More on VD and Natural Law

As observed above, nearly everyone, at some level, believes that life is valuable and therefore that lethal violence against others should be prohibited by law. Most people would also agree that this applies, perhaps especially, to those who are weak and unable to defend themselves. Based upon such convictions, people today overwhelmingly condemn infanticide as a terrible crime. Beginning from this widespread acknowledgement of natural law truth, we could attempt to show how these proper moral sentiments are inconsistent with a pro-choice abortion position.

Dr. David VanDrunen
Reformed Natural Law Theorist

We admit that, at some level, all people believe that life is valuable. However at the level that counts for public policy it is clear that people insist that they do not believe that life is valuable. 50 million aborted children since 1973 could be brought in as witnesses to that truth. We are happy to concede that people who think that infanticide is ‘a terrible crime’ but who support abortion are inconsistent but it is obvious that they have resolved that contradiction in the direction of allowing abortion and we would further suggest that over 30 years of pointing to Natural law theory has not convinced them to change public policy. Further it would be naive to think that vast number of people who support abortion haven’t already been confronted with the contradiction that is involved with them being against infanticide. Natural law can’t convert people.

Indeed one could even insist that it is Natural law theory that has given us the public policy of abortion. To be sure it is not Natural Law theory coming from the hands of godly men like Dr. VanDrunen but could it not be Natural law theory coming from the hands of people from different faith commitments? Could they not use Natural law theory to argue that Nature teaches that since people are responsible for their own bodies they are free to choose what does or doesn’t happen in and to their bodies? Now naturally Dr. VanDrunen (and all good Christians) would vehemently disagree that such a reading would be a proper reading of Natural law. Here we find the problem with Natural law and that it is subjective to the max. The nature of Natural law is always in the hands of the one doing natural law. If Natural law is done by somebody in the Muslim faith with Muslim presuppositions, they are going to discover that Natural law teaches basically what the Sharia teaches. If Natural law is done by somebody who has as their beginning point feministic Humanism they are going to use Natural law to show that nature declares that abortion is proper and fitting.

Now, everyone agrees that in a Redeemed culture that is looking at truth objectively Natural law is going to teach what it genuinely does teach — God’s moral order. But the problem for Dr. VanDrunen and others who want to rebuild Natural Law theory is that they don’t sufficiently take into account the noetic affects of sin. All men know God’s moral order but they suppress that truth in unrighteousness and so come up with Natural law theories that are driven by their a-priori faith commitments whatever those faith commitments are. Now to be sure nobody is able to scrub their godless Natural law theories clean of any Christian influence. All unbelieving Natural law theorists must climb up into God’s lap in order to slap Him in the face. The fact remains that whatever overlap there is in Natural law theories that fall from the hand of pagan Natural law theorists with law consistent with what Christian Natural Law theorists would come up with is a case of the pagans not being able to totally get out of God’s world. It seems passing strange for Christians to suggest, that because an overlap exists in all cultures between what pagans believe and what Christians believe, that therefore proves the viability of Natural Law theory. Such a belief fails to see that overlap results not from pagans no longer suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and accordingly reading Nature aright, but rather results because it is literally impossible to get a culture off the ground that is not supported by some remnants of God’s reality. Reformed natural law theorists miss the contradiction that pagans are doing all they can to get away from the reality that since this is God’s World it should be governed in accord with Christian interpretations of Natural law theory, while Christians are doing all they can to move toward the reality that since this is God’s world they should be governed by God’s law. How can any Natural law theory be universally accepted by all men in order to bridge that yawning chasm?

Marriage and Natural Law …. A test analysis

“‘To which of the two kingdoms, worldly or spiritual, must we assign marriage and the family?’ (Kloosterman) apparently thinks that he has me locked on the horns of a hopeless dilemma, but I reply unambiguously: to the “worldly” kingdom. Marriage and family are part of the original creation order, they have been sustained by common grace, and my unbelieving neighbors’ marriage is just as valid in the sight of God and society as mine. Christ’s redemptive work is not the origin of marriage. The church did not establish the bearing of children. Marriage and family are institutions common to believers and unbelievers alike. The church recognizes these institutions, commends them, and gives some general instructions about them, but it does not create them.”

Dr. David VanDrunen
Response to a critique of a Natural Law article

Out in Escondido California at Westminster West Seminary there is an attempt to resurrect out of the ashes of irrelevancy, in concert with Roman Catholic think tanks like the ‘Acton Institute’ the long discredited idea of Natural law. The purpose of such attempted resurrection of Natural Law is that men might be delivered from being ruled directly by God’s Law as revealed in Scripture in favor of being indirectly ruled by God’s law as set forth in Natural Law.

The thinking of VanDrunen (hereafter VD) and other luminaries at Westminster West (R. Scott Clark, M. Scott Horton) is that the Scripture is God’s Redemptive book and it pertains to and rules over the Spiritual Kingdom which is located in the Church. According to Radical Two Kingdom theory God’s book for Creation comes from Natural Revelation which yields to us, in the realm of ethics, ‘Natural Law.’ If we desire to know Redemptive Truths we look to the Scriptures. If we desire to know Creation truths we look to Natural Law. The Redemptive realm over which the Scriptures rule are uniquely inhabited by the covenant community. The Created realm is inhabited by both Christian and non Christian alike where they meet and mingle and together, in this ‘common realm,’ build culture. So, Christ is Lord over the Spiritual Kingdom of His Redemptive realm, located in the Church, through the Scriptures and He is Lord over the Creation Kingdom (common realm) through Natural Law.

These two realms are hermetically sealed off from one another and are often referred to as God’s Right Hand (Redemptive realm) and God’s left hand (Creation realm). Notice in the quote above that marriage belongs to the Creation realm. One implication of this is that there is no such thing as a ‘Christian marriage.’ Marriage belongs to the created realm and the created realm by definition is common and is not to be characterized as ‘Christian.’ All Christians who enter into marriage are entering into something that Christ isn’t Lord over by way of Biblical prescript but rather His Lordship over all marriages (Muslim, Hindu, Polygamist, and Christian, etc.) is through and by Natural law. If marriages excel it is not because they submit to Biblical precept but rather it is because they submit to Natural Law precept. A marriage with two Hindus, theoretically, might be expected to be better than a marriage with two Christians if the two Hindus better submit to Natural Law. (We won’t even consider yet how a bunch of Hindus living together in a geographic area might come to substantially different conclusions regarding what Natural Law is as opposed to a bunch of Christians living together in a geographic area.)

In the quote above VD slips a bit of a mickey into his statement by saying that the Church ‘does not create marriage.’ Now the problem with this is that it assumes what it must first prove, and that is that before the Church can speak God’s word to various realms and institutions it is required to have created that something to which it can speak. I know of nowhere in Scripture where such a notion is explicitly stated. The Church isn’t to speak to marriages because they created them but the Church is to speak to marriages because God ordained marriage in His Word and the Church, speaking God’s mind as recorded in Scripture, is to speak to whatever it is that God speaks to.

Also note that VD seems to imply that the Church can only speak to that which finds its origins in Christ’s redemptive work. This assumes that Christ’s redemption is only personal and individual. It assumes that because Christ came to redeem people the Church can only speak to the redeemed in the context of redemption. It fails to consider that the kind of marriages that redeemed people enter into may, by virtue of those people being redeemed, bring the effects of redemption to their marriage so that it indeed is the case that their marriage is a uniquely ‘Christian marriage.’ According to VD redemption applies to individuals who are Christian but it never applies to the kind of institutions or cultures that those redeemed people build.

VD says that the Church can give some general instructions about marriage but he fails to say just exactly what that instruction is. Can the Church into Tibet forbid polyandry among its members or must it wait for Natural law to teach such a thing? Remember, marriage is not a Redemption institution and as such the Church should not speak to it according to VD. Can the Church speak against homosexual marriages? Using this very kind of reasoning a minister in VD’s denomination at one time said, ‘no.’ Since marriage belongs to the God’s left hand could the Church as the Church speak out against polygamy? Just what kind of general instructions can be given and on what basis? If Marriage and family are in the common realm then isn’t it a bit of going beyond ones portfolio for VD to suggest that even ‘general instructions’ can be given?

When VD says that all of these marriages are just as valid in the sight of God as Christian marriages what does he mean by that? Does he mean that because non-Christians might submit to Natural law when it comes to marriage that God blesses those marriages as much as he would the marriage of two Christians? Does VD mean that homosexual marriage is just as valid in the sight of God as Christian marriages? I mean marriage is marriage and who is the Church to say that homosexual marriages aren’t valid? No doubt VD would suddenly discover that general instructions begin to get a little more precise as problems are uncovered with his theory.

I hope in the next few days to have more posts on the problems of Natural Law theory. Suffice it to say that already it is beginning to look a little shaky.

Republican Party … A Working Definition…A Current Illustration

It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always, when about to enter a protest, very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.

R. L. Dabney
“Women’s Rights Women”

There is no major Conservative party in America, just as there is no major Conservative Church denomination. The fact that there is neither at the same time is not a coincidence. It is the height of folly for people to expect a genuine Conservative party when there is no genuine Conservative Church.

This quote also explains why it is more than unwise for genuine Conservatives to vote for Republicans. Republicans are not the ‘lesser of two evils’ since there are not two evils in existence for one to be the lesser of. Republicans and Democrats instead are a connected at the hip, two headed, Siamese monstrosity. When people vote either Democrat or Republican they are voting for the same Siamese monstrosity.

One only needs to look at where the Republicans are tending. They are on the edge of nominating John ‘I hate Gooks but love Illegal Immigrants’ McCain. The putatively Conservative party (have they ever been conservative since the advent of ‘Dime Store New Dealism’?) is about to make their standard bearer a guy who is responsible for legislation that violates the first amendment (McCain – Feingold), who voted against the Bush tax cuts, who became part of ‘group of 14’ in the Senate, collaborating with liberal Democrats to make sure that Senate Republicans wouldn’t alter Senate rules regarding the abuse of Democratic filibuster that was holding up the confirmation of Conservative Judges, who was part of the McCain-Lieberman bill that was Global warming friendly, who supported an amnesty program for illegal immigrants, who is squishy on pro-life issues, who is as pro ‘kill em all and let God sort em out’ as you will find, and who may have only recently considered switching to the Democratic party. This is conservative? If Christians turn out in droves to put this nut case liberal in office it will once again prove that Christians are the problem and not the solution to what ails us.

So over 100 years ago Dabney was right and he remains right today. The ascendancy of John McCain proves that to be true.

Galtians 3:28 and Beyond

Galatians 3:26-29

26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

We pause this morning to give brief consideration to vs. 28, if only because this text has become the center of a firestorm in the life of the contemporary Western Church.

In the last few decades vs. 28 has been appealed to in order to legitimize the understanding that traditional, and heretofore thought to be Biblical role distinctions between men and women, both in the home and in the Church, are invalid, improper and wrong.

Vs. 28 is appealed to as being the text that informs us that as Christians a new social order has dawned that sloughs off the consequences of the fall, which includes the sinful consequence of Male headship in the home and in the Church. Those who make this appeal reason backwards from Galatians 3:28 to suggest that in the creation order and before the fall there was no notion of male headship and it is only with the fall and sin coming into the created order that we find male headship. Put concisely, this ‘evangelical’ feminism argues that male headship is a consequence of sin that is reversed in Church and home (and culture where Christ’s rule sways) with the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. Galatians 3:28 is seen as a hermeneutical North star for many in the ‘Evangelical’ feminist camp. This text becomes the healing astringent that all other texts that deal with male and female relationships must be read through since it provides the constant that corrects all the other cultural relative situations with which all other New Testament texts are putatively infected.

We want to note that while this is an interesting and even innovative argument it hopelessly shipwrecks and splinters upon several significant boulders of reality.

First there is the boulder that up until recently in Church history, no known major Church Theologian read Galatians 3:28 in such a way as to suggest that because of the advent of Christ and the arrival of His Kingdom what arrives is this idea of a egalitarian social order that flattens out of all authority (Male and Female), labor (Slave and Free), and ethnic (Jew and Gentile) distinctions. What we see then is that the recent hailing of Galatians 3:28 as the text of social egalitarianism is unique and has no historical legs upon which to stand.

Now, we must admit that it is possible that 2000 years of Church history got this text all wrong and further missed the egalitarian New Testament theology that it teaches. Further we must concede that there may yet be found some Church Theologian in history who read Galatians 3:28 the way that it is being read today. Still, one would think that this lack of precedent would cause people to go slow on embracing Galatians 3:28 in a way that no Church Theologian in history that we know of has ever embraced it.
Second, there is the boulder of the rest of the New Testament Scripture. If it were the case that the Kingdom of Christ eliminates the idea of gender roles, labor roles, and ethnic roles we would expect to find a consistent testimony to that end in the NT record and yet quite to the contrary we find the opposite testimony. The New Testament retains distinction between male and female in Godly homes in passages like I Cor. 11:1-16, 14:34, I Tim. 2:11-14, Ephesians 5:22f, and I Pt. 3:1f. The New Testament retains distinctions between Jew and Gentile in passages like Romans 9-11 where the discussion centers on how Israel will be saved vis-à-vis the Gentiles. The New Testament retains distinctions between Slave and Free in passages like Philemon, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-4:1, and I Timothy 6:1-2. There is simply no way that a fair minded person can read the New Testament and conclude that it teaches some kind of social egalitarianism. Everywhere on the New Testament pages is the reality of gender, ethnic, and labor distinctions and not in the sense that these distinction are automatically evil.

Third, there is the boulder of the whole context of Galatians 3. From what we have seen as we have together worked through Galatians 3 the labor of the Apostle in this book is in no way connected to the issue of gender, labor or ethnic roles. Rather the issue in Galatians is how it is that Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to become Christians. The issue is the freedom that the Gentiles have in Christ quite apart from the desire of the Judaizers to foist upon the Galatians covenantal boundary markers that are obsolete because of the finished work of Christ. Galatians speaks up the completely gracious character of God’s salvation. To suddenly come upon vs. 28 and insist that it is the interpretive key that unlocks the revolutionary egalitarian nature of the Kingdom of God is to egregious violence to the whole text of Galatians. Interpretively, such an action is really quite criminal.

Context is central in this matter. If I walk into a closed room and see and a 55 year old man hugging and kissing an 18 year old I need context in order to understand what is happening. It may be the case that this is a pervert that is forcing himself upon some young lady in which case I have need to come to her rescue. It may be the case that this is a May — December Marriage in which case I may need to tell them to get a room. And it may be the case that he is her grandfather and he is trying to console her over some kind of loss in which case I should shut the door and mind my own business. Context means everything.

What egalitarians do with Galatians 3:28 in order to support the idea that with the advent of the Gospel role distinctions are eliminated is the same as happening upon a May December Marriage and concluding that the gentlemen needs to be hauled off to jail. ‘Evangelical’ feminists in appealing to Galatians 3:28 in order to support their agenda are contextually challenged. Context means everything and the context of Galatians 3:28 has nothing to do with the elimination of gender, labor, or ethnic distinctions that continue to exist in the Kingdom.

John Piper offers here that ,

The context of Galatians 3:28 makes abundantly clear the sense in which men and women are equal in Christ: they are equally justified by faith (v. 24), equally free from the bondage of legalism (v. 25), equally children of God (v. 26), equally clothed with Christ (v. 27), equally possessed by Christ (v. 29), and equally heirs of the promises to Abraham (v. 29).

I would only add that the same is true of Masters and Slaves and Jews and Gentiles.

Galatians 3:28 does nothing to overturn the Historical and Biblical categories that maintain social differences between different people. Now, to be sure Galatians 3:28 does eliminate things like hatred of the brethren that are different from us, precisely because we are all in Christ and are all children of God. The historical hatred of Jew for Gentile, the historical maltreatment of Master over slave, the historical abuse of men upon women was never God’s design but with the advent of Christ and with the bringing in of all these differences relationships into the Church the former animosity between these groups is vanquished. BUT saying that former animosity is vanquished and saying that all are now equal in role is to say very different things.

With the advent of Christ and the presence of His Kingdom what the leaven of the Gospel works through home, church, and culture is not the elimination and flattening out of the richness of the varied social tapestry that constitutes life but rather the putting right of the social tapestry that was rent by the fall. With the extension of the Kingdom of Christ what we should expect to find is neither a gender blender society, nor a society where labor and capital distinctions are gathered up into some kind of socialistic nirvana, nor a society where ethnic distinctions are effaced. With the extension of the Kingdom of Christ we should anticipate the restoration of true masculinity and femininity is on display in marriages where incredibly intelligent wives eagerly submit to incredibly humble husbands, who are in a haste to love their wives sacrificially. With the extension of the Kingdom of Christ we should anticipate a renewed harmony of interests between Master and Slave where each realizes that their own interests are best served by looking out for the interest of the other. With the extension of the Kingdom of Christ we should anticipate the different nations (ethnos) being brought into the Kingdom so that on that last day they will enter in to the new Jerusalem nation by nation so that what is heard is the beautiful harmony of multi part Choir where every still distinct tribe, tongue and nation render praise unto the King of Kings. The extension of the Kingdom of Christ does not result in a situation where all the ‘colors bleed into one.’ That is a socialistic humanistic vision. The extension of the Kingdom of Christ results in the old Puritan notion of the ‘harmony of interests.’

Returning to our boulders we must mention one last boulder that the ship of hermeneutical feminism crashes against as it seeks to twist Galatians 3:28 to its end. The last boulder is that the reading that ‘Evangelical’ Feminism is trying to use for Galatians 3:28 proves too much. If it really is the case that social order distinctions are eliminated in Christ, including that of maleness and femaleness then the Church has little room left to oppose homosexuality in the Church. If Galatians 3:28 teaches that there is no longer male or female in Christ, and if that means that traditional distinctions between men and women no longer exist because of Christ’s Kingdom, then how can we maintain that sexual distinctions are an exception? More then that if the presence of Christ’s Kingdom provides the kind of egalitarianism that these hermeneutical wizards insist upon then where is the room for parental authority over children? If children are equal to parents because they are all in Christ then on what basis can parents require obedience? If that reductio sounds stupid it is supposed to. The only reason that otherwise normal people no longer find the reasoning of ‘Evangelical’ feminists to be equally stupid when it comes to their egalitarian appeals is because we have slowly been conditioned to accept it. In this culture and in the Western Church I may have to live with it but I don’t accept it.

There remain functional differences between gender, labor and ethnic categories. We all are ontologically human but functionally speaking there remains God honoring differences. We all have the same value before God, all being made in God’s image, but just as in a choir both the mezzo Soprano and the Alto are ontologically human, they remain functionally separated. Both of their functions are needed for a good choir and are to be esteemed in their place. A good choir doesn’t get better by making every one sing the same bland part. The same kind of thing is true when it comes to the insipid blandness that is being reached for in terms of male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile by the egalitarians among us.

Now returning to Galatians 3:28 we may ask ourselves why the Apostle chooses the three couplets of ‘male – female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile?

Of course we can’t say authoritatively because the text doesn’t authoritatively say but we perhaps can make a pretty good guess. The answer may be very much in keeping with the context that is going on here.

In vs. 29 the Church is reminded that they are ‘heirs according to the promise.’ Now in order to be an heir their must be an inheritance and quite obviously that inheritance is all the blessings that we have in Christ Jesus. In choosing the couplets that he chooses the Holy Spirit may be intimating the superior character of the new and better covenant as opposed to the old and worse covenant. Under the Old Testament law, Greeks, slaves, and females could not inherit land and property directly. These were restricted in the life of the old covenant. However in the New and better covenant the anti-type inheritance has come to which the inheritance of land and property in the OT was only a type, and it comes in such a way that people from every tribe, tongue, nation, class, gender, and economic strata can directly inherit. The inheritance cocoon that was the Old covenant produces a butterfly inheritance that is beyond and above what anybody in the Old covenant could have anticipated. No boundaries are erected to the inheritance of salvation. All may inherit. All may become sons of God.

And the effect of the fullness of that inheritance coming to more and more people including the renewal that is part of it is not an ugly egalitarianism where all distinction and diversity is crushed. That can only be some kind of Unitarian vision where the singleness and unitary character of God produces a bland and unitary character of culture. No, the Trinitarian Christian vision is that the effect of the inheritance coming to more and more people makes for a renewal where people in their different God honoring roles and places work increasingly together to advance the Glory of God by honoring God in the places and roles to which they have been placed and called.