Radical Two-Kingdom Theology that insists that God’s law applies to individuals but not to the public square shall henceforth be referred to here as … “Public square a-nomianism.”
11. But that no man, is justified by the law. He again argues from a comparison of contradictory schemes. “If we are justified by faith, it is not by the law: but we are justified by faith therefore it is not by the law.” The minor is proved by a passage from Habakkuk, which is also quoted in the Epistle to the Romans. (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17.) The major is proved by the difference in the methods of justification. The law justifies him who fulfills all its precepts, while faith justifies those who are destitute of the merit of works, and who rely on Christ alone. To be justified by our own merit, and to be justified by the grace of another, are two schemes which cannot be reconciled: one of them must be overturned by the other. Such is the amount of the argument: let us now attend to the separate clauses….
12. And the law is not of faith. The law evidently is not contrary to faith; otherwise God would be unlike himself; but we must return to a principle already noticed, that Paul’s language is modified by the present aspect of the case. The contradiction between the law and faith lies in the matter of justification. You will more easily unite fire and water, than reconcile these two statements, that men are justified by faith, and that they are justified by the law. “The law is not of faith;” that is, it has a method of justifying a man which is wholly at variance with faith.
But the man who shall do these things. The difference lies in this, that man, when he fulfills the law, is reckoned righteous by a legal righteousness, which he proves by a quotation from Moses. (Leviticus 18:5.) Now, what is the righteousness of faith? He defines it in the Epistle to the Romans,
“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9.)
And yet it does not follow from this, that faith is inactive, or that it sets believers free from good works. For the present question is not, whether believers ought to keep the law as far as they can, (which is beyond all doubt,) but whether they can obtain righteousness by works, which is impossible. But since God promises life to the doers of the law, why does Paul affirm that they are not righteous? The reply to this objection is easy. There are none righteous by the works of the law, because there are none who do those works. We admit that the doers of the law, if there were any such, are righteous; but since that is a conditional agreement, all are excluded from life, because no man performs that righteousness which he ought. We must bear in memory what I have already stated, that to do the law is not to obey it in part, but to fulfill everything which belongs to righteousness; and all are at the greatest distance from such perfection.
In an attempt to find a third way in order to bridge Roman Catholicism with Protestantism and so reunite Christendom a ‘theological movement’ called Federal Vision has creeped upon the Reformed scene. One of the main thrusts of Federal Vision advocates is to equate faith with faithfulness so that being justified by faith alone is equated with being justified by faithfulness alone. Anybody who has been around Reformed Theology will realize that when we make faith in justification mean our faithfulness in sanctification the gospel chicken has been set loose in the legalistic fox coup with the consequent life expectancy being what one might expect of a chicken in a fox coup. Among many of the Federal Visionists there is an inability to realize that in justification Faith does its proper work and shows itself faithful by resting in Christ alone.
Another thrust of many of the Federal Vision ‘theologians’ is to deny the concept of Merit in theology thus reducing or perhaps even eliminating the Biblical legal, forensic and juridical categories that are so front and center when discussing the Theological doctrine of justification. Naturally with the reduction of ‘Merit’ categories (an unfortunate introduction according to many of them brought in by Anselm) there follows a reduction of forensic categories and the emphasis shift naturally from the court-room to the family-room and justification begins to be interpreted far more relationally then it does legally. Among many of the Federal Visionists there is an inability to realize a couple things on this score;
First, in Theologies (such as found in Holiness Churches as one example) where justification is emphasized in relational terms that use the family room as metaphor the legal and forensic dynamics of justification are seldom given their full force. The relational seldom makes room for the judicial because God’s love smothers and suffocates His justice.
Second, Judicial categories can include the relational categories as long as we realize that our High Priest Advocate that speaks before the Father for us is also our Elder Brother. If we keep that in mind then we can continue to properly emphasize both the Judicial and the Relational aspects of Justification with the caveat that the only way to get to the living room is through the court room. We don’t need to soft pedal the forensic aspects of justification such as the Federal Visionists do in order to emphasize the relational aspects.
Another tactic of many Federal Visionists is to deny double imputation. Following in the tradition of John Wesley here, many FV types freely admit that our sin is imputed to Christ but refuse to entertain the notion that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. The consequence of single imputation is that while forgiveness eliminates the debt of sin that we owed our creator, what is now required is for the believer to begin to live in such a way where personal righteousness can be accrued that will be acceptable before the Father. Now FV types insist that this lived out righteousness is Holy Spirit wrought and is the consequence of being in Union w/ Christ. The problem with this arrangement though is that the spotlight is taken off of Christ’s Righteousness for us and is placed upon our righteousness for Christ. The doctrine of single imputation granted by our subjective Union w/ Christ subtly shifts the Theological emphasis away from God’s judicial declaration of innocence for the sake of Christ Righteousness and moves the emphasis to how we co-operate with Christ as He works His righteousness us. Whereas in traditional Reformed doctrine what happens subjectively within us (Union w/ Christ) is based upon the Objective work of Christ for us, outside of us, with the Federal Vision movement what happens is that the Objective (The legal declaration of Righteousness in Heaven’s court) is made to be dependent upon what happens within us (our Union w/ Christ). (For those in the know in some respects it really is akin to Osiander’s view of Justification that Calvin combats in his Institutes.)
Another tendency of many Federal Visionists is to toy with the idea of the perseverance of the Saints. Here a real confusion reveals itself by not being able to distinguish between those who fall away who only had the accidents of the covenant and those who have the essence of the covenant. Some have even spoke of temporary justification, which belongs to those who have ‘temporary faith,’ and who were temporarily elect. This then is combined with lectures about initial justification that does not always end up in eschatological justification. (I still haven’t received an answer from any of them if all those who are initially justified are the same set as those who are eschatologically justified.)
The Federal Visionists create all these new categories in order, in their understanding, to take seriously the passages that deal with apostasy and falling away.
Now, having made this mini-critique of Federal Vision we will end by observing that though they royally mess up justification there is much else in this movement that is beneficial (covenantal thinking, theonomy, presuppositionalism, post-millennialism, ecclesiology, sacramentology, etc.) and thought provoking. Further, we will add that many of the enemies of the Federal Vision (The Klineans) have a disease that is every bit as life threatening as what we find in the worst Federal Visionists.
The Reformed Church is being put in a position of having to make a Hobson’s choice where either option yields the equivalent result. Would you like the Arsenic of the Federal Visionists or the Strychnine of the Klinean Radical Two Kingdomists?
What a mess.
“(Man) is a ‘belief-ful’ creature; he does not and cannot live in a faith vacuum. The decisive question is not whether faith is a necessary condition of human life but rather in whom or in what that faith reposes. If he does not trust the living God, false gods and fake divinities preempt Yahweh’s place. It is the same with society, the human collectivity. The cultural enterprise rests invariably on a secret or explicit faith. Behind every socially entrenched morality some underlying life-and-world view presumes to identify what reality is, and what aspects of reality are considered sacred. Such collectively held beliefs and values establish the coherency of any culture. Shared convictions are what give a cultural enterprise its stability. Widespread loss of confidence in its integrating frame of commitment and action is a signal that a given society is culturally ailing, perhaps even terminally ill. Any generation lacking convictional assurance about the nature of reality is not only snared in its doubts but drifting towards nihilism and despair. The times of social breakdown are those in which the populace defects from what it has long thought to be ultimately real and sacred, and is unsure what if anything to put in its place….When society as a whole lacks consensus on what is true and sacred, then that culture is surely staggering toward intellectual chaos, spiritual deterioration and moral ruin.”
Carl F. H. Henry
God, Revelation and Authority — Vol 1 pg. 156
1.) God and Faith are inescapable categories. Every individual you meet and every culture you could probe has some kind of faith in some kind of God or god concept at the center of their understanding of reality and the nature of things. Debate with pagans, sophisticated or otherwise, must endeavor to locate their god and their faith. Every Evangelical and apologetic encounter is thus not only a call to the God of the Bible but at the same time is a demand to flee from the god who holds are conversation partner(s) captive.
2.) All cultures are inherently religious. Cultures are produced by some cultus replete with all the kinds of categories one expects to find in standard religions. Somewhere in all cultures resides the faith practitioner (whether he is called the Priest, Shaman, Medicine Man, Psychologist, or Guru). Somewhere in all cultures you will find the Church where the initiates are indoctrinated (whether they’re called the government schools, the re-education camps, the Temple, or the local lodge). Somewhere in all cultures there will exist the taboo and the sacred as informed by the cult that drives the culture. Somewhere in all cultures you will find sacraments, Holy Days, Holy writings, and means of atonement.
All of this is evidence that man can’t get away from God. The counterfeit exists as a means in order to distort the real and so avoid man’s accountability to God. The counterfeits owe their origin to the real and are the consequence of man’s rebellion against God. In point of fact their existence which mocks God’s reality is a tribute to the reality they can’t escape.
3.)All cultures are coherent or else they couldn’t exist as viable cultures. Incoherent cultures only exist where one finds civil unrest as varying coherent cultures all vie for preeminence. Not to beat a dead horse but this is why multi-culturalism is really a plan for a mono-culture. True multi-culturalism would result in the war of all against all until one culture put all other cultures down. Since in order for cultures to survive their must be unanimity individuals that don’t subscribe to the cultural collectively held beliefs and shared values will be ostracized. This may mean closed doors for professional advance. In some cultures it means bearing a heavier tax burden (think jizya tax). In some cultures it may even mean incarceration (think of the gulags).
4.)In our culture the dangers of cultural Marxism brought in by the Frankfurt school continue to work to undermine confidence in the historic roots of Western Culture. This program has been aided and abetted by existentialism and its steroid offspring called post-modernism. All of these continue to cause a widespread loss of confidence in the integrating frame of commitment of Western Culture.
5.)A close look at American Universities will reveal that we currently are in a state of intellectual chaos. A close look at our churches and seminaries will reveal that we currently are in a state of spiritual deterioration. A close look at much of our high profile leadership will reveal that we are in a state of moral ruin. All of this is evidence, as Henry notes, of a society that lacks consensus on what is true and sacred.
6.)People don’t like to talk about Metaphysics, ontology, or epistemology but there is nothing more important in any culture then the way a people answer questions about the nature of reality and the source of authority.
7.)Because all these things are true, if God doesn’t send Reformation the West is toast.
We continue to consider this well intended but aberrant notion of intrusion ethics that has been advocated by some in the Reformed Church. We must hastily note that those who would advocate that God’s law for the community in the Old Covenant was an intrusion ethic that was an incarnation of the ethic of the eschatological Kingdom that was withdrawn back into the future eschatological Kingdom with the coming of the New Covenant still contend that God’s law in the Old Covenant is applicable in a personal and individual fashion. The discontinuities that are advocated by ‘intrusionists’ in the differing expressions of the one covenant of grace are not discontinuities that apply on a personal individual level but rather they apply only as it pertains to corporate living. In short, ‘intrusionists’ believe that Christians are still held accountable to God’s moral law on an individual and personal basis but they believe that the case law, which answered how the Moral law should be applied in concrete situations in the life of the covenant community, is no longer something to which the present Christian community should be concerned with except as those now defunct case laws foreshadowed Christ. This teaching that voids the Old Covenant case law thus supports a complimentary conviction of the ‘intrusionists.’ This complementary conviction teaches that civil law that is eventually developed for communities in today’s world is to be legislated by a process that must be arrived at by way of believer and unbelievers working together under the superintendence of ‘Natural Law theory’ in a ‘common realm’ where Christ’s Lordship is exercised in kind of indirect and absent fashion. One ‘intrusionists’ has even said that ‘Christ is Lord in a different way’ in these common realms (non-Church realms).
Those who embrace ‘intrusion ethics’ in the Reformed Church today thus believe that the Church as the Church has virtually no business speaking in the public square today concerning social issues. Theoretically, a Reformed Pastor might go so far as to say that it is not in the Church’s portfolio to speak to issues like Homosexual marriage or polygamy since those things pertain to public policy and not to public proclamation of Christ and individual salvation. Now, certainly ‘intrusionists’ believe that some individual Christians might be called to speak out on these issues but if they appeal to Old covenant case law which was a proto-expression of the ethic of eschatological Kingdom removed in the New Covenant they would be speaking without Divine Fiat.
Further ‘intrustionists’ because of this hermeneutic and the implications thereof also believe that in the New Testament age the Christian Church must take a place of only common privilege along with other religious institutions. This seemingly puts ‘intrustionists’ in the position of holding (and teaching?) that cultural pluralism is the Biblical model for the New Testament age. Depending upon how far an ‘intrusionist’ Pastor pushes this it seems that contrary to their mantra that the Scripture isn’t about non Church realms they really do believe that Scripture teaches something about non Church realms. This expresses itself when high profile ‘intrustionists’ will say things like “Christendom was a mistake. We should apologize for it and get over it.” This penchant of cultural pluralism is also seen when ‘intrustionists’ insist that the civil magistrate has no responsibility to enforce the first table of God’s law, and this in spite of literally reams and reams of quotes from Reformed Theologians throughout History who have taught explicitly to the contrary. (See a separate post for a sampling of these quotes.)
Now, if we tease this out just a moment we must realize what the ‘intrustionist’ is advocating. If we believe that culture is naught but the outward manifestation of a people’s inward belief (theology incarnated) and if intrusionists believe, confess and teach that it is Biblical to desire cultural pluralism what they have in effect done is sanctioned competitive idolatry in our culture if only because cultural pluralism can not exist without theological pluralism. Intended or unintended what ‘intrusionists’ are doing by their theological misadventures is giving sanction to the thing that is currently the greatest mortal danger to Christianity and that is multi-culturalism.
Now we must take this one step further. Currently the ‘intrustionists’ are giving hell to a group of men called Federal Visionists (which is another series of articles for another time) and it is quite likely that at least some (ok… maybe many) of the Federal Visionists deserve it, but the irony of it all is that if the ‘intrusionists’ end up winning this battle royal’ that is currently taking place in Reformed denominations today what will result is a tragedy every bit as disastrous as could be cooked up by the wildest eyed Federal Visionist. Intrustionist victory will lead to ecclesiastical isolationism as the Church retreats further and further from larger cultural issues as it continues to disingenuously assert that the church has nothing to do with culture. (I say disingenuously because intrustionists, by their retreat, are teaching that the Church has something to do with culture and that is that it has nothing to do with culture, which of course creates a vacuum that will be filled with pagan gods and churches that are not as retiring as the God of the ‘intrustionists.’) The ‘intrustionist’ has forgotten that every cult creates its own culture. The Christian cult creates a Christian culture. The Muslim cult creates a Muslim culture. The humanist cult creates a Humanists culture. It is nothing less then irresponsible ignorance to suggest that the Church shouldn’t be concerned with cultural issues and it is blindness of an even more culpable nature to suggest that in the New covenant age we cannot, like our Old Covenant brethren, go to the law and the testimonies in order to determine right from wrong in every area of life with the guidance of the principle of general equity to inform us.
Pressing on we note that when the ‘intrusionist’ insists that the application or moral rule changes in accord with different conditions (different epoch, different people, different culture) it seems that this is just a ‘Christian’ way of reincarnating Joseph Fletcher’s situational ethics. Further when the ‘intrustionist’ pumps up Natural law theory as the structure that must be appealed to by both believers and unbelievers in the shared (neutral?) common realm he seems to be forgetting that while the general revelation that accounts for Natural law theory is indeed inescapable and unremitting what the ‘intrusionist’ is not taking into account is that the unbeliever, as he becomes more and more epistemologically self-conscious in defiance of God, is going to, because of the noetic effects of sin that causes him to increasingly suppress the truth in unrighteousness, discover a Natural Law that God fearing Christians won’t find either Natural or lawful. The ‘intrusionist’ forgets that while a Natural Law might indeed exist the unbeliever has an axe to grind that will lead him to invert all the information that Natural Law might indeed be sending him. A few examples will suffice. Every Communist worth his Marx will insist that Natural Law teaches a materialistic dialectic. Every Muslim worth the jizya tax will insist that Natural Law teaches the virtues of Jihad. Every Humanist worth his pitiful materialism will insist that Natural law teaches the brain secretes thought the way the liver secretes bile. It is incredible given the beating that Natural Law theory has taken in the 20th century that anybody, let alone a Reformed Christian, would want to try and resurrect it. I guess once the Biblical law is held to be void there is only so many places that a person can go.