Dr. D. G. Hart, renown teacher, author and theologian in the Reformed church today stopped by for metaphorical coffee and a chat yesterday. I recorded our session so that readers could benefit.
Dr. D. G. Hart writes,
Jetbrane: you write: “R2Kt virus goes on to say that the Church as the Church must not even seek to use moral persuasion when it comes to issues that are non-salvific (narrowly defined) that apply to the public square. According to R2Kt virus thinking the Church as the Church cannot speak to these issues because the Bible doesn’t speak to these issues.”
I don’t know of anyone who holds this implication of what you perceive to be the 2k view. The church may use its power of persuasion all the time (and does every time a minister steps into the pulpit and proclaims the word of God). The question is one of jurisdiction. When the church declares the word of God, in worship or in its courts, it is using powers of persuasion all over the place.
So, D. G., does this mean that I can expect Reformed Churches that believe in R2K theology to preach from the pulpit on the evils when the State seeks to take on the prerogatives of God? Does this mean that I can expect Reformed Churches that believe in R2Kt to proclaim from the pulpit that God’s prohibition against theft applies to confiscatory taxation of the citizenry by the State? Does this mean that that I can expect Reformed Churches that hold to R2k views to proclaim from the pulpit clearly against the evils of abortion and homosexuality? Does this mean that I can expect Reformed Churches that hold to R2k to speak against ideologies like socialism, feminism, fascism, historicism, multi-culturalism, etc. that so influence our culture that are anti-Christ at their core?
I would like to attend services where some of these public square issues are addressed by graduates of Westminster West. But, given what you say later that won’t ever happen because you believe that the Church is not charged with speaking to those issues since that would be like trying to discipline other people’s children.
What is more the 2k position in no way denies that the Word of God speaks to matters of morality that affect civil society. Clearly the Bible says things about lying, cheating, stealing and killing, and the state makes laws about such things. But simply because the church ministers the word of God on these “issues” does not mean the church has jurisdiction over civil or political affairs. The 2k position says that it doesn’t. (It’s like a father who disciplines children; his status as an administrator of offspring discipline does not give him the authority to administer discipline to children of another father.)
First of all let’s keep in mind that two Kingdom theology can not be equated with what is being passed as two Kingdom theology by R2k types. Two Kingdom theology when handled by the Puritans was Two Kingdom but not Radical two Kingdom. Your version of two Kingdom theology is not THE version of two Kingdom theology.
Second, in the first blockquote you insisted that my perceptions of R2K are nowhere present and yet in the second blockquote you prove that my perceptions are correct. In the portion you quoted from an earlier statement of mine I said, “R2Kt virus goes on to say that the Church as the Church must not even seek to use moral persuasion when it comes to issues that are non-salvific (narrowly defined) that apply to the public square,” and now you are saying that the Church may not speak to the civil realm because that would be like a Father disciplining children that were not his. I would say that my perception in the italicized portion immediately above has been confirmed by no less of an authority then you.
D. G., you keep injecting elasticity into that word “jurisdiction.” When the Church speaks to public square issues it is not taking jurisdiction. Jurisdiction belongs to the civil realm. What the Church is doing is providing godly counsel. Using your illustration, when the Church seeks to speak to the public square of the culture it is not the case of the Church taking jurisdiction if only because the Church can be (and usually is) ignored. If the Church had jurisdiction she couldn’t be ignored. Rather it is the case of offering advice to the parents of other children who are tearing up the shared living space.
Keep in mind that when you say that Church doesn’t have the responsibility to speak to the public square that is just another way of saying that it doesn’t have the responsibility to correct bad theology. I say this because all action in the public square is the result of and manifestation of bad theology. I can’t understand why any Christian would say that it is not the Church’s role to correct bad theology wherever bad theology is found.
Third, I realize that R2Kt will speak to the personal and individual ethics of those who confess Christ. I’ve nowhere denied that. What I’ve denied is the willingness of R2Kt types to correct the bad theology of the Public Square that leads to a creation of a culture that impresses and shapes Christians to think in a anti God honoring way. This unwillingness to speak to these issues then is compounded when some of these same Christians send their children to be indoctrinated into a pagan covenant by sending them to the State Churches.
One more correction, the 2k view says nothing about pluralism being desirable. It does concede that pluralism exists and it argues that it gives the church a way to minister in a pluralist setting without seceding or rebelling against the existing powers. But many 2k people would argue that they’d prefer to live in a less pluralistic society.
I’ve read other R2k people advocate pluralism. I will notch this up to disagreement in the R2K camp.
But… FYI… pluralism doesn’t exist, or if it does exist it exists in the same way that pluralism existed in ancient Rome, which is to say that it exists as long as nobody takes their God or gods seriously and instead resolve to live, move and have their being in the State.
Where you and I differ probably the greatest is over your contention that the 2k view will make the church impotent. Here you hold up Mass. Bay as a model of separating the two powers, civil and ecclesiastical, and I suppose as maintaining its vitality. But the 2k view argues that the collapsing of membership in the civil society and in the church, as all state churches do, does not make the church potent. In fact, it was one of the chief ways by which the church became corrupted.
Look at what happened to the Puritans’ Half Way Covenant. Infant baptism was not simply a church matter — as in the 2k view — but also a civil matter — as in the anti-2k view. And what happened to the Puritan churches then. They had to fudge biblical teaching to accommodate the demands of civil society. (This, btw, is also what happened even to churches after the separation of church and state. When the PCUSA was the most vigorous in asserting its public influence — say as its four-square support for the 18th Amendment or when John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State — it was a church fairly impotent theologically.)
All because one generation fudged doesn’t mean that the whole system is wrong. The problem isn’t the system but rather those who fudged their theology in the system. The problem was a lack of willingness to do Church discipline compounded by a pure church doctrine and the insistence that membership be anchored in a conversion “experience.”
We have not escaped the problems of a State Church D. G. Our unofficial official state Church is now the government schools. We have embraced putative pluralism in exchange for established churches and what we got in return was a state religion. We ditched the religio licita of Christianity and ended up embracing the religio licita of Humanism where the civil realm and the church realm remain collapsed.
Still, I am not arguing for a established state church as you seem to think I am. I am arguing that the Church speak to the bad theology that incarnates itself in our culture.
But let’s look for a point of agreement. Let’s agree that the Church must get its theology right before it can council the culture. I would go on to say that once we have it right it must speak to the bad theology that surrounds it in the culture. In my estimation Churches should be as or more concerned with teaching their people the wrongness of non-Reformed theologies as they are concerned with teaching their people the ungodliness of the theology that incarnates itself in our culture.
So the 2k view holds that the church is most vigorous when she is spiritual and eschews the temptation to reform society or back legislation or shape public policy. That seems to be what Paul was getting at when he talked about preaching and the cross being foolishness to the Greeks — the great political theorists — but the power of God unto salvation.
You keep on using that word “spiritual.” I do not think it means what you think it means. Spiritual realities are always behind legislation and public policy and so if the Church was being spiritual she would speak to these issues. Finally, the salvation that God brings is cosmic. It is not narrowly defined as being limited to the salvation of souls but rather extends to include the renewal of all things. That is the kind of salvation that we need to be concerned with.