Reformed Confessions Disagree With R. Scott Clark’s Assertions Regarding Theocracy

“All orthodox Christians affirm that God’s moral law is enduring and binding to all people—to deny that is antinomianism. What is at stake here is the magistrate’s role in enforcing that moral law. The framers of the Statement have a plan, to which we have not yet arrived, but it entails some enforcement of the first table, and thus is theocratic.”

R. Scott Clark
Sub-Christian Nationalism? (Part 4)

So, what if it is theocratic? The Reformed Confessions repeatedly call for enforcement of the 1st table and also are hopelessly theocratic. Here is the 2nd Helvetic Confession as just one example of a Reformed Theocratic Confession;

“THE DUTY OF THE MAGISTRATE. The chief duty of the magistrate is to
secure and preserve peace and public tranquility. Doubtless he will never do this more successfully than when he is truly God-fearing and religious; that is to say, when, according to the example of the most holy kings and princes of the people of the Lord, he promotes the preaching of the truth and sincere faith, roots out lies and all superstition, together with all impiety and idolatry, and defends the Church of God. We certainly teach that the care of religion belongs especially to the holy magistrate.

Let him, therefore, hold the Word of God in his hands, and take care
lest anything contrary to it is taught. Likewise let him govern the people entrusted to him by God with good laws made according to the Word of God, and let him keep them in discipline, duty and obedience. Let him exercise judgment by judging uprightly. Let him not respect any man’s person or accept bribes. Let him protect widows, orphans and the afflicted. Let him punish and even banish criminals, impostors and barbarians. For he does not bear the sword in vain (Rom. 13:4).

Therefore, let him draw this sword of God against all malefactors,
seditious persons, thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, perjuried persons, and all those whom God has commanded him to punish and even to execute. Let him suppress stubborn heretics (who are truly heretics), who do not cease to blaspheme the majesty of God and to trouble, and even to destroy the Church of God.”


“In Bullinger’s ‘Decades,’ he expounds the above argument further. Using the likes of Solomon, Asa, and Josiah, Bullinger argued that the care and ordering of religion does not belong to Bishops alone. Contrary to those who might relegate these examples to the old covenant, Bullinger responds, ‘The men of this opinion ought to prove, that the Lord Jesus and His apostles did translate the care of religion from the magistrate unto Bishops alone: which they shall never be able to do.’

Both the Reformed theologians Francis Turretin and David Dickson followed this line of argumentation from the example of OT kings.”

Cited in Jonathan Beeke’s
Duplex Regnum Christi — FN 30, pg, 74

HC Q. 34 — Jesus Is Lord

Question 34: Wherefore callest thou Him our Lord? 

Answer: Because He hath redeemed us, both soul and body, from all our sins, not with gold or silver, but with His precious blood, and hath delivered us from all the power of the devil; and thus hath made us His own property.3

The Heidelberg catechism continues to follow the Apostles Creed and in doing so it moves from the affirmation that Jesus Christ was the only begotten son of God to the affirmation that Jesus is Lord.

The Lordship of Jesus upon the life of every Christian is indisputable. Throughout the Scripture record Jesus is referred to as “Lord.” Jesus Himself, addressing His disciples could say;

“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.” — John 13:13

Upon seeing the resurrected Jesus the disciples Thomas could exclaim, “My Lord and my God.”

Peter on the day of Pentecost preached;

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”  — Acts 2:36

Jesus Christ is indeed, as St. John says in his Apocalypse,  “Lord of Lords and King of Kings.”

The answer to Lord’s Day 34 deals with the why of Christ’s Lordship. Why is Jesus Christ the Lord to Christians?

And the first part of that answer is that Jesus Christ’s Lordship is due to the fact that He hath redeemed us in our totality (body and soul) from all our sins with that which was more valuable than gold or silver, to wit, His own precious blood.

Follow the assumptions of this answer.

1.) If we were Redeemed that implies that we were under a previous ownership

2.) As such we have gone from the owner that had claim upon us before being redeemed to another owner upon being redeemed.

This teaches us mortal men that we are never in a state where we operate as unowned by one or another Lord. Christians sing enthusiastically with Dylan;

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You might be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Further Q. 34 teaches us that we can only be owned by Jesus as we are freed by the only price paid that can free us — the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

1 Pet. 1:18–19, Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

The idea of being redeemed from our “vain conversation” received by the tradition of their forefathers is that we have been bought back from a lifestyle that was unwholesome, unhealthy, and deadly. That lifestyle handed down by our unredeemed Kin is a lifestyle as beholden to Satan.

Jesus, having redeemed us from that lifestyle futility as received from our forefathers as they labored for the ends of their Lord, is now our Lord and Master, and He in turn delivers us from our previous inherited vain conversation (lifestyle futility/meaninglessness) to a lifestyle that is no longer, vain, futile, or meaningless. He is Lord and it is good to have Jesus as Lord, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We are now the property of Jesus Christ and He takes responsibility as our owner for all things that concern us as under both categories of body and soul.

Being delivered from our vain conversations inherited by our imprisoned and shackled Fathers Jesus hath made us His own property.

This means that Jesus has property rights in the Christian. We belong to Him. We are emblazoned on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16) and we are stamped on our foreheads with His stamp (Revelation 22:14). We are His property and so we naturally refer to Jesus as Lord.

It is because Jesus is their Lord that the Christian refuses to live as if any other person or entity is their Lord.  It is because Jesus is their Lord that the Christian refuses to place their children underneath the tutelage of those who are themselves the flacks and minions for some other Lord. It is because Jesus is their Lord that the Christian takes so seriously God’s law in its third use for their living.

“What exactly is it that distinguishes the Calvinist? It is the fact that the Calvinist, more than others, humbles himself before the law of his God, through which a higher, more sophisticated sense of jurisprudence is also cultivated in us.”

– Abraham Kuyper

This conviction that Jesus is Lord for the Christian has animated the Christian through the centuries with a white hot determination to live as only their Lord’s bondsmen. The Biblical Christian as such as always been a prickly pear when it comes to the issue of liberty. Jesus is our Lord and we Christians are His property and we will not be brought again into any bondage of any other Lord for to do so would make the Christian an idolater.

The Biblical Christian understands that we were bought with a price and therefore we are determined, by God’s grace, to therefore glorify God in our bodies, and in our spirits, which, belong to God (I Cor. 6:20).

HC #30 — Jesus As Savior Means Satisfaction With Jesus As Savior

As we consider the HC we need to remember that it was written with the purpose of clearly delineating the Reformed faith vis-a-vis other expressions of Christianity that were present during this time. As such, the HC will often use questions and answers in order to make clear distinctions between Reformed doctrine and the doctrine of the Roman Catholics, or the doctrine of the Lutherans, or the doctrine of the Anabaptists. There are in the HC questions matters that really are serving as apologetics against wrong thinking of these other expressions of Christianity. Question 30 is just such a question. This question and answer is pointed at the doctrine of medieval Roman Catholicism with its theology that makes Jesus half a Savior. Today HC #30 is a landmine that cuts all Arminian theology in half as well.

Question 30: Do such then believe in Jesus the only Savior, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?

Of course, in the context of Roman Catholicism this question is seeking to draw a bright red line between the Reformers understanding of who Jesus is and the Roman Catholic understanding of who Jesus is. Both have the name of Jesus on their lips but the respective Jesus’ they speak of share the same name but are different persons.

The Jesus of Rome is not the only Savior, but is a Jesus who requires aid and assistance in the matter of getting a man saved. The Jesus of Rome needs the aid and assistance of departed saints, human agency doing work of penance or enduring purgatory. Similarly, the Jesus of the Arminians needs the aid and assistance of adding their acquiescence as the work that makes the work of the atonement work. Similarly, the Jesus of the Baptists demonstrates that he is a different Jesus than the Jesus of the paedo-Reformed when the Baptist turns Baptism into being about the work of our promises to God as opposed to being about God’s work in making promises to us.

The same could be said of any Christianity that posits that Jesus provided a hypothetical universal atonement for all. In such an atonement the people who hold to that are seeking their salvation in themselves as the HC warns against since they must add something of their own to make the atonement effective.

The HC provides their answer;

Answer: They do not; for though they boast of Him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Savior;3 for one of these two things must be true, that either Jesus is not a complete Savior or that they, who by a true faith receive this Savior, must find all things in Him necessary to their salvation.4

In the answer we see the warfare of the HC against contradiction. On one hand the catechizers understand that there are those who boast of Jesus being the alone Savior but who on the other hand contradict that boast by acting in such a way, via their deeds, to deny what they say with their lips. This reminds us of the old maxim regarding politicians; “Never listen to what they say, only watch what they do.”

Here the HC follows the clear teaching of Scripture;

31 Cor. 1:13, 31, Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Gal. 5:4, Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

The centrality of Christ in doing all the saving without any contribution on fallen man’s part is the central plank of the Christian faith. Take that plank away and all that is left, though going by the name of Christianity, is just another form of auto-soterism (self-salvation) — another form of cheap and unseemly humanism. This was and is the danger of Federal Vision (the denial of HC q. 30 in Reformed quarters) when it was closely examined.

In the tail end of the answer to HC 30 we find a restatement of all that has been said as tracing out the logical consequence in what has already been stated.

for one of these two things must be true, that either Jesus is not a complete Savior or that they, who by a true faith receive this Savior, must find all things in Him necessary to their salvation.4

Because Jesus the Christ is the alone savior the Biblical Christian is set free from all mechanisms and habits that might be thought to be aids in achieving an otherwise uncertain salvation that could not be gained apart from said mechanisms and habits.

4Col. 2:20, Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?

This idea of Jesus alone as our Savior reminds us once again of the reality that God is satisfied with Christ alone as a payment for sin. It is folly for us to try and pacify God in any way except by appealing to the name of Christ. This is what makes Christianity … Christianity – this simple fact that the just anger of God against us has been forever quenched in the propitiatory death of Jesus the Christ. This is why Jesus is the alone Savior of God’s people.

Col. 1:19–20, For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

HC #29 … Jesus the Christ As The Alone Savior

The Heidelberg catechism having explained the work of God the Father in creation as confessed by the Apostle’s creed now turns to look at the work of God the Son in Redemption. This idea of looking at God the Father in His work of creation, God the Son in His work of Redemption, and God the Spirit in His work of Sanctification is not uncommon in theology. However, we should not absolutize this remembering that the doctrine of perichoresis (also sometimes called circumincession) teaches the “interpenetration” of the three persons of the Trinity, so that the work of any one person of the Trinity is not absolutely isolated to that one person of the Trinity that it is normatively ascribed. There is a relational co-inherence between the members of the Trinity.

For example, when considering the work of the Father in Creation we have Scripture that teaches not only of the Father’s work in Creation but also of the Son’s work in Creation

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;”  Hebrews 1:2

“Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.”  John 1:3

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.”   John 1:10

And the Scripture attests to the Spirit’s work in Creation;

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

Gen. 1:2

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And by the breath of His mouth all their host. — Psalm 33:6

So, with that brief rabbit trail we turn to the HC and question 29 which begins to speak of the work of the Son in redemption. The HC will spend quite a few questions and answers fleshing out all that the Apostle’s Creed means when it considers the work of the Son in Redemption.

The HC, following the Apostle’s creed starts with the basics;

Question 29: Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, a Savior?

Answer: Because He saveth us, and delivereth us from our sins;1 and likewise, because we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.2

The name Jesus is a name we have met before in Scripture as seen in its  Hebrew form, Joshua. Like the Joshua in the OT Jesus leads and delivers His people into the promised land and for that reason, as well as the literal meaning of the name Jesus (Jehovah is Salvation) Jesus is our Savior.

 Matt. 1:21, And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.

The HC answers that Jesus saves us and delivers us from our sins. This is so simple and yet so profound at the same time. Simple because the only way that fallen man can be relieved from his sin and guilt is by the salvation that is found alone in Jesus the Christ. Profound because in Jesus being our Savior He alone does all the saving. Should we try to assist in the procuring of this salvation we will only damn ourselves.

Of course, this salvation is man’s chief need. Man has many felt needs that he thinks will satisfy his sin and guilt but man’s real need is Jesus as our alone Savior.

Needless to say, this is all premised on the first section of the HC (Man’s Sin & Misery). If man is not existentially aware of his sin and misery he will never search out a Savior as the answer to a sin and misery he does not recognize. However, countless are the numbers of people through the centuries who have come face to face with their sin and misery and have discovered the glad tidings of the Gospel that Jesus is the one who saves and delivers us from our sins, as well as saving and delivering us from the just wrath of God for those sins.

Our sins scream at us for our falling short of God’s required behavior and constantly accuse us of what we know is true about ourselves and that is that we are at war with God and so with every one else. The HC teaches that Jesus alone is our savior from sin, Satan, self, and God’s wrath to come. This is good news for those conversant with their sin and misery.

Rounding off question 29, the HC makes a pointed comment;

Jesus is called Savior, because we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.

This pointed comment was necessary to make repeatedly when the catechism was written because the Reformation had moved the needle back to Scripture on this question. Prior to the Reformation, the medieval church had been guilty of introducing all kinds of additional saviors between God and man besides Jesus the Christ as aids to salvation. The HC following Scripture and the Reformation here subtly points to the reality that neither priests, prescribed penance, purgatory, studied attendance to requisite reliquaries, or prayer to Saints, could aid in this matter of salvation. There is no salvation found in any other except Jesus the Christ.

2Acts 4:12, Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

This truth that Jesus the Christ is the alone savior of God’s elect is a truth that is found without doctrinal contradiction only in Reformed churches and not even there in far to many cases. It is not found among the Reformed Baptists with their doctrine of adult Baptism that contravenes this truth. It is not found among the Lutherans with their doctrine that Jesus died for everybody. It is not found among the Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, and the assorted Arminians. If one desires this teaching from the Heidelberg catechism one must attend a paedo-Reformed Church and then earnestly pray that one finds it there.

Salvation can not be found in any other except Jesus the Christ.

HC Q. 28 — The Personal Advantage Of Embracing God’s Exhaustive Providence

As we take up the Heidelberg Catechism again we bump into this delightful habit that the catechism has throughout of pausing to make sure that the catechumen understands the impact of the doctrine they are being taught. The catechizers want the catechumens to know the application of the doctrines that they are being taught in terms of the impact of the doctrine upon the lives of those being taught.

Too often, systematic theology can be taught as an abstraction. However, the HC desires that our systematic theology, which includes, of course, the truth that God as Creator, in His providence, is the sustainer (preserver/upholder) and governor of all things. This is also a truth that provides advantage/comfort to God’s people.

Question 28: What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence doth still uphold all things?

Clearly, the implication here is that those who do not believe in God’s providence, do not have the advantage of all that is involved in the answer. People who do not embrace God’s providence are bereft of the comfort we find in the answer.

Answer: That we may be patient in adversity;8 thankful in prosperity;9 and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father,10 that nothing shall separate us from His love;11 since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.12

If we break this down in the form of an outline we get;

I.) The Advantages from affirming God’s Providence

A.) Patience in Adversity
B.) Thankfulness in prosperity
C.) Firm Trust in the character of God our Father that He loves us whatever befalls us

That adversity comes from God is a point that the HC labors to demonstrate again as it already has established from the previous question and answer of HC 27. The Psalmists ask,

Ps. 39:10, Remove Thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of Thine hand.

The HC teaches that because of the reality of God’s providence that when adversity (persecutions, hardship, trials, sorrows) does come upon us we can learn to be patient. Of course, patience is a virtue that characterizes Christians (Galatians 5:22) and as such we should rejoice when God’s providence works to the end of folding this attribute into the Christian’s life. As such, God’s providence is a means by which God works this particular fruit of the Spirit into our lives.

Secondly, on this score, we that adversity in our lives is an opportunity to thank God that He continues to sanctify us as His children. The deepest desire of every Christian is to be conformed to Christ and adversity is one means by which God conforms us to His Son. The joy in being conformed to Christ in adversity is one reason we can be “thankful in adversity.”

Samuel Rutherford understood somewhat of this point. A point that is made in Roman 5:3

 Rom. 5:3, And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.

“O what I owe to the file, hammer, and furnace! Why should I be surprised at the plow that makes such deep furrows in my soul? Whatever direction the wind blows, it will blow us to the Lord….Whether God comes with a rod or a crown, He comes with Himself. “Have courage, I am your salvation!” Welcome, welcome Jesus!”

Oh, what owe I to the file, to the hammer, to the furnace of my Lord Jesus! who has now let me see how good the wheat of Christ is, that goes through His mill, and His oven, to be made bread for His own table. Grace tried is better than grace, and it is more than grace; it is glory in its infancy.


Samuel Rutherford

Maybe someday yet, I will have Father Rutherford’s maturity on this score.The second advantage in believing God’s Providence is that we can be thankful in prosperity. Oddly enough, it can be as difficult at times to be thankful in prosperity as it is to be patient in adversity. When things are good there is the temptation to forget that it is God’s providence that is the reason for whatever prosperity we are knowing and experiencing. Instead the HC teaches us that we are to be thankful to God who is the ground of our prosperity,

9Deut. 8:10, When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.

1 Thes. 5:18, In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

There is nothing as unbecoming and inconsistent as a non-thankful Christian. Indeed, any Christian who is characterized by a niggardly, unthankful spirit is in danger of coming under God’s fatherly discipline.

God grant us grace to be genuinely thankful.

By learning God’s providence God’s people also have the decided advantage of knowing that the sovereign God of the universe loves them for the sake of Jesus Christ and that no matter what befalls us (comes into our lives).

Rom. 5:3–6, And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

The intent of this teaching of the HC I think is to anchor us in the reality that God is never absent from His people come what may and that because God is never absent from them, and because God loves them for the sake of Christ, they can be confident that even in the hottest fire God’s love remains steady and fixed upon them.

11Rom. 8:38–39, For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is more easy to affirm these truths when not in the cannibals pot of persecution but will we be able to be steadfast in affirming God’s love for us even when circumstances, read apart from God’s revelation, scream to the contrary? Are we ready to affirm God’s love when cancer strikes? When loved ones die?  When civilization begins to dissipate while we are watching? When the New World Order looks like it is going to run the table? In times of adversity will we be able to continue to affirm both God’s providence and God’s deep and abiding love for us because of the finished work of Jesus Christ for God’s elect. Let us pray even now for the grace to stand if and when those days of travail visit us. Let us pray that we might remember our catechism as it faithfully exegetes Scripture if and when Job like days of trouble arrive.

12Job 1:12, And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

Job 2:6, And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.

(Note in the two Job passage’s above that Satan is merely God’s attack dog on a long chain.)

Matt. 8:31, So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.

Isa. 10:15, Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

In the end, this affirmation of God’s providence is naught but the old stout Reformed doctrine of God’s exhaustive and totalistic sovereignty.  This sovereignty taught in the Bible is not embraced by Rome, it is not embraced by the Arminians, it is not embraced by the Lutherans and alas, it is not embraced by many Reformed people today who, when this doctrine is taught, start screaming things like “hyper-Calvinism.”

However, this Heidelberg Calvinism, which exalted God’s sovereignty at every turn is what is taught everywhere in the pages of Holy Writ and people eschew God’s Providence at their soul’s own peril.