McAtee contra Wolfe

“If it is the case that fallen, unregenerate man can attain civil righteousness (worthy of praise among men, even from the regenerate) and if regeneration necessarily effects a radical change in the one regenerated, then the principal effect of regeneration cannot be civil righteousness, political, social, or anything related to the basic elements of civil or domestic life. The principal effect must be something else. It must be, then, the restoration of one’s immediate relationship to God, one’s orientation to the spiritual (yet-to-be-visible) kingdom of God, and true worship of God. In short, the principal effect is the adventitious infusing of heavenly gifts and the outward change in religion. The Gospel then is not essentially political, social, or anything earthly other than the true public worship of God.”

Stephen Wolfe

I don’t know Mr. Wolf well at all. He is an acquaintance.  I’ve heard he is a student working on a terminal degree. This quote comes from a piece where Mr. Wolf quotes several theologians demonstrating their belief in Natural Law. Many of those quotes spoke about how the heathen could do “good” works of civil righteousness. The quote above seems to form his conclusion if we stipulate that pagans can do “good.”

We need to keep in mind our Augustine here. Augustine called the so-called good works of the heathen, “splendid vices.” Augustine remains notorious for his insistence that the “virtues,” so-called, of pagans, are not genuine virtues at all. Luther echoed and restored this Augustinian sentiment during the Reformation.

In order for any human action in any area inclusive of civic Righteousness to be considered “righteous” that action must be done for the glory of God. If actions are not done for the glory of God those actions are splendid vices because they are being done for the glory of self. We grant that comparatively on a sliding scale, the pagans can do righteous deeds. Pagans can and do build burn hospitals. Pagans can be philanthropic. Yet any “good” action that an unconverted man or woman can do is not good considered absolutely as according to God’s standards.

So, if Augustine is correct about splendid virtues than Mr. Wolfe is incorrect in suggesting that regeneration does not touch “anything related to the basic elements of civil or domestic life.” The “noble” pagan upon regeneration may do the same types of works in his civil or domestic lives but now they are doing their doing on a different axis. Whereas before their “noble” acts were for their own glory, now their noble acts are for the glory of God. Because of regeneration, this is a monumental shift.

There may be a bit of a false dichotomy going on in the opening quote. It is true that the primary impact of regeneration is “the restoration of one’s immediate relationship to God, one’s orientation to the spiritual (yet-to-be-visible) kingdom of God, and true worship of God,” but because one’s orientation is changed in such a fashion the effect is that one’s orientation to everything from domestic life to civic righteousness to all things earthly is changed as well. This results in all things that are performed by regenerated man to be an expression of public worship of God.  

So, contra Mr. Wolfe, unregenerate man cannot perform civil righteousness per an absolute standard. All the civil righteousness of the unregenerate are just so many splendid vices.

We would also quibble with Mr. Wolfe’s intimation that the Kingdom of God is completely “yet-to-be-visible.” The Kingdom of God is already visible and according to the will of God goes from visible unto visible until such a time that it becomes visible in all of its splendor.

Mr. Wolfe strikes me, with this quote, to be close to a kind of unfortunate dualism as seen in his willingness to suggest that  “the Gospel then is not essentially political, social, or anything earthly other than the true public worship of God.” Now, the key word here is “essentially.” I would be more inclined to say that “the Gospel, in its broadest definition, then is essentially a totalistic claim that calls a man to bring the good news to every area of life including political, social, or anything earthly, especially including public worship.” 

 

Twin Spin From A. A. Hodge & B. L. McAtee

“Millenarian missionaries have a style of their own. Their theory affects their word in the way of making them seek exclusively, or chiefly, to conversion of individual souls. The true and efficient missionary method is, to aim directly, indeed, at soul winning, but at the same time to plant Christian institutions in heathen lands, which will, in time, develop according to the genius of the nationalities. English missionaries can never hope to convert the world directly by units.”

A. A. Hodge
19th Century American Reformed Theologian
Missionary to India

1.) Note that Hodge is faulting here, by way of implication, R2K “theology.” R2K would discipline Hodge for daring to plant “Christian Institutions,” since Institutions by definition can not be Christian per R2K.

2.) One can’t help but wonder, following A. A. Hodge’s logic whether or not all missionary efforts geared to exclusively or chiefly the converting of individual souls is, by definition, “millenarian.” A. A. Hodge’s Postmillennialism did not allow him to either accept premillennial or amillennial efforts at Missions to be considered normative.

These two observations above set the table for seeing that R2K is really nothing but a stalking horse attempting to institutionalize amillennial thinking as being equated to the Reformed position. R2K is seeking to broom postmillennialism off the Reformed ecclesiastical scene. A. A. Hodge would have had nothing to do with R2K.

3.) Hodge’s desire to plant Christian Institutions as combined with his criticism of a Missionary effort that focuses on individuals only indicates that Hodge understood that the task of the Christian church is to disciple the Nations. Modern theology, whether R2K or Reformed, in general, has become Baptistified. It is Baptist thinking that accounts for thinking only of building the church by means of individuals while missing the covenant implications of Biblical Christianity. The paedo Reformed Church you’re attending is most likely just a wet baby Baptist church. The Reformed Chruch, as R2K indicates has forgotten how to think covenantally.

4.) Hodge’s quote indicates that he understood the whole idea of the one and the many. Hodge understands the importance of the many by rightly noting that individual souls must be evangelized. However, Hodge also understands the importance of the One by insisting that the Nation as a whole must be converted and discipled via the planting of Christian Institutions among nations.

5.) Note Hodge says that the method of Missions that seeks to only evangelize individuals is doomed to failure. As most missions agencies apply just this very method it calls into question supporting those mission agencies. Is the Lord Christ honored by a missionary effort that eschews His command to convert and disciple whole Nations?

6.) Pay attention to Hodge’s respect for nations. Obviously, Hodge has no vision for a multicultural global Christian world that is absent of the distinct genius of distinct nations. This whole idea that God desires a Christian New World Order where nations are eclipsed is utter nonsense.

7.) Hodge understood that non-postmillennial eschatology does missions in a way that does not expect to convert the world. That this is true for premillennialist is seen in the fact that they do not believe that the Kingdom of Christ will come until Christ returns. Therefore nations will not be converted and so Christian Institutions are nonsense. That this is true for amillennialists (especially R2k which is merely consistent amillennialism) is seen in the fact that they believe the Kingdom of Christ is spiritual and exactly equivalent to the Church.  As such Nations, Institutions, Cultures, Families, Education, Law, etc. cannot be converted and so cannot be Christian. Hodge would have found such thinking execrable.

9.) Hodge understood that while Christian Institutions can’t convert, what Christian Institutions can do is, by God’s grace and providence, provide a contextual background against which their individual Christianity and confession can make sense.  For example, when individual converts have a law order that applies Christianity to the social order a contextual background is provided wherein their Christianity is supported. For example, when individual converts have an Education order that educates in the context of presupposing the God of the Bible then a contextual background is provided wherein their Christianity more easily makes sense.

10.) When Hodge says, “A style of their own,” he is indicating that Millenarian “thinking” creates a different kind of Christian. “A style of their own” can only arise out of a “thinking of their own,” and a “thinking of their own,” indicates a different kind of Christian. Anybody familiar with the premill vs. postmill or the amill vs. postmill debate realizes that the people holding these respective positions lean into life quite differently. Indeed, I would say that this observation is so true that differences on eschatologies make for different kinds of Christians as much as differences on soteriologies. Just as Arminians and Calvinists are different in their character and personality because of what they believe so the same is true with people who hold varying eschatologies. They are indeed each a people of their own.

8.) So we learn from this one quote, per Hodge,

a.) That premillennial missions is not Biblical
b.) That R2K “theology” is not Biblical
c.) That disrespect for nations as nations is not Biblical
d.) That Institutions can be Christian just as they can be Heathen
e.) That nations as nations are to be discipled
f.) Converting the world is our goal
g.) That the One and the Many must always be kept before us
h.) That the Western Reformed world has largely suffered Baptistification
i.) That differing eschatology makes for different kinds of Christians and so different versions of Christianity.

“The proposal of a non-religious basis (for education) is something novel not found anywhere in the experience of the past. To carry the theory out the language itself will have to be revolutionized and the dictionary itself expurgated; for its terminology, as well as that of the law of England is full of religion. And is it not a significant fact that in our great American Encyclopaedia there is no article on the word ‘God?’ If you ask how far I would advocate religious training, I reply, that the best practical system I have known was the old Scottish parochial system, though it is to be feared that, instead of getting back to that, things, as with the New England schools, are going in the opposite direction. Christianity should be recognized publicly by this country. Christ should be recognized in the law of our land as the Supreme Ruler of our nation. I am a member of a society striving for this end; the principle is right, whatever our success may be. We should insist that if the State has a right to educate she must not educate in infidel history and philosophy, but, in assuming the educator’s function, must obey the Scripture injunction regarding that function — to train the young in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord.'”  

A. A. Hodge (1823 – 1886)
19th Century American Reformed Theologian
Missionary to India

1.) There are whiffs of presuppositionalism in this quote by Hodge. Note how he implicitly refuses the idea of neutrality.

2.) R2K boys are advocating for something that, per Hodge, did not exist before the mid 19th century. Do you want novelty? Become R2K.

3.) Can you imagine what a storm of protest would be raised in a R2K Presbytery would be raised if a candidate for ordination up and said, “Christ should be recognized in the law of our land as the Supreme Ruler of our nation.” I shudder to contemplate it.

4.) The implication behind the insistence that “Christ should be recognized in the law of our land as the Supreme Ruler of our nation,” is that all nations are theocratic. Some God or god concept is going to be the Supreme Ruler of each nation whether lawfully recognized in a de Jure sense or recognized in a de facto sense. The whole notion, per R2K, that a nation can be a-religious and a-theocratic is nonsense, and only gains traction because of Anabaptist Roger William’s success in Rhode Island so many years ago.

Southern Baptist Legend John Broadus Against R2K

“We live not only in a world of persons but of powerful social organizations and institutions, which exert constant and relentless pressure upon the moral and spiritual life of individuals. The preacher cannot be indifferent to these wider and more complex areas. He must pass unflinching judgment upon the wrongs of society; he must voice the Christian principles of righteousness and justice and good will; he must stir the consciences of men to meet the conditions and practices of social order with unselfish devotion to truth and honor and common humanity… But what shall he propose in a practical way? Devise strategies and programs for labor or for capital? Write platforms for the political parties? Propose and advocate particular statutes for legislative bodies? Agitate for particular solutions of the race problems? Turn expert in international procedures? Obviously, such things are beyond his ability and outside his function [note, he is speaking directly to the minister in terms of structuring a sermon. So, in developing a sermon, creating detailed social policies are not his purpose]. He is not an expert social planner. He is a prophet, a seer, and critic, and voice of high conscience in the name of God. He should not be complacent in the belief that society is impersonal organization and natural process. Society is composed of men, women, and children. the forms of society are created and managed by persons. The human factor is determinative of many things, including principles and goods. Human responsibility for the social order is, therefore, real, and the preacher must not permit complacency in himself or in those who hear him… But he must ask in knowledge, not ignorance, speaking out of an understanding of conditions and problems won by diligent study. With such understanding, he will be able to affix blame where the blame lies and to propose with boldness the ways and means that brotherhood, honesty, high motive, and reverence for God will suggest. Such is the preacher’s function. It is within his province and responsibility to bring every kind of evil, individually and corporately upheld, to the light and judgment of Christ’s moral principles, and then to insist that men put these principles to the test where they are, making adventure along paths which an enlightened conscience can choose.”

Dr. John Broadus (1827 – 1895)
Southern Baptist Minister

R2K Evening Wear — The Sequel

Dr. Hart, over at Oldlife blog, continues to try and rescue himself from his latest comment recorded here yesterday.

Dr. D. G. Hart says:
January 13, 2017 at 3:05 pm

“Robert, the question wasn’t whether Nero should light up his gardens with Christians. It was whether Nero executed Christians.

That is what God ordained the magistrate to do, right? Just because a believer has a special relationship with God doesn’t let the believer disobey the magistrate’s laws. Christianity is not a license for civil disobedience.

That’s why the debates about resisting a tyrant were so intricate. The best the Reformers could come up with was the doctrine of a lesser magistrate. A citizen could not disobey. But a magistrate might be able to.

If a law is unjust or if we must obey God rather than men, then we suffer the consequences of disobedience. That’s what the apostles did. They didn’t form political action committees to overturn Roman laws.”

Bret responds,

1.) Dr. Hart’s comments are not informed as to what “the best the Reformers could come up with.” Here is one of the greatest Reformers,

“In ‘The Appellation’ John Knox denounced the orthodox doctrine of (that required) Christian obedience (to wicked rulers) as sinful. He declared blind compliance to a wicked command to be sin. God has not required obedience to rules when they decree impiety. To say that God does is no less blasphemy than to make God the author of sin. Moreover, if the nobles and people comply with their sovereign in manifest wickedness, they will be punished along with him.

In “The Appellation” Knox also laid the foundation for the theme of his “Letter to the Commonality,” which declared “None provoking the people to idolatry ought to be exempted from the punishment of death.” The personal status of such an individual was of no consequence, be they monarch or commoner. Moreover, the punishment of idolatry and blasphemy does not pertain to only kings and rulers. Rather, it relates to all persons according to their Christian vocation and the opportunity afforded to them by God to administer vengeance. CITING DEUTERONOMY 13, KNOX ISSUED THE CALL FOR REVOLUTION — HE DIRECTED MOSES’ COMMANDMENT TO SLAY IDOLATERS TO ALL PEOPLE, NOT JUST THE NOBLES.

Yet Knox never called for indiscriminate slaughter. He distinguished between the treatment to be accorded idolaters, who had never known ‘true religion,’ and those who had known it but has forsaken it.”

Kyle & Johnson
John Knox; An Introduction to his Life and Work — pg. 104

2.) When Dr. Hart offers that “this is what God ordained the magistrates to do right?,” one is left saying, “no, God has not ordained the magistrates to execute those who obey God’s law.” Romans 13, contrary to Dr. Hart, clearly teaches

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

We see here that God has ordained rulers to praise those who do good. Good is not defined by any standard except God’s Word. So, when a Magistrate executes Christians for doing good, as informed by the standard of God’s Word, then those Magistrates are doing the very opposite of what God has ordained the Magistrates to do. Dr. Hart is in grave error here.

3.) Biblical Christianity at times is indeed a license for civil disobedience. The Hebrew wives knew that fact. Daniel and his friends knew that. Ehud, the left-handed Hebrew Ninja knew that. John Knox knew that.

4.) Finally, on the point of forming political action committees to overturn bad laws, once again, Dr. Hart is just in error. Dr. Hart needs to realize that the very fact that they were disobeying the law was itself the formation of a political action committee to overturn Roman laws. The disobedience is itself political action by committee.

Is Dr. Hart saying that it is un-Christian and / or not Biblical to form political action committees to overturn bad law?

 

The Latest In R2K Evening Wear

https://oldlife.org/2017/01/04/is-donald-trump-mainstreaming-apostasy/#comment-151497

“Nero did not violate God’s law if he executed Christians who obeyed God rather than man. If Paul continued to preach after the emperor said he may not, then Nero was doing what God ordained government to [sic] do. Christians don’t get a pass from civil law just because they follow a higher law. John Brown is no Christian hero.”

Dr. Darryl G. Hart
Comment timestamped — January 12, 2017 at 10:52 am
OPC Elder

R2K Heterodox Maven
Doing his best John Knox impersonation

1.) Dr. Hart is now in the position of holding that Nebuchadnezzar did okay when he threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace. After all, he was just doing what God ordained government is supposed to do.

2.) In Exodus 1 the Hebrew Midwives who disobeyed Dr. Hart’s God ordained Government in Egypt are rewarded for their following a higher law. Now, If Dr. Hart were serious about his statement, and if he were consistent, Dr. Hart would have to say that those Hebrew Midwives were disobedient to God’s ordained order. How will Dr. Hart explain that “God rewarded them with houses” because they did obey a higher law?

3.) When St. Peter says “whether it is better for us to obey God or man, you decide,” thus implicitly appealing to the higher law that Hart so detests, Hart answers, “Christians must obey man over God.” Even the Pharisees knew better than to answer the matter in that way.

4.) One of the doctrines of the church that was recovered in the reformation was the doctrine of the lesser magistrate with its insistence on resistance to tyranny in the name of a higher law than civil law. Both civil and church authority need to be resisted if they become tyrannical. The best proof of this is the protection offered Luther as well as the battle at Magdeburg right after Luther’s death. See, Christopher Goodman’s, “How Superior Powers Ought To Be Obeyed By Their Subjects And Wherein They May Lawfully By God’s Word Be Disobeyed And Resisted.”

5.) Dr. Hart is correct in offering that John Brown is no Christian hero but the reason that John Brown is no Christian hero is that John Brown was not following a higher law but was following anti-Christ Jacobin law. Surely Dr. Hart is not suggesting that the disobedience of John Brown was of the same nature and same character as the disobedience of the Hebrew midwives before Pharoah, the disobedience of the Hebrew children before Nebuchadnezzar, or the disobedience of Christ before Pilate?

Or … maybe he is?

6.) Now, to be sure, Christians who disobey man’s law must be prepared to suffer the consequences such as prison, loss of social standing, or even death. These are all possibilities. However, to intimate that authority figures get some sort of pass, simply because they carry some kind of illegitimate authority is just ludicrous wrapped in ridiculous as stuffed inside preposterous.

But this is the kind of heterodoxy where R2K inanity takes one.