Deconstructing R2K

I’m doing something with this that I don’t know of any other previous Reformed theologian has done exactly what I’m doing.”

Dr. David Van Drunen

This book is dedicated to the proposition that Radical Two Kingdom theology is not Reformed. There is little argument here with historic Reformed 2K theology. The argument here is pointed at Radical Two Kingdom theology of the type being produced now by nearly every brick and mortar “Reformed” Seminary in America, finding its real impetus from a Seminary in Southern California.

The goal in this humble volume is to do something akin to what both J. Gresham did in “Christianity and Liberalism,” and then later what Cornelius Van Til did in “Christianity and Barthianism.” As Dr. Machen said in his introduction;

The purpose of this book is not to decide the religious issue of the present day, but merely to present the issue as sharply and clearly as possible, in order that the reader may be aided in deciding it for himself.”

And this writer thinks the same way about R2K as Van Til spoke about Barth in his preface to his magnum opus;

“The present writer is of the opinion that, for all its verbal similarity to historic Protestantism, Barth’s theology is, in effect, a denial of it.”

I claim not to be the equal of Machen or Van Til. Not even close. The touchstone between myself and my betters is the desire to strangle the heresy du jour while it yet remains in the cradle. In my wildest most expansive dreams I would do to R2K what President Andrew Jackson’s recorded on his deathbed that he did to the the second National Bank when he was reputed to have said; “I killed the Bank.”

The word “radical” itself derives from the Latin radix meaning root. The radicals in Radical Two Kingdom land have birthed a theology that completely attacks the roots of traditional and historic Reformed theology. In this reformulation the R2K boys have completely rejected temperance and moderation in their push to redefine the Reformed faith. In attacking the roots of the Reformed faith the consequence is that the whole tree of the Reformed faith is changed into something that it heretofore has never previously been. Like any arch-heretic throughout history, Radical Two Kingdom theology is done in the context of the fierce insistence that they alone are preserving the faith once and forever delivered unto the saints. In all of this there is a disorienting push me, pull you between their simultaneous claims that they are both staying true to the tradition of the faith while at the same time insisting that they are indeed theological innovators.

The Jesuit trained chief guru of R2K explicitly does just this at the 37minute mark of the below linked interview.

Within just a few short seconds Dr. Van Drunen manages to invoke that he is on the side of the angels (Voss, Kuyper, Bavinck) while at the same time admitting that he is being innovative. Now add to this that you will see quotes in the subsequent chapters from the types the Van Drunen invokes that will testify that they would have never have recognized Van Drunen’s theology as related to their Reformed theology. If you follow at all the R2K debate within the Reformed church you will find this “push me – pull you” phenomenon repeatedly.

This push me-pull you argumentation has been identified by some as an informal fallacy called the Motte and Baily argument technique. R2K makes some outlandish claims that reveals their real out of bounds theology (the Bailey). However when they are called out on the transparently ridiculous claims they hightail it to safer ground (the Motte) insisting that they were merely advancing traditional historic 2K arguments. If the Bailey is more controversial territory, the Motte is a modest and easily defensible position. It all becomes very convenient as it becomes a device whereby legitimate charges of heresy can be easily snuffed out by insisting; “that all I was saying was ….” From there the R2K boys can claim that their original transparently ridiculous claims have not been refuted. Failing that the R2K boys will act all butt hurt because the R2K critic has been unreasonable for attacking an imagined Bailey when all they were championing was a long accepted Motte. You see the trick here is conflating the push me with the pull you / the Motte with the Bailey. It is as clever as Hades.

To repeat what was said earlier the problem that is being attacked in this book is not historic traditional 2K theology (the Motte). Instead what is being attacked is the Bastardized version of 2K known now popularly as R2K (the Bailey).

So as to be clear as to what is and is not under assault in this volume let us take a look, in this introduction of some of the differences between historic traditional 2K theology and R2K “theology.”

R2K desires to split the two kingdoms as between the grace realm (Institutional Church) and the common realm (everything else that does not pertain to the Church). The grace realm is to be ruled by God’s special revelation while the common realm is ruled by natural law. This bifurcation is the steroid application of “Law vs. Gospel” thinking to literally every area of life. The common realm is law. The grace realm is Gospel. Never shall the twain meet.

The problem with this is when Calvin talked about the Two Kingdoms this is not what the man had in mind. The reality of the Two Kingdoms is not as simplistic as the R2K fanboys desire to make it. Calvin’s vision of the Two Kingdoms can not be reduced to a common realm that is ruled by natural law and a grace realm ruled by gospel. First of all in this arrangement one wonders where the Kingdom is that Paul says we were delivered from (Colossian 1:13)? Perhaps R2K should become R3K?

Calvin was far more nuanced in his explanation of two kingdom theology. Consider:

In 4.20, Calvin writes:

Still the distinction does not go so far as to justify us in supposing that the whole scheme of civil government is matter of pollution, with which Christian men have nothing to do. Fanatics, indeed, delighting in unbridled license, insist and vociferate that, after we are dead by Christ to the elements of this world, and being translated into the kingdom of God sit among the celestials, it is unworthy of us, and far beneath our dignity, to be occupied with those profane and impure cares which relate to matters alien from a Christian man. To what end, they say, are laws without courts and tribunals?

But what has a Christian man to do with courts? Nay, if it is unlawful to kill, what have we to do with laws and courts? But as we lately taught that that kind of government is distinct from the spiritual and internal kingdom of Christ, so we ought to know that they are not adverse to each other. The former, in some measure, begins the heavenly kingdom in us, even now upon earth, and in this mortal and evanescent life commences immortal and incorruptible blessedness, while to the latter it is assigned, so long as we live among men, to foster and maintain the external worship of God, to defend sound doctrine and the condition of the Church, to adapt our conduct to human society, to form our manners to civil justice, to conciliate us to each other, to cherish common peace and tranquillity.

All these I confess to be superfluous, if the kingdom of God, as it now exists within us, extinguishes the present life. But if it is the will of God that while we aspire to true piety we are pilgrims upon the earth, and if such pilgrimage stands in need of such aids, those who take them away from man rob him of his humanity.

(Institutes 4.20.2)

Here we see where R2K departs from Calvin on two kingdom theology. Per Calvin the spiritual kingdom touches on the eternal life that is begun in us; and “it is not to this kingdom” that the external worship of God belongs, but rather the external worship of God belongs to the kingdom of courts and tribunals “so long as we live among men” (having the purpose of) “maintaining the external worship of God, to defend sound doctrine and the condition of the Church…”

Calvin is unmistakably clear here: “the external worship of God belongs to the civil or temporal kingdom.” This statement stands in shark contrast to the claims of the R2K fanboys. For Calvin the worship of God and the condition of the Church are matters of public concern that belong, in R2K language, to the common kingdom. Tell it not in Gath. Publish it not in the streets of Askelon. Proclaim it not in the citadels of Escondido.

Clearly there is a distinction between the two kingdoms but the distinction is not the divorce that R2K envisions.

The purpose of this book is not to wade into the the various nuances of two Kingdom theology throughout history. A subject that probably is fitting for some doctoral dissertation. The purpose is to show that R2K’s insistence that their understanding of 2K theology is the traditional historic Reformed 2K is completely bunk. Further, the purpose is to examine what R2K “theology” does to the various theological categories of Reformed theology.

Perhaps the most grievous injury to the Reformed church that R2K inflicts is to mute the prophetic voice of the pulpit. Because R2K insists that the pulpit must be silent about all that lies in R2K’s “common realm” the minister therefore has his tongue cut out from him in inveighing against the moral meltdown of our broader culture. Because of the “theology” of R2K God’s people have no compass … “have no thus saith the Lord” echoing from the pulpit and so are left blind and dumb as to how to lean into the pagan culture we are now living in. A mist in the pulpit leads to a fog in the pew. And R2K loves it so.

R2K theology also guarantees that no future Calvin, or Knox will ever be ordained to Reformed pulpits. Can you imagine a young John Calvin trying to defend these statements before a R2K infested Presbytery?

The Lord does not give Kings the right to use their power to subject the people to tyranny. Indeed when Liberty to resist tyranny seems to be taken away by princes who have taken over, one can justly ask this question; since kings and princes are bound by covenant to the people, to administer law in truest equality, sincerity and integrity; if they break faith and usurp tyrannical power by which they allow themselves everything they want: is it not possible for the people to consider together taking measures in order to remedy the evil?”

John Calvin

Sermon I Samuel Chapter 8

I have read a volume of sermons by Calvin from Deuteronomy 27 & 28. The volume is entitled “The Covenant Enforced.” Upon finishing it I pushed away and said to my imaginary R2K Seminary Professor, paraphrasing Lloyd Benson to Dan Quayle; “I’ve read John Calvin. Sir, you’re no John Calvin.

Go ahead and read Calvin’s sermons Deuteronomy 27 & 28. Upon reading it I sincerely don’t understand how R2K can even begin to argue that it is an expression of Calvinist theology. The theology of John Calvin as exhibited in this volume (and this is not the first Calvin I’ve read) screams at David Van Drunnen, mocks R. Scott Clark, laughs at Mike Horton and sticks its tongue out at J. V. Fesko. Whatever these men are, they are in no way partakers of Calvin’s Calvinism. Based on these sermons alone John Calvin could not be ordained in many Presbyterian Presbytery today because he would be accused of not having a proper understanding of the distinctions between law and grace.

Calvin does see much of the OT civil law as applicable today. Calvin does see the law coming to people groups and nations and not just to individuals. Calvin does believe that the Magistrate has a responsibility to enforce God’s Law — and that from both Tables. Calvin does not put law and grace in absolute antithesis. God’s Law-Word has a place as a guide to life in the Christian’s life and that Law-Word should resound from the pulpit just as much as the Law-Word in the role of a street lamp to expose sin.

Like it or not Calvin was the worst of all things.. Calvin was a pioneer Theonomist who believed that cultures of all nations needed to be Reconstructed in the direction of God’s revealed Law-Word. Calvin did not hold to a “Law Gospel” hermeneutic as that is currently defined. Calvin was neither Lutheran nor Anabaptist.

If Calvin were alive today he’d make me look like a wimp in this book with his thunderings against the modern antinomian R2K Reformed Church.

The book before you begins by looking at the implications of R2K for several standard Reformed theological categories. In Chapter 1 we take a look at the Epistemological problems of R2K. In chapter 2 we consider the inherent dualism in R2K. Chapter 3 finds us looking at R2K soteriology vis-a-vis Reformed soteriology. In chapter 4 it is on to considering R2K covenantal malfeasance. In chapter 5 we map out R2K’s belief that religion is an escapable category for magistrate and state. In chapter 6 we are on to matters eschatological. Chapter 7 finds us exploring R2K from the mouth of the R2K fan boys. In Chapter 8 we look at R2K and its views of family life. In chapter 9 we take a peek at R2K’s theocratic fears. In chapter 10 we briefly consider some of the “proof” texts R2K appeals to in order to support their cause. In Chapter 11 we consider R2K’s transformation-phobia. In chapter 12 we spend a little bit of time looking at the history of ideas mapping out the strange ideological bedfellows of R2K. These chapters are followed by several appendixes where I provide some of my apologetic encounters with some of the R2K “theologians.”

Pull up a chair, pull out your highlighter, and let’s have a go.

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.

4 thoughts on “Deconstructing R2K”

  1. “while the common realm is ruled by natural law“

    When I read this, my mind immediately went to Hebrews. “and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

    Are they trying to deny God’s sovereignty?

    1. They would say that God’s sovereignty is exercised by His left hand in the common realm.

      I would say that they effectively deny God’s sovereignty.

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