From The Mailbag — Dr. Darryl Asks The Pastor

Mr. Bret: One thing I forgot to ask? Do you really think preaching against ideology is more important that preaching forgiveness of sins?

I think when forgiveness of sins is preached it should also be preached that people must repent, (it’s been my experience that those two always go together) and always what they must repent from is their sinful wrong thinking about God (their ideology if you please) that drives their aberrant behavior. Preaching the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus is preaching that God will forgive man for being ideologically opposed to God and His Christ in all of his thinking. Now, certainly some people are more epistemologically self conscious about their god hating ideology and hence it is far more formalized, but in the end all men who desire the forgiveness of sins must repent of an ideology that has them seeking to de-god God, in the interest of investing themselves with godhood.

So, Mr. Darryl, in the end I don’t draw a dichotomy between preaching against ideology and preaching forgiveness of sins. I figure that people need to be aware that their sinful thinking is standing between themselves and God’s abundant and gracious forgiveness.

So, could you lend some insights in how it is you preach forgiveness sins apart from repenting for hostile thinking against God?

Mr. Darryl wrote,

In your search for an oppositional church, I guess you’d also pass by the churches established by Christ and the apostles. There was, as you well know, lots of bad theology informing the civil order of first-century Palestine. For some reason, Christ and the apostles decided not to oppose Rome’s civil religion but instead taught submission to the powers that be. Of course, the one power to which they took exception was the theocracy of Israel, which also separated powers among the priests, the elders and the king, but did not separate the kingdom of grace from the kingdom of justice.”

Mr. Bret responds,

I could only hope I would be brave enough to be a member of those early Churches where many were martyred for treason and sedition. You do recall those early Martyrs right? Those early martyrs understood all the bad theology informing their civil order of the first century and they went to the nub of it by refusing to burn a pinch of incense to the Emperor and saying “Caesar is Lord.” You see Mr. Darryl they were being ideologically driven by their commitment to Jesus as Lord, and they understood that Lordship to have implications in your “common realm.”

St. Paul understood well the necessity of not allowing the bad theology informing the civil order to infect the Church. This is why he could write, “Be not conformed to this World,” and also, “We take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.”

As only God is absolute, only our submission to God is absolute. Nowhere in Scripture is absolute submission taught to be extended to anybody but God in heaven above. Our general principle is to honor those in authority but the submission that comes with that is not absolute.

Finally, as I’ve said now countless times, I’m all for distinguishing the Kingdom of Grace from the Kingdom of justice. I’m just not for divorcing and compartmentalizing them. That’s far to radical and its not Biblical.

Thanks for the follow up question Mr. Darryl.

From Chit Chat to Conversation — Dr. Darryl & Pastor Bret

Mr. Bret,

I’m not sure what you should expect from a church other than to preach the word of God. If you can find a text to oppose historicism or taxation, then I suppose you can preach it or argue with your minister about preaching it. Since you seem to have connections to MARS, I wonder how the Dutch-American faculty there feel about socialism back in the old country. In fact, it is curious to me that European evangelicals are far more comfortable with big government than American evangelicals are (consider the lefty at WTS, Carl Trueman). Could it be that the biblical warrant against a big government is not as clear as you think?

I’d also recommend that you spend some time with J. Gresham Machen on politics and faith, just to see someone who generally enjoys good press among Reformed types but whose politics might be a tad different from yours.

But in the end, I don’t know how you can live with yourself living in this land where bad theology haunts every corner. Shouldn’t you move somewhere for pyschological relief?

Mr. Darryl,

First, I have absolutely positively no connection to MARS beyond thinking it a decent Seminary. I have no idea what they at MARS think about socialism in the old country, though I think it might explain a good deal how, in about a century, the Netherlands went from Kuyper as Prime Minister to where they are now. Presuppositions matter and bad ideas have consequences.

Second, I am glad that you concede that “if you can find a text … than I suppose you can preach it.” Now is that a first class conditional “if” or some other kind of “if”? As someone who has been around the Scriptures much of your life you certainly have an opinion on whether or not such texts exist.

Third, as whether constrained government is a Scripturally warranted as I might think, instead of getting into a long and extended explanation here I will refer those interested to Charles McCoy’s “Fountainhead Of Federalism,” or John Witte’s The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism, or Lex Rex by Rutherford or something similar. Unlike big government types like Carl Truman Calvinism has a long history of finding texts that warrant teaching that government should be constrained and shouldn’t be allowed to take up prerogatives of God.

Certainly a text against Centralized government that takes up the prerogatives of God and seeks to be God walking on the earth would be “Thou Shalt have no other gods before me.”

Ever wonder if the fact that there remain so few European Evangelicals is explained by the fact that they are comfortable with socialism?

I’ll make a deal with you Darryl. I’ll work on finding psychological relief if you’ll work on finding something that will give you psychological turmoil.

Still, in the end, I find my relief in a Sovereign God who is sustaining and governing all that comes to pass and who does all things well. Since that remains true everywhere why would I have to move to find some psychological relief?

Nice chatting with you Dr. Hart.

God grant Reformation to the Church.

Coffee Chit Chat Time Between Dr. Hart and Pastor Bret

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.

What They Think About Theonomy

I know that this is perhaps getting old, but at the risk of beating a dead horse I offer another example of R2kt reasoning.

Mr. Dove,

I read theonomists and Jim Wallis to be saying that the Bible should be the norm for public life (as opposed to some formulation of general revelation). Because saints, either individually or collectively in the church, are the ones who have some inkling (by virtue of the HS) to understand the Bible correctly, the move to make the Bible the norm then also elevates those people and officers who are subject to the Word and minister it. I do not believe that God granted jurisdiction of civil society to the church in this age of redemptive history. He has to some believers whose vocation is that of public servant. How those folks balance their duties to the Constitution and to the Bible is tricky, just as tricky as it was for JFK to juggle the Constitution and the papacy, and for Mitt Romney to juggle the Mormon elders and the Constitution.

Dr. D. G. Hart
Response to letter inquiring whether he thought theonomists desired ecclesiocracy

To say that the Bible should be the norm for public life and to say that God has granted jurisdiction of civil society to the Church in this age is to say two very different things. A person could hold to the former without ever holding to the latter. Theonomists do believe that the Bible should be the norm for public life but they do not say that God has granted jurisdiction of civil society to the Church in this age. What Theonomists say is that the Church ought to be able to speak to a culture’s magistrates using its moral and spiritual power, just as John Knox spoke to Queen Mary, and just as the Black Robed Regiment spoke to King George III.

Second, Dr. Hart appeals to Natural law (some formation of general revelation) as being that which should provide the norm or the standard of right and wrong for the public square. The problem is though that this appeal to “some formation of general revelation” hardly takes the idea that “men suppress the truth in unrighteousness” seriously. Because non christians suppress the truth in unrighteousness Natural law can be and has been used to excuse any number of aberrant behaviors. As one example, Natural law told the Deists that God was a watchmaker being. Next on this score we might ask, “who’s formation of general revelation?” The Muslims or the Humanists formation of general revelation is going to be something profoundly different from the Christians formation of general revelation. The idea of appealing to some form of general revelation in order to be a universal norm completely leaves out any thoughtful consideration on how theological presuppositions inform how people come to their conclusions regarding general revelation.

Third, notice how Dr. Hart yokes theonomists with socialists (Jim Wallis), as if they were somehow equal. The problem here is that Dr. Hart doesn’t even ask what presuppositions are driving each to handle the scriptures in the way that they do. What Dr. Hart has done here is akin to yoking the Higher-Critical school as personified in Harry Emerson Fosdick with the Historical grammatical school as personified in J. Gresham Machen and then saying that they both do the same thing inasmuch as they both interpret the Bible. The problem with the Higher-Critical school and the problem of the socialists like Jim Wallis is they start out with presuppositions alien to the Scriptures themselves. The fact that the Higher Critical school of interpretation and the Socialists each handle the scriptures in a way contrary to its intent hardly justifies yoking them with those who do seek to handle the scriptures according to its intent. To yoke theonomists with Jim Wallis is either very close to being not very nice at all on Darryl Hart’s part or it is an example of not understanding why completely different schools of thought exist.

Fourth, one wonders why an elected believer would find it tricky to balance the bible with the constitution. Now if it would be ‘tricky’ because of the raw politics of the situation I would agree, but if it is ‘tricky’ because it is difficult to know how to be obedient and disobedient at the same time to God’s revealed Law-Word then that is another matter. I wonder if it would be found tricky because an elected believer, according to those who hold that pluralism is what cultures should be comprised of, would be in the position of making sure that Christianity didn’t make to much progress.

Finally, I am actually sympathetic to the point Dr. Hart makes about elevation. Perhaps this is why teachers are judged more harshly. Still, every godly culture has had its elevated teachers whether it was Knox, or Calvin, or Witherspoon, or any number of others and we must realize that if we do not seek to have elevated godly leadership — men who desire to handle the scriptures in a God honoring way — then we will have elevated ungodly leadership.

Two Kingdom Clarification


“All church power is wholly moral or spiritual. No church officers or judicatories possess any civil jurisdiction; they may not inflict any civil penalties nor may they seek the aid of the civil power in the exercise of their jurisdiction further than may be necessary for civil protection and security.

OPC Book Of Church Order

Recently, Dr. Darryl Hart cited this quotation from the OPC BCO in defense of Radical Two Kingdom theology (R2Kt — aka. – The Virus). Note that this quote has to do with the “Nature and Exercise of Church Power.” As I understand it this is stating how the Church as the Church employs the use of the Keys. According to this the Church as the Church may not use the sword in its use of power. Dr. Hart will be pleased to know that because of my belief in two Kingdom theology (notice the absence of the word “radical”) I find this perfectly acceptable. The power of the Church is that of moral and spiritual persuasion and not that of physical compulsion.

But having gladly admitted something I’ve never denied, that admission doesn’t change the problems with R2Kt virus. 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. Now, certainly, non-ecclesiastical Christian societies may speak to these issues but the Church is absolutely forbidden to use its moral and spiritual power of persuasion and declaration to speak to principalities and power of this present wicked age that seek to make anti-Christ policy in the public square. Further according to R2Kt virus thinking pluralism is what the Church should desire in the public square. R2Kt virus supports a plurality of gods in the public square where Sovereign King Jesus is just another member in the cultural god club.

The quote from the BCO above does not provide ground fire for that agenda of the R2Kt crowd. No Reformed minister worth his salt would disagree with that statement but many Reformed ministers worth their salt would disagree that the BCO quote above proves that the kind of R2Kt that is being advanced in some quarters is acceptable. The quote above is not bizarre in the least. What is bizarre is to try and take that quote and stretch it to the point where it becomes a defense for the R2Kt virus.

Now, as this pertains to the civil realm I am perfectly pleased with the old Puritan commonwealth view that the State and the Church were coordinate power centers that were both under God’s authority and so were both responsible to sovereign God. These coordinate power centers could be delineated but they could never be divorced if only because those in the civil realm were members of the Churches and those in the Churches were members of the commonwealth. Further we know that R2Kt was not practiced in the commonwealth the way that it is being pushed in Escondido if only because of the legendary election day sermons where Reformed ministers would preach sermons speaking to the issues before their people as the electorate.

Still, in the Puritan commonwealth arrangement the lines between Church and State were clearly drawn and it was understood that the Church ministered grace while the State ministered justice. Where the commonwealth worked well there was no confusion between these coordinate power centers, nor was there a collapsing of one into the other so that they were indistinguishable but neither was their a divorce of the two as if the Church could not speak to the civil magistrate using its spiritual and moral voice of persuasion. So seriously did the commonwealth take the distinction between the two Kingdoms that ministers were not allowed to hold civil public office and Civil magistrates could not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Clearly these were people who understood the distinction between the two Kingdoms and yet they never would have countenanced Radical Two Kingdom Theology.

Clearly, I have no affection for the change by American Presbyterians of the Westminster confession done between 1787-1789 on the issue of the Magistrate. I think it moved the confession substantially in a non-Reformed direction. Given the political climate at the time, (how ironic that) the change is understandable, but I still believe that that change has wrought all kinds of damage to the Reformed Church.

Finally, while we are on this, let it be said that no Reformed person (not even the hated and dreaded theonomists) desire a ecclesiocracy. I say this because there seems to be some confusion in some quarters that what Theonomists and Theocrats desire is a government where the Church is running the show. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a mistake to think that a ecclesiocracy is the inevitable end of what Theonomy teaches.

I do not apologize in the slightest for thinking and calling R2Kt a virus. I remain convinced that should it become epidemic in the Church today it will have the result, as many viral fevers do, of leaving the patient (in this case, the Church) impotent.

Not all that is written by those who are infected with the virus should be avoided but the reader should be aware of this viral strain so that it can be identified when it crops up in works not immediately associated with this subject.