, “[N]o polity can be successfully established unless piety be its first care.”

It doesn’t appear that these folks want to “recover” the Reformed view of two kingdoms (as Dr. Clark claims) so much as they wish to remake it in their own image.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi John,

In responding to TurretinFan's question, I was offering up what the Escondido folks were behaving like. I never said there motives were to be evil or to be hypocrites.

Hi Tom,

I went to RSC's post: Why One Should Read Before Writing (or the Difference Between Is and Must Be).

He takes a clear and a pointedly sharp exception to TFan's analysis in this post.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"It doesn’t appear that these folks want to “recover” the Reformed view of two kingdoms (as Dr. Clark claims) so much as they wish to remake it in their own image."

About as succinct and apt a summary of what the R2K folks at Escondido are doing that I have read anywhere.

Steve said...

TFan, Lockheed puts his/her finger on it. The 2k-SOTC concern is for the unfettered gospel. It doesn’t want anybody unduly alienated from the gospel by any tradition of men, up to and including a man’s politics. I don’t understand why this should be so controversial amongst those who conceive themselves as theologically conservative, unless we have made relative peace with the progressive spirit of the age. And this is what all the upset is over the Bayly’s glorified rightist political speech: it completely alienates people from the gospel, every bit as much as any glorified leftist political screed from MLK’s pulpit in the 60s.

Personally, I’m not much a fan of any ordained officer making political comment even on his own blog. It’s not that I don’t think he has a right to his views, he does. But more than that, it’s that I think he has a special burden to his office that ordinary members don’t have to hold certain views a little closer to his chest. And that is a burden that follows him everywhere. Perhaps my view is even more conservative than some of the most conservative fellow 2kers, but I do think it’s more about responsibility than rights.

TUAD, as ever, you make such a useful contribution to the questions at hand. Your Tennant impression is almost as good as Bayly’s.

Zrim

John D. Chitty said...

I'm not advanced or grounded enough on which side to take regarding the Two Kingdom approach or its rival approaches, but, having been a reader of Clark's blog, and sat at the feet of Riddlebarger's instruction on Amillennialism, in which the view of the work of antichrist is when governments begin suppressing religious freedom. So, I look at Clark's interest in this as more eschatalogical than political. I'm just guessing, but that's the way I see it.

Tom said...

“… and sat at the feet of Riddlebarger's instruction on Amillennialism, in which the view of the work of antichrist is when governments begin suppressing religious freedom. So, I look at Clark's interest in this as more eschatalogical than political. I'm just guessing, but that's the way I see it.”

John,

You may be right. It’s hard to tell since Clark offered no comment as to why the post was on his blog.

But the “antichrist” of the Bible is not about suppressing “religious freedom” (a humanist concept), it’s about denying the true religion of the Bible. In fact, it’s about denying Christ has come in the flesh and accomplished the work put to Him. It’s about denying Christ is sovereign Lord over all creation.

Those who make this out to be a matter of “religious freedom” are, in fact, playing right into the very spirit of antichrist by putting all religions on an equal footing within the Kingdom of Christ.

In Escondido-style two kingdoms there is no recourse when one branch of government instructs another branch of government what to do. Setting aside highly charged words like “Washington special-interest groups,” the fact remains that there is no “natural law” right to post on Facebook. Either that, or there must be a “natural law” right to speak contrary to those in authority.

Mark said...

Tom:
For someone so apparently interested in dealing with "source material in an objective fashion," I'm a little disheartened at the lack of material to show me that particular theologians, professors, pastors, elders, students, laymen and teachers connected with Westminster Seminary California actually believe what you seem to believe that they believe.

You write: "Escondido does not even acknowledge the possibility of there being 'Christian princes and magistrates.'"

I'm not even an apologist for RSC, but don't you think that is a pretty absurd statement? I mean what does the existence of individual christian men in civil office have to do with the "mother" (Calvin's word) church that forms the moral worldview from which they work?

On a side note, is there a special fascination with the city of Escondido that I should know about? You'd think it was called Escondido Theological Seminary. Can you instead be more specific about who and what particular works you are referencing for those that are new to the debate?

Scott said...

I think Dr Clark answered this criticism quite well in his recent post. He was commenting on the issue not as the CHURCH but rather his personal Christian view. If you are at all familiar with original material on 2K from WSCAL, you'll realize the distinction with how a Christian may interact with the government versus how the CHURCH interacts with same. Suggestion: try reading original material (such as Van Drunen's or Hart's) before criticizing WSCal as "extreme 2Kers".

Lockheed said...

But a prohibitionist mentality is not the solution in either case.

This is true only so far as it applies to individuals. If the church order or confessions state that the preaching in the pulpit should be focused on the Scriptures and on the Law and Gospel, Word and sacrament, the undue focus on a political position would be in conflict. Right?

Turretinfan said...

I've answered Prof. Clark's kind answer in a new post (link to post)

natamllc said...

Mark,

"...On a side note, is there a special fascination with the city of Escondido that I should know about?..."

Yes, yes there is! Just a bit of levity now:::>

It's the Escondido avocados and the many guacamole dishes made from them that are served in Restaurants around the world! :)

Besides that and the Mexican/American war, I don't see any other reason other than, maybe the climate? Escondido is far enough away from the seashore one cannot claim this:

Isa 11:10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples--of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Isa 11:11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
Isa 11:12 He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.


But you never know about God and His ways? He just might send a Tsunami up the San Diego river, dry at this time, that might just go right up to Escondido! :)

The devastation would be extreme, you know? I mean, all that has been built up river is just amazing to have watched over the years!

Tom said...

“I'm not even an apologist for RSC, but don't you think that is a pretty absurd statement?”

Not at all. Calvin's meaning is plain enough. He is not merely speaking of a Christian acting as a magistrate. He goes further by acknowledging the possibility of Christian government overseen by Christian magistrates utilizing the word of God to inform them of their duties and responsibilities. Escondido-style two kingdoms explicitly denies this possibility. While they may at times speak of a “Christian magistrate,” what they mean is a Christian who performs their duties according to common natural law without regard for the revealed word of God. According to Escondido, the Scriptures have no place in the civil realm, and the magistrate is forbidden from administering laws having to do with the first table of the moral law/ten commandments. In this regard Escondido-style two kingdoms departs of Calvin's view.

Turretinfan said...

Scott:

Please read this post before commenting on it.

-TurretinFan

Mark said...

Thanks for the reply Tom.

Let's be clear here: You believe that theocracy is acceptable today.

Let's also be clear about the implications of the above: If theocracy is acceptable today, it should, be logical extension, be something we strive for, since that is the call that it makes on our Christian conscience.

Can you concur?

Tom said...

“Let's be clear here: You believe that theocracy is acceptable today.”

Mark,

It’s not a question of acceptable. Today or any day. Theocracy is a fact, whether you admit it or not. Every state is a type of theocracy with some particular religious system at its very heart. The reason being that man is a fundamentally religious creature, and his religion is reflected in his institutions. Only agnostics/pagans/etc would try to assert the possibility of a non-theocratic/neutral state. This they do from their position of suppressing the truth of God.

So the real question is whether one prefers a Christian theocracy (reflecting the explicit morals/ethics of the kingdom of Christ/light) or a pagan theocracy (reflecting the kingdom of Satan/darkness). I prefer a Christian one.

Mark said...

Tom

To say that there are moral standards reflected and implied in civil law is NOT the same as theocracy. Your definition is wrong.

Our laws governing negligence require more of citizenry than what the "average" person would do. Those laws have a "reasonable" person standard. Now, in order to interpret this, you have to have a moral compass of some sort -- and while the secular judge deciding the issue may not acknowledge it, his decision has its roots in some form of objective morality. But that is still not remotely close to theocracy.

A “Christian theocracy” is not just a government that “reflects the explicit morals/ethics of the kingdom of Christ/light” Theocracy is more. Theocracy is Rome, where PRIESTS (spiritual overseers) explicitly rule the civil affairs.

You seem to have completely skewed the authority given by Christ. He gave charge over the souls of his saints to overseers in the Church. They ALONE have that charge from Christ. Also, that charge is the only charge they have been given. Christ did not give them a mandate to rule cities, counties, states and nations and collect taxes. On the contrary, He encouraged his disciples to pay taxes to a PAGAN ruler (Someone who ruled by Christ’s decree whether acknowledged or not). Caesar (and all civil rulers) has legitimate authority OUTSIDE of our spiritual welfare and discipline that we are required to acknowledge. To mix these two spheres of authority is against scripture.

Keep in mind, scripture has plenty to say about the actions of a “wise” ruler. But that “wisdom,” though given by God, is not meant for exercising authority over the spiritual welfare and discipline of the saints. Until you show me that mandate from Christ, you don’t have theocracy, nor should you seek “Christian theocracy.” We don’t have it today, and if we did, we would be required to disobey, since we don’t recognize the authoritative Shepherd’s voice outside of the “means” of word and sacrament.

Tom said...

"Theocracy is Rome, where PRIESTS (spiritual overseers) explicitly rule the civil affairs."

And I object to your definition, which is an overstatement. It appears we have a different set of presuppositions. I don't find a theocracy ala Calvin's Geneva to be offensive per se.

Mark said...

I do wish you would interact with more of what I've been saying. Have it your way though.

I believe it is debatable whether Calvin's Geneva could or should be considered formal theocracy. It did not feature a fusion of church and state in the formal sense. The main feature was that the civil magistrates, as he called for in his institutes, tended to make it their duty to protect the purity of the church, which in Geneva was the entire city anyway. And yet, Calvin still saw fit to be very explicit about a separation of duties between church and city. I can consider his reasoning on many counts, and even disagree with minor points, but only where I see him with inadequate scriptural backing.
Also, that still doesn't make Geneva a theocracy.