The esteemed Dr. R. Scott has decided to visit IronInk and leave commentary. It should be immediately noted how thrilled I am with the venerable Doctor’s visitation. It is not often that a gentleman of such stature visits humble environs such as IronInk and so we are pleased to welcome him to our domicile and hope that he will think himself free to come again with his friends for future visits. We all have a great opportunity to learn in this exchange.
Below I interact with some of his gracious comments. We still do not agree but I trust that the readers will find our disagreements anything but disagreeable.
”There’s no incipient dualism in the two-kingdoms ethic, it’s full-blooded, self-conscious dualism! It’s the same sort of dualism one finds in the apostle Paul and our Lord Jesus who distinguished between “this age” and “the age to come” and the “the kingdoms of this world” and “the kingdom of God.” Not all dualisms are of the Platonic/Ontic sort. There is a proper, Christian body/soul dualism. That’s the same thing as a spirit-matter dualism — which is sub-Christian because it denies the goodness of created matter.”
First, in order to clear things up I think Dr. R. Scott Clark meant to have a negation between the word “That’s” and the word “the” in the last sentence. I think it is supposed to read, “That’s not the same thing as a spirit-matter dualism…” Still, it is possible that it was some kind of Freudian slip and that Dr. R. Scott Clark spoke the truth that what he is advocating is indeed “the same thing as a spirit-matter dualism – which is sub-Christian because it denies the goodness of created matter.”
Second, I find no full blooded self-conscious dualism at all in the Apostle Paul or in our mutual Lord Jesus. When Jesus distinguished between “this age” and “the age to come” he wasn’t positing two realities that were hermetically sealed off from one another. Dr. R. Scott Clark seems to be positing the Reformed anti-thesis between “This age” and “The age to come” as if the transforming of this “present wicked age” by the “age to come” is impossible. The evidence that the “age to come” is present in this present wicked age is found in passages like Colossian 1:13-14 where the Colossians are told that “they have been delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the Kingdom of the Son of God’s Love.” Here is a passage that reveals that even now believers are living in the “age to come.”
With the Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Session of Jesus the “age to come” has arrived. Now, to be sure, there remains a “not yet” component to the “nowness” of the “age to come,” but certainly there can be no thinking that the “age to come” is hermetically sealed off from believers to some future point and I see no reasoning in the Scriptures that lead us to believe that the “age to come” is only located in the Church. Such thinking would reveal a under-realized eschatology.
Christ has brought the “age to come” and has placed us in it. By the proclamation of the Gospel by Christ’s “age to come” people the Gospel goes triumphantly forward with the result that the present “age to come” continues to overcome “this present evil age.” With the death of Jesus the strong man who is the king of “this present evil age” as been bound and Jesus is now, through the obedience of His people, pillaging the belongings of the strong man so that eventually the Kingdoms of this world which already belong to Christ shall become the Kingdoms of our Christ. We know this will happen because all authority has been given to King Christ in heaven and earth and He has instructed us to pray that “His Kingdom come and His (“age to come”) will be done on earth (not just in the Church) as it is in heaven.”
Look, God’s people have been saved with an “age to come” salvation. That “age to come” salvation affects all of our living in this present wicked age. This is why we can be told to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. “Age to come” people think different thoughts then people who belong to this “present wicked age,” because they begin and end all of their thinking in all areas of life with the God of the Bible. Scripture teaches God’s “age to come” people are to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Are we to believe that the call to be transformed is somehow limited to being transformed every place except the public square which is to remain part of “this present wicked age” until the hermetically sealed off “age to come” arrives?
Second, I can’t agree with Dr. R. Scott Clark about the body-soul dualism. Certainly, I agree that we have to make a important and necessary distinction between body-soul but to say that a dualism exists between body and soul is a bridge to far. I prefer to speak of the body-soul being part of a modified uni-chotomy. This is an important disagreement to note for the difference between insisting that a body-soul dualism exists and insisting that man is a modified unichotomy is a difference that finds itself expressing itself in our differences between the relations of “this present evil age” and “the age to come.” That can be seen in what has been already advanced. I am arguing for a distinction between “this present age” and “age to come” seeing that we need to speak of a modified unity here that allows for clear distinctions without involving ourselves in the error of collapsing the two into one another. Dr. R. Scott Clark seems to be arguing for a hard and fast dualism between “this present age” and “the age to come,” thus not allowing for any eschatological perichoresis between the two.
”As to individuals v the church and social transformation. As far as I am concerned Christians as private persons may form non-ecclesiastical societies to achieve any number of admirable ends. The church as the visible, institutional society, however, instituted by Christ has three marks: the pure preaching of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the administration of church discipline.”
First, I quite agree with the three marks. I would say that under the first mark is included the preaching of God’s whole counsel which would include speaking to cultural issues where God’s work speaks to those cultural issues. So, we have agreement here.
Second, I also agree about non-ecclesiastical societies. What I don’t agree on is that the Church has no role to speak when non-ecclesiastical societies war with one another. Let us say that there is a non-ecclesiastical society formed to advance the cause of “Christian” socialism in our country. Another non-ecclesiastical society organizes to advance the cause of some form of “Christian” Fascism in our country. Now the Church ought to be able to be a voice that authoritatively shows, from the Scriptures, why both are wrong, going on to speak to what God’s word has declared about Biblical economics and Biblical government.
Christ came to save all of man – body and soul – and to think that preaching only applies to man’s soul or to his personal ethic misses the wholeness of the salvation that Christ came to bring.
”There’s no reason why the church as such must be engaged in social transformation any more than may result in the preaching of the holy gospel. The outcome of the preaching of the gospel and the administration of sacraments and discipline belongs to the Spirit and to most a-millennialists there is no promise of massive social/cultural transformation. We may be wrong. If so, praise God. The major issue is to see that the church as such is focused on those three things for which she has a explicit commission.”
Again, I quite agree. Our difference lies in what we understand to be “explicitly commissioned.” Jesus commissioned his royal courtiers to teach the peoples to “observe all things wherein I have commanded you.” I take the “all things” to be far broader than you take the “all things.” This is especially so when you consider that Jesus said that he did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. As you know these were men who were consumed with what justice looked like in the public square. These were men who longed to see social / cultural transformation. It is my conviction that Scriptures teach that Jesus came to bring an “age to come” salvation that works like leaven to bring about social and cultural transformation in this present evil age.
”One more time: Christians as private persons, not necessarily only as individuals, may form societies to achieve desirable ends. They ought, however, not to enlist the visible church as an entity to accomplish anything other than that required by the Lord.”
I offer my thanks to Dr. R. Scott Clark for re-articulating his basic convictions. As I am a person who is kind of slow, it is important for smart people to repeat themselves to me so I can catch what they are saying. Still, even after hearing this basic commitment re-articulated I can not agree with it.
Even if you put people into non-ecclesiastical societies it does not solve the problem of creating an ‘each man (or non-ecclesiastical society) doing what is right in their own eyes. In your arrangement there remains no “Thus Saith The Lord” in order to adjudicate between competing non-ecclesiastical societies. All we are left with is opinions. Should homosexual marriage be allowed? The non-ecclesiastical society formed by soon to be Dr. Lee Irons and his lovely wife Misty say’s “yes.” The non-ecclesiastical society formed by Mark Chambers says “no.” Who is to decide? By your reasoning there is no answer that can be considered absolute. By your reasoning the Church is forbidden to speak to that issue and a host of others. By your reasoning we are left adrift on the sea of Natural law subjectivism.
And the really ironic thing Bob is the more the Church refuses to speak to what God’s word clearly speaks to the more the culture insists that we should keep our mouths shut about everything. The political conversation today, as seen again in the latest dust-up between B. Hussein Obama and Dr. James Dobson reduces to the ability to be able to authoritatively say whether or not there is a right and wrong that all people must adhere to and your advice is that the Church can’t speak to that question because it is political.
That may sell in Escondido Dr. R. Scott Clark, but it isn’t going to get off the ground in these parts.