Reviewing A Book Review On Natural Law — Part I

Rev. Danny Hyde is a minister in the URC and is sympathetic with the R2Kt virus. Over a year ago, he reviewed fellow virus simpatico Dr. David VanDrunen’s book “A Biblical Case for Natural Law, Studies in Christian Social Ethics and Economics,” Number 1, ed. Anthony B. Bradley (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2006).

Chapter 2—Natural Law and Human Nature

VanDrunen makes his starting point not the oft-repeated texts in discussions of natural law in Romans 1:19-20, 2:14-15, but the image of God. This pedagogical turn is commendable as it lays aside the preconceived objections of those opposed to natural law and enters this subject in a fresh way.

Everybody agrees that man is created in the image of God. Everybody agrees that the image of God in fallen man puts him in a position that so that, on a ontological level, he knows God. Everybody agrees that this knowledge of God that is inescapable leaves fallen man without excuse. What the R2kt virus people and Natural Law lovers fail to deal with is that fallen man is using his epistemological gifting in order to suppress and deny what he can’t help but know due to the fact that the ontological fingerprints of God always remain upon him. The appeal to Natural law on the basis of the image of God in man refuses to deal with the reality that that image is irreparably fallen save by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The mistake of R2kt virus people and Natural law lovers is to think that general revelation can be read accurately and successfully without presupposing special revelation. Man does indeed bear the image of God but without being renewed he will, with his fallen epistemological gifting read natural law in such a way that God is left out of the equation.

Hence this approach does nothing to lay aside preconceived objections.

“VanDrunen, then, moves away from any abstract doctrine of natural law to its source, saying, “The foundation for speaking about natural law is not nature but the creator of nature, God himself” (8). Since God is righteous and just, our creation in his image means in the beginning we by nature had the capacity for righteousness and justice. Natural law is not something outside of God found through independent reason, but is the way God “wired” us according to the very nature of God himself.”

Yes, God wired us ontologically in this fashion. But as a result of the fall we are using our epistemological software to suppress our ontological hardwiring. If that suppression mechanism is successful in keeping the reality of God at arms distance then clearly it is successful at keeping what God’s Natural law communicates.

Those who advocate this position have a view of the consequences of the fall as less than total. Natural law advocates sound like those that contend that while the fall was really really bad it didn’t leave man hostile to God.

This is also evidenced by the classic Reformed idea that Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10 show that salvation in Christ is a re-creation of the original image of God, in righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. This seems to create a problem, though. If redemption is re-creation, then sin has obliterated the image and therefore natural capacity to do righteousness, holiness, and know God. As bad as the fall has affected us, fallen man nevertheless still in some sense continues in the image of God (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9). Appealing to Romans 1:18-32, VanDrunen states that rebellious, sinful man is inexcusable before God, whether Jew with special revelation or Gentile with only creation. All men know God exists and that there are certain moral absolutes. In fact, Paul even speaks of one sin as “against nature” (1:26 cf. 2:14-15).

The fall didn’t obliterate the image of God in man ontologically speaking. Man can never be anything other than the creation of God. But the Fall did obliterate man’s epistemological acceptance of being in the image of God. As a result of the fall, man is a schizophrenic being. He remains in the image of God. Ontologically he cannot escape that knowledge since his very existence and self-consciousness is part of the general revelation that declares the God that he is suppressing in unrighteousness, but epistemologically he swears up and down that he has escaped the knowledge of God. Hence, while God faithfully communicates Himself through Natural law fallen man is doing everything he can to jam the reception. Natural law cannot be a means by which to govern a “common realm” if only because it does not take seriously what the fall has done to fallen man’s inclination to tune out God’s Natural Law airwaves.

The Apostle well speaks of sinning against nature but that doesn’t mean that fallen man will confess that what he is doing is sinning against nature. Indeed, a Natural Law formulated by a homosexual fallen man (cmp. Rmns. 1:26) would conclusively prove that Natural law teaches that homosexuality is according to nature.

Chapter 3—Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms Doctrine

Another line of argument on natural law is that God rules over all things, but in two different ways: he rules the civil kingdom (Calvin)/kingdom of the left hand (Luther) as creator and sustainer of temporal, earthly, and provisional matters, while he rules the spiritual kingdom (Calvin)/kingdom of the right hand (Luther) as creator, but especially as redeemer of the eschatological kingdom.

But Calvin understood that the Magistrate was answerable to God. Turretin insisted that the Magistrate was responsible to enforce both tables of the Law. The Puritans had the idea of the Holy Commonwealth. An idea they supported from Scripture. All of these agreed with the idea of two Kingdoms but they all did not advocate it the same way that those in Escondido are advocating it.

While VanDrunen’s cursory survey of the two kingdom’s doctrine in the history of the Church is helpful, the rest of chapter 3 is incisive. Reading like a primer on classic covenant theology, VanDrunen traces these two kingdoms through Old and New Testaments. After the Fall, God called Adam and Eve as his redeemed people and despite cursing the elements of creation mandate of Genesis 1:26-27 these things would continue in the world.

The task of Adam and Eve in the Garden was to have dominion over their world. After the fall, Noah is given the same commission to be fruitful and multiply and so have dominion. The chastisement that God visits upon His old covenant people is due to their idolatry and their failure to take Godly dominion. There is no place in Scripture where the command to have godly dominion in all the earth is ever revoked. Indeed, our Lord Christ reminded His disciples that “all authority had been given Him in heaven and earth.” In light of that they were to take His dominion forward into all the earth and into every area of life to teach the nations to observe all things that Jesus had commanded them.

Typhoid (R2Kt virus) Bob Strikes Again

Dr. R. Scott Clark has gone from the ridiculous to the surreal in his latest advocacy of Radical Two Kingdom Virus Theology. It appears that one affect of long exposure to the R2Kt virus is dementia and addlepatedness.

“The Fourth Circuit has upheld the ban of a minister from praying at city council meetings in Fredericksburg, VA. His crime? He prays in Jesus’ name. That’s a sectarian prayer. Yes, it is and it’s a good thing too.

I can’t think of a non-sectarian prayer, at least not one in which I would want to be involved. As I understand Scripture non-sectarian prayer is idolatry.”

If Typoid Bob can’t think of a non-sectarian prayer why can he not think of a non-sectarian education, or a non-sectarian sociology, or a non-sectarian legal theory, or a non-sectarian culture? Why is it that all prayer is sectarian (and it certainly is) but all economic theory, governmental arrangements, art theory, and educational praxis is not sectarian?

This is an important question because part of Typhoid Bob’s problem is that he thinks that his ‘common realm’ or ‘secular realm’ can be a realm that is not a manifestation of some theology thus making it a non-sectarian realm. Suffice it to say that cultures are every bit as sectarian as prayers.

“People will decry this ruling as blow to religious freedom and freedom of speech (it is perhaps the latter) but there may be no clearer example of the confusion of the two kingdoms when Christ’s ministers do the bidding of Caesar by praying for divine blessing on behalf of the magistrate, as a civil function. Ministers and all Christians are commanded by God to pray for the magistrate. We do so during the week. We do so on the Sabbath, but do we have any business doing so to open legislative sessions? Legislators ought to pray as private persons before, during, and after their civil work but ministers are called by God as Christ’s servants in his eternal, immutable kingdom. They are not called as civil servants. If they will to be civil servants they have only to resign their ecclesiastical office. To attempt to function as an officer in both kingdoms simultaneously is a blow to the spirituality (which doesn’t mean ethereality) of Christ’s church.”

First, when a minister from the Church realm prays, he prays at the bidding of God, even if another minister of God in a different realm (the magistrate) requests him to pray.

Second, there is no confusion of the two kingdoms here as is seen in the reality that it is clearly seen, by God’s minister in the civil realm asking God’s minister in the ecclesiastical realm to come and offer an invocation that God, who reigns over both realms, and to whom both respective ministers (pastor and magistrate) are required to be in submission to, might grant wisdom to decision making and to be benevolent. Everybody in the room understands that reality of the two Kingdoms when a pastor is invited to offer invocation if only because it is clearly seen that the representative of God’s right hand is coming in to beseech God for the Kingdom of His left hand. Further, a wise pastor will include in his prayer the idea of the two Kingdoms to make that intuitive understanding clear.

Third, a wise pastor who is invited to pray in the context of a civil realm will include in his prayer the petition that these ministers in the civil realm will remember that they will be answerable to God for their decisions and will request that God will visit them with chastisement if they legislate contrary to God’s revealed word. There are a myriad of ways to make it clear that the minister isn’t present as the magistrates lackey. Equally so, there are an abundant means in which it can be communicated that the minister’s presence doesn’t mean that he supports any malfeasance that is taking place by God’s ministers in the civil realm.

Fourth, the prayer of a minister at a opening of a legislative session makes him a civil servant the way a Father being present at the birth of his child makes him a mother.

Typhoid Bob’s problem again is seeing spirituality as “otherworldliness” as opposed to seeing spirituality as incarnating the age to come in this present wicked age.

Make no mistake, the disagreement between those infected with R2kt virus and those who aren’t is a disagreement over what counts as “spirituality.”

“Afraid that the local imam will be opening a legislative session near you? You should be, but not because he’s a Muslim, but because he has no more business opening a session than your minister. God is sovereign. He raises kings and dashes them to the ground, but he administers two distinct kingdoms, by his sovereign power and will, in two distinct ways. He governs the spiritual kingdom, the visible church by the Word of God. He governs the civil kingdom by general revelation and the 2nd table of the natural law.

Recently, somebody has suggested that the close relation of Reformed people and Roman Catholics in the Acton Institute (where a big push for natural law is coming from) is leading to a Romanizing of Reformed Theology. When I read things like this I can’t help but perk up my hears when that argument is made.

The fact that Typhoid Bob desires to keep Imam’s out of the public square the same way he desires to keep ministers out of the public square indicates again that he desires a naked public square. Dr. R. Scott Clark’s theology is one with the ACLU on this score.

Also, the 2nd table of the law presupposes the first table. It is no more possible to govern the civil kingdom by the 2nd table of the law without the 1st table then it is to fire a gun that doesn’t have any bullets in it. Bullets presuppose a gun in order to be effective. Just so, the 2nd table presupposes the first table in order to be effective. The breakdown of the West over the last 100 yeas ought to be testimony of that fact.

“Can you imagine the Apostle Paul opening a session of the Roman senate? The real question is whether we’re going to continue to try to hang on to the last remnants of Christendom.”

Note the hatred of Typhoid Bob for Christendom. We must remind our readers here that if we will not have a Christendom we will have some other kind of “dom” whether it is Islamadom, or Humanismdom. It is not possible to have a naked public square, despite all the insistence of the R2kt types that such a thing is possible. This hatred of Christendom represents a failure of nerve to incarnate the Christian faith into every area of life.

I cannot imagine the Apostle Paul being asked to open a session of the Roman senate in prayer but I can imagine the Apostle Paul praying to open the session of the Roman senate just as I can imagine him giving a defense of the Gospel on Mars Hill. Such a prayer would have been a wondeful opportunity to give the Gospel.

“Why does any legislative body need to invite anyone to pray? Why do they need to open sessions with prayer?”

Because they understand that they are ministers of God in the civil realm? Because they desire God to bless their deliberations? Because they desire to communicate that unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain attempting to legislate anything not according to His will? Because they are a pious Christian people and a pious Christian people are notorious for invoking God at important events.

Is he serious by asking those questions?

“Yes, Christians ought to serve in government and Christians ought to pray for government and Christians who serve in government should pray while they’re serving, but a city council meeting is not a worship service. It’s not a prayer meeting. It’s not a bible study.”


I guess this means I, as the minister, should quit praying before our covenant mealtimes since covered dish dinners are not official worship services.

They’re meeting to discuss whether to pave my walk or not. They’re meeting to approve a budget but we’re not a theocracy.

First, note how Dr. Clark belittles what happens in the public square. This seems to communicate that where the really important stuff happens is in his “spiritual” Kingdom.

Second, does God’s Word have nothing to say how money should be spent?

Third, we are a theocracy. All governments are theocracys. Even if Bob got his way with R2Kt the government would be a theocracy. Theocracy is an unavoidable category. We live under one now. Dr. Clark’s theology won’t allow him to realize that.

“We don’t have a state church.”

We most certainly do. It’s called the government schools. If the city council wants to be inconsistent by asking a minister to pray as opposed to the local school principal Christian ministers should take advantage of that.

“We don’t have an officially approved doctrine of God.”

We do in a defacto sense. It is, “In the State we live and move and have our being.” If the city council wants to be inconsistent by asking a minister to pray as opposed to the some government official in the tank for the State Christian ministers should take advantage of that.

“We don’t know or care about the church affiliation of those whom we elect to office.”

Typhoid Bob may not care but I care and take pains to find out before I cast a vote.

“In that case, what am I doing praying with Unitarians, pagans, Hindus, and Roman Catholics? That’s crazy. I can agree with them on street paving because of the providence of God but I don’t have to agree with them theologically and I don’t have to and don’t want to pray with them.

I’m only praying with them because I’m the one praying. If a priest or Imam were praying you can bet I wouldn’t be praying with them.

What if the pagans decided that they were going to pave the street with sub-standard filling charging the citizens for the good stuff while keeping the difference. You see, worldview does make a difference for paving streets.

His congregation didn’t call him to pray at city council meetings. They called him to preach the gospel to them and to evangelize the community and the catechize their children. If he’s doing his job I don’t know that he has time to pray at city council meetings.

And what makes Typhoid Bob think that praying in a God honoring Biblical fashion at the opening of a legislative meeting isn’t evangelism?

Dr. Clark has tunnel vision.

Dear Pastor — Thank You

Dear Sir,

I’ve bee reading through your R2kt virus posts. I can’t tell you how important they are to me. I started attending a PCA church infected with this perspective and it took a long time and a lot of studying to realize where all this was coming from (Westminster West it turns out). I’m now running a mile from the place thankful that the Lord opened my eyes when he did.

Thank you for taking the time to write on this subject.


Name Withheld

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.