Intrusion Ethics II

We continue to consider this well intended but aberrant notion of intrusion ethics that has been advocated by some in the Reformed Church. We must hastily note that those who would advocate that God’s law for the community in the Old Covenant was an intrusion ethic that was an incarnation of the ethic of the eschatological Kingdom that was withdrawn back into the future eschatological Kingdom with the coming of the New Covenant still contend that God’s law in the Old Covenant is applicable in a personal and individual fashion. The discontinuities that are advocated by ‘intrusionists’ in the differing expressions of the one covenant of grace are not discontinuities that apply on a personal individual level but rather they apply only as it pertains to corporate living. In short, ‘intrusionists’ believe that Christians are still held accountable to God’s moral law on an individual and personal basis but they believe that the case law, which answered how the Moral law should be applied in concrete situations in the life of the covenant community, is no longer something to which the present Christian community should be concerned with except as those now defunct case laws foreshadowed Christ. This teaching that voids the Old Covenant case law thus supports a complimentary conviction of the ‘intrusionists.’ This complementary conviction teaches that civil law that is eventually developed for communities in today’s world is to be legislated by a process that must be arrived at by way of believer and unbelievers working together under the superintendence of ‘Natural Law theory’ in a ‘common realm’ where Christ’s Lordship is exercised in kind of indirect and absent fashion. One ‘intrusionists’ has even said that ‘Christ is Lord in a different way’ in these common realms (non-Church realms).

Those who embrace ‘intrusion ethics’ in the Reformed Church today thus believe that the Church as the Church has virtually no business speaking in the public square today concerning social issues. Theoretically, a Reformed Pastor might go so far as to say that it is not in the Church’s portfolio to speak to issues like Homosexual marriage or polygamy since those things pertain to public policy and not to public proclamation of Christ and individual salvation. Now, certainly ‘intrusionists’ believe that some individual Christians might be called to speak out on these issues but if they appeal to Old covenant case law which was a proto-expression of the ethic of eschatological Kingdom removed in the New Covenant they would be speaking without Divine Fiat.

Further ‘intrustionists’ because of this hermeneutic and the implications thereof also believe that in the New Testament age the Christian Church must take a place of only common privilege along with other religious institutions. This seemingly puts ‘intrustionists’ in the position of holding (and teaching?) that cultural pluralism is the Biblical model for the New Testament age. Depending upon how far an ‘intrusionist’ Pastor pushes this it seems that contrary to their mantra that the Scripture isn’t about non Church realms they really do believe that Scripture teaches something about non Church realms. This expresses itself when high profile ‘intrustionists’ will say things like “Christendom was a mistake. We should apologize for it and get over it.” This penchant of cultural pluralism is also seen when ‘intrustionists’ insist that the civil magistrate has no responsibility to enforce the first table of God’s law, and this in spite of literally reams and reams of quotes from Reformed Theologians throughout History who have taught explicitly to the contrary. (See a separate post for a sampling of these quotes.)

Now, if we tease this out just a moment we must realize what the ‘intrustionist’ is advocating. If we believe that culture is naught but the outward manifestation of a people’s inward belief (theology incarnated) and if intrusionists believe, confess and teach that it is Biblical to desire cultural pluralism what they have in effect done is sanctioned competitive idolatry in our culture if only because cultural pluralism can not exist without theological pluralism. Intended or unintended what ‘intrusionists’ are doing by their theological misadventures is giving sanction to the thing that is currently the greatest mortal danger to Christianity and that is multi-culturalism.

Now we must take this one step further. Currently the ‘intrustionists’ are giving hell to a group of men called Federal Visionists (which is another series of articles for another time) and it is quite likely that at least some (ok… maybe many) of the Federal Visionists deserve it, but the irony of it all is that if the ‘intrusionists’ end up winning this battle royal’ that is currently taking place in Reformed denominations today what will result is a tragedy every bit as disastrous as could be cooked up by the wildest eyed Federal Visionist. Intrustionist victory will lead to ecclesiastical isolationism as the Church retreats further and further from larger cultural issues as it continues to disingenuously assert that the church has nothing to do with culture. (I say disingenuously because intrustionists, by their retreat, are teaching that the Church has something to do with culture and that is that it has nothing to do with culture, which of course creates a vacuum that will be filled with pagan gods and churches that are not as retiring as the God of the ‘intrustionists.’) The ‘intrustionist’ has forgotten that every cult creates its own culture. The Christian cult creates a Christian culture. The Muslim cult creates a Muslim culture. The humanist cult creates a Humanists culture. It is nothing less then irresponsible ignorance to suggest that the Church shouldn’t be concerned with cultural issues and it is blindness of an even more culpable nature to suggest that in the New covenant age we cannot, like our Old Covenant brethren, go to the law and the testimonies in order to determine right from wrong in every area of life with the guidance of the principle of general equity to inform us.

Pressing on we note that when the ‘intrusionist’ insists that the application or moral rule changes in accord with different conditions (different epoch, different people, different culture) it seems that this is just a ‘Christian’ way of reincarnating Joseph Fletcher’s situational ethics. Further when the ‘intrustionist’ pumps up Natural law theory as the structure that must be appealed to by both believers and unbelievers in the shared (neutral?) common realm he seems to be forgetting that while the general revelation that accounts for Natural law theory is indeed inescapable and unremitting what the ‘intrusionist’ is not taking into account is that the unbeliever, as he becomes more and more epistemologically self-conscious in defiance of God, is going to, because of the noetic effects of sin that causes him to increasingly suppress the truth in unrighteousness, discover a Natural Law that God fearing Christians won’t find either Natural or lawful. The ‘intrusionist’ forgets that while a Natural Law might indeed exist the unbeliever has an axe to grind that will lead him to invert all the information that Natural Law might indeed be sending him. A few examples will suffice. Every Communist worth his Marx will insist that Natural Law teaches a materialistic dialectic. Every Muslim worth the jizya tax will insist that Natural Law teaches the virtues of Jihad. Every Humanist worth his pitiful materialism will insist that Natural law teaches the brain secretes thought the way the liver secretes bile. It is incredible given the beating that Natural Law theory has taken in the 20th century that anybody, let alone a Reformed Christian, would want to try and resurrect it. I guess once the Biblical law is held to be void there is only so many places that a person can go.

Iowa Makes Hash

Iowa has spoken, and what Iowa has said has left the political scene in disarray in both parties.

First of all the Iowa caucus credentialed two candidates who are not electable unless they somehow manage to run against one another in November. America is not ready to elect a Black man with the middle name of Hussein who used to be a drug dealer to the Presidency nor will it elect someone who wants to take the nation back for Jesus, even if the Jesus that he wants to take the nation back to is a tax hiking, immigration loving, felon pardoning, big Statist, deity who has nothing to do with the fellow by the same name who walks through the Scriptures.

On the Republican side Huckabee won Iowa by means of identity politics combined with scorched earth populism. Huckabee at one and the same time managed to come off as the champion of the marginalized Christians who voted for him in spades and the guy who is willing to take on greedy Wall Street as the champion for the little guy. He has constantly clothed himself as the ‘Jesus candidate’ from the go while on ‘the Tonight show’ where he said, “People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off,” in response to a Leno question revealed again his not so cloaked populist appeal. Huckabee won in Iowa by being one part Elmer Gantry and one part William Jennings Bryan. Republicans voted for Huckabee in Iowa not because of who he is but rather because he is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being the champion of the Christian middle class. If Huckabee can continue to tap into that wave he will be able to ride it a very long way.

Elsewhere on the Republican side news remains good for everyone but Romney. Huckabee’s victory adds life to the McCain and Giuliani campaigns if only because Romney’s loss in Iowa keeps him from wearing the mantle of inevitability which would have come with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. As it stands Romney must now win in New Hampshire without an Iowa bounce or it will be very difficult for him to recover. Because of Romney’s defeat in Iowa McCain looks like the Romney alternate in New Hampshire. Similarly Giuliani’s strategy of surviving until the larger and more left leaning states vote now seems more doable without a clear front runner being in a dominant position. Fred Thompson’s third place finish allows him to move on to South Carolina where he hopes to get a win to breathe life into his campaign and finally Ron Paul’s double digit vote combined with his deep pockets probably insures that he will be a considerable factor in the primaries until the very end.

Iowa has made hash out of the Republican campaign and it is difficult to see how New Hampshire could un-hash it.

On the other liberal side Iowa likewise created uncertainty. The anointed Mrs. Clinton was un-anointed being relegated to third place behind the neophyte guy named Barak Hussein and the populist John Edwards. Hillary isn’t going to go away with this loss but neither is she going to be coronated any time soon as Queen of the Dems. Hillary’s problem in Iowa, despite her money and party connections is her inability to connect with Middle America. Most politicians come across as phony but Mrs. Clinton excels at coming across as phony. Edwards’ second place finish allows him to move on but after spending two years in Iowa campaigning it is an open question whether or not he can reproduce his strength in other states where he hasn’t established virtual residency. Senator Clinton will have to find a way to chop Barak Hussein off at the knees. Being a Clinton she has the ability to do that. The question is whether or not she can do so without coming across like Tonya Harding trying to snuff out Nancy Kerrigan. Mrs. Clinton remains a polarizing figure with high negatives but as I said earlier she still has the party machinery and lots of money in her pocket and so shouldn’t be counted out just yet. If she gets trounced in New Hampshire though, Katy bar the door.

Iowa thus has made hash out of the other liberal party campaign as well, though New Hampshire could un-hash it with a convincing Barak Hussein win.

On the Republican side I am beginning to think that this could be a process where no candidate gets enough delegates before the convention to put him over the top thus leading to a brokered convention with smoke filled rooms and back room deals and where all kinds of antics, hijinks and skullduggery will be on display. As a Ron Paul guy that delights me. On the side of the other Liberal party I don’t think Democrats are going to nominate Barak Hussein unless they have a death wish for November, which is why I still think that when the smoke clears Hillary will be the last man standing.

New Hampshire here we come.

Intrusion Ethic and Its Problems Part I

A couple of days ago I brought up the idea of ‘intrusion ethics’ which has become popular in some quarters of Reformed Churches and Seminaries. This hermeneutical idea is most closely associated with Dr. Meredith Kline, who first floated the idea in an article written over 50 years ago, and is now heavily pushed by the academic community at Westminster West in California, where Dr. Kline taught for a number of years.

What I intend to do in this article is to spend a little time defining ‘intrusion ethics’ and the hermeneutic to which it belongs. Also I hope to give some examples of how ‘intrusion ethics’ work as well as looking at the implications for ‘intrusion ethics’ when they are consistently followed. Finally I hope to critique ‘intrusion ethics’ with a view to introducing grave doubts in the reader as to the legitimacy of this hermeneutic.

In order to understand ‘intrusion ethics’ we must first understand that originally it was developed as a means to understand the incremental growth of the covenant of redemption after the fall. The thinking was that in redemptive history God was pleased to introduce (thus intrusion) a sort of eschatological reality (an in breaking of the consummation in physical time and place) into the period of delay that represents the time of common grace, the period of time that lies between the historical bookends of the fall and the full consummation. The purposes of this redemptive-historical ‘intrusion ethic’ were twofold. First, the ‘intrusion ethic’ serves to bring God’s people into contact with the yet future consummation thus revealing that God dwelt in the midst of His people. Second, the ‘intrusion ethic’ serves to foreshadow and adumbrate the fullness of the consummation age that is promised and is yet to come and presumably finds its inaugurative fulfillment in the advent of the Christ. Dr. Kline offers that, “The Covenant of Redemption all along the line of its administration, more profoundly in the New Testament but already in the Old Testament is a coming of the Spirit, an intrusion of the power, principles, and reality of the consummation into the period of delay.”

By Dr. Kline’s lights this time of intrusion is a time where in the context of divinely sanctioned redemptive-historical temporal forms a time of preparation for a later age of fulfillment is commenced. This ‘intrusion time’ both suggests and veils (suggesting by veiling) the consummation that is yet to come. Within this ‘intrusion husk’ there is an abiding kerygma that anticipates itself.

Thus far this is really quite excellent stuff. The problem though comes in with the application for what Klineans do is they use this ‘intrusion time’ as what seems to be a dispensationalizing tool in order to invalidate those portions of the Scripture that putatively belong only to the ‘Old Covenant intrusion time.’ For example, laws that were given to God’s people as applicatory and explanative of the Moral law are seen as no longer valid for this ‘non Old Covenant intrusion’ time. Klineans hold that the case law as part of and along with the Theocracy that ruled God’s people in the Old Testament was part of the intrusion husk that fell away with coming of the reality of all it foreshadowed.

Now, Klineans don’t believe that the ‘intrusion time’ was taken away with the advent of He who is the consummative Kingdom. Instead they seem to hold that the intrusion time remains but that it is characterized and takes shape differently. Again here we would have to agree with this assessment in general. Who could disagree that there was a certain ‘eschatological nowness’ (thus the presence of ‘intrusion’ in the Old Covenant) about God’s Kingdom in the Old Covenant that informed the clear ‘eschatological not yetness’ of the coming Kingdom? Likewise who could disagree that there remains a certain eschaotologial ‘not yetness’ (thus the necessity for an intrusion) about the eschatological ‘nowness’ of the present Kingdom? The problem with the Klineans seems to be that they have either weighted the Old Covenant time of the ‘not yet’ with to much eschatological ‘nowness’ or they have characterized the age of ‘eschatological nowness’ with to much ‘not yetness.’ This problem is seen when Kline says, “While, therefore, the Old Testament is an earlier edition of the final reality than is the present age of the new covenant, and not so intensive, it is on its own level a more extensive edition, especially when considered it its own more fully developed form, vis., the Israelite Theocracy.’ What Dr. Kline is saying here is that the Old Covenant, at least in some sense, has more of the consummation in and about it then we have in the Church age even after the consummation has come in Christ Jesus.

It is sheer speculation but one can’t help but wonder if this staggering admission is due to the strongly affirmed a-millennial tenets of the Klineans school of thought. Certainly the idea that consummation will only come in a catastrophic in breaking fashion would be served by a redemptive historical hermeneutic that insists that the very means (the application of God’s Law Word to all of life) for seeing the already present consummative mustard seed Kingdom incrementally grow must be held to be null and void for the Church age. By dismissing the applicability of God’s Law Word to every realm due to its putative uniqueness to the Old Covenant – only a a-millennial story line can possibly bring in the consummation.

Another Klinean School tenet that is served by this redemptive-historical hermeneutic is their insistence on divorcing common and sacred realms. If God removed the ‘intrusion ethic’ of the Old Covenant time with the intrusion of He who was the incarnation of God’s Law Word then there is no Scriptural standard by which God’s people, as a covenantal entity, can measure what happens in the shared common realm. In other words by insisting that with the disappearance of the Old Testament Theocracy along with the case law that governed it what the Klineans have done is, by means of Theological interpretation, created a secular realm.

While it has been hinted at already, another problem with this reading is that in some respects it burdens the Reformed person in their explanation of how it is that the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant. If in the Old Covenant God’s people, corporately and covenantally speaking, had God’s laws to live by but in the New Covenant we have to appeal to controversial notions of Natural Moral law in order to be ruled then clearly the person in the Old Covenant had a better covenant, in the respect just mentioned, then God’s people currently living. In this respect at least it must be questioned how it is that the New Covenant is a ‘new and better’ covenant.

How To Create National Identity

(The state),”applies itself to loading everybody’s brain with prejudices, and everybody’s heart with sentiments favorable to the spirit of disorder, war, and hatred; so that, when a doctrine of order, peace, and comity presents itself, it is in vain that it has clearness and truth on its side; it cannot gain admittance.”

Frederic Bastiat

It is in the State’s interest, especially when trying to manage a unwieldy and geographically unnatural Republic, to develop in its citizenry a shared animosity towards a common enemy. This is especially true, when, as in America, all the other natural common ground is systematically tilled under. When the common ground of a shared faith, family ties, and local custom are tilled under then the common denominator that serves to hold a people together is their shared animosity towards the State conjured bogey man. During most of my lifetime the State conjured bogey man was the Soviet Union. I say it was State conjured because it was America’s policies that propped up the Soviet Union. All the US ever had to do was cease subsidizing the Russian communists in order to see them whither and die. Today the State conjured bogey man is a third world country like Iran.

It would be interesting if Americans could find enough in common to go on together as a people if they did not have a common enemy to rally against. The State, understanding this, has an interest to create enemies in order to create a shared national identity and purpose. This artificial creation of enemies also serves the State’s ends, because when successful, it is the State that the citizenry must look to in order to protect them from their shared enemy.

Once the State has convinced the citizenry that somebody out there is the enemy then it is nigh unto impossible to dispel that impression. This becomes especially so once Americans start sending their sons and fathers overseas to fight. To take up the argument that some State conjured bogey man is not really a threat to US national interests is to automatically call into question the wisdom and bravery of their soldiers and typically earns all kinds of lack of patriotic ardor opprobrium.

Let me say this as clearly as possible. The greatest threat to America is not the Muslims. The greatest threat to America is not the illegal immigrants. The greatest threat to America is not the Democratic party. The greatest threat to America is not the neo-cons. The greatest threat to America is a centralized government whose chief interests are to increase its size, perpetuate its existence, and create enemies against whom it will spill the blood of the citizenry in order to provide the glue the keeps otherwise disparate people glued together.

Chistopher J. H. Wright — On The Law

“The motivation for God’s people to live by God’s law is ultimately to bless the nations. After all, what would the nations actually see? The nearness of God is by definition invisible. What, then, would be visible? Only the practical evidence of the kind of society that was built on God’s righteous laws. There is a vital link between the invisible religious claims of the people of God (that God is near them when they pray) and their very visible practical social ethic. The world will be interested in the first only when it sees the second. Or conversely the world will see no reason to pay any attention to our claims about our invisible God, however much we boast of His alleged nearness to us in prayer, if it sees no difference between the lives of those who make such claims and those who don’t.”

Christopher J. H. Wright
The Mission Of God — pg. 380

If we stipulate that the motivation for God’s people to live by God’s law is ultimately to glorify God and then penultimately to bless the nations we would heartily endorse Wright’s words here.

There are those who insist that God’s law is not abiding as it pertains to the ‘laws of nations’ believing instead that we should look to natural law for the establishment of law. Those who reason this way look to the Old Testament laws and insist that if we are to properly read the Scriptures in a redemptive-historical fashion we will see that the covenantal ethics that were established for the nation State of Israel fall under a rubric called ‘intrusion ethics’ and are no longer applicable today. This is a kind of Reformed dispensationalizing of the law texts in the Old Testament with the result that the greater but temporary fullness of the consummational Kingdom that was represented by the laws that governed National Israel in the Old Testament is withdrawn in the New covenant age only to await their re-implementation in the fullness of the Christ’s Kingdom that appears with the second advent. There is a GREAT deal wrong with this view but the most obvious seems to be this revisionist Reformed theology ends up making the Old Covenant a better covenant then the New Covenant. Also there is the problem that in relation to the ‘now, not yet’ of eschatology what this theology ends up doing is reversing what we would expect to find. What this theology does is that it front loads the ‘now’ in the Old Covenant choosing to emphasize the ‘not yet’ in the ‘age to come’ which Christ has brought in with His birth, death, resurrection, advent and session. In short, this theology under-realizes severely the reality that with Christ’s coming the Kingdom is present.

Obviously such people would strongly disagree with Dr. Christopher J. H. Wright’s quote above. While these radical two Kingdom types agree that the law applies to a personal ethic what they disagree with is the idea of a Biblical social ethic that is informed and governed by the Old Testament case law. Such Theologians can and have ended up suggesting that the Church should not speak out against matters like Homosexual marriage since that is an issue that belongs to the common grace realm. Ideas have consequences.

I will have more to say about the idea of the revisionist ‘intrusion ethic’ in my next post. Also I haven’t forgotten that I need to finish the Dr. J. P. Moreland paper on the problem of to many Christians taking the Bible to seriously.