In what remains in repudiating R. Scott Clark I will turn to a fisking methodology, taking Clark apart paragraph by paragraph.
R. Scott Clark writes,
De Young speaks positively of “cultural Christianity,” but it is not clear to me that what De Young wants is actually Christian. What he wants is for Christian leaders to “fight” the cultural decay of the West:
RSC mentions that Kevin DeYoung desires Christian leaders to “fight” the cultural decay of the West, but we have to ask, what standard are we using to define cultural decay? Clearly, as well will see, RSC will answer that by saying the standard needs to be a human standard. In other words, per RSC, there is no need to fight the cultural decay of the West via special revelation but rather the cultural decay of the West can be fought via Natural Law with an appeal to what can be considered a “common culture” that all humans share. The problem with that is that dog won’t hunt as Yuval Noah Harai reveals in this youtube clip where he argues that Nature teaches that sodomy is natural;
So, what will RSC do here? Yuval Noah Harai stands as a exemplary of cultural decay and yet here he is arguing for sodomy from the same standpoint which RSC argues against cultural decay. How will we resolve this authority conundrum? Will we appeal to Natural Law to answer if we should own RSC’s natural law or if we should own Yuval Noah Harai natural law?
No, an appeal to Natural law will not help us fight cultural decay
RSC expands on his position;
But people want to see that their Christian leaders—pastors, thinkers, writers, institutional heads—are willing to fight for the truth. You may think your people spend too much time watching Tucker Carlson, or retweeting Ben Shapiro, or looking for Jordan Peterson videos on YouTube, or reading the latest stuff from Doug Wilson—and I have theological disagreements with all of them (after all, some of them aren’t even Christians)—but people are drawn to them because they offer a confident assertion of truth. Our people can see the world being overrun by moral chaos, and they want help in mounting a courageous resistance; instead, they are getting a respectable retreat.
And the ironic thing here is that Clark and R2K are the one’s leading from the front in a highly non-respectable retreat. They are the ones insisting that there is no “thus saith the Lord” on issues from sodomy to tranny-ism to child grooming and surgical abuse, to cultural Marxism, to economic theft via redistribution theft schemes run by the FEDS, to etc. etc. etc. These issues demand a complete and total retreat and withdrawal from pulpits all across America. R2K pulpits are confidently asserting their “truth” that the Church must be silent on these issues.
It is breathtaking to here RSC lament the respectable retreat that the laity rank and file are receiving from their leaders in the Church when he is at the front of the line demanding the pulpits be silent on matters where God has clearly spoken.
Here, the classical distinction between nature and grace would really help us. Nothing De Young desires here needs to be Christianized, as it were. The cultural resistance for which he is calling can be done under the rubric of nature. In the culture wars, Christians have the same concerns as non-Christians. This is because these are issues about the creational (or natural) order. This is what our founders understood but we have forgotten.
The bottom line is that nature is an inert thing if it is not informed and conditioned by grace. As Yuval Noah Harai demonstrates above nature is not static but requires interpretation. Cornelius Van Til might put have it this way; “There is no nature as fact without and apart from interpretation of fact.” The only reason that Natural Law ever worked in what was once Christendom is because those reading Natural Law were reading it as starting from Biblical presuppositions that were gained from knowing special revelation. Yuval Noah Harai, not having Biblical presuppositions reads natural law very differently, as one might well expect. That is because fallen man suppresses the truth of natural law in unrighteousness.
This is precisely what the canons of Dordt teach;
THIRD AND FOURTH HEADS OF DOCTRINE
“There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay, further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.”
When R. Scott Clark advocates for this Natural Law nonsense as he does he is in violation of his oath to uphold the canon’s of Dordt. Of course Clark weasels his way around Article 4 by making it say what it doesn’t say.
Christians have a corner on theological truth, on saving religious truth—Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). There is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12) but we need neither “Christian Nationalism” nor “cultural Christianity” to get what we want. The LGBTQ agenda can and should be resisted on the basis of nature, reason, and natural law. Homosexuality is patently unnatural. The case for a genetic/biological cause for it has collapsed. It is the result of the corruption of nature, and most often the result of some sort of abuse or neglect.
Here we see Clark’s Thomistic/Aristotelian dualism on full parade. There are two paths to truth. There is a theological path to truth which yields salvation for the elect and then there is non-theological natural truth which yields all other forms of “truth.” And never the twain shall meet. Francis Schaeffer was right in his analysis on this subject in his little book, “Escape from Reason.” Clark and R2K are full on epistemological dualists. They bifurcate the realm of grace (church) from the realm of nature (common realm) and so impermeable is the barrier between nature and grace that there is no way that the great Reformed principle “grace restoring nature” dies on the vine.
And once again referring back to the youtube clip of Yuval Noah Harai, R. Scott Clark clearly doesn’t know what the blue blazes he is talking about when he says here, “The LGBTQ agenda can and should be resisted on the basis of nature, reason, and natural law. Homosexuality is patently unnatural. The case for a genetic/biological cause for it has collapsed.”
But you have to give Dr. R. Scott Clark credit. He excels in not knowing what the blue blazes he is talking about. At least the man is consistent.
What Christians ought to do is to join with other citizens (e.g., Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.) in defending the Bill of Rights and the natural, God-given right to free speech, a free press, free association, and the freedom of religion protected therein.
Nobody disagrees with the idea of co-belligerence when it can be achieved. I protest with Roman Catholics all the time against abortion. I could even protest with Muslims against Tranny curriculum in government schools though I might be more inclined to join Muslims in an effort to close down government schools.
However, I would be slow Scotty in getting behind the serial adulterer RFK Jr. If a man can not be faithful to his wife he will never be faithful to his country. Are you arguing Scotty that Christians should vote for a man who has all the morals of a Tom-Cat? Is this what your natural law teaches you Scotty boy?
As De Young notes, most Christians were theocrats in the pre-modern and early modern periods, but there were exceptions that influenced the American founders. He calls attention to Samuel Pufendorf (1632–94), who argued for a form of toleration of religious heretics. Late in his career, John Owen argued for a very limited form of toleration. His fellow Oxford student, John Locke (1632–1704), whose Second Treatise was very influential on the American founders, also argued for toleration. Both argued that it was not the nature or vocation of the state to punish religious heretics. The founders agree. This is why I say that the Christian Nationalism project of Wolfe et al is un-American. I do not mean that they do not have a right to make their case, but I mean that their case is contrary to the ideology under which this nation was founded.
I refer RSC to Dr. Stephen’s Wolfe’s book “The Case for Christian Nationalism,” specifically the chapter titled, “Liberty of Conscience” in order for him to see what a fool he is making of himself.
Secondly, it is of interest to note that J. Gresham Machen did not agree with RSC’s line of reasoning. In a letter to the Governor of Pennsylvania Machen wrote in favor or Blue laws (required cessation of activity on the Lord’s Day). Is Clark saying that Machen was being un-American when Machen wrote to the Pennsylvania Governor,
“Will you permit me to express, very respectfully, my opposition to the Bill designated House Bill No. 1 regarding permission of commercialized sport between the hours of two and six on Sunday afternoons?
It is clear that in this matter of Sunday legislation the liberty of part of the people will have to be curtailed. It is impossible that people who desire a quiet Sunday should have a quiet Sunday, while at the same time people who desire commercialized sport on Sunday should have commercialized sport. The permission of commercialized sport will necessarily change the character of the day for all of the people and not merely for part of the people.
The only question, therefore, is whose liberty is to be curtailed. I am convinced that in this case it ought, for the welfare of the whole people, to be the liberty of those who desire commercialized sport.
The widespread prevalence of blue laws in this country put the lie to Scott’s assertion that early Americans were full of toleration for those who violated the first table of God’s law. Also, Scott might want to consider all those blasphemy laws on the books in that States in early America. Again, such a reality testify to the falsity of his claim about toleration in early America.
The idea that R. Scott Clark is a historian is right up there with Bruce Jenner’s claim to be a woman.
We should agree with De Young’s rejection of Wolfe’s truly dangerous “theocratic Caesarism.” He is correct that Wolfe has quite misunderstood, misconstrued, and misreported the nature and intent of the American founders and he does a good job of showing how that is.
Again, theocracy is an inescapable category as we have established in this series and countless other times. Caesarism is more problematic because in my estimation the desire for a Christian strongman prince is likely misplaced until Reformation begins to bubble up from the bottom up. I am not opposed to the concept of Christian strongman unless he exists apart from a solid base of support from the rank and file citizenry. The reason I am opposed to Caesarism is because power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely and I don’t believe that any Christian prince would rule well if there were not checks on his power.
I trust people will see the nuance in the above paragraph.
Finally, in terms of Wolfe and RSC’s accusation that he has misread American history, allow me to say that I would rather be in the leaky ship of Dr. Stephen Wolfe than in the multiplied torpedoed hits of the ship of R. Scott Clark. We have, along the way seen the “abilities” of the historian R. Scott Clark and suffice it to say we have not been impressed in the slightest.
I have issues with Wolfe, which I may take up another time on Iron Ink, but the issues I have with Wolfe pale in comparison to the outright chasm that exists between R2K R. Scott Clark and myself.