Archive for the ‘Escondido Theology’ Category

Unbalanced "Two Kingdoms" and Political Campaigns

January 17, 2014

Prof. Clark has a couple of posts up praising Ben Sasse and even including one of his political campaign advertisements (“Ben is a Straight Shooter” | “Ben is Speaking Up About Religious Liberty“). Personally, I can’t vouch for Mr. Sasse (nor do I have any particular criticisms), and that’s not the point of this post.

Among other things, Clark writes:

So, in light of the drift of the culture and the Christian accommodation to that drift, it has been interesting to watch Ben Sasse’s campaign for the U. S. Senate from Nebraska.

I appreciate Clark’s concern against Christian accommodation of the culture. At the same time, that’s one of the problems with an unbalanced view of the two kingdoms. It is an accommodation to the cultural norm that the state is to be “secular” rather than being normed by Scripture.

One of the ironies of the posts is that posts like these, which appear to be stumping for a particular candidate, would appear to violate the principles of the Darryl Hart-type unbalanced two kingdoms view. One of the commenters presented this issue, and in response Clark asked:

What about the twofold kingdom means that Christians cannot engage the civil realm?

and again

Now, once more, what is it about the twofold kingdom that prevents Christians from observing and commenting on the civil/political sphere?

I wasn’t the commenter in question, so Clark wasn’t asking me. I would respond that the more unbalanced forms don’t say that people (who happen to be Christians) cannot engage the civil realm, observe the civil/political sphere, or comment on the civil/political sphere. Nevertheless, it does prevent them from doing so as Christians, bringing Christian doctrine and specifically the Bible to bear. In other words, in the so-called R2K system, a Christian cannot comment as a Christian, only as a person. Prof. Clark is not commenting on Ben as one might talk about a particularly skilled quarterback (or simply one wearing the right jersey) but rather he appears to be bringing Biblical principles to bear on the situation (as well he should! and good for him!) This does not seem consistent with the more unbalanced views of the two kingdoms.

For example, recall that Hart wrote:

Christianity is essentially a spiritual and eternal faith, one occupied with a world to come rather than the passing and temporal affairs of this world.

(p. 12 of A Secular Faith) Frame explains, Hart “is opposed not only to the church taking political positions, but even to individual Christians claiming biblical authority for their political views.” (Escondido Theology, p. 248)

Contrary to what Hart seems to think (based on his book), the Scriptures have a lot to say about the passing and temporal affairs of this world, even though this is our pilgrimage with the best life yet to come. An error of an unbalanced view of the two kingdoms is creating a dichotomy between them rather than recognizing that the civil magistrate is a minister of God who ought to be normed by the Word of the God of whom he is the minister. Another error is like to it – treating all aspects of this life the same whether the Bible has said much (for example, good laws) or little (for example, plumbing, air conditioning, or pharmacology). Yes, the Bible is not principally concerned with teaching us how to roll aluminum foil quite flat without making it so thin it accidentally tears. The Bible is not principally concerned with teaching us how to build a controlled fusion reactor. But there are oodles of teachings regarding what sort of laws are good. There are oodles of teachings on marriage and family – on the raising of children, and so forth.

-TurretinFan

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2 Kingdoms in 2 Chronicles

April 22, 2013

Some of the advocates of the so-called Escondido view of the two kingdoms (as distinct from the traditional view held by Calvin and Turretin and set forth in the Westminster Confession, 39 Articles, and Belgic Confession) seem to have the idea that “two kingdoms” (i.e. a distinction between civil and religious) is a novel idea in the New Testament era. They are wrong.

There were two kingdoms in the Old Testament era as well, even if they sometimes got a bit blurred, as they did under Moses. Uzziah provides a poignant example of the distinction:

2 Chronicles 26:16-21
But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men: and they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God.
Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the Lord had smitten him. And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord: and Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.

The point is that the king – the civil head of the country was not the high priest, the religious head of the country. Rather, there was a distinction between the two kingdoms.
Under the new covenant, we are a nation of priests. We have direct access to God through prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, and consequently we have no use either for priests or for incense. We do not need a merely human mediator, because Jesus Christ, the God-man, is our mediator and high priest, and the Spirit communicates on our behalf.
The passage is also a good reminder of the second commandment, the commandment that teaches us that God must be worshiped as He wills, not as we will. Here, Uzziah was not proposing to offer incense to Baal or to any false God, but rather to YHWH. Nevertheless, he overstepped his bounds and did not follow the way of worship that God had appointed, and so God judged with leprosy.

-TurretinFan

Horton’s Comments on Islam or E2K?

August 27, 2012
“… it’s a good thing that we no longer live in an era where Christianity is a culture.”

I saw that Michael Horton had posted a series of three videos (about 15 minutes total) purportedly on Islam, in association with the “White Horse Inn.” (part 1, part 2, part 3)

I offer the following by way of corrective and commentary.

In part 1, Horton states:

“Islam is all law.”
“Salvation – deliverance – is not an Islamic idea, because this is all up to you.”
“If you end up in paradise, it’s because you pulled it off, not because you were saved.”

These are not a completely accurate picture of Islam. First of all, in the Koran (and elsewhere) Allah is described as “Merciful” and “Forgiving” over and over, starting from the first Surah. In fact, traditionally one finds the following at the beginning of each Surah: “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,” which is known as the Bismillah. If you listen to Muslim speakers, you will frequently hear them say this phrase, “bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm.”

We could provide a variety of examples, but suffice that in Islam Allah’s sovereignty is not strictly lawful but rather lawless. He forgives capriciously and condemns almost as capriciously. He is made in the image of Mohammed, for whom certain things were generally pleasing (such as monotheism and obeying Mohammed), but for whom other things (like murder) could be simply forgiven.

A fundamental problem with Islam is not that it is all law, but that it is not enough law. In Islam, there is no law of satisfaction. Allah can disregard the law, and so there is no need for a perfect sacrifice to satisfy justice and reconcile mankind with him.

Also in part 1 he states: “What the Koran reveals, according to Islam, are timeless eternal principles and truths, whereas Christianity has a very historical concern.”

He then goes on to give the following example: “Think about, for example, the creed of Islam: Allah is one and Mohammed is his prophet. There are these timeless eternal principles and truths.”

He later says: “Nothing in Islam hangs on historical events.”

I have to wonder about this kind of description of Islam. The Koran does describe creation and does point people toward a future judgment. Moreover, the Koran makes Mohammed the pivot point of history.

It is true that the Koran does not place much emphasis on history, and is not arranged chronologically, but to say that Islam doesn’t hang on historical events seems, strange.

It’s particularly strange when the so-called creed of Islam mentions that pivotal man, Mohammed.

Unfortunately, Horton also makes the mistake of identifying “surahs” with verses, rather than chapters, both in the first part and in the second part.

In the second part, after some e2k material about “regime change,” Horton alleges that Islam is not a religion of peace, based on identifying a number of ayat that are violent. Horton then continues on contrasting e2k with his perception of Islam as a primarily violent religion.

Finally, in the third segment, Horton describes the fact that he lives next door to Muslims and lets his kids play with them “all the time.” Indeed, he indicates that he takes care to help the Muslim kids observe Ramadan (!).

He then goes on with more discussion of his e2k worldview, in which there cannot be Christian nations that do what the Westminster Confession says they should.

Horton points out that Islam is not consistent with freedom of religion. I’m sure many Muslims would dispute this point, but if he simply qualified his statement by saying that Islam dose not teach religious freedom “to the extent that U.S. law provides when Islam is in control,” I think they would have to concede the point.

I may address Horton’s various e2k statements (which seemed to be the pervasive message in his commentary) in a separate post. I will, however, point out his most disturbing remark, which is the last thing he says: “… its a good thing that we no longer live in an era where Christianity is a culture.”

Obviously, I don’t agree with his point. Christianity still invades contemporary US culture. It does so less than it did in previous generations, and that is sad, yet it still does so. The American culture is less Christian than it was, but it has not become what pluralists hope it will be. As I said above, however, I’ll my postpone my detailed responses to his e2k teachings for another post or not at all.

-TurretinFan

E2k or L2k?

May 24, 2012

Vocal E2k advocate, Zrim, posted a bizarre recent piece in which he attempted to criticize Pastor Scott’s stand for the gospel and against the false gospel of Dayna Muldoon. Of course, he didn’t take a manly approach and accuse Pastor Scott of sin and suggest that Pastor Scott seek repentance, instead he was “just asking” about whether Pastor Scott’s motives and methods.

Zrim’s real problem with what Pastor Scott did seems to be that Zrim thinks that Christians have some kind of moral obligation not to disrupt the worship of idolators. Zrim writes:

I couldn’t help but have a few questions. There are plenty of religious outfits and organizations that tout themselves as channels of Christian and religious orthodoxy even here in Little Geneva that are also far removed from Reformed orthodoxy, from your usual Roman Catholic churches to your Mormon and Jewish Temples, to name just several. Would anyone think of showing up in the middle of their public services and disrupting them in such a bold way? Is there anything unbecoming about what Rodriguez did? Does it matter? Is it possible that Rodriquez is just as given to wanting to be the center of attention as Muldoon might be? Is there a difference between vigorously opposing that which opposes the gospel and singling out certain kinds of opposers as deserving especially forward and blunt criticism? Is this really only about preserving the true gospel and protecting people from being sucked into the cultish maneuvers of wily profiteer and religious wing nut? Is there a biblical justification for this kind of confrontation?

First of all, Zrim should enlighten himself about the particular circumstances surrounding the clip. It was not about ego, but about protecting the flock against the suggestion from Muldoon that Pastor Scott approved of what was going on.

Second, he was invited to speak. He spoke. If I were invited to speak at a Jewish service, Roman Catholic service, or Mormon service, I hope I would be as bold as he was. When we get opportunities to debate these folks, we take that opportunity.

Third, there is Biblical justification. Not only do we have the example of Jehu, but look at Paul the apostle not only at Areopagus but many times in the Jewish synagogues.

Acts 14:1
And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
Acts 17:10
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
Acts 17:17
Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
Acts 18:4
And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
Acts 18:19
And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.
Acts 18:26
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

What we really see in E2k is liberalism. The E2kers of Zrim’s stripe would be as scandalized by Paul as they are by Pastor Scott. Of course, they wouldn’t be so manly as to actually state that Paul is wrong to go into the synagogues and reason with them there, but they would question his motives. It’s not very post-modern of Paul to assume that it’s ok for him to go into those synagogues and disrupt them in such a bold way. Look at Paul’s epistle to the Galatians! Talk about “singling out certain kinds of opposers as deserving especially forward and blunt criticism!”

And forget about Jehu. Is there anything “unbecoming” about his elimination of Baal-worship from the land?

I can see why E2k appeals to post-modern liberals, who think all religions are the same and that there is some kind of “right” to hold religious services, no matter how evil and blasphemous they are. But why would it appeal to any person who has a 66 book canon of Scripture and actually believes what it says? Maybe we should call it “Liberal 2k” instead of “Escondido 2k,” since surely there are folks in the faculty at Escondido who would be unwilling to go where Zrim is going here.

-TurretinFan

Picking the Low-hanging Cherries

March 28, 2012

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

Pastor Wells’ Review of "The Escondido Theology"

March 26, 2012

Daniel Wells, a self-described “young pastor,” has posted an interesting review of Frame’s “The Escondido Theology.”  It is interesting, because I think both Frame’s supporters and supporters of E2k will find things in it they won’t like.  So, perhaps this provides a good example of a “balanced” review of the book.

Hart’s Responses to Frame

March 24, 2012

Darryl Hart has offered several responses to Frame’s book. The first response I’ll consider is one Hart titled, “More Than You Bargained For?” in which Hart responds to Frame’s comment: “They are also motivated by a desire to oppose what they regard as theological corruptions of the Reformation doctrine, particularly the views of N.T. Wright, Norman Shepherd, and the movement called Federal Vision.” Hart responds: “So I’m to imagine that using the law-gospel distinction in opposition to Shepherd, Wright, and the Federal Vision is extreme?” But this is a bizarre non sequitur. That is not what Frame wrote, nor is it a reasonable inference from what Frame wrote. Frame didn’t say or imply that merely using the law-gospel distinction in those disputes is “extreme.”  Even if Frame thinks the use is extreme, one certainly cannot conclude from Frame’s line that he’s saying that such extremity is due to the fact of who is being opposed or the tool that is being used to oppose.

While there is a lot more copy in Darryl’s response, there is no other direct interaction with what Frame wrote.

That’s rather the same as what we find in the next response we will consider, one titled: “Authors, Editors, and Readers.”  In this post, Hart quotes Frame thus:

Too often, in ethical debate, Christians sound too much like unbelievers. They reason as if they and their opponents are both operating on the same principle: human rational autonomy. I believe they almost inevitably give this false impression when they are reasoning according to natural law alone. Only when the Christian goes beyond natural law and begins to talk about Jesus as the resurrected king of kings does his witness become distinctively Christian. At that point, of course, he is reasoning from Scripture, not from natural revelation alone.

Then, after providing an example of a few paragraphs from Leithart where Leithart does not mention Christ or the Scriptures, Hart states:

Now, the additional point is not that Leithart is a hypocrite or that Frame is selective in the writers whom he throws under the Lordship of Christ bus. It is instead that authors write for editors and audiences and need to couch their language and arguments in terms acceptable to the editors and plausible to the readers. This isn’t a matter of the right apologetic method or a consistent epistemology. It is a case of either getting published or not, of being understood or not. If Leithart had come to the editors of First Things with arguments in a distinctively neo-Calvinist idiom, they would likely not have published him.

Perhaps that means that Christians should not write for religiously, epistemologically, or the-politically mixed publications. Indeed, it does seem that Frame’s arguments run directly in the fundamentalist direction of not having anything to do with associations where a believer might have to hide his faith under a bushel (NO!). But if Christian authors, even neo-Calvinist inclined ones, are going to write for publications not edited by Andrew Sandel or Ken Gentry or the faculty of Dort College, they may need to use rhetoric and arguments that are not pedal-to-the-metal Christian.

For this reason, I am surprised that John Frame can’t appreciate why 2k writers sound the way they do, or appeal to natural law arguments the way they do.

But Frame is not expressing merely a lack of appreciation, but disapproval.  Hart’s response that unless Christians reason as if they are both operating on the same principle, they will not get published or not be successful in persuading their opponents in the ethical debate.  For Hart, this pragmatic consideration trumps Frame’s proposed principled consideration.  Hart provides no further justification for this trumping.  Indeed his comments are telling: “This isn’t a matter of the right apologetic method or a consistent epistemology. It is a case of either getting published or not, of being understood or not.”  Thus, for Hart, the pragmatic of being published/understood trumps the principle of correct apologetics and epistemology.

It gets worse.  Hart identified his post, “The Grandaddy of Reformed Anti-Lutheranism,” as one of his responses to Frame (here).  But that post begins by trying to address Norman Shepherd: “Before Shepherd, theologians like John Murray or Louis Berkhof would not have objected to the Lutheran doctrine of justification. But Shepherd did.”  The way in which the Lutheran doctrine of justification differs from the Reformed doctrine lies in the scope of the atonement, and Reformed teachers have long criticized Lutheran views on the scope of the atonement.  If Shepherd objected to justification by faith alone, he was objecting to the Reformed doctrine, the Lutheran doctrine, and the doctrine of a variety of the fathers of the church.  He wasn’t objecting to anything distinctively Lutheran.

Hart then essentially accuses Frame of preparing the way for Shepherd with his previous book:”John Frame’s book, Evangelical Reunion (for starters) would be ironically one example of that New School turn among conservative Presbyterians away from Old School practices and convictions.”  No justification is provided for this accusation.

Hart then alleges that Frame endorses Shepherd: “I wonder if John Frame’s endorsement of Shepherd actually includes some recognition of the distance between him and Shepherd on the Reformed identity and militant character of the OPC, with Shepherd embodying one strand of Machen’s warrior children and Frame exhibiting boredom with fighting period.”

But where is the argument?  There is none.  The whole point of the post is to try to tie Frame to the Norman Shepherd controversy, and to somehow suggest that Frame’s criticism of Lutheran influence on Escondido thought is somehow contrary to justification by faith alone (which confirms point 28 of Frame’s 32 points).

Things looked a little more hopeful in Hart’s, “Is the Gospel Sufficient to GOVERN Culture?” but let’s see what transpired.

Hart begins with the title of the chapter (which corresponds to this article) and even supplies some of Frame’s 32 points. Hart then goes on to complain that it is odd to speak about “governing culture” essentially because culture seems to be organic. Hart considers “language” as an example of culture, and suggests that it cannot really be “governed.” This is an odd choice on Hart’s part, because it does not appear that Frame actually argues that language should be “governed.”

In the next section, Hart characterizes Frame’s view as being that “the Bible is a surer foundation for ethical reflection than general revelation” (and provides a quotation from Frame). But Hart provides no meaningful rebuttal to this point. Instead, Hart complains that “the Bible has prevented Presbyterians like himself from rejecting the regulative principle of worship” and asserts that “The Bible of the Puritans is not cogent for Frame.” These points are both ad hominem and red herrings, and consequently doubly illegitimate. Frame’s view on the RPW is a mistake, but it is not a mistake that is relevant to this argument. Only in the final sentence does Hart actually make a legitimate point: he observes that just because “natural law argumentation fails a test of logic does not prove that the Bible is sufficient to GOVERN culture.” That’s a true observation, but of course Frame argues for the Bible’s sufficiency after pointing out general revelation’s insufficiency. So, this would be a compelling criticism only if Frame said nothing more.

But Frame does say more, as Hart quotes (Hart removed the term “world view” but I’ll present the whole quotation):

Cogent and persuasive ethical reasoning presupposes a world view and standards of judgment. It is not easy to argue these from nature alone. For Christians, these standards come from Scripture. So apart from Scripture ethical argument loses its cogency and often its persuasiveness. Nonbelievers, of course, won’t usually accept Scripture as authoritative. But they may at least respect an argument that is self-conscious about its epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions.

Hart’s response?

I doubt it. Actually, I know such respect won’t be forthcoming since heaps of ridicule have been directed at evangelicals for the last thirty years for trying such w-wish arguments. Maybe Frame thinks a graduate seminar in philosophy is the context for these disputes. If so, he forgets the verb GOVERN. And when unbelievers confront people who want the GOVERNORS to implement religious teaching in politics and cultural standards, they get a little testy.

So that’s it? Hart doubts that unbelievers “may at least respect an argument that is self-conscious about its epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions”? I think Hart has too low a view of conscience and the light of nature. It is the conscience and the light of nature that persuade people to grudgingly acknowledge, “at least he’s consistent,” even if they disagree with someone. The heaps of ridicule Hart identified are not directed at the arguments, but at the world view. Typical Americans do seem to have bought into an E2k view of radical separation of church and state (really, it is the other way around, E2k picked it up from the world), but even typical Americans may respect an an argument that is self-conscious about its epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions, even if they don’t know what “epistemological,” “metaphysical,” or even “presuppositions” mean. Ordinary people get that inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.

Hart then departs on a tangent regarding something Leithart wrote and continues with another two paragraphs that lack any argument worth noting. Then we come to Hart’s core argument:

So how sufficient is the Bible to govern a society composed of diverse religious adherents and non-believers? We already know that the Bible has not been sufficient to yield a unified church. Now it’s supposed to give us a platform for cultural and political cogency and coherence in a diverse and religiously free society?

First, I’m not sure whether a society ruled by the Bible would be as “religiously free” as Hart would like. In fact, I suspect that’s a logical impossibility given Hart’s view of religious freedom. Second, though, for Hart to deny that the Bible is sufficient to govern the church is simply for Hart to demonstrate how far outside the Westminster Standards his position is. Now, Hart’s comment could be re-interpreted to mean that although Scripture does sufficiently govern the church, the result is not a unified church. But if that’s the case, then what of it? One world government is neither God’s will for the church or for the state.

Hart then asks: “How are those hostile to God going to submit to GOVERNMENT based on the Bible?” The answer should be obvious from Romans 13. The power of the sword is the way that those who are hostile to God submit to laws that come from God. Note that Hart casts his question in terms of the Bible, but the light of nature comes from God too. So, the question is one that Hart should have an answer for, yet he claims he’s “still lacking a decent answer.”

Hart next asks: “doesn’t a proposal for the Bible’s sufficiency as a rule for culture and society mean ultimately that only believers will GOVERN?” The answer to this question should be obvious too. Just look at Old Testament Israel. Very often the nation was ruled by unbelievers.

Hart makes an interesting argument. He claims: “And then they walk over the cliff of liberalism and deny that the Bible is first and foremost not a book of ethics but of redemption.” Hart, however, has forgotten his catechism. What do the Scriptures principally teach? The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man (Shorter Catechism, Q/A 3 (and Larger Catechism Q/A 5 identically). Hart quotes Machen, but Machen was opposing liberals who wanted to excerpt from Scripture, to suggest that “the Bible contain any hope for humanity apart from” redemption through faith in the Son. So, Hart is misapplying Machen’s comments.

Indeed, Hart states: “If the mere reading of Scripture could lead to such a conclusion, imagine appealing to the Bible for running a society that includes believers and non-believers.” This does not follow, however, for Machen’s objection was not simply to reading the Bible, but “reading of selected passages from the Bible, in which Jews and Catholics and Protestants and others can presumably agree.”

Hart’s conclusion is strange: “The lesson is that 2k (aka SCET) is really more faithful to Reformed teachings (which are biblical) than are 2k critics’ constant charges of infidelity and deficiency.” Yet Hart’s appeal to Machen was mistaken, and that was his only appeal to “Reformed teachings.” Moreover, Hart didn’t provide any demonstration that E2k views are biblical.

Hart attempts to establish his point through a false dichotomy: “Those who think the Bible sufficient to GOVERN culture or society must either form a political body comprised only of church members or they must cut and paste biblical teachings to make it fit a religiously mixed society.” The latter proposal, though, is not on the table – and the former proposal (while it might be nice) is not necessary.

The final sentence is possibly the least helpful: “Either way (Massachusetts Bay or liberal Protestantism), we’ve been there and done that. Time for 2k’s critics to come up with their own proposals for GOVERNING and transforming culture that are not blinded to their own insufficiencies.” But, of course, a specific proposal for governing is different from the general proposition that the Bible is sufficient to govern. This fact seems completely lost on Hart. Moreover, Hart’s treatment of Massachusetts Bay colony is simply dismissive. It’s clear he does not like that kind of regime, but his personal dislike for it (or for the kind of society it resulted in) is not a principled argument against it.

In short, while this post from Hart was better than some of the others in terms of at least providing some very general arguments, it still comes up dramatically short in terms of providing any kind of serious response to what Frame has written – addressing at most a couple of paragraphs of the chapter.

In a post titled, “Love that Bob,” Hart continues the insubstantial critiques, sadly.  He has the chance to address the connection between Kline’s views and those of E2k, but swings and misses.  First he observes that he himself personally has not read the whole “Kingdom Prologue,” by Kline.  Yet one can be influenced by Kline’s teachings without directly reading Kline (and certainly without reading that specific work by Kline).  Second, he claims that Westminster California’s “real source” of “alleged uniqueness” comes from W. Robert Godfrey (whose response we’ve already addressed).  He then goes on to claim that Godfrey influenced the students of the seminary for good, in terms of getting them to go back to their roots.  There is no real interaction with Frame at all in the post, despite it being identified by Hart as one of the responses to Frame’s book.

And that’s not to mention the posts: “Rich but not Robust” (in which Hart dissed Frame for not getting a bigger publisher to publish his book) and “Speaking of Obscure Publishers” (in which he tries to tie Frame to Shepherd’s errors, while again dissing Frame for not getting a famous enough publisher for “The Escondido Theology”).  In fact, the latter strategy seems to be a theme for Hart.  Much more time is spent trying to associate Frame with Leithart or Shepherd than actually dealing with the arguments that Frame presents.  In the latter post, Hart seems mystified that someone like Frame would care about scholarship, given that Shepherd has serious errors.

There are a few other responses from Hart that were directed toward Frame, but they follow the general pattern laid out above.  Of course, if someone finds (anywhere) a response by Hart to Frame that is actually a serious set of arguments that aim to rebut or refute Frame’s arguments, I would be glad to see them.

– TurretinFan

The Escondido Principle of Separation of Christianity and State – Reviewed

March 21, 2012

I was recently directed to this interesting review of Darryl Hart’s book (The book is titled: “A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State”):

Hart thinks the root error of Christians who try to bring their faith into the arena of politics is the failure to understand that it just doesn’t fit. Christianity is “essentially a spiritual and eternal faith.” It is “useless” for resolving “America’s political disputes” and, because of its intolerance of other faiths, “impractical if not damaging to public life.” Christian evangelicals of both left and right come in for criticism in Hart’s book, but the left—he includes Jimmy Carter and Jim Wallis in this category—gets blamed mainly for “lighting the fire of the culture wars,” thus legitimizing the right’s crusade to bring its version of Christian values into the political arena.

We get the drift of Hart’s own political orientation early on when he remarks that Sen. John Kerry, “an observant Roman Catholic,” was rejected by many voters because he “looked to be insufficiently devout.” That is a peculiar way of putting it. If looking to be devout were what Americans most wanted from politicians, Bill Clinton would have gotten 100 percent support in the 1992 election instead of the modest 43 percent he actually received. As for John Kerry, a number of polls have shown that the reason many people, not just Catholics, turned against him was not that he didn’t look sufficiently devout but that he opposed all attempts to outlaw the physical act of [graphic depiction of the murder of an infant omitted by T-Fan].

But that gets us into religion, Hart might say, and religion should be kept out of politics. Religion belongs in church, and the purpose of churches is mercy; politics has to do with the state, and the state’s purpose is justice. “To confuse the two is to misconstrue the bad cop (the state) and the good cop (the church).” Hart’s church is one that would be hard to locate in Western history. It has an abstract quality, reflecting very little of the actual traditions of Christian people. In this country, as ­Tocqueville was not the first or last to observe, Americans have kept Christian denominations separate from the state, but not Christian morality or culture.

There is more at the link above.  I have yet to see Hart’s response to this review. Doesn’t the description in this review resemble items 10 and 23 of Frame’s list

N.B. The credit line for the review was interesting: “George McKenna is professor emeritus of political science at City College of New York. His latest book is The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism (Yale).”  This should prevent (or at least alter) some of the ad hominem used by Hart against Frame for Frame’s review.

-TurretinFan

Darryl Hart’s Affirmations and Denials, Escondido Theology, and the Two Kingdoms

March 20, 2012

Darryl G. Hart has posted (well, Reed has posted for Darryl) some affirmations and denials on issues related to DGH’s view of the Two Kingdoms, a view Darryl misleading refers to as “the two kingdoms view” but which departs significantly from the two kingdoms views of Calvin and the Westminster divines. I had originally drafted a response to these long ago, but I never published that response. However, Reed has requested that those of us who disagree with Darryl Hart identify our disagreement with reference to his post and Zrim has recently suggested that I look to this series of posts as being the “substance” of the Escondido view of the two kingdoms.

As a preliminary matter, I’m not sure that this exercise is necessarily the most profitable way of identifying the differences between the historic Reformed position and so-called “Escondido Two Kingdoms”.

The reason I think it may not be the most profitable, is that I think Hart hasn’t put all the cards on the table. There are still significant issues within the movement of which he is a part, which aren’t directly addressed by his affirmations or denials. Those issues include things like the redefinition of “faith and life” to mean “faith and religious life” as fairly straightforwardly expressed in T. David Gordon’s Insufficiency of Scripture, and the covenant theology connected with Meredith Kline and the excessive use of the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic via Vos, such as Kline’s “intrusion ethic.”

These points aren’t really very directly addressed in Darryl Hart’s affirmations and denials. We can only speculate as to why they aren’t addressed directly. Perhaps he simply is unaware of where his views are distinctive from the historic Reformed tradition. Perhaps he is trying to emphasize his points of agreement, rather than his points of disagreement. There are many such possibilities, nevertheless, since Hart hasn’t provided any explanation, we’ll have to be content with our speculation.

It was these considerations that originally led me to simply shelve my response back when I originally wrote it. However, at Reed’s request and in view of Zrim’s exhortation, I have decided to edit and publish my response. Instead of rigidly following the order of the affirmations and denials provided in the original posts, I have attempted to categorize the affirmations and denials regarding their need for nuance. In point of fact, Hart’s comments are generally vague enough that they could probably be accepted by most folks, even those who disagree most sharply with his view of the kingdoms.

As a sub-order within the categories, since there were three parts to the affirmation and denials: theology, vocation, and ethics, I’ll address the affirmations and denials as grouped under those categories, identified by Hart.

I. Obvious Need for Nuance

Theological Topic

1) Affirmation: Jesus is Lord
Denial: Jesus is not Lord over everyone in the same way; he rules the covenant community differently than those outside the covenant

The Affirmation is obviously orthodox as written.  The denial can probably be understood in an orthodox sense. However, this denial can also be understood in an heterodox sense. For example, if the claim is that the moral law is different depending on whether or not one is in the covenant community, the assertion would be heterodox. In contrast, if the point is that Jesus’ rule outside the covenant community is one of judgment only and not mercy (except predicated on entry into the covenant community) whereas Jesus’ rule inside the covenant community is one of mercy, then the remarks could be understood in orthodox manner. We may, therefore, leave this matter as ambiguously worded, but not necessarily in itself wrong.

2) Affirmation: the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ
Denial: Outside the visible church is not part of the redemptive rule of Christ (even though Christ is still sovereign).

Actually, the invisible church is properly the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, outwardly the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth.

The Lord Jesus Christ is King and Lord over all, although he has a special relationship to the Church.  By way of the Noahic covenant, all mankind are under the redemptive rule of Christ as to their physical and temporal life.  By way of the covenant of grace, only the elect are under the redemptive rule of Christ.  The unregenerate elect are under the rule, but in a state of rebellion.  By way of the covenant God made with Israel when he redeemed them from Egypt, physical Israel is under the redemptive rule of Christ, but in a state of rebellion.

3) Affirmation: the Bible is the only rule for the visible church (in matters of conscience).
Denial: Scripture does not reveal everything but only that which is necessary for salvation.

No. The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and life. It is the only infallible rule for anyone. It is not the only rule. If it were, conscience itself would not be a rule.

Moreover, the Bible reveals all that is necessary for salvation but also reveals much that is not necessary for salvation.  Also, the Bible reveals many things about the way man ought to live and how man should act in various roles, including the roles of parents, slaves, masters, and civil rulers.

Furthermore, while the gospel teaches us to repent and believe, it is not by obedience to rules that we are saved, but by trust in the Savior that is identified to us in Scripture.

4) Affirmation: Christ alone is lord of conscience
Denial: Christians have liberty where Scripture is silent.
Denial: the pious advice and opinions of Christians is not binding.

The Word of God is binding on the conscience. Thus, when the brethren bring the Word of God to bear, our consciences are properly bound to follow the Word. Additionally, the Scriptures provide teachings that require us to obey (within bounds) the civil magistrate, our parents, our husbands, and so forth. Thus, there are additional restraints on Christian liberty that are, we might say, incorporated by reference.

There is a difference between obliging obedience and binding the conscience.  Parents can oblige the obedience of their children, but that is not the same as binding their consciences in the usual sense, except that children must honor their parents.

5) Affirmation: the visible church has real power (spiritual and moral, ministerial and declarative, the keys of the kingdom) in ministering the word of God.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences apart from Scripture.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences on the basis of one minister’s or believer’s interpretation but must do so corporately through the deliberations of sessions, presbyterians, and assemblies.

An evangelist binds the consciences of all his hearers – especially those outside the church, but also those within the church. He’s one elder – but lay evangelism is also permitted and similarly binds the conscience of the hearers. In fact, any one of the brethren can bind another’s conscience by bringing the Word of God to bear on a situation. He does not do so by his own authority, but the Word binds – the man declares.

The keys of the kingdom are best understood as the ministry of the gospel: the declaration of the person of Jesus Christ whose blood releases men from their sins. These keys are the keys of knowledge that the lawyers of Jesus day took away from the people (Luke 11:52). They allow people to see the way to heaven is through Jesus Christ, the righteous. As William Webster explains:

The keys … are representative of the authority to exercise discipline in the Church and to proclaim the gospel, declaring the free forgiveness of sins in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a declaration opens the kingdom of God to men or, if they reject the message, closes it to them. The keys are not the possession of a single individual, for exactly the same authority which Christ promises to Peter he also grants to the other apostles in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:22-23. They are all given authority to bind or loose by declaring the forgiveness of sins through Christ. They are all equals under the authority of one head, the Lord Jesus. The authority they are given is a delegated, declarative authority, which is in Christ’s name and comes from him who alone possesses the supreme authority to rule the Church.

(source)

This declarative power is something that DGH does not seem to understand. So instead he treats the “keys of the kingdom” in an almost Romanist way, as though they were a title to discretionary authority to gin up laws to bind the conscience, even while affirming that the visible church cannot bind the conscience apart from Scripture, a curious inconsistency – but a blessed one.

Of course, the elders do have authority of oversight, and this entails their doing things such as calling the brethren to worship. The brethren ought to obey them in these things, and consequently their consciences can be bound in this additional limited way that has nothing to do with the “keys of the kingdom” per se.

6) Affirmation: Christ’s righteousness alone satisfies God’s holy demands for righteousness, and believers receive this righteousness through faith alone (i.e., justification).
Denial: believer’s good works, much less unbelievers’ external obedience to the law, do not satisfy God’s holiness but are filthy rags.

I would only add that believers receive this righteousness by grace through faith.

Vocational Topic

1) Affirmation: the church is called to gather and perfect saints through word, sacrament and discipline.
Denial: the church is not called to meddle in civil affairs.

“Meddle” is a pejorative term. Just as sermons should not be “tedious,” the preaching of the gospel should not “meddle.” Nevertheless, the Bible speaks to many things and preachers should preach the full counsel, not holding back because certain topics have obtained political interest. Indeed, the advent of a political debate may make preaching on certain topics more timely and necessary. The fact that something has become of interest to the civil government does not mean it is taken away from the pulpit.

Moreover, the church is called to preach the gospel of repentance and the forgiveness of sins through faith in the name of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. 

2) Affirmation: the Christian family is called to nurture and oversee children in both religious and secular matters.
Denial: Christian families will not all look the same but have liberty to rear children according to Scripture and the light of nature.
Denial: non-Christian families do not rear children in godliness or holiness but still have legitimate responsibility for rearing their children.

Parents have the duty to provide for the physical and spiritual welfare of their children and to raise up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I say “parents” because the term “family” includes both parents and children. I don’t add the term “Christian,” because all parents have the same duty in God’s sight, although non-Christian parents will necessarily fall even further short of their duty than Christian parents. Of course, some non-Christian parents may do a better job of providing for the physical or even the spiritual welfare of their children than some Christian parents.

3) Affirmation: the state is called to punish wickedness, reward goodness, and promote peace and order.
Denial: the state does not hold the keys of the kingdom.

Yes, but as the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) 23:3 indicates:

III. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.

That isn’t meddling, when properly done, though it can be meddling when improperly done.

And likewise, as the American Revisions of the Westminster Confession of Faith explain:

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

Although perhaps the American revisions lay too much emphasis on ecclesiastical autonomy and religious liberty, the duty of the civil magistrate to nurture the Church of God is clear even in this revision. That doesn’t require the King to become an evangelist or an elder, but it does require him to recognize the Church of God.

4) Affirmation: A Christian is called to use his talents and gifts to serve God and assist his neighbor.
Denial: some Christians are not called to engage in civil affairs
Denial: the responsibilities attending one Christian’s vocation may not be the standard for other Christians.

Christians are not called to be entirely divorced from the affairs of this world. So, it would not be proper for Christians to avoid civic responsibility on the grounds that not all Christians are called to be politicians. Nevertheless, it is true that not all Christians are called to be in political office. Under certain regimes, the Christian’s entire civil responsibility may be to submit to the government (such as under a totalitarian regime).

Ethical Topic

1) Affirmation: Christians have an obligation to submit to God’s laws as they are found in general and special revelation.
Denial: persons cannot obey God’s law truly apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
Denial: non-Christians may not please God in their external observance of God’s law.
Denial: even if non-Christians may not please God, their civic virtue is crucial to a peaceful and orderly society.

Everyone, not only Christians, have an obligation to obey (not just “submit to”) God’s laws as they are found in both general and special revelation. All men imperfectly obey God’s law. Both those inside and those outside the outward covenant can displease God with their works. External obedience to God’s law is possible and can contribute to a peaceful and orderly society.

3) Affirmation: the state and families have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.
Denial: the church does not have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.

The church’s primary functions of evangelism and edification would not and should not conflict with the establishment and maintenance of a godly society. Sometimes, however, they are in conflict with the laws of a nation (in Muslim nations for example). Other times, they may contribute to the establishment and maintenance of a godly society by exhorting men to live godly lives.

The church does not have the duty to exercise the power of the sword, but the civil magistrate does.  Moreover, the church has the obligation to preach the whole counsel of God, which will include preaching those parts of the Word that tell kings the right way to rule, not as to every detail of troop movement, but as to certain general principles.

4) Affirmation: church members have a duty to obey the laws of civil magistrates.
Denial: church members may not rebel against or disobey the magistrate.
Denial: church members must not obey the magistrate rather than God.

There is an obvious conflict amongst these affirmations/denials. Namely when obedience to God conflicts with obedience to the magistrate, everyone (not just “church members”) must obey God.

There is a general rule that we should obey the King, i.e. the civil magistrate. There are times when it may be permissible or obligatory for us to disobey the King. The same morality applies whether a person is a “church member” or not.

5) Affirmation: God has established a pluriformity of institutions (e.g. civil society) for the sake of social order.
Denial: the church has no calling to establish social order but will have an indirect influence on peace and order by encouraging godliness in her members.

I’m not sure what his affirmation intends to say. It’s rather vague to me.

The church doesn’t just encourage godliness among her members but commands all men everywhere to repent.

II. No Obvious Need for Nuance

Ethical Topic

2) Affirmation: Christians please God in their good works thanks to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Denial: the good works of Christians are not free from pollution (i.e. they are filthy rags).

Agreed.

III. Conclusion 

The biggest problem is that Hart’s affirmations could almost all, with some nuance, be adopted by someone who holds to the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646).  Yet, it is clear that one of the things that defines the Escondido Theology is an opinion that the WCF 1646 was not simply too narrow, but that it was wrong.  While there are some areas where Hart’s affirmations and denials probably represent real differences, they are not presented in a way that actually highlights those differences.  Perhaps, however, this response will help  Hart to work on some updated affirmations/denials that will actually get to the substance of the disagreement.

-TurretinFan

Frame’s Thirty-Two Point List … and Dr. Godfrey’s Response

March 20, 2012

These are the thirty-two points that Frame has identified as being associated with “Escondido Theology.”

  1. It is wrong to try to make the gospel relevant to its hearers.
  2. Scripture teaches about Christ, his atonement, and our redemption from sin, but not about how to apply that salvation to our current problems.
  3. Those who try to show the application of Scripture to the daily problems of believers are headed toward a Christless Christianity.
  4. Anything we say about God is at best only an analogy of the truth and is therefore at least partly false.
  5. There is no immediate experience of God available to the believer.
  6. The only experience of God available to the believer is in public worship.
  7. Meetings of the church should be limited to the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments.
  8. In worship, we “receive” from God, but should not seek to “work” for God.
  9. The “cultural mandate” of Gen. 1:28 and 9:7 is no longer in effect.
  10. The Christian has no biblical mandate to seek changes in the social, cultural, or political order.
  11. Divine sovereignty typically eliminates the need for human responsibility.
  12. The gospel is entirely objective and not at all subjective.
  13. We should take no interest in our inner feelings or subjective life.
  14. Preaching should narrate the history of redemption, but should never appeal to Bible characters as moral or spiritual examples.
  15. Preaching “how tos” and principles of practical living is man-centered.
  16. To speak of a biblical worldview, or biblical principles for living, is to misuse the Bible.
  17. Nobody should be considered Reformed unless they agree with everything in the Reformed confessions and theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  18. We should not agree to discuss any theological topics except the ones discussed by Reformed thinkers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  19. Jonathan Edwards and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones were not Reformed.
  20. Theology is not the application of Scripture, but a historical investigation into Reformed traditions.
  21. There is no difference between being biblical and being Reformed.
  22. To study the Bible is to study it as the Reformed tradition has studied it.
  23. God’s principles for governing society are found, not in Scripture, but in natural law.
  24. Natural law is to be determined, not by Scripture, but by human reason and conscience.
  25. Scripture promises the believer no temporal blessings until the final judgment.
  26. We can do nothing to “advance” the Kingdom of God. The coming of the Kingdom, since the ascension of Christ, is wholly future.
  27. The Sabbath pertains only to worship, not to daily work. So worship should occur on the Lord’s Day, but work need not cease.
  28. Only those who accept these principles can consistently believe in justification by faith alone.
  29. Reformed believers must maintain an adversarial relationship with American evangelicals.
  30. Worship should be very traditional, without any influence of contemporary culture.
  31. Only those who accept these principles can be considered truly Reformed.
  32. These principles, however, represent only desirable “emphases.” There are exceptions.

Dr. Godfrey responded to the above list this way:

He introduces these bullet points by claiming: “Below are some assertions typical of, and widely accepted among, Escondido theologians.  Not all of them make all of these assertions, but all of them regard them with some sympathy” (p,xxxvii).  In response all of us on the WSC faculty wish to state clearly that we reject all of these thirty-two points as a fair or accurate presentation of our views.

At first glance, it looks like Dr. Godfrey is saying that each member of the faculty of WSC rejects each of the thirty-two points.  But Dr. Godfrey’s qualification “as a fair or accurate presentation of our views,” is key.  That characterization can mean that the objection is as trivial as “the list doesn’t express the points the way we mean them.”

So, for example, Dr. Godfrey continues:

We have the most sympathy with the bullet point which says “There is no difference between being biblical and being Reformed” (p. xxxviii). Yet we would state it differently: we are Reformed because we believe that the Bible is most faithfully understood and taught in Reformed Christianity. 

This seems like an actual affirmation of the point. But then how can “all” of the points be rejected as being unfair or inaccurate? Dr. Godfrey then asserts:

In relation to most of John’s bullet points we believe and teach the very opposite of what is attributed to us.

So, already we have moved from “all” to “most.”  But which are the ones that the faculty teaches “the very opposite”?  We are left wondering, because Dr. Godfrey prefers to leave the reader guessing.  Dr. Godfrey does not even provide an example of a single point on which the faculty both believes and teaches “the very opposite.”

Dr. Godfrey claimed that his purpose in writing a response was to set the record straight: ” We do not wish to engage in a protracted discussion of these things with John, but we do find it necessary to set the record straight.”  But what has been straightened or clarified?  Nothing except that point 21 is essentially on the money but just not worded the way that they would like.

Also, it is clear that the faculty of WSC does not appreciate criticism.  But love of criticism is a rare trait indeed.  One can hardly blame them for that.  In sum, Dr. Godfrey has swung and missed in his attempt to “set the record straight.”  He has neither identified any errors in Frame’s characterization, nor any errors in Frame’s criticism itself.

-TurretinFan

P.S. Let me point out that I would agree with the WSC faculty about point 21, and even go a step further and say that one of the aims and strengths of Reformed theology is to be as biblical as possible.


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