Continuing To Dismantle Typhoid Bob

Dr. R. Scott Clark (Typhoid Bob) tried to suggest that Federal Vision and Theonomy were separated at birth Siamese twins born of the bitch mother legalism. My purpose is to continue to seek to erase that false and libelous characterization. Since I have no tuck with Federal Vision as it concerns their doctrine of justification I will let them defend their own house. However, when it comes to theonomy, I have a few sympathies. So, I offer the following quotes to continue to help reveal the silliness is Dr. R. Scott Clark’s presentation.

“The Protestant revolt was significant primarily…for its proclamation of the radical doctrine of justification by faith, which abolished…the whole social order which depended on the soteriology of mediating institutions.”

R. J. Rushdoony
Politics of Guilt and Pity, — p. 263

Does that sound like somebody who believed that justification was by sanctification? Does that sound like somebody who was anything but Reformed? Of course the problem with TB is that if one isn’t infected with the R2Kt virus then one can’t be Reformed.

“This legalistic principle,” says Rushdoony, “against which Romans, and all Scripture, is directed, is as invalid politically as religiously.” (Ibid., p. 294.) Moreover, “[M]en cannot seek justification socially by law and works of law, and long retain a concept of individual salvation through justification by faith….Men who have Christ as their all-sufficient priest cannot create or tolerate a priestly and soteriological state.” (Ibid., p. 299.)

Here is another quote that throws a ton of sand into Typhoid Bob’s theory of the close relation between Federal Vision and Theonomy.

“Scripture centers on the obedience of Christ — both active and passive — because it is the necessary requirement for the full justification of sinners.”

Dr. Greg Bahnsen
Theonomy in Christian Ethics, p. 152

So here is the grandfather and the father of modern day theonomy clearly articulating the standard Reformed doctrine of Justification. Obviously they are NOT Federal Visionists on the doctrine of justification.

A Naked Public Square?

“In more popular parlance, however, all three words, — ‘secular,’ ‘secularization,’ and ‘secularism,’ — have to do with the squeezing of the religious to the periphery of life. More precisely, secularization is the process that progressively removes religion from the public arena and reduces it to the private realm; secularism is the stance that endorses and promotes such a process. Religion may be ever so important to the individual, and, few secular persons will object. But if religion makes any claims regarding policy in the public arena, it is viewed as a threat, and intolerant as well.”

D. A. Carson
Christ And Culture Revisited — pg. 116

Before getting to this quote I want to make it clear that I always find reading and listening to Carson stimulating. My posts here continue to critique him but that shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning that I disagree with him at every point. I have read Carson over the years with great profit and I have to say that among all the big guns I’ve seen and heard preach his sermon on water and life is one of the best I’ve ever heard. In this book his section “One (Epistemological) Step Further” is worth the price of the book. In this section he quickly and efficiently undresses James K. Smith and his book, “Who’s Afraid Of Postmodernism.” In this section Carson offers a way to navigate between hard modernism and hard post-modernism, and I like it because he agrees with me.

Still, after saying all that I will continue to critique Carson. First, this quote above is pretty standard fare among the Reformed intelligentsia. I have read the same type of thing over the years from Os Guiness, George Marsden, and others. It is precisely because this type of thinking seems to own the academic and intellectual field that I continue to return to the problems contained therein. Those of you who have made a habit of reading my offerings are not going to surprised by what I say next.

The idea that ‘the religious’ can be squeezed to the periphery of life is just not true if only because the secular, secularism, and the secularization process stem from religions operating incognito. Those who are pushing the ‘secular agenda’ are pursuing it from a core of religious convictions. When ‘religion’ gets pushed to the periphery it is religion under the guise of secularism that is doing the pushing. The effectiveness of secularism is found in its ability to disguise its religious orientation.

There seems to be an inability to understand that God or a god concept is an inescapable category and as such it is not possible to have a realm where there is no god ruling. This continues to be important to re-articulate since those who want hold to the idea of the secular are insisting that the project of locking out religion (which always follows in the train of the presence of a god or god concept) from the public square is achievable. It is not.

Another way to argue this is by locating the god that is left in the public square once all other religions are removed. If, by way of legislation, god, and so religion, are removed from the public square, there must, by necessity, be a mechanism in place that monitors and governs the public square in order to make sure that it remains naked. This policing agency in our putative secularism has the responsibility to ensure that the various competing gods and their religions don’t encroach upon the public square. In a defacto sense this makes the policing agency the god of the gods. This policing agency is charged with governing the gods making sure they don’t show up in the public square. Everyone knows that the institution charged with policing the public square in order to make sure the competing gods know and keep their place is the State. The State, as God in the public square, continues to build around it a religion dedicated to the preeminence of the State as God. Hence, all of this contributes to the pursuit of a religion that dominates the public square that goes under the fatuous name of secularism. But make no mistake about it, this putative secularism is a religion, replete with all the defining characteristics of a religion. Its effectiveness as a religion is enhanced and advanced by cloaking itself as ‘secularism,’ and Christians contribute to the problem of revealing the charade when they continue to speak as if secularism is not religious complete with its own God (State), Church (Government Schools), Priests (Government School Teachers), along with every other traditional manifestation of religion. In secularism the religious is most certainly NOT at the periphery of life. Like all religions it informs everything and like all religions it is intolerant of any competitors.

It is absolutely essential that Christians begin seeing this for what it is because the failure to do so is keeping us from seeing that the option isn’t between some ascendant religion in the public square and no religion in the public square but rather the option is always between one religion or another dominating the public square.

Typhoid Bob Strikes Again — Defending Theonomy

The chief carrier of the R2Kt virus is Dr. R. Scott Clark. It is hard to guess how many other people (students) he has infected with this viral strain. Recently he re-published a hit piece on theonomy. Bob hates theonomy so much because it is the antidote curative to R2Kt virus.

A little running commentary with Bob’s recent libelous hit piece.

The question comes concerning the relations between Theonomy and the Federal Vision. There is reason to think that there is some connection between the two movements. Several well-known theonomists are also proponents of the FV. One of the FV leaders recently described the current FV controversy as a renewal of the theonomy argument. Interpreters on both sides have seen connection between the two controversies and movements.

Certainly there are those sympathetic to theonomy who are in the Federal Vision camp. The problem is that there are those who have sympathy to theonomy who have spoken out with clear antipathy toward the Federal Vision. Bob is trying to create guilt by association in this article. The fact of the matter is, is that the situation is far more complex then Typhoid Bob admits in this article.

There are good reasons for seeing connections between the two movements. Both movements date to the mid-1970s. In the early phase of the argument, Norman Shepherd found much support among theonomists and the FV movement today finds considerable support among theonomists. There are ambiguities, however. There is open debate among theonomists about WWBD? (What would Bahsen do?) Would he support the Federal Vision? Support for Norman Shepherd is a point of connection between the theonomists and the Federal Visionists. In turn Shepherd, though not overtly identified with theonomy, shares their their neo-postmillennial eschatology. Further, not all theonomists are Federal Visionists nor are all Federal Visionists are theonomists. At least one theonomic denomination (the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the US, not to be confused with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America) has been highly critical of the FV.

First, the drive to go to the moon and the hippie movement both date to the 60’s. That doesn’t mean they had anything to do with each other. Second, Typhoid Bob (hereinafter TB) makes all kinds of allegations until he finally, briefly admits, that in all of this there are ambiguities which effectively undercuts all the correlation TB tries to make. Does he mean the ambiguity that it was a theonomic denomination (RPCUS) that originally blew the disciplinary whistle on the Federal Vision? Does TB mean that kind of ever so slight ambiguity? Third, TB next tries to throw in post-millennialism into the mix thus trying to suggest that there is something inherently heterodox about post-millennialism. I’m sure B. B. Warfield would be glad to know that. TB completely voids the argument he has made thus far with the last two sentences in the blockquote immediately above.

Though not identical movements, Theonomy and the Federal Vision movements are analogues. Both movements reflect a similar pathology in the Reformed corpus. Both reflect what I call the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty (QIRC). The FV does it by making the doctrines of covenant, justification, and perseverance, a little more “reasonable,” by reducing the scandal of the cross and the offense of the gospel. As it turns out, according to the FV, it’s not really filthy sinners that Christ justifies, but those who are sanctifed, who cooperate with grace. As we’ve seen, in the FV, the sentence “A justified man is sanctified” becomes, “A man is justified because he is sanctified.” The elect, as it turns out, are those who have cooperated with grace. That’s just a little more “sweetly reasonable” than the confessional Protestant alternative.

I have no tuck with the Federal Vision doctrine of justification so I won’t bother to engage with any of this except to say that the Apostle Paul could speak of legitimate Religious Certainty when he said, “I know whom I have believed….” Notice, he didn’t say, “by way of induction I am 99.9% certain that I know whom I have believed.”

I can’t help but comment that I seriously doubt that any Federal Vision aficionado would say that “A man is justified because he is sanctified.” But, still, I am glad to agree with Typhoid Bob that FV doctrines of justification are seriously messed over.

Theonomy represents another side of the same quest. It offers a kind of ethical precision and a kind of ethical authority that reduces ambiguities to certainties and, on its premises, makes Christian ethics a little more “reasonable.” In contrast, non-theonomic ethics aren’t nearly as attractive. First, we non-theonomists don’t have any catchy slogans. Our ethic, like our eschatology, is paradoxical. Theonomy is attractive because it flattens out the tension between what is and what shall be. For theonomy there is a continuum between the now and the not yet. For non-theonomic amillennialism there is a sharp disjunction between “the now,” or “this age,” and the “not yet,” or “the age to come.” They are two different types of existence. The consummate state exists in heaven and is interjected into this life in small ways, but, for the most part none of us seems to have a plan to bring out the Kingdom of God on the earth. The theonomists definitely have a plan and Americans like a plan. Do most American Dispensationalists really understand the complicated eschatological charts? Probably not, but they do have implicit faith in their leaders that someone has figured out what the news means and what’s going to happen.

First off, I would say that the problem with TB’s form of ‘Christianity’ is that he desires to introduce ambiguities into what God has clearly spoken in regards to ethics. This serves to allow Bob to convert pagans without having to suggest that the Christian life actually has a profound ethical impact on their life.

Second if TB wants some catchy slogans for his belief system I can help.

“Embrace Our Jesus, He’s easy on the lifestyle.”

“Want To Keep Your Economic Marxism? — Our Jesus Is Your Man”

“Come To Jesus, He’s A God Who Minds His Own Business.”

“Christianity — A Religion Where Lordship Means What You Want It To Mean.”

Third, since Theonomy insists on self-denial, and cross-bearing I don’t know how Typhoid Bob can suggest that theonomy makes ethics more reasonable. Of course TB might mean that theonomic ethics are more reasonable when compared to his ethics which are irrational.

Fourth someone needs to tell Typhoid Bob that a paradox is defined as a cramp between the ears. If his ethics are paradoxical does that mean that it is ok both to commit adultery and not to commit adultery? Is it ok to both support the Messianic state in violation of the 1st commandment and not support the Messianic state in keeping with the 1st commandment? Hey, baby, its all paradox, you know.

Fifth, Typhoid Bob’s eschatology is grossly under-realized which forces him to say that theonomy flattens out the tension between what is and what shall be. The rest of his kvetching in the blockquote above all stems from his a-millennialism which builds a impenetrable barrier between the age to come and this age so that increased righteousness among any people in any culture is impossible since righteousness has to wait from the abrupt in breaking that will come on the final day when the Gospel has been defeated in this age.

In contrast, Non-theonomic, Amillennial, types confess that all 613 Mosaic laws were civil, ceremonial, and moral and at the same time, that the moral law, grounded in creation, continues to obligate all creatures before, during, and after Moses. That creational law is a set of general principles (embodied in the Decalogue and in the golden rule and taught throughout Scripture and revealed in nature [Rom 1-2]) not an extensive civil code. Thus, confessional Reformed folk must seek wisdom as they attempt to apply the moral/creational law to difficult civil problems, but without the certainty that any particular application is necessarily is the correct “Christian” application.

Listen to what Typhoid Bob has said here. There is no certainty that the way the Christian family has been organized in Christendom is the correct “Christian” application. Family organization is all a crap shoot. There is no certainty that two thousand years of Christian just war theory is the correct application. Doctrines of just war are just as likely to come from Hindus as they are from Christians. There is no certainty that education can be done in a distinctly Christian fashion. It is all a crap shoot.

Second, Theonomists insist that the moral law, grounded in creation, includes what Typhoid Bob is calling the Civil law. That is to say that what is known as the civil law is only the practical application of the Moral law. The civil law is to the Moral law what case law is to Constitutional Law. Typhoid Bob is assuming an intrusion ethic that he has not, nor can not prove. TB wants to embrace the moral code in the abstract so he can ignore it in the concrete.

Thirdly, Theonomists completely agree that Confessional folk (which they are part of) must seek wisdom as they apply God’s Law Word to today’s world. TB keeps suggesting that theonomy makes all of this simple but any theonomist worth his salt will tell you that application takes great wisdom.

Theonomy, however, under the slogan, “abiding validity of the law of God in exhaustive detail,” seems to offer “the” Christian answer to difficult problems. Unsure about “the general equity thereof” in a given case? Put the quarter in the slot, pull the handle and out comes the correct ethical and civil answer to one’s particular question. They even have ready-made civil code in Theonomy in Christian Ethics and in the Institutes of Biblical Law.

Yeah, everybody knows that God can’t make His mind known on difficult problems. What are people thinking that God’s word would apply to all of life, including our ethical conundrums?

That both movements came to prominence in conservative Reformed circles at the same time, during the years of post-Nixon, post-Haight-Ashbury period, the time of disco and cocaine propelled self-indulgence, during the moral “malaise” of the Carter administration, suggests that they may both reactions to the same stimuli. Neither movement was driven by the Reformed confession. Rather, when these movements were born attention to the Reformed confessions was at a nadir. In an autobiographical passage in his essay, “In Defense of Something Close to Biblicism,” John Frame comments that his seminary education wasn’t marked by sustained, focused attention to the Reformed confessions. The attitude of the period seemed to be that as long as one had a high view of Scripture and divine sovereignty, everything else was negotiable. I remember reading things from the period that said, in effect, “we all know what we believe about justification,” let’s get on with applying the Scriptures to every area of life.

This is just stupid. I have a post on this blog that cites extensively theonomic literature throughout the history of Reformed thought. If one in interested to see that one need only google ‘The Magistrate and The First Table — Contra Intrusionists.’ The advent of Theonomic thought may indeed have made a comeback during a time of moral laxity but if it did it did so with a long Reformed pedigree which started with the advent of Reformed Confessions and historic Reformational thought.

Both Theonomy and the Federal Vision are theologically and socially conservative. Both movements have in common a deep concern for the collapse of the culture and our place in it. Some versions of theonomy/reconstructionism envision the culture being gradually regenerated through Christian influence and some expect a cataclysm out of which arises a Reconstructionist phoenix. The FV wants to regenerate the culture through sacerdotalism (baptismal union with Christ whereby all baptized persons are, ex opere operato (Rich Lusk has spoken this way), temporarily, historically, conditionally united to Christ). Both are visions aimed at the restoration of Christendom. One is primarily ecclesiastical and the other primarily civil. These common attitudes, interests, and approaches, however, help explain why so many theonomists have been attracted to the FV and vice-versa.

Both Westminster West and Cultural Marxism have no use for Christendom. Both movements have in common a deep concern that Christianity is wrongly embedded in our culture. Some versions of Westminster West Theology teach that the Church should have nothing to say regarding homosexuality in our culture and so Westminster West wants Christianity to ignore the culture choosing instead to get souls saved. Cultural Marxism likewise wants Christianity to ignore the culture desiring a Christianity that won’t get in the way of their agenda to de-Christianize the West. Both are visions aimed at destroying Christendom. One is primarily ecclesiastical and the other primarily civil. These common attitudes, interests and approaches, however, help explain why so many Cultural Marxists have been attracted to Westminster West Theology and vice-versa.

See, two can play that game.

Homeschoolers Only Good For Toilet Cleaning

Gary DeMar at the following web site is asking that home schoolers leave stories about their successful adventure in homeschooling. It seems Gary has an antagonist who hates God and His Christ who has written to Gary suggesting that Christian homeschooling is only good for providing hewers of wood and drawers of water (toilet cleaners) for our culture.

Note here that the anti-thesis is becoming increasingly clear. Those who educate their children in a decidedly Christian fashion are hated by those who are epistemologically self-conscious in their support godless government education.

In our situation of homeschooling we have graduated all three of our children with GPA’s between 3.8 and 4.0. My eldest daughter did her first two college years at the local community college and received her Associate degree with a GPA of 3.95. She now works as a private tutor for an area family who is homeschooling their children. She has traveled all over the country in this capacity. She is now making plans to finish her last two years of college.

My second daughter worked last year with developmentally disabled children. Currently she is overseas doing missions in Romania and Ukraine. She has excelled in music and when she returns from his missionary work she will start her college through online accreditation

My youngest son just graduated high school. He has been hired by NASA in order to find mistakes in the engineering trajectory formulas for lift off fuel implosion. He will be splitting his time between that and serving as a junior adviser on the McCain campaign for under twenty voter issues. OK… so Anthony isn’t working for NASA nor is he advising the McCain staff. He is however working diligently this summer to earn money for college.

The most important reality though about my home schooled children is that they don’t think like pagans. Whatever Christ calls them to they will be equipped to re-interpret their field Biblically. My children aren’t perfect. They remain sinners, but they are sinners trusting in Jesus who seek to think God’s thoughts after Him.

More Carson Weakness

“The first will be most clearly perceived when we recall that up to that point in history, religion, and state were everywhere intertwined. This was true, of course, of ancient Israel: at least in theory, Israel was… a theocracy. Similarly in the pagan world: most of the gods of the people were necessarily the gods of the state. When the Romans took over some new territory, they arranged a god-swap: they adopted some of the local gods into their own pantheon and insisted that the locals take on some of the Roman gods….But nowhere was there a state that was divorced from all the gods, what we would call a secular state, with the state and religion occupying distinct, even if overlapping, spheres. But on the face of it, this is what Jesus is advocating. At the very least, insofar as he envisages a transnational and transcultural community that is not identified with any one state, he anticipates the obligation to give to Caesar that is in power whatever is his due.”

D. A. Carson
Christ And Culture Revisited — pg. 56-57

1.) The idea that a state could be divorced from all the gods is a comparatively recent Baptistic notion and it shares in the nonsense that characterizes much of Baptist theology.

2.) This insistence that the scriptures teach that a non-theocratic state can exist is exactly that which has given us a state apparatus that believes itself to be god, which has in turn yielded a state a state dedicated to no gods will be allowed to challenge its primacy.

3.) State and religion can no more be separated then body and soul. Carson asserting that such a situation is a reality doesn’t prove that it is a reality.

4.) Carson’s interpretation of what Jesus says (“Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesars the things that are Gods unto God”) is not the same as what Jesus actually said. When Carson invokes the words of Jesus to support the idea that the New Testament model is one that supports a state that isn’t beholden to and reflective of some God or god concept is eisegesis of the worst sort.

5.) The reason that the ancients never had a state that was divorced from the gods is that the ancients were smarter then us, realizing that such an arrangement is literally impossible. Since God is an inescapable category, it is no more possible to posit a non theocratic state then it is to posit a person who can have no god.

6.) All of this in no way denies that the State and Religion occupy distinct spheres. Just as in Israel the King and the Priest fulfilled distinct offices though both were responsible to the God of the Bible so today the Magistrate and the minister have distinct offices though both remain responsible to God. Carson tries to say on one hand that State and Religion occupy distinct spheres while saying at the same time that while some God or god concept should rule the religious sphere no god of god concept need be present in the sphere of the state. Carson seems to think that it is acceptable — nay even Biblical — for the State to de-god God. This kind of theology is madness. Does he really believe that God wants the state to de-god God?

7.) Jesus may indeed envision a trans-national and trans-cultural community but that is not the same as envisioning a a-national and a-cultural community. Carson seems to be suggesting that in the Kingdom people lose their nationality and culture. But there is another understanding of the Kingdom that is more respectful of the diversity that reflects trinitarian thinking and that is to suggest that the community that Jesus envisions is a community that includes all nations and all cultures as their own nations and cultures. This would be a vision that is pan-cultural instead of trans-cultural.

8.) Carson’s view implicitly supports cultural pluralism. If there is no god over the state then there is no one god over the people. But if the State must rule the people then Carson’s state must be that which rules over the people’s varying gods thus making the state the god of the gods.

9.) Carson’s a-millennialism skews his interpretation about Christ and Culture as it pertains to the Christ transforming culture paradigm.