McAtee Contra Hart

Darryl writes over at oldlife,

A letter to the editor in a recent issue of New Horizons set me thinking once more about the objections to two-kingdom theology that prevail among those Reformed Protestants most attached to Dutch Reformed figures or ideas.

The letter to the editor that Darryl references can be found here on page 21,

Click to access NH2012Jan.pdf

However, before we turn to that just a brief comment about Darryl’s subtle insistence that basic historic Calvinism is uniquely Dutch Reformed. I’m sure the following Presbyterians would be amazed at the idea that it is uniquely Dutch Reformed who held to the absolute sovereignty of the Lord Christ over every area of life. With just a few quotes I will come to the defense of the Presbyterians who likewise held the same beliefs in the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the best of the Dutch Reformed.

First we have the Presbyterian A. A. Hodge who according to Darryl must speak with a Dutch accent,

“It is our duty, as far as lies in our power, immediately to organize human society and all its institutions and organs upon a distinctively Christian basis. Indifference or impartiality here between the law of the kingdom and the law of the world, or of its prince, the devil, is utter treason to the King of Righteousness. The Bible, the great statute-book of the Kingdom, explicitly lays down principles which, when candidly applied, will regulate the action of every human being in all relations. There can be no compromise. The King said, with regard to all descriptions of moral agents in all spheres of activity, “He that is not with me is against me.” If the national life in general is organized upon non-Christian principles, the churches which are embraced within the universal assimilating power of that nation will not long be able to preserve their integrity.

A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology, p. 283-84

And again from the son of the Charles Hodge,

If professing Christians are unfaithful to the authority of their Lord in their capacity as citizens of the State, they cannot expect to be blessed by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in their capacity as members of the Church. The kingdom of God is one, it cannot be divided.

Princeton President A. A. Hodge, Respected Presbyterian

Then there is Darryl’s favorite Presbyterian, J. Gresham Machen, who could write,

“Modern culture is a mighty force. It is either subservient to the Gospel or else it is the deadliest enemy of the Gospel. For making it subservient, religious emotion is not enough, intellectual labor is also necessary. And that labor is being neglected. The Church has turned to easier tasks. And now she is reaping the fruits of her indolence. Now she must battle for her life.”

J. Gresham Machen
1912 centennial commemorative lecture at Princeton Seminary

“Instead of obliterating the distinction between the Kingdom and the world, or on the other hand withdrawing from the world into a sort of modernized intellectual monasticism, let us go forth joyfully, enthusiastically to make the world subject to God.”

~J. Gresham Machen

Then there is the granddaddy of all Presbyterian John Calvin,

Calvin’s commentary on Luke 14:23 (in Volume 32, i.e. Harmony of the Gospels, Volume 2, at page 173):

Luke 14:23. Compel them to come in. This expression means, that the master of the house would give orders to make use, as it were, of violence for compelling the attendance of the poor, and to leave out none of the lowest dregs of the people. By these words Christ declares that he would rake together all the offscourings of the world, rather than he would ever admit such ungrateful persons to his table. The allusion appears to be to the manner in which the Gospel invites us; for the grace of God is not merely offered to us, but doctrine is accompanied by exhortations fitted to arouse our minds. This is a display of the astonishing goodness of God, who, after freely inviting us, and perceiving that we give ourselves up to sleep, addresses our slothfulness by earnest entreaties, and not only arouses us by exhortations, but even compels us by threatenings to draw near to him. At the same time, I do not disapprove of the use which Augustine frequently made of this passage against the Donatists, to prove that godly princes may lawfully issue edicts, for compelling obstinate and rebellious persons to worship the true God, and to maintain the unity of the faith; for, though faith is voluntary, yet we see that such methods are useful for subduing the obstinacy of those who will not yield until they are compelled.”

Look, Iron Ink is chock full of quotes from Presbyterians who would be indicted and brought up on charges by church courts staffed with Radical Two Kingdom “theologians” like Hart, Horton, Clark, and Van Drunnen. I only wanted to cite a few Presbyterian quotes so that Darryl couldn’t get away with his insinuation that only Dutch Reformed types have these kinds of ideas. Christians throughout the centuries have been quite attached to Presbyterians figures who had the same Calvinist ideas as their Dutch Reformed counterparts.

All that to say that it is Darryl and his jolly band who are the innovators. They have no historical legs to stand on when it comes to the kind of Presbyterianism they are trying to create whole cloth and then read back on Presbyterians of years gone by. R2K is a 20th century innovation on Reformed theology and one can only hope that the Escondido theology will go the way that Mercersburg theology went long ago. I suspect that when all is said and done, Darryl Hart and Michael Horton will be 21st century equivalent of Phillip Schaff and John Nevin. Darryl and Mike, like Phillip and John, will be curious footnotes in the history of Reformed theology.

Darryl continues,

The assertion in question stated that “our epistemological self-consciousness must be thoroughly present at every point of the discussion of [interactions between Reformed Protestants and Roman Catholics].” The letter took exception to comments Michael Horton made about Immanuel Kant and the moral law that provides a basis for believers’ cooperation with non-believers in the common realm: “Even the philosopher Immanuel Kant retained an infallible certainty of ‘the moral law within’ after rejecting supernatural religion.” William Dennison, the letter writer, rues Horton’s assessment of Kant and argues that “any true Van Tilian should be deeply disturbed by such a statement.”

The point worth reflecting on here is not the rival assessments of Kant or whether Horton was actually endorsing Kant. It is instead the impression created that epistemological self-consciousness will lead to a rejection of Kant. I myself remain worried about the kind of pride and even self-delusion that the project of epistemological self-consciousness may nurture. In fact, this past Sunday at the URC in Anaheim the congregation confessed sins corporately in ways more in keeping with the “heart is desperately wicked, who can know it” than with the possibility of bringing Christian truth to bear on all parts of our waking existence.

1.) If you read William Dennison’s letter to the Editor you will realize that the point that Dennison is hammering home is that people like Darryl and Mike seem to be giving up on the Reformed idea of antithesis which was such a staple of Cornelius Van Til’s teaching. Mike’s column,

and Darryl’s rejoinder both fail in speaking to the idea of the antithesis. Both Mike and Darryl brush off such concerns as Dennison’s as insignificant. Mike suggests that Christians could join with Kant in the R2K compartmentalized common realm since both Kant, the anti-Christ philosopher, and Christians retain an infallible certainty of ‘the moral law within.’ Horton’s reasoning here plays havoc with the Van Tillian illustration that “No matter how much you sharpen a saw that is set at the wrong angle, it will not cut straight.” Kant, being a Christ hater, was a sharp saw that could not cut straight and yet both Mike and Darryl suggest that the sharp saw that is Kant can cut straight in the undifferentiated common realm along with Christian saws that are cutting true.

2.) I’m not sure how a public confession of sins is an acknowledgment that, in principle, the epistemologically self-conscious Christian can’t know what is and isn’t sin. Is Darryl really suggesting that corporate confession of sin proves that the whole project of being epistemologically self conscious is bogus? Is Darryl telling us that corporate confession of sin during corporate worship proves that in the common realm it is impossible to bring Christian truth to bear on all parts of our waking existence?

This comment by Darryl reveals once again for R2K theologians the Kingdom is completely “not yet.”

Darryl writes,

The thing is, I am pretty confident that Mike Horton is self-conscious of being Reformed and of the claims of Christ upon his thoughts and actions. I am not sucking up to Mike. I am simply raising the possibility that epistemological self-consciousness does not produce uniform judgments. One epistemologically self-conscious believer may recognize value in Kant’s morality, another may esteem Hegelian idealism. But does a disagreement in judgment mean that one party is guilty of epistemological appeasement? Will the epistemologically self-conscious agree on whether or not to eat meat offered to idols?

1.) Hearing that Darryl worries about the kind of pride and even self-delusion that the project of epistemological self-consciousness may nurture, one wonders if Darryl worries at the same time about the kind of pride and self-delusion that may be nurtured in his project of embracing the seeming certainty that epistemological self-consciousness is not possible? I mean that is what this boils down to isn’t it? Van Til repeatedly emphasized the necessity of epistemological self-consciousness while Darryl is suggesting that each man must do what is right in his own unique epistemological self consciousness. One epistemologically self-conscious Christian likes Kant, another epistemologically self conscious Christian likes Hegel. Vive la différence!

2.) Darryl’s first sentence in the blockquote above is open to challenge. Indeed, whether or not Mike Horton is self-conscious or not is the very point William Dennison was challenging in his letter to the Editor. Dennison was asking if someone Reformed and Presbyterian could actually be betraying the epistemological self-conscious legacy of Reformed and Presbyterian Cornelius Van Til. An epistemologically self conscious theologian would not do that. Further, the whole debate between the innovation that is R2K and standard historic Calvinist theology is a debate, at least in part, over the question of whether or not the R2K innovators are indeed epistemologically self conscious. Would epistemologically self conscious people create a nature / grace dualism and then suggest that everything in the nature compartment is governed by a never delineated Natural law?

3.) And yes … per Paul the epistemologically self conscious Christian will have no problem with eating meat offered to idols though he may demur for the sake of his weaker non epistemologically self conscious brother.

The two-kingdom payoff is that most of the proponents of 2k that I know have a long list of theological reasons for such advocacy. In other words, 2k is not simply a capitulation to secular society as if 2kers are going along to get along. Instead, 2k stems from serious reflection on the truths revealed in Scripture and confessed among Reformed churches. I get it that many don’t see it that way. But disagreement with other ways of construing the relationship between church and state, or between the eternal and temporal realms (such as neo-Calvinism or theonomy) does not mean that 2k lacks epistemological self-awareness. In fact, some of us would claim that 2k takes more biblical and theological claims into account than other efforts to bring a Reformed w— v— to bear on politics.

1.) True, R2K is not simply a capitulation to “secular” society. Doubtless R2K is many other things besides being a capitulation to “secular” society. It is nice to have that admission from Darryl.

2.) The long list of theological reasons for advocacy of R2K has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. For the most recent weighing see John Frame’s new book “The Escondido Theology,” or alternately just read around here at Iron Ink. There is no “there” there in R2K theology.

3.) It is interesting that Darryl seems to have slightly retreated here. In this piece Darryl admits that R2K is one way of construing the relationship between the eternal and the temporal realms. There have been many other pieces from R2K types which have insisted that their way of construing the relationship between the eternal and temporal realm is the only way.

4.) Darryl focuses on politics but of course the idea of Reformed Weltanschauung extends beyond politics.

Darryl writes,

So if the epistemologically self-conscious may have different assessments about the value of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony or about the merits of Quantum Theory, is epistemological self-consciousness any guarantee of victory in debate? I don’t know how it could be (and I am awfully aware of this knowledge thanks to a second cup of coffee).

Or alternately some Christians who claim to be epistemologically self conscious are in point of fact not.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *