Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Picking the Low-hanging Cherries

Darryl Hart has posted an article (2K Cherries 2Hot 2Handle) responding to my friend Lane Keister's decision to stop discussing two kingdoms theology on his blog.  Unfortunately, the article serves as an illustration of the problem that led my friend to stop discussing the topic.

Hart seems to have a fundamental problem distinguishing argument from personality.  Read his post.  You'll find that after the first paragraph it's all about attacking his critics - not for their views - but attacking their integrity.  Here are some examples:
  • "some who object to 2k have so made up their minds about the idea and its proponents that they will hear nothing in defense of the doctrine; they won’t even read the books written on 2k"
  • "two undeniable historical developments exist that 2k critics won’t accept"
  • "In which case, they have no more claim to Calvin as a standard for religion and politics than 2kers do. Yet, here’s the key. 2kers are honest. They actually admit that they disagree with Calvin."
  • "And this means that the critics of 2k are either unaware of how little standing the original WCF chapter 23 or Belgic Art. 36 has in conservative Reformed churches. Or if they know of confessional revision and use the original documents to denounce 2kers, they are dishonest."
  • "Or perhaps they are simply foolish (and impolitely so)."
(and that's not to mention the comment box, where one finds jewels of charity such as "You philosophers sure are clever (but undermedicated).")

I'm sure this post will sail over Hart's head.  In the post itself, he calls attention to the fact that I have previously pointed out to him that his approach of attacking the person of the critics (for example, accusing them of not being gracious) is ad hominem.  His response is that "I do not see how this point is beside the point."

But what about those two "undeniable historical developments" that form the only substance to his post?

The first of the alleged "undeniable historical developments" is "that the critics of 2k do not advocate the execution of adulterers or heretics."  There are three layers of rebuttal to this point.  First, not all critics of E2k refuse to advocate the execution of adulterers and blasphemers (one assumes that's what Hart means, since that's what Calvin advocated).  Second, Calvin himself seems to have thought that in some cases the penalties should be dependent on the circumstances, including the penalty for adultery (See ICR IV:20:16). Third, whether or not critics of E2k are themselves little clones of Calvin is quite the beside the point.   No critics of E2k claim to be clones of Calvin, and yet whether or not they are clones of Calvin they can still observe that E2k advocates have so radically departed from Calvin that Calvin's views are treated as intolerable and absurd.  There's a difference between the sons of Calvin and the sons of the Quakers, even if neither is identical to Calvin.

The second of the alleged "undeniable historical developments" is "that all of the Reformed churches that belong to the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council have rejected the teaching of both the Westminster Confession and the Belgic Confession on the civil magistrate."  In order to check this claim, I carefully studied the standards of the hundreds, dozens, twelve denominations in NAPARC.  Hart's assessment is wrong.  The OPC and PCA both have not rejected the teachings of the WCF on the civil magistrate, they have broader standards, so that one is not required to hold those views (as already demonstrated here), although their standards do rule out E2k (as explained here).  The ERQ subscribes to the original WCF, but permits liberty of conscience on several sections, including the sections that E2k finds most objectionable.  The FRCNA states that they fully subscribe to the original three forms of unity (including the Belgic Confession).  Should I go on?  At best, the RPCNA could be said to have "rejected" them, based on the ambiguous wording of their "testimony" that serves as an interpretive guide to the standards.  (Of course, not all conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches in North America are in NAPARC, but even with Hart's cherry-picking ...).

Now, Hart makes a fuss about the fact that he's an historian ("From the perspective of this 2k advocate who also doubles as a historian, two undeniable historical developments exist that 2k critics won’t accept — sort of like denying that the North defeated the South in 1865; you may not like it, but how do you deny what happened at Appomattox?").  But what's wrong?  Is Hart just too lazy to research things?  Surely he's not intentionally lying to people while bolstering his claims with his reputation as an historian (some of his historical work is, in fact, well respected).  So, what then?

One answer is that Hart is simply avoiding addressing the actual knotty issues of E2k as compared both with Scripture and with the Reformed tradition with respect to which E2k represents a significant departure.  Until he gets his head straight, his comments and reviews will continue to be the low-hanging fruit in the discussion, but since he's one of the most vocal advocates, they will need to be picked.



Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I'm sure this post will sail over Hart's head."

I don't know about that. I think he'll get what you're saying and arguing. He may not accept it, and he may evade or equivocate or make a non-sequitur, but he should understand what you're saying.

Godith said...

Has anyone checked the ARP's view of the civil magistrate?
It's probably the best, or rather for Hart, the worst in the whole NAPARC cherry orchard.

Natamllc said...


Oh my! That is a serious charge, don't you think?

It may be that that is true.

I would be far more charitable though, if you get my drift?

"Blessed are the peacemakers".

Natamllc said...

As I go through Hart, 2k 2k 2k, I stop and say, hopefully with some clarity with Scripture why I oppose this sentence:

Hart: "... They actually acknowledge the deficiencies of those who try to follow the Old Testament for post-resurrection civil governments. ">

Just from my little mind and view, I have to object to that!

Here's a couple of reasons why:

Rom 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Now, what better clarity of meaning to that verse can be proffered here than this:

Act 21:17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly.
Act 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
Act 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Act 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law,
Act 21:21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.
Act 21:22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.
Act 21:23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow;
Act 21:24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.

This particular paradox seems to me to be that one hinge that needs to unpinned and I for one am looking with excitement and joy as God reveals the manner of doing it?

How is it then, that a Jew from Tarsus can hold to both the Law of Moses and comply with Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, circumcise Timothy and then send Titus to set things in order in Crete?

turretinfan said...

My recollection from what Ben Glasser wrote is that the ARP doesn't have the full rigor of the originals, but still is strong enough to reject E2k. The FRCNA is the strongest that I saw.

turretinfan said...

TU&D: Assuming he legitimately didn't understand why ad hominem is a logical fallacy, then he won't understand the post.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"TU&D: Assuming he legitimately didn't understand why ad hominem is a logical fallacy, then he won't understand the post."

This is such a minor point compared to the substantive aspects of your post. But I do believe that your assumption above is faulty. I would contend that Dr. Darryl Hart does know that "ad hominem" arguments are a logical fallacy.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...


FWIW, I posted a link to this post on Darryl Hart's post so that OldLife readers would know of your response here.

David R. said...

The OPC and PCA both have not rejected the teachings of the WCF on the civil magistrate, they have broader standards, so that one is not required to hold those views (as already demonstrated here), although their standards do rule out E2k (as explained here).

Hmm ... The problem with this assertion is that OP ministers who hold to the original WCF take an exception, but those who hold to "E2K" do not....

turretinfan said...

That seems primarily like a problem for those who err on the side of failing to report.

David R. said...

Lol, that's what I expected you to say.

turretinfan said...

I was hoping you would adamantly insist that what the evidence really shows is that all the OPC ministers interpret the standards differently than I do, at which point I was going to ask for the actual evidence regarding what exceptions have been noted in which presbyterians. I don't have statistics myself, and I doubt that they are available.

Nevertheless, as I said, the problem is not so much a problem for people who scrupulously overreport as for people who underreport.

David R. said...

My evidence is primarily anecdotal but I'm sure you have enough connections to verify it one way or the other if you choose to. But it seems you've interpreted the data before it's even in. BTW, I posted another comment on the Todd Bordow thread a few days ago. Feel free to ignore it, but I thought I would mention it in case you hadn't seen it.

turretinfan said...

I am very behind on emails and comments. I will take a peek.

I cannot really interpret the data without receiving the data, and you can't really provide the data. But let's imagine.

Imagine that we found that there were a dozen pastors who took an exception to WCF 23. We would still need to drill down further to find out why they took the exception (whether for E2k reasons or because they thought there was a conflict with the original and they believed the original). Suppose that this further data also exists, and all the dozen took the exception for the latter reason.

One would still need to know whether the ministers took the exception because they thought there was a real conflict, as opposed to a conflict of interpretation. But suppose that level of data were available too.

What's the result? It means that a dozen ministers who agree with me about the original WCF don't agree me with about the correct understanding of the American revisions.

That seems like a rather trivial objection to my point.

I would also note that as Machen experienced, it tends to be the conservatives who register exceptions and liberals who don't.


David R. said...

I would hope it would give you pause if a dozen ministers disagreed with you about the original WCF. But what your hypothetical also fails to consider is that presbyteries examine candidates and are thus free to ascertain what a candidate's views are and deny licensure and/or ordination accordingly. I would think that might help determine whether there's an exception or not. The fact is that while you alone have decreed "E2k" to be out of bounds, no presbytery has. (And please don't tell me that a SoCal presbytery determined the issue because if that were the case, there would have been more than one minister defrocked by now.) But maybe you want to accuse the OPC of liberalism....

turretinfan said...

I'm certainly not alone in noting that E2k is out of bounds.

As for whether or not presbyteries have, I note that Lee Irons was excommunicated for his E2k views (See the charges document - for example: "The advocacy of "same-sex marriage" as a "civil right" has brought scandal to the OPC and other Bible-believing Christians."). There hasn't been comprehensive action taken, but on the other hand the Federal Vision was more or less declared out of bounds in the PCA and yet Leithart and Meyers (two signatories to the FVJS) remain in the PCA.

Presbyteries move slowly. This is a good thing, even if it is frustrating for the Internet generation.

And, of course, while lots of things give one pause, lots of things don't really address the issues at hand.

As for "liberalism," there are a lot of different presbyteries and elders in the OPC. Some are more "conservative" than others, same as any presbyterian church with more than one presbytery.

But, as noted above, this actually takes us farther and farther afield from the actual topic.


David R. said...

Please. Lee Irons was not excommunicated. And he was not charged with having "E2k views." Furthermore, he is currently an office bearer in a NAPARC denomination. But my original point was simply that I doubt many OPC or PCA officers agree with you about the WCF 23 revisions not contradicting the original, and furthermore, most if not all of the men whom you label "E2k" would not be considered out of bounds except by a small minority of other office bearers (I would venture to guess far fewer than would consider theonomy out of bounds).

turretinfan said...

"Lee Irons was not excommunicated."
True, and not contradictory to what I claimed.

"And he was not charged with having 'E2k views.'"
Given that the term 'E2k' wasn't around at the time, clearly he was not, nor did I claim that he was. In fact, I was quite specific.

"Furthermore, he is currently an office bearer in a NAPARC denomination."
He really shouldn't be.

"But my original point was simply that I doubt many OPC or PCA officers agree with you about the WCF 23 revisions not contradicting the original, and furthermore, most if not all of the men whom you label "E2k" would not be considered out of bounds except by a small minority of other office bearers (I would venture to guess far fewer than would consider theonomy out of bounds)."
Your original point is noted, but not accorded much weight. My critics doubts about information that they lack is something I can hardly credit for much. There are a lot of latitudinarians out there - and if arguments from numbers works - ahem - PCUSA.


Natamllc said...

David R.,

In another thread on TFan's blog, most recently, I made this comment:


he and his wife were removed.

Godith, I assume had read the link to Irons paper on that thread about the Sabbath?

Both Lee and his wife were removed from holding ministerial office in common with the OPC after a long process of about 10 years if my memory serves me well?

I believe his situation is another subtle push back from the purity of the Gospel and the Holiness of God that without none of us will ever see the Lord. We are admonished to strive for peace with all men and the holiness, without which none of us will see the Lord.

We just don't have time on our hands during this short life of ours, a mere 70 years less or more. God does and sometimes, as I am sure you know, He might just take a few centuries before He shows up again.

It is admirable for you to support Irons in here. We all should.

For a Presbytery to take this sort of action, however painful it must have been for them, then of the matter I would liken to the effects the death of Saul the King had on the kingdom of Israel and the honor bestowed upon him and his office as God's king when they heard of his demise, his and his sons.

These issues in Irons case haven't diminished one bit but are great and grave now and none of us should be caught flat footed about it. All of us should heed the admonition of Paul the Apostle: Gal 6:1-3 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. I would emphasize the word any in that part, caught in any transgression.

Apparently there was some conclusiveness to some transgression for that Presbytery to take the action they did, don't you believe?

Might I inquire? Are you a personal acquaintance or friend of Mr. Irons?

David R. said...


I'm not here to defend Lee Irons. Personally, I've found much in his written material on his website that is very helpful. There are also some things I might wish he would have stated differently. Perhaps he would now. Ultimately, I think he was more right than wrong, and I think he's on more solid ground than most of his detractors.

"Apparently there was some conclusiveness to some transgression for that Presbytery to take the action they did, don't you believe?"

No, not necessarily. As you perhaps know, church councils can and do err. I'm sure it didn't help him that there were a number of theonomists and Federal Vision sympathizers among the members of that presbytery.

"Might I inquire? Are you a personal acquaintance or friend of Mr. Irons?"

I am not.

David R. said...

"My critics doubts about information that they lack is something I can hardly credit for much."

Fair enough. I'm merely pointing out that the state of affairs in the OPC doesn't do much to support your thesis that "The OPC and PCA both have not rejected the teachings of the WCF on the civil magistrate ... although their standards do rule out E2k." As has been pointed out elsewhere, "E2K" is clearly mainstream in the OPC, whereas theonomy is relatively rare (and I think getting increasingly more so). I personally believe the Standards clearly rule out theonomy, though of course the OPC has historically tolerated theonomists in its midst and still does. I suppose that will be the case unless the church rules out Bahnsen's idiosyncratic understanding of "general equity."

Chris H said...

"I would also note that as Machen experienced, it tends to be the conservatives who register exceptions and liberals who don't."

I don't like to get involved in these posts much since I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I've never heard the Escondido folks be accused of being liberal on subscriptionism before. That's not to say that you are making that charge of anyone in particular, but the implication is there. Both R. Scott Clark and Robert Godfrey have argued in their works for strict (quia) subscriptionism while some of their opponents (including Frame himself if I recall) have contended for looser (quatenus) subscriptionism. Godfrey, of course, calls himself a Kuyperian rather than a 2K adherent, so maybe he doesn't count, but he is the president of the seminary for which "E2K" is named. It's not terribly likely that it's because they have a liberal view of confessionalism that they haven't taken exceptions. In any case, I would be interested in hearing one of them respond to your case for the incompatibility of 2k with the confessions--preferably someone who would do so carefully rather than flippantly.

Godith said...

Someone named D. Patrick Ramsey (OPC pastor, Kentucky) has written about this topic in the Westminster Theological Journal. The name is (my best remembrance): In Defense of Moses: A Reply to the Kline/Karlberg Paradigm. Ramsey's research shows that the republication theory concerning the 10 commandments, which much of WCal holds to, is not in accordance with the WCF. Which is not the same thing you are talking about, but for what it's worth...

turretinfan said...

Regarding R. Scott Clark and Robert Godfrey, Godfrey is at WSC, but he's not E2k. I seem to recall that R. Scott Clark has openly suggested that the confession should be amended.

But the WSC crowd tends to be "strict subscriptionist" when it comes to dealing with Keller's women deacons and the Federal Vision, but they are not so quick to push the matter against folks like Hart and Irons who are outside the confession on other areas.

Natamllc said...


I'm with you on most all things in that I don't what my dog in any fight.

Would you kindly define for me subscriptionism?

Would you then explain the eclectic nature and broad range of eclectic minds that make up the White Horse Inn speakers and topics discussed within that venue?

I am puzzled by your words to TFan: "but I've never heard the Escondido folks be accused of being liberal on....".

I am for peace, no ad hom here.

David R. said...

Godith, I'll just say that I hope you paid attention to the response to Ramsey by Brent Ferry. And I hope you've read Kline for yourself.

Chris H said...


Do you recall in what respect Clark has argued that? I do know he is in favor of writing new confessions simply because he contends it is of the nature of Reformed confessionalism to confess the (same) faith anew in each new generation and context as they did in the first century or so after the Reformation, but I don't remember him wanting to change the substance of the confessions in any respect. In fact his argument in his Recovering the Reformed Confession book was, as I recall, given our use of the Westminster Standards or Three Forms of Unity subscription should be strict and "good faith" subscriptionism is not sufficient. I seem to remember that John Fesko, another WSCal prof and he have debated over the issue with Clark taking the stricter quia approach. No idea whether Fesko is a 2K guy though.


What I mean by subscriptionism is simply the level of strictness one requires to subscribe in oath to a confession. Two of the main positions I referenced at this point are that of quia and quatenus subscription. Quia means to subscribe to the confession because it's Biblical. This view entails that an exception to the confession is treated as an exception to the Bible. Perhaps this is where Clark argues for some emendment of the confessions to eliminate the need for incidental exceptions (e.g.: denying the "frequently" of WCF 7.4), but I don't remember him specifically doing so. Quatenus subscription is subscription to the confession insofar as it is Biblical. This obviously assumes some distance and incongruity between the confession and the Biblical doctrines and allows much more room for exceptions and "good faith" subscription. An example might be Frame's treatment of the regulative principle of worship. What I mean by liberal is tendency for more looseness in subscription. I wouldn't call Frame, for instance, liberal per se on subscriptionism, but he seems to be further towards that side of the spectrum than Clark and Godfrey.

I'm not sure exactly what you're asking about the WHI. I very rarely listen to the WHI, but it is certainly an eclectic group of men and I doubt that they would grant each other's positions are biblical and correct where their respective traditions disagree, or would admit each other to office (or possibly even communion) in their respective churches. I don't think Horton would consider himself able to subscribe in good conscience to the Formula of Concord or the London Baptist Confession

turretinfan said...

Chris: Unfortunately, I do not recall the specifics of his proposals. -TurretinFan

Natamllc said...


thank you!

If I remember correctly, you are onto something there between Fesko and Clark?

I have all of Fesko's writings and remember something in there similar to your observation?

Maybe I can lay out my concern by this manner?

I have a hunger for purity and holiness from God, by God, through God in Christ, transformed to His glorious body being called into His Eternal Glory in Christ.

I don't see it in my flesh.

I have an ever increasing hunger for purity and holiness the more I exchange thoughts with others within the Church anointed by the Holy Spirit; you.

I don't see my flesh budging, though. All my work cleaning has been a waste of time! :)

Because of this testimony, I adhere ever so increasingly to Romans 7, more and more as I see the day approaching, too.

I don't see that I loose any of His purity or holiness in exchanges with "my" brothers and sisters of whatever cloth they are, provided I am led of the Spirit to commune and exchange the things God has given to me to share and receive from them what God has given them to share.

What doesn't make sense though is mud or mixing up the cloth out of deference for another. We indeed are to be clothed with humility (1 Peter5:5b-11).

I believe the eye should be an eye in the Church as well as a hand staying a hand and an ear an ear and a big toe and thumb a big toe and thumb.

Diversity is good.

Mud is not good and it seems to me there is increasing mud slinging going on inside the Church that ought not to be going forth? I am happy to be corrected and would be glad for it if I am wrong?

1Co 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
1Co 12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
1Co 12:19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?
1Co 12:20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

Chris H said...

TFan: Oh well, I was just asking out of curiosity since I certainly haven't read Clark's whole corpus.

Natamllc: In case you were curious, I looked up the Fesko reference, he argued for loose/system subscription in an article he penned in the JETS a few years back: "The Legacy of Old School Confession Subscription in the OPC." Clark then interacted with that article a bit in a couple places, disagreeing with Fesko's conclusions.

I certainly agree that it would be useful to keep the invective to a minimum in discussions such as these (something I appreciate in TFan's approach here). It's a subject that could use some open and civil debate but there are certain persons on both side of the argument that are making that more difficult than it should be. Sharp, even acerbic, polemics have their place when core doctrines are under assault, but I really don't see that this is the case here. For the most part it's an intermural debate wherein both sides take Scripture and their Reformed heritage seriously.

Godith said...

I have read Ferry's reply! But couldn't get through Kline at all.

David R. said...

Give Kingdom Prologue a try--that's his magnum Opus and the most important thing by him to read. Be patient with it, he's actually quite a clear writer. But if that's too ambitious, then try one of his essays available online, such as "Covenant Theology Under Attack" or "Comments on an Old-New Error."

Sean McDonald said...

Of the NAPARC denominations, you might have also mentioned the Heritage Reformed Churches, which maintain the "six forms of unity" (the Three Forms and the Westminster Standards)... the original versions of all of those documents, that is. There is also the Presbyterian Reformed Church, which maintains the original Westminster Standards.

And although my own beloved RPCNA has taken exception to certain statements in the Confession (primarily those allowing magistratical authority to call synods), we are certainly not an E2K denomination. Our Testimony (which many accuse of watering down the Confession in certain places) is quite explicit concerning the duty of civil government toward God:

"Every nation ought to recognize the Divine institution of civil government, the sovereignty of God exercised by Jesus Christ, and its duty to rule the civil affairs of men in accordance with the will of God. It should enter into covenant with Christ and serve to advance His Kingdom on earth. The negligence of civil government in any of these particulars is sinful, makes the nation liable to the wrath of God, and threatens the continued existence of the government and nation." (RPCNA Testimony 23.4)

"WE REJECT the view that nations have no corporate responsibility for acknowledging and obeying Christ." (23.5)

"WE REJECT the teaching that Christians should not seek the establishment of Christian civil government" (23.8), etc.

I also know a number of ordained or licensed men who have taken exception to the places where the Testimony takes exception to the Confession.

turretinfan said...

Thanks, Sean! I think that the PRC still is only a NAPARC observer, but yes, they and they Free Church of Scotland Continuing would be examples of other denominations with a presence in North America that hold to the original. And I agree with your point about the RPCNA testimony. I could have added a similar comment about the ARP, in that while it does not hold officially to the original standards, its standards are inconsistent with E2k. It is sad that Hart cannot speak the truth on this matter.

Sean McDonald said...

According to the most recent Minutes (, the Presbyterian Reformed Church is listed among the member denominations.

Looking through the Minutes, I'm also seeing one more reason why I'm not a big fan of NAPARC: even with the presence of four Psalm-singing denominations, two hymns ("The Church's One Foundation" and "How Sweet and Awesome is the Place") were sung. In all fairness, three Psalm versions were also sung; but I'm pretty sure that my old pastor, Dave Reese, would not have sung the hymns.

Sean McDonald said...

Sorry, it didn't like how I gave the link. Trying again...

turretinfan said...

I stand corrected. You are right and Hart is even more wrong.

turretinfan said...

Yes, it can be difficult to have fellowship when those around are trying to worship God according to human imagination. Nevertheless, I am glad that the EP denominations extend fellowship to the other denominations, and it is sad that the organizers insist on singing songs of that kind.

David R. said...

As one who also cannot sing uninspired songs in worship (and has struggled for several years in a denomination that for the most part doesn't see it like I do), I can completely agree with you on this one. It's troubling that there's not more concern for consciences, especially since the vast majority of hymn-singers, in my experience, do not think that omitting hymns from worship is sinful.