Archive for the ‘Two Kingdoms’ Category

Restore Balance in the Two Kingdoms

January 22, 2014

This is the kind of comment that leads people to call an unbalanced view of the two kingdoms, “radical two kingdoms”:

Indeed, in general terms, it seems from the New Testament that the less we have to do with the magistrate, the better it will be for us.

(source R. Scott Clark)

That’s the same R. Scott Clark who was recently stumping for civil magistrate on his blog as discussed at this link.

Clark further states:

Nevertheless, when it comes to the visible, institutional church, the Scriptures enjoin on us an attitude of submission and a desire to protect those who look after the welfare of our souls that it does not require of us regarding the civil magistrate, who looks after our outward, common, shared life. The magistrate, in his office, is not enjoined to pray for us.

I respond:
a) The duty of submission is a mutual duty of the brethren, not a one-way duty toward elders.
Peter, in his first catholic epistle, says:

1 Peter 5:5
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Likewise, Paul teaches us:

Ephesians 5:21
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

b) We are explicitly told to submit ourselves unto those who have worldly authority:
That same Peter in the same book we mentioned above – earlier in the book – says:

1 Peter 2:13-14
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

Likewise, still earlier:

1 Peter 2:17
Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.


Colossians 3:22-24
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Indeed, these commands are quite closely paired with obedience to the Lord.

c) Clark seems to have in mind the following passage from Hebrews:

Hebrews 13:17-18
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

But this resembles Paul’s exhortation regarding kings:

1 Timothy 2:1-4
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Incidentally, the structure of Hebrews 13 is quite beautiful – it includes “Remember them which have the rule over you … Obey them that have the rule over you … Salute all them that have the rule over you ….”

d) Furthermore, while there may not be an explicit command for kings to pray for those entrusted to them, that surely is a logical inference to be drawn from the duties of superiors to inferiors.

e) Moreover, the Scriptures do explicitly norm kings and those in authority:

Psalm 2:10-12
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

f) Certainly, we should not fall into the opposite extreme from Clark, of some kind of democratic congregationalism and denial that those who have rule over us in the church do not have any rule over us in the church. I hope no one will take my criticism of one imbalance to suggest the opposite imbalance.

g) Rather, neither magistrates nor elders of the church are priests whose job it is to stand between us and God. While those who rule over us bring the Word of God to us and set a good example for us (Hebrews 13:7) the great Shepherd of the sheep is Christ (Hebrews 13:20). Christ is Lord over all – both Lord of the Sword and the Gospel. The cattle on a thousand hills are his.

– TurretinFan

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.


Brian Mattson on Cultural Amnesia

July 1, 2013

Dr. Brian Mattson has posted a pdf corresponding to a lecture titled, “Cultural Amnesia: What Makes Pietism Possible?” The lecture makes an interesting comparison between Van Drunen-style two kingdoms views and those who argue that vaccinations are unnecessary.

Very few American travelers to certain African countries come down with yellow fever. So, it may seem unjust to require American travellers to get a yellow fever vaccination before entering those countries. On the other hand, the reason for the low incidence of yellow fever may be precisely because American travelers are required to get vaccinated against yellow fever before entering.

The point of the analogy is that sometimes a given state of affairs has an underlying cause. Ignoring that underlying cause can lead to drawing wrong conclusions from the state of affairs.

Van Drunen and similar folks make this error when they make the “Argument From Cultural Homogeneity” (see the pdf linked). But there is a significant objection to this argument. Mattson explains:

Look at it again: (A) “There is nothing distinctively ‘Christian” about cultural pursuits because (B) there is widespread cultural homogeneity.” But what if I argue the other way around: (B) there is widespread homogeneity precisely because (A) Christians have historically been effective in transforming cultural norms and expectations? This is precisely the conclusion VanDrunen does not want readers to draw. So it is not enough for him to simply point to the fact of cultural homogeneity. He has to account for it.

The way that VanDrunen attempts to account for this homogeneity is by reference to God’s covenant with Noah. Mattson skillfully rebuts this point:

Think about it for a moment. What is the covenant with Noah all about? At its core, it is about stability and regularity. Never again will God destroy all living creatures with a flood. God promises that “as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Gen. 8:22). The refrain, “never again” is repeated three times (8:21; 9:11, 15). The sign of the rainbow will be an enduring sign of an “everlasting covenant” between God and all living creatures. In other words, the commitments God makes in this covenant are inalterable. God’s promises simply cannot fail. God commits to never destroy the earth by a flood? Sure enough, he has made good on this promise. God commits to uphold the regularity and uniformity of nature? Sure enough, God has made good on this promise. The sun still rises and winter still follows autumn. Now let us ask: what if God promised that there will be widespread homogeneity of cultural norms and expectations among the human race? Given God’s nature and the nature of the Noahic covenant, then there has been, in fact, widespread cultural homogeneity since the time of Noah!

Few suggestions can be more historically ignorant and empirically false. To state the blindingly obvious: the history of the human race is not a history of cultural homogeneity.

There’s plenty more in the pdf linked above. It does remind me a little of Frame’s comment in “The Escondido Theology”: “Indeed, God’s covenant with Noah is religious through and through, even on the narrowest definitions of “religion.” … God’s covenant with Noah is an administration of God’s redemptive grace, religious through and through, just as those with Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ.” (p. 137) This stands in contrast to VanDrunen’s assertion (quoted by by Frame on p. 136):

Furthermore, Genesis 9 makes it evident that the covenant of common grace regulates temporal, cultural affairs rather than more narrowly religious affairs pertaining to salvation from sin. (pp. 27-28)

(as quoted by Frame)

One of the problems of VanDrunen’s view on the two kingdoms is that it suffers from the same kind of ontological problem as atheistic morality. Atheists refuse to acknowledge that their standards of morality are borrowed property. The VanDrunen-style two kingdoms view makes the same kind of mistake, to a lesser degree, in terms of committing the cultural amnesia Mattson describes.


Van Drunen Two Kingdoms Rebutted by Brian Mattson

June 27, 2013

Dr. Brian Mattson has a post in which he distinguishes between Horton’s views on the two kingdoms and Van Drunen’s views on the two kingdoms (link to post). Dr. Mattson’s post should help to explain part of the problem with engaging the topic — there are a variety of “two kingdoms” views even amongst folks like Van Drunen and Horton, each of whom would reject the position of Calvin and the Westminster divines.

Spealing of Calvin, Dr. Mattson also has a post in which he explains the problem with folks like Van Drunen trying to associate Calvin with their position (link to post). Mattson makes an excellent observation about the preface to Calvin’s great Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Before Calvin ever gets to writing the book, he begins with something called a “Prefatory Address to King Francis I of France.” It seems fairly strange that a man who believes Christian doctrine to be irrelevant to the “civil” realm would dedicate his work on Christian doctrine to the head of the civil realm. But Calvin is more specific. He writes: “For the Most Mighty and Illustrious Monarch, Francis, Most Christian King of the French, His Sovereign, John Calvin Craves Peace and Salvation in Christ.” So… Francis is a “Christian” monarch. This way of speaking is anathema to modern Two Kingdoms advocates.

When offering his defense to Francis, he writes: “Worthy indeed is this matter of your hearing, worthy of your cognizance, worthy of your royal throne! Indeed, this consideration makes a true king: to recognize himself a minister of God in governing his kingdom. Now, that king who in ruling over his realm does not serve God’s glory exercises not kingly rule but brigandage.”

There is more in Dr. Mattson’s post – I encourage you to check it out.


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.


Titles of Jesus: Archon of the Kings of the Earth

February 1, 2013

Jesus is described in numerous ways in the book of Revelation.  One of the titles mentioned in the salutation of John and Jesus’ letter to the seven churches is “The Archon of the Kings of the Earth” (Greek: “ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς”), which the King James Version translates as “the prince of the kings of the earth.”

This title of head over all of the kings of the earth is something that the Roman bishop desires.  Boniface VIII is an example of the desire of popes to have supreme temporal authority.  His Unam Sanctam, which proclaims a false gospel of submission to the Roman bishop (as discussed here) is sometimes dismissed from consideration on the basis that its reference to rulers being required to submit to Rome is not meant universally.  In fact, the rulers are merely the minor premise, with the general principle being the major premise.  But the problem is more acute.  The very title of Archon of the Kings of the Earth belongs to Jesus Christ.  Boniface VIII can wear his double tiara and John XXII his triple tiara, but that’s just jewelry – the truth is that it is Christ who is Archon.

True ministers of the gospel (as some ancient bishops in Rome were), are ministers of God, just as also the temporal rulers are ministers (in a different sense) of God.  But the kingdom of heaven is not set up like Gentile kingdoms on earth.  There are lords many and kings many, but while we have overseers, we are all brethren and have one Lord, Jesus Christ.

I think this title is sometimes overlooked by my brethren who want to maintain a rigid separation of church and state.  With this title, though, Jesus is claiming all temporal to be his.  Thus, all the kings of the Earth ought to obey his revealed will and ought to order their kingdoms accordingly.

It’s a marvelous title.  It emphasizes the supremacy of Jesus even while we acknowledge that Jesus first coming was not to establish an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom.  Nevertheless, the kings of the earth should beware.  Jesus Christ their Archon is coming again in judgment.  They ought to consider that warning and be ready against his coming.


Gun Control and Scripture

January 7, 2013

The earliest historical record of arms control actually predates guns. The Philistines implemented a weapons control regime in order to suppress the Israelites:

1 Samuel 13:19-20
Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:” but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.

The law given to Israel, however, did not place any restriction on weapons for the people. The law did actually restrict the kings of Israel. It stated:

Deuteronomy 17:14-20
When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

The king was not only not to multiply wives to himself, but he also was not to multiply horses to himself, or to sell the Israelites into slavery in Egypt.

However, the king was required to be familiar with the law of God. In fact, there was no command for ordinary Jews to copy out the law, but each king was supposed to make a copy of the law, which the priests/the Levites were maintaining.

Amongst those provisions of the law, was the provision that no laws should be added or diminished from the laws given. Thus, from a strictly Old Testament view, gun control (or any weapon control) laws are improper.

What does the New Testament say?

The New Testament does not contain any significant new instruction for the civil magistrate on this point. In instructing his disciples, Jesus cautioned against reliance on the sword (as we will see below). Nevertheless, Jesus did exhort purchase of a sword:

Luke 22:36
Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Furthermore, it is clear that at least Simon Peter carried a sword:

John 18:10-11
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Notice that Jesus’ response was not, “sell thy sword, knowest thou not that swords are evil.” Rather, Jesus’ comment merely advised Peter that it was not the time for swords to be used.

The parallel account in Matthew states:

Matthew 26:51-52
And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

But notice that even in this account of Jesus’ comment (which has sometimes been taken as meaning that swords never have a place), he is telling Simon Peter to sheath his sword, not to discard it or sell it.

The Psalms provide us with a good example of the proper regard we should have for weapons:

Psalm 44:6
For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.

Finally, returning to the subject of the civil magistrate, it is clear from the New Testament that the civil magistrate continues to have authority to use weapons:

Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

In short, the government rightly has weapons and we are, as a general rule, to obey them — not just because of the weapons, but also because we are conscience bound to obey the ministers of God.


Pseudo-Kline Retranslates the Torah

September 28, 2012

The Pentateuch actually states:

Deuteronomy 4:6-8
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

However, if one adopts a Klinean “intrusion ethic” principle and if one therefore denies that Israel’s civil laws are laws that reflect the natural law given to all nations, then one might expect a very different kind of reaction than that described in the above passage. One might expect something like the following:

[Klinean] Deuteronomy 4:6-8
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your [foolishness and barbarity] in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a [eschatologically overrealized] people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments [that would be so inappropriate, if not for the intrusion of the eschaton and the consequent conflation of the two kingdoms] as all this law, which I set before you this day?

I really do think that some of Kline’s spiritual successors (even those who have never read Kline himself) do think that the OT civil laws are barbaric and that it would be totally inappropriate for a country today to have similar laws.  They don’t view the OT civil laws as admirable and something to be imitated.

People who think that way have, it seems, drunk too deeply of the well of Enlightenment, Modern, and Post-Modern thought.  Their concept of what constitute good laws are therefore distorted.  Their judgment is faulty.

They ought to reconsider their position and recognize that the statutes and judgments that were righteous – statutes and judgments that had (to use the Confession’s expression) general equity that has continuing relevance to all nations.

Kline never re-translated Deuteronomy to fit his misunderstanding of natural law (as far as I know), but his positions seem to imply this kind of view of the Torah.


Early Muslim/Christian Debate – a Proto Two Kingdoms Apologetic

September 12, 2012

The Letter of Mor Yuhannon [John] (d. 649), the Patriarch, Concerning the discussion which he had with the Amir of the Mhaggraye, provides for us one of the earliest records of debates between Christians and Muslims. A complete translation can be found at the following link (link). It’s worth noting that in the discussion Mor Yuhannon distinguishes the “orthodox” from the “Chalcedonians.” My point is not to enter into the question of the orthodoxy of Mor Yuhannon, only to point out that he advocated the Christian side of the discussion, with the Emir representing the Mulsim side of the discussion.

Of particular interest are the following:

I) The blessed Patriarch, the Father of the community, was questioned by him: “Whether the Gospel is one, and whether it is the same, without differences, which all Christians in the world hold to?” The blessed one answered that it is one and the same among the Greeks, the Romans, the Syrians, the Copts, the Cushites, the Indians, the Armenians, the Persians, and the rest of all peoples and tongues.

It is interesting to note this late Patristic era response. The places identified go significantly beyond the scope of any of the so-called Ecumenical councils. They include India and Ethiopia (Cush), which were not – as far as I can tell – included in the discussions at any of the seven ECs.

And we may add that we agree with the Patriarch. The gospel is one and the same throughout the world.

II) Again he asked, “Since the Gospel is one, why is the faith different?” The Blessed one responded, “Just as the Torah is one and the same and it is accepted by us Christians and by you Mhaggraye, and by the Jews and by the Samaritans, and each is distinct in belief; likewise concerning faith in the Gospel, each heretical group understands and interprets it differently, and not like us [the Orthodox].

It is interesting to note the fact that the Patriarch believes that the Muslims accept the Torah. One assumes that this is because the Muslims tell him that they accept the Torah.

Likewise, the Patriarch’s answer regarding the reason for the different views is not because each has a different document, but because there are different understandings of the documents.

III) Again he asked, “whom do you say Christ is? Is he God or not?” And our Father answered, “He is God; and the Word, who was born from God the Father, who is eternal and without beginning. At the end of time, for the salvation of mankind, He became flesh and was inhominated from the Holy Spirit and from the holy Virgin Mary, the mother of God, and became man.”

This is an astute answer. I’m not fond of the term “mother of God,” because it can be easily misunderstood, but this answer seems to provide the necessary qualifications. It is also interesting because despite distinguishing himself from the Chalcedonians, this patriarch is quite willing to use the “mother of God” terminology.

IV) And the glorious Amir asked him this: “When Christ was in the womb of Mary, the one you say is God, who was carrying and ruling the Heaven and earth?” Our blessed father argued with him concerning the question: “When God came down to Mount Sinai and spoke with Moses for forty days and forty nights, who was carrying and ruling the Heaven and earth; as long as you claim that you accept Moses and his books.” The Amir said, “He is God and He rules the Heaven and earth.” Immediately, he heard this from our Father: “Likewise Christ [who is] God when he was in the womb of the virgin, he was carrying and ruling the Heaven and earth, and everything which is in them as Almighty God.”

Again, note that the Patriarch relies on the Old Testament, believing that the Emir accepts it. Moreover, the Emir’s answer seems to presuppose that the Emir does accept it.

V) Again the glorious Amir asked, “What kind of belief and faith did Abraham and Moses hold?” Our blessed Father answered, “It is the belief and faith of Christians that they held: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, the rest of the prophets, all the just and righteous ones.”

The Amir said, “Why did they not write clearly and make it known concerning Christ?” Our blessed father replied, “As sharers of the mysteries and intimate ones they knew it, but [because of] the infancy and innocence of the people at the time, who were inclined to worship many gods [polytheism] and cling to them, to such an extent that they regarded wood, stones and many other things as gods, they made idols, they worshipped them and sacrificed to them. [For this reason] the holy ones did not want to give the erroneous ones a pretext that they might depart from the Living God and follow error, but prudently proclaimed the truth: “Hear, Israel, the Lord God is One Lord” for they truly knew that there is only One God, and one Godhead, that of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus they spoke and wrote symbolically concerning God that He is One in divinity and three hypostases and persons; there neither is nor do we confess three gods or three deities; there are neither gods nor deities; for the Godhead of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is One, as we have said, and from the Father is the Son and the Holy Spirit. If you want, I am ready and prepared to confirm this from the holy Books.”

I’m not sure whether I would follow the reasoning of the Patriarch on this point. I wouldn’t think that it was only the most ancient peoples who were inclined to idolatry and polytheism. Nevertheless, the Patriarch’s emphasis on the common monotheism of the Old and New Testaments is important.

VI) Again, when the Amir heard all of these, he requested only “if Christ is God, and was born from Mary, and if there is a Son for God, let that be proved literally and from the Torah.” The blessed one said that not only Moses, but also all of the holy prophets previously prophesied and wrote this concerning the Christ: One [of the prophets] had written concerning His birth from a virgin, another that He would be born in Bethlehem, another concerning His baptism; all of them, so to say, [wrote] concerning His saving passion, His vivifying death, and His glorious resurrection from the dead after three days. He [the blessed one] brought evidences, and began to confirm this from all of the prophets, and from Moses, according to their writings.

Notice that the Patriarch initially interprets “Torah,” here as referring generally to the Old Testament. He then begins to demonstrate each point that the Emir had requested from the Old Testament as a whole, including Isaiah (regarding the virgin birth, for example).

VII) The glorious Amir did not accept these [proofs] from the prophets, instead, he demanded proof from Moses that Christ is God. The blessed one, therefore, cited Moses in many things (verses), e.g., that “the Lord let fire and sulfur come down from the Lord on Sodom and on Gomorrah.” The glorious Amir demanded that this be shown in the book. Immediately, our father showed it in the complete Greek and Syriac texts.

At the same place, there were some Mhaggraye with us, and they attentively saw the passages and the glorious Name of the Lords, and the Lord. The Amir called a Jew, who was there, and he was considered by them to be knowledgeable in the Scriptures, and asked him if it was literally so in the Torah; and he answered, “I do not know exactly.”

Notice that the Emir wants to see it in the books of Moses, rather than the Old Testament more broadly. This already seems to clarify that when the Emir said, “Torah,” he meant the Pentateuch, not all the inspired Hebrew books.

Also, notice the disbelief by the Emir when confronted with the contents of the book. He wants to see it actually in the books, and the Patriarch shows it to him both in Syriac and Greek.

But even that leaves the Emir wondering if it is just something inserted by a Christian translator. So, he asks a Jew to confirm that the translation is literal, and the Jew does not deny it, but simply tries to defer.

VIII) At this point the Amir moved to ask him concerning the laws of the Christians: “what and how are they, and whether they are written in the Gospel or not?” Again [he asked], “if a man die and leave behind boys or girls and a wife and a mother and a sister and a cousin, how would his possessions be divided among them?” Then our holy father said that the Gospel is divine, it instructs heavenly teaching and commands vivifying commandments; it despises all sin and wickedness, and it teaches virtue and righteousness. Many other related issues were brought up.

It is interesting to note that the Emir has the expectation that the Christian books should specify every aspect of Christian life.

The answer the Patriarch gives is a very “two kingdoms” sounding. He points out that the laws of the Gospel are divine and spiritual. They are not intended to provide for every detail of human governance, such as how exactly an estate is supposed to pass from father to son, and so on.

IX) And the glorious Amir said, “I ask you [Plural] to do one of three things: either show me your laws written in the Gospel and conduct yourselves accordingly, or follow [or submit to] the law of the Mhaggraye. Then our Father replied that we Christians have laws, which are just and right, and we follow [submit to] the teaching and the commandments of the Gospel and the rules of the Apostles and the laws of the Church.
In this manner the assembly of the first day was dismissed. And we have not yet been interviewed again by him.

Notice that the two-kingdoms answer doesn’t really seem acceptable to the Emir. He is basically willing to allow the Christians to live by a sort of Gospel Sharia if there is one, but if there is not one, he expects them to obey the Islamic Sharia. The question from the Emir is not whether the laws are reasonable and just, but whether they have divine authority.


Are Nations Supposed to be Concerned About Righteousness?

August 15, 2012

Some people seem to think that nations have no business in promoting morality in general or sexual morality in particular. There’s not always a cogent reason for this objection, but often the presupposition behind the objection is that there is supposed to be separation of church and state, and that this separation should entail the state being concerned with “secular” things and the church being concerned with “religious” things. Morality is then identified as a “religious” thing, and so the objection concludes that the state has no business addressing issues of morality.

The Bible provides a counter-point. While there is separation of church and state in the Bible’s example of the monarchy of Israel (the king was not the high priest, and the high priest was not the king), there is also significant areas of overlapping concern. The king (not the high priest) was supposed to enforce a lot of laws that clearly were designed to regulate morality, while the high priest was supposed to provide for sacrifices for sins.

Some have imagined that the example of Israel is not set forward to be an example for the nations. On one level, that’s true. There are certain aspects of Israel’s system that have passed out of existence. The old administration of the worship of God has passed away, particularly in view of the coming of the last and greatest priest, Jesus.

Nevertheless, church and state remain. Thus, the question remains – whether the state, as such, should be concerned about righteousness.

The Bible has the answer:

Proverbs 14:34
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

My point is not to emphasize the word “any,” which is added by the translators, but rather to emphasize that this is presented as a gnomic truth (the point the translators conveyed with “any”). Sin and righteousness are something that leads God to treat nations as nations in a particular way. Thus, nations as nations have an interest in promoting righteousness and suppressing sin.


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