Machen, Law and Sin

“Although Christianity does not end with the broken heart, it does begin with a broken heart; it begins with the consciousness of sin. Without consciousness of sin, the whole gospel will seem to be an idle tale…. But if the consciousness of sin is to be produced, the law of God must be proclaimed in the lives of Christian people as well as in word. It is quite useless for the preacher to breathe out fire and brimstone from the pulpit, if at the same time the occupants of the pews go on taking sin very lightly and being content with the moral standards of the world. The rank and file of the Church must do their part in so proclaiming the law of God with their lives….

J. Gresham Machen
Christianity and Liberalism

Of course Machen didn’t realize that the Church needs to distinguish between the need of the Church to proclaim the law of God in the personal and private lives of it’s members and the need of the Church to proclaim the law of God in their corporate and public lives of it’s members. Machen never learned that while the former is required the latter is not possible since God’s inscripturated Word doesn’t apply to the common realm. In the public and corporate life of any given culture Christians may take sin very lightly and be content with the moral standards of the world.

More Radical Two Kingdom Theology

Some people may wonder why I keep returning to this radical two kingdom virus. The reasons I do so are multifaceted. First, I want to show that whatever this R2Kt virus, it isn’t Calvinism. I hope my series of posts from Witte, Jr’s book as aided in the dismantling of their delusions that they are Calvinists except in a very constrained way. I guess I would say that they are Cavlinists the way that the Beatles would have been the Beatles without Lennon and McCartney. Second, I want to expose its profound but enduring vacuity. Third, I want to let them shoot themselves by allowing for a large public reading of their own words. Fourth, I want to prevent people from being infected by the virus they carry. Fifth, I want them to repent. I could go on but you get the idea.

I lifted these comments from a thread where the recent documentary ‘EXPELLED’ was being discussed. Our friend from Grand Rapids, Zrim, is the one who comes up with such brilliant insights. It is interesting that even Dr. R. Scott Clark, the Typhoid Mary of the R2Kt in academia, can’t even go along with Zrim in some of Zrim’s comments. If you want drop into the conversation go here,

“What I liked about that TIME piece was the old-school Calvinism: “The truth, of course, is that the only necessary and sufficient condition for human beings to murder one another is the simple fact of being human. We’ve always been a lustily fratricidal species, one that needed no Charles Darwin to goad us into millenniums of self-slaughter.”

Calvinism cuts through the crap of 21st century American pop- and partisan-politics, red and blue.”

It is true that humans, because of the fall, will find all kinds of ways to be destructive. However, their spiritual condition is not unrelated to the thinking which they pursue. Scripture clearly teaches that, ‘as a man thinketh in his heart so he is.’ When Zrim reasons the way he does he implicitly abjures this idea preferring instead to seemingly think that men behave the way they behave quite apart from intellectual, theological, or philosophical paradigms. So while it is true that we don’t need Charles Darwin to be lustily fatricidal, it is not true that we don’t need to have a thought system that gives us putative reasons for our fatricidal-ness. Before Darwin men were fatricidal but you could still draw a line between whatever belief system they had and their fatricidal actions.

Zrim’s comments suggest that there is gnosticism going on in his thinking. Men are spiritual entities who act the way that they do for spiritual reasons and these spiritual entities act according to spiritual reasons quite apart from any concrete thinking or an anti-biblical contrarian thought system. Further, he seems to suggest, that we shouldn’t be concerned about tracing out the consequences of bad ideas since all we need to know is that men are spiritual fallen.

“While I think a substantial link between *Social* darwinist theory, eugenics, Nazism, and Planned Parenthood is pretty straightforward to address, mere Darwinism itself does not produce these evils. Refusing to view man as being made in the image of God and thus morally accountable to his Creator is the root of these evils, not the mere idea of natural selection.”

Really, Zrim only needs to spend some time in a library with Herbert Spencer to see the connection between Darwinism and *Social* Darwinism. The first sentence of the statement above only reveals Zrim’s lack of training in the history of ideas.

Second, Zrim cuts corners by suggesting that Darwinism is about ‘natural selection.’ Nobody disagrees with natural selection as a way to explain long beaked finches vs. short beaked finches. This is not the problem with Darwinism. Again, I humbly submit that Zrim go to the library and this time spend some time with T. H. Huxley (Darwin’s Bulldog) and learn that Darwinism was not offered as a mere theory of Natural Selection but rather as a comprehensive Worldview that was offered as a way to explain reality quite apart from the God of the Bible.

Still, we want to credit Zrim where he is correct. It is true that the refusal to view man as being made in the image of God and thus morally accountable to his Creator is the root of these evils. What Zrim doesn’t seem to know is that is exactly what Darwinism teaches. The truth of the matter is that Zrim’s real problem is that Reformed people are actually contending for King Christ in his common realm where no such overtly Christian contending is supposed to take place. Zrim doesn’t want Christ in this realm except in a most indirect way and Christians who take their faith into that realm trouble him deeply.

In this next section, Dr. R. Scott Clark had taken Zrim to task for going a little bit to far with their shared viral thinking. Zrim responds to Clark by noting that Christians have been just as wicked as pagans,

“Then how does one explain the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Salem witch trials, to name but a few examples of those who “view man as being made in the image of God and thus morally accountable to his Creator” and yet perpetrate evil? The implication of the above comment seems to be that if we can just get over the imago dei evil would be substantially reduced. Yet history is littered with those who embrace such a doctrine yet violate it.

It is quite true that -ism’s do not produce evil (since sinners are at the root of evil), but I find it ironic how straighter lines are drawn from the other guy’s -ism to evil.

Again, put another mark in the column for good old-fashioned Calvinism. That is one -ism that no man can escape.

First, we should note that Zrim really is a cultural relativist. No culture can be considered superior to another culture because all cultures show sin. Pagan Darwinist cultures show sin by perpetrating evil in eugenics and Christian cultures show sin by perpetrating evil in Crusades, Inquisitions, and Witch Trials.

Again, we need to ask Zrim to go to the library with us. Without arguing that the historical events that Zrim notes weren’t blemishes on the face of Christendom we need to keep in mind that the Crusades were a response to Muslim aggression and so were defensive in measure. Now, to be sure, in the Crusades sin abounded but to draw a moral equivalence between the Crusades and the Death Camps is just vile and putrid thinking. Christians should freely admit and publish their sins as warnings to future Christians but to suggest that the comparatively small number of deaths of Witches and inquisitorial victims to the millions upon millions who have been slaughtered since the advent of and on account of atheistic Darwinist thinking is just plain irresponsible.

I will be glad to put a mark in the column for good old-fashioned Calvinism — a Calvinism that built Christendom in the West and gives us the ability to distinguish good from evil.

So while Christendom may have a vested interest in reducing the culpability of something like the Crusades, Christianity seems to have no such interest. It is the meta-message that I find more compelling than in the more immediate one which tries to navigate around whose “system” is more/less evil. That WE are evil really changes the conversation.

Evil and forgiven. Zrim spends so much time on Christians as sinners that he forgets that Christians are saints, resurrected with Christ to walk in newness of life. It is true Christians continue to contend with the old man, but it is also true that Christians continue to put off the old man and put on the new man created in the image of God. Because that is so we can expect sanctification to progress not only in the lives of individual believers but also in their cultures as believers who are increasingly being conformed to Christ jointly build a culture that likewise partakes in sanctification.

As it pertains to the Crusades I would be satisfied if Zrim visited the library and at least read the Christian side of the Crusade account instead of ignorantly buying into the Muslim pagan account.

Still, Zrim is right that Christians do need to be reminded that they remain sinners. Without this reminder we run the danger of believing that the culture we build needs to constantly be Reformed. In short if we don’t remind people that WE are evil the odds increase dramatically that we will not be able to see the blind spots that keep us from going on in Christ both individually and culturally.

“Propaganda (The movie EXPELLED) helps nothing along. And it seems to me that what tends to inform most moderns is the stuff of sensationalism, including what we know about the Holocaust (from theories that it never happened to it was the greatest evil ever exacted). Sensationalism subsumes beneath “Sicko” as much as “Expelled.”

Unfortunately this is true. But we have arrived at the point that if one wants to change the dynamics of the game one has to play the game and the way one plays the game in this culture is by making a sensationalist Propaganda film that slightly begins to counterbalances all the sensationalism propaganda that the minions of the devil are pumping out. Would that we lived in a world where sustained and informed debate would inform most moderns but most moderns are idiots and the only way they are moved is by cheap sensationalism. We can thank our government education gulag for having arrived at this point.

“That said, even if you peel away the sensationalism you still have deal seriously with the notions that certain theories lead to certain phenomenon. And I am not so sure that “survival of the fittest” leads to gas chambers anymore than the “cultural mandate to subdue the earth”: they both depend on sinners who can parlay former into a box of Wheaties and the latter into mass destruction–or vice versa.”

Once again it is the library to which Zrim must go. If he doesn’t have time for the library today the link below will allow him to see the connections between ‘survival of the fittest leads to gas chambers.’

Also note the cultural relativism again. Darwinism is not better or worse then submission to Christ’s command to pursue Christ honoring dominion. Humble Christians seeking to honor Christ by building Christian culture are equivalent to Darwinists who only want to make a better box of Wheaties.

“The danger, it seems to me, is in trying to formulate any theory either betters or worsens the human condition. Christianity is not a system to improve the human condition but to save it; that “the Bible is not a handbook for living” works just as against those who are polyanna as those who seriously want to construct political, economic, social, scientific, educational theory from it. The implication of “Steinian” sorts of critiques (sensationalism aside) is that if one system leads to destruction another leads to redemption. Christianity does, but just not the way you’d think.”

This is a perfect reflection of a-millennial thinking. A-millennialism teaches that good and evil grow together till the end. As such, while we may look for periodic cultural lift in history we must also look for periodic cultural decline. In the end though nothing changes in terms of mankind’s conditions. Indeed, most A-millennialist will insist that things will get substantially worse before Jesus returns. Anyway, given this kind of macro eschatology where the teleology builds an expectation that good and evil always grow together in commensurate proportions we shouldn’t be surprised to find an adherent teaching that Christians shouldn’t bother in trying to formulate any theory that either betters or worsens the human condition. Since, according to a-millennialists human betterment is a-priori locked out then naturally theories are arrived at that teach we shouldn’t try to think in ways that will improve the human condition.

Further, the amillennial presuppositions are in flying full mast when Zrim offers that Christianity is supposed to save the human condition without improving it. Amillennialism holds that final salvation is catastrophic and comes from the outside in. As such it only stands to reason that Zrim would offer us teaching that has no intent offer human improvement. Only a catastrophic inbreaking by the returning Jesus will bring improvement. All other improvements are, at best, illusory. Humans are sinners and even the salvation given them to Jesus only offers a betterment in the sweet by and by.

Nobody needs to look at the Bible as a handbook for living who wants to understand the implications of total depravity in the realms of educational, political, economic, social, and scientific theory. It is just plain ignorance on stilts to suggest that sin doesn’t affect these areas of thought and it is ignorance on stilts wearing high heels that believes that Redemption can’t ameliorate the effects of sin on redeemed thinkers who are seeking to think God’s thoughts after Him in these areas. Zrim’s bible is a gnostic bible that saves men’s souls but leaves their bodies under the ravages of sin.


Inevitability Of The Gods

“Western society, in turning away from Christian faith, has turned to other things. This process is commonly called secularization, but that conveys only the negative aspect. the word connotes the turning away from the worship of God while ignoring the fact that something is being turned to in its place. Even atheisms are usually idolatrous, as Neibuhr said, because they elevate some ‘principle of coherence’ to the central meaning of life and this is what then provides the focus of significance for that life.”

Herbert Schlossberg
Idols For Destruction — pg. 6

This observation by Schlossberg is a the stake through the heart of Westminster West Concordia Seminary (WWCS) radical two kingdom theology (R2kt). WWSC desires a secular, pluralistic, putatively non-religious culture but they advocate for that without realizing that the codification of a secular pluralistic putatively non-religious culture creates a religious culture where the god that has been elevated to provide the ‘principle of coherence’ is a god who will create a civil cult that insists that all the various gods of all those varying competing cults which are part of the pluralistic society must stay within the confines of their religious ghettos. With all the gods (including the God of the Bible) restricted to their religious ghettos what happens is that the putatively common realm will be guided by a god that goes about wearing the garb of non-existence. In other words when we seek to sanitize the public square of God, or when we pretend that the public square can be ruled by ‘no-God’ because it is a common realm, what transpires is that the god who rules the public secular square is a god who escapes notice by his adherents insisting that the god that is ruling doesn’t really exist and will argue that the way things are in the culture is ‘just the way things are supposed to be.’

Witte on the difference between Calvin & Luther & Anabaptists

“Calvin charted a course between the Erastianism (the doctrine that the state is supreme over the church in ecclesiastical matters) of Lutherans that subordinated the church to the state, and the asceticism of Anabaptists that withdrew the Church from the State and society. Like Lutherans, Calvin and his followers insisted that each local polity be an overtly Christian commonwealth that adhered to the general principles of natural law and that translated them into detailed positive laws of religious worship, Sabbath observance, public morality, marriage and family life, social welfare, public education and more. Like Anabaptists, Calvin and his followers insisted on the basic separation of the offices and operations of church, and state, leaving the church to govern its own doctrine and liturgy, polity and property, without interference from the state. But, unlike both groups, Calvin insisted that both church and state officials were to play complementary legal roles in the creation of the local Christian commonwealth and in the cultivation of the Christian citizen.”

John Witte, Jr.
The Reformation Of Rights – pg. 78

A couple notes here.

First, Calvin’s expectation “that each local polity be an overtly Christian commonwealth that adhered to the general principles of natural law,” must be understood in the context that natural law can only yield Christian conclusions when interpreted in a Christian community. Natural law, when pursued in the context of a Christian people and a Christian Worldview, can be expected to fulfill Calvin’s expectations and is the only place where it can really work without the use of raw force to implement it. It is the height of foolishness to think that Natural law will translate “into detailed positive laws of religious worship, Sabbath observance, public morality, marriage and family life, social welfare, public education and more,” when it is considered apart from Christian people living in a Christian commonwealth. One problem with Natural law as the R2Kt people pursue it is the expectation that the Natural law, as promulgated by Christian Natural law theologians, will be embraced by people who do not share the Biblical starting point that the Christian Natural law theologians have. Indeed, what is interesting is that Calvin expected Natural law to translate into detailed positive laws in areas that the current R2Kt Natural theologians insist that Natural law does not speak to at all (i.e. — religious worship, and Sabbath observance).

Second, the appeal to public education must be take into account that public education in a Christian commonwealth will be doing the same thing that public education in Secular humanist pluralist commonwealth does, and that is to catechize children into the guiding dominant mindset. There is nothing wrong with public education when it is pursued in the context of a Christian commonwealth, which is the context for which Calvin and Luther were advocating its existence. (Though I still would never require it through legislation.)

Third, this quote does serious damage to R2Kt idea that pluralism is the ideal societal arrangement. Calvin does not agree with the innovative thinking that is without Reformed historical legs that is coming out of Westminster West.

Calvin’s Two Kingdom vs. R2K Theology

“Calvin’s principle of separation of church and state bore little resemblance, however, to modern American understandings of a ‘high and impregnable law between church and state.’ Despite his early flirtations with radical political implications of the two kingdoms theory, Calvin ultimately did not contemplate a ‘secular society’ with a plurality of absolutely separated religious and political officials within them. Nor did he contemplate a neutral state, which showed no preference among competing concepts of spiritual and moral good. For Calvin, each community is to be a unitary Christian society, a miniature corpus Christianum under God’s sovereignty and law. Within this unitary society, the church and state stand as coordinate powers. Both are ordained by God to help achieve a Godly order and discipline in the community, a successful realization of all three uses of the moral law. Such conjoined responsibilities inevitably require church and state, clergy and magistracy to aid and accommodate moderate each other on a variety of levels. These institutions and officials said Calvin, ‘are not contraries, like water and fire, but things conjoined.’ ‘The Spiritual polity, though distinct from the civil polity does not hinder or threaten it but rather greatly helps and furthers it.’ In turn, ‘the civil government has its appointed end…to cherish and protect the outward worship of God, to defend sound doctrine of piety and the position of the church…and a public manifestation of religion.’

Calvin’s principles were as much reminiscent of medieval forms of church-state relations as prescient of modern forms. To be sure, Calvin anticipated a number of modern concepts of separation, accomodation, and cooperation of church and state that later would come to dominate Western constitutionalism. But Calvin also appropriated many of the cardinal insights of both the ‘two powers’ theory of Pope Gelasius and and the ‘two swords’ theory of the Papal Revolution. Particularly like his medieval predecessors, Calvin saw that to maintain its liberty, the church had to organize itself into its own legal and political entity, and to preserve for itself its own jurisdiction and responsibility. It had to wield its own ‘sword,’ maintain its own ‘power.’ Calvin differed from his medieval predecessors, however, in insisting on a more democratic form of ecclesiastical and civil polity, a more limited ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and an equality of church and state before God.”

John Witte, Jr.
The Reformation of Rights pg. 76

Now what we are clearly seeing is that Calvin did hold to something that could be called a ‘Two Kingdom Theology.’ However what Calvin developed was far different than what Luther held to and what Westminster West Seminary is trying to sell with their radical two Kingdom Theology. Compared to Luther and Westminster West (which on this score is trying to Lutheranize Calvinist theology) Calvin’s two Kingdom theology is far more nuanced and subtle then the dichotomizing theology evidenced in Lutheran and Westminster West theology. Calvin’s theology eschews pagan pluralism, and embraces the idea of a kind of feudally arranged Christendom, where, because the individual parts that comprise the whole are organized as a Christian community, the whole therefore can be denominated ‘Christendom.’