It’s About the Gospel, TurretinFan

There has been a bit of back and forth between the Heidelblog and “He Who Anonymously Channels All Things Francis Turretin.” (I experience the same trouble submitting a comment at Tfan’s blog that RSC seems to have.) At this point, TurretinFan still complains that his questions have not been answered. Quoth he:

And it seems, after reading Prof. Clark’s reply, that he has left the important questions of the original article unanswered. Those questions were these:

This, however, would create an odd tension. Why? Because the Westminster Standards (in the American revision) as well as the Belgic Confession (in the American Revision) call for the civil magistrate to protect God’s church. Yet, the duties of the civil magistrate are always a political matter.

So, can the church speak to political issues or not? Or is there an exception for certain political matters and not others? If there are exceptions, it starts to look like the prohibition on political speech by the church is ad hoc. And if the church can speak to political issues, then why are the Escondido folks so upset when people like the Bayly brothers preach sermons on highly politicized topics like abortion?

Well as far as I have always understood it, amongst perhaps other worries, the concern of two kingdom ecclesiology and the subsequent doctrine of the spirituality of the church is for the unfettered gospel.  It doesn’t want anybody unduly alienated from the gospel by any tradition of men, up to and including any man’s politics. I continue to be puzzled as to why any of this should be so controversial or perplexing amongst those who conceive themselves as theologically conservative, unless we have made relative peace with the progressive spirit of the age. And this is what all the upset is over the Bayly’s glorified rightist political speech: it goes a fair distance to alienate people from the gospel, every bit as much as any glorified leftist political screed from MLK’s pulpit in the 60s. People who don’t have rightist or leftist or middlist politics, or like me who are politically agnostic, stand a very real chance of being sufficiently alienated from the gospel when its wagon is hitched up to any political or social star. This can be done implicitly as well as explicitly, in fact doing it implicitly can much more potent.

Personally, I’m not much a fan of any ordained officer making political comment even on his own blog. It’s not that I don’t think he has a right to his views, he does. But more than that, it’s that I think he has a special burden to his office that an ordinary member just doesn’t have to hold certain views and opinions a little closer to his chest. And that is a burden that follows him everywhere, not jst when he is literally in a pulpit. Perhaps my view is even more conservative than some of the most conservative fellow 2kers, but I do have a rather odd tick that it’s more about responsibility than rights.

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17 Responses to It’s About the Gospel, TurretinFan

  1. j.hansen says:

    I’m wondering if you think a pastor has a responsibility to rein in his Christian liberty in other ways, in order to keep from pushing any away from the Gospel message? Or is it just political views that should be held close to the chest? Is this application of 2K or is it application of “to the Greek I became a Greek…that I might win some”? If the latter, then I see little reason to restrict it to politics. Perhaps, at a time when smoking in public is grave barbarianism, the pastor should smoke behind the Church? Which reminds me: Nicotine Theological Journal.

  2. Zrim says:

    Joseph, I’m inclined to think that the notion pertains to more than politics, but perhaps especially politics. The way I think through it is anecdotal: I think of a parishoner approaching an elder/pastor wanting his guidance on whatever common concern. It seems to me he should ask whether this falls into his realm of jurisidiction and competence. If it doesn’t then perhaps turn the parishoner to someone better qualified to help. If it’s not so much guidance but conversation the parishoner wants then whatever.

    P.S. I think pastors can smoke wherever they want, but perhaps while in the pulpit would just be really bad form. Funny, in a Father Guido Sarducci sort of way, but still bad form.

  3. j.hansen says:

    I agree with your concerns about politics, but it’s not simply a problem of pushing away those who don’t agree with you. There is also a problem with attracting those who do agree with your politics to the Church for reasons that are appended to the Gospel. This is true whether you’re attracting liberals by having the Church traffic in social justice missions (a la Hope for New York) and saying things like “all humans have a right to shalom,” or attracting conservatives by having the Church traffic in truth goodness and beauty culture making (a la Cannon Press). At best, the result is church folk being confused about the Gospel and the role of the Church. On the other hand these are good ways to make passionate pharisees.

  4. reformedcast says:

    Zrim, I agree: what is radical about the kingdom distinctions? After all, we all make ‘em – we don’t try to buy a dog license from the church (ordinarily, any way), and we don’t seek pastoral counsel from the Governor. It seems that the transformationalist “a priori” reads into the Scriptures – and the WCF in some cases – the responsibility and right to effect change ijn soceity, thus technically adding to the Gospel something that was never sanctioned. Some believe that doing otherwise is disobedience. I think Dr Clark nailed it in his blog post – many paws are over the eyes.

  5. j.hansen says:

    Reformedcast,
    While “we all make ‘em” (as you put it, regarding kingdom distinctions), in some reformed circles it is not uncommon to hear Christians go to their pastors asking the pastor, as a theological matter, if it is proper for the government to issue dog licenses. And the more funny part — some such pastors actually engage the issue as a theological issue.

  6. Zrim says:

    Joseph, good point. I think it was Lloyd-Jones who said that one test of preaching the pure gospel is if one is accused of antinomianism. Perhaps a good thumbnail for adhering to the SOTC is a congregation made up of various political viewpoints and devotions.

  7. j.hansen says:

    Zrim, except to use that test (surveying the congregation as to political affiliation) would seem to violate the SOTC.

  8. Zrim says:

    Who said anything about a survey? Just look for soul patches and bow ties, Birkenstocks and tassled loafers. You really can read books by their covers. Or just make the survey anonymous. Anonymity works for Tfan.

  9. j.hansen says:

    Zrim, Okay so is a soul patch liberal or conservative? My bro has one and he’s a republican, but he’s from Cali (so he might be an outlier). You forgot to include horn rimmed glasses and skinny jeans.

  10. todd says:

    Under the heading – it’s only wrong when the left does it – we have this story:

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/52023.html

  11. Zrim says:

    Todd, it’s always funny to me how Reformed think social gospel is the affliction of the Methodists and legalism the affliction of the Baptists.

    Speaking of which, don’t you love watching home schoolers fight? It’s almost as good as watching social gospelers fight.

  12. Zrim says:

    TUAD, I’d respond but I fear the Baylys would ban me from my own blog. (The Bishops of Bloomington banned me from theirs last year for having an unflattering interpretation of their glorified political speech they didn’t agree with on my own blog and not apologizing for it. Talk about political correctness, that thing which is supposedly the sole afflication of the political left.)

  13. Lacie says:

    Question: How can 2 kingdoms (of Escondido) be 2 kingdoms if Calvin (in his theocracy) held to it and Escondido is vehemently anti-theocracy. Somebody’s definition is askew.

  14. Zrim says:

    Lacie, this is a recurring theme. The short answer is that Calvin was wrong (he was certainly an inspired man but not infallibly). Kuyper agreed and went so far as to say that he’d rather not be Reformed if Reformed meant theocratic. But more importantly for those who esteem ecclesiastical formulations even above individual men with whom they agree, the American revisions of WCF 23 and Belgic 36 also agree that Calvin was wrong.

  15. Chris S says:

    Maybe you could frame the question differently?

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