Picking the Low-hanging Cherries

Darryl Hart has posted an article (2K Cherries 2Hot 2Handle) responding to my friend Lane Keister’s decision to stop discussing two kingdoms theology on his blog.  Unfortunately, the article serves as an illustration of the problem that led my friend to stop discussing the topic.

Hart seems to have a fundamental problem distinguishing argument from personality.  Read his post.  You’ll find that after the first paragraph it’s all about attacking his critics – not for their views – but attacking their integrity.  Here are some examples:

  • “some who object to 2k have so made up their minds about the idea and its proponents that they will hear nothing in defense of the doctrine; they won’t even read the books written on 2k”
  • “two undeniable historical developments exist that 2k critics won’t accept”
  • “In which case, they have no more claim to Calvin as a standard for religion and politics than 2kers do. Yet, here’s the key. 2kers are honest. They actually admit that they disagree with Calvin.”
  • “And this means that the critics of 2k are either unaware of how little standing the original WCF chapter 23 or Belgic Art. 36 has in conservative Reformed churches. Or if they know of confessional revision and use the original documents to denounce 2kers, they are dishonest.”
  • “Or perhaps they are simply foolish (and impolitely so).”

(and that’s not to mention the comment box, where one finds jewels of charity such as “You philosophers sure are clever (but undermedicated).”)

I’m sure this post will sail over Hart’s head.  In the post itself, he calls attention to the fact that I have previously pointed out to him that his approach of attacking the person of the critics (for example, accusing them of not being gracious) is ad hominem.  His response is that “I do not see how this point is beside the point.”

But what about those two “undeniable historical developments” that form the only substance to his post?

The first of the alleged “undeniable historical developments” is “that the critics of 2k do not advocate the execution of adulterers or heretics.”  There are three layers of rebuttal to this point.  First, not all critics of E2k refuse to advocate the execution of adulterers and blasphemers (one assumes that’s what Hart means, since that’s what Calvin advocated).  Second, Calvin himself seems to have thought that in some cases the penalties should be dependent on the circumstances, including the penalty for adultery (See ICR IV:20:16). Third, whether or not critics of E2k are themselves little clones of Calvin is quite the beside the point.   No critics of E2k claim to be clones of Calvin, and yet whether or not they are clones of Calvin they can still observe that E2k advocates have so radically departed from Calvin that Calvin’s views are treated as intolerable and absurd.  There’s a difference between the sons of Calvin and the sons of the Quakers, even if neither is identical to Calvin.

The second of the alleged “undeniable historical developments” is “that all of the Reformed churches that belong to the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council have rejected the teaching of both the Westminster Confession and the Belgic Confession on the civil magistrate.”  In order to check this claim, I carefully studied the standards of the hundreds, dozens, twelve denominations in NAPARC.  Hart’s assessment is wrong.  The OPC and PCA both have not rejected the teachings of the WCF on the civil magistrate, they have broader standards, so that one is not required to hold those views (as already demonstrated here), although their standards do rule out E2k (as explained here).  The ERQ subscribes to the original WCF, but permits liberty of conscience on several sections, including the sections that E2k finds most objectionable.  The FRCNA states that they fully subscribe to the original three forms of unity (including the Belgic Confession).  Should I go on?  At best, the RPCNA could be said to have “rejected” them, based on the ambiguous wording of their “testimony” that serves as an interpretive guide to the standards.  (Of course, not all conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches in North America are in NAPARC, but even with Hart’s cherry-picking …).

Now, Hart makes a fuss about the fact that he’s an historian (“From the perspective of this 2k advocate who also doubles as a historian, two undeniable historical developments exist that 2k critics won’t accept — sort of like denying that the North defeated the South in 1865; you may not like it, but how do you deny what happened at Appomattox?”).  But what’s wrong?  Is Hart just too lazy to research things?  Surely he’s not intentionally lying to people while bolstering his claims with his reputation as an historian (some of his historical work is, in fact, well respected).  So, what then?

One answer is that Hart is simply avoiding addressing the actual knotty issues of E2k as compared both with Scripture and with the Reformed tradition with respect to which E2k represents a significant departure.  Until he gets his head straight, his comments and reviews will continue to be the low-hanging fruit in the discussion, but since he’s one of the most vocal advocates, they will need to be picked.

-TurretinFan

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39 Responses to “Picking the Low-hanging Cherries”

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