Debate vs. Grandstanding

I visited the blog of a CRC minister that was referred to me by a friend in mid-Michigan. This minister is a theonomist who calls Two Kingdom Theology (2Kt) a “disease”, and makes gratuitous assertions about a connection between 2Kt and gnosticism.

Unfortunately I took the bait and attempted a dialog. In return I recieved more gratuitious assertions, strawman arguments, and ad hominem attacks. Finally, I made assertions regarding what I believe concerning the nature of the two kingdoms and the Church’s role in them. Responding to this, this pastor pulled my post and hacked it apart so as to take my words out of context and do more grandstanding to show just how totally right he is for being a thenomist and how ludicrous my thinking on 2Kt is. He was even so kind as to make more assertions… this time telling me (or more correctly, those who read his blog) what I believe (which I can understand since much of my original post, that which contained my own assertions of belief, was removed or ‘reorganized’). To add insult to injury, he assured his audience that he does not care to support his claims concerning the connection between 2Kt and gnosticism.

Interestingly enough, several days ago there was a post concerning the political grandstanding and underhandedness of the Obama campaign. This being the culture a Theonomist would care to redeem, one must wonder exactly what that redemption will look like in that great millenium of political victory when ministers like this one rule the world ‘by the power of the Holy Spirit’. His concern, it was suggested in response to some of my comments, was the third use of the Law. I care not for it, he said, but he wants to see its fruits.

Of course those who subscribe to a 2Kt believe in the third use of the Law, and I pointed this out (that was one of those points he didn’t see fit to publish on his site). Furthermore, I am in awe of the ironic state of affairs in which this pastor finds himself; on the one hand he argues for application of the Law to the culture at large, and yet he violates it in his argumentation of that very point.

I do not believe it would be right for me to direct y’all to this site, nor do I think I ought to give his name. But there is a lesson to be learned here, and it is my hobby horse: everybody has a system. We’ve all thought this stuff through and I have no doubt that many who disagree with me are bright, intelligent, well-intending souls. They are just wrong. On the other hand, I’m happy to go toe-to-toe with those with whom I disagree knowing that I’ll either be strengthened in my belief or be corrected where I err. This, of course, requires argumentation that is soundly logical and respectful. We can debate and discuss with attention to one another’s presuppotions therein, but I stop when I feel the need to call names, mischaracterize, or call into question the salvation of those with whom I disagree (at least those who are presumably in the Church).

It would seem to me that given my disappointment with the rancor and putrid state of affairs in the realm of politics (though it doesn’t surprise me, it is politics after all) that I as a Christian could possibly (attempt to) set an example to the world. Must we always agree? Absolutely not. I love to argue. Should we attack (percieved) inconsistencies in the ideas of others? I hope so. Should we attack one another as stupid, as “against the Kingdom of God” or practice illegitimate forms of debate such as those cited above? Lets not.

Whether we all agree on 2Kt, Calvinism, Covenantalism (or what have you) or not, we agree that the saints of God ought to conduct themselves in a way that reflects the application of the redemption which God has accomplished through Christ on the cross. This board has gotten heated at times as these topics are likely to do, and we’ve had brothers correct brothers and get corrected back and so on, but we have stayed away from the sort of political grandstanding that I witnessed recently.

And that is exactly what it was. Political grandstanding for an audience. Why do I subscribe to 2Kt? Because ministers ought not attempt to utilize the tools of the kingdom of men such as mischaracterization, slander, and blantant dishonesty to further our Lord’s Kingdom. The Lord will bring in an innumberable harvest in the elect, but He will do so by His appointed means. We do Him no favors when we privelege cultural transformation over seeing to the faithful execution of those means. They’re weak in the eyes of men and even those in our own reformed camp sometimes sound as though they believe them inadequate to the task, but they’re all we’ve got. 

May God’s kingdom come, may His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven… because of the preaching of the Gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, and the discipline of the Church.

Come Lord Jesus,

EFWakeman

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14 Responses to Debate vs. Grandstanding

  1. John Bugay says:

    “In return I recieved more gratuitious assertions, strawman arguments, and ad hominem attacks. Finally, I made assertions regarding what I believe concerning the nature of the two kingdoms and the Church’s role in them. Responding to this, this pastor pulled my post and hacked it apart so as to take my words out of context and do more grandstanding to show just how totally right he is for being a thenomist and how ludicrous my thinking on 2Kt is….”

    EF, I know this individual — I haven’t interacted with him for a while (I only know him from online and email activities, though I have talked with him on the phone a couple of times.) I always admired his passion, and it was nice having him on “my side” for a time, although, when I brought up “two kingdoms” with him, I got a similar treatment. At one point, in the De Regno Christi article, Darryl Hart comments, “If you are right, I am in sin, but if I am right, we merely disagree.” That, (aside from the unkindness of this particular pastor), I think, is the nature of this. From his perspective, we do not attribute to Christ all the glory (and authority) that He claims for himself. But that is a simplistic way to look at it.

    He has been banned from another Reformed discussion board. I very much liked this individual, and I loved his passion for the gospel.

    I don’t know what the answer is, EF. With you, I pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”

  2. Zrim says:

    Eric,

    I think there is a world of difference between being a pundit and a cranky Presbyterian. He likes to think of himself as the latter but seems not to realize he is more of the former. I think it’s a fairly typical tool used by grandstanding pundits to distract people from what is really going on. Funny how theonomists very often (not always) have in common the ways of pundits who seem to also believe they know what’s best for the world.

    John, I think there are two kinds of zeal: one according to knowledge and another, well, not so much. I like passion, too, but it can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands.

  3. ef says:

    I think that at some point we have carefully think through the line of differentiation between those with whom we recognize a certain amount of disagreement on details and those who are propogating another religion altogether. Paul does a great job of this in Galatians.

    We also need to recognize that having a dialog in hopes of understanding the points of view of others within our communion(s) is not “Liberal” and does not necessarily mean “being so open minded our brains fall out”. Are we covenentalists? Do we believe that the body is made up of hands, feet, arms, legs, and even perhaps at times… um… other parts?

    I for one could see myself living at peace with a thenomist in the assembly because of our mutual concern for liturgy. I am happy to hear from John that theonimists care greatly for the Gospel, because the fact of the matter is when I look at their theology I am unsure where they’re coming from.

    From that standpoint I can understand the zeal of this man’s rant and his desire to stifle debate. It is easier to block out other viewpoints if you avoid putting flesh and bones on them; I can slander you in theory much easier than I can in fact. Wiping the floor with you is easy for me when I’m bashing the tar out of some straw man I’ve constructed of you because I can deny in my own mind that you’re actually an image bearer.

  4. Joe Branca says:

    “At one point, in the De Regno Christi article, Darryl Hart comments, “If you are right, I am in sin, but if I am right, we merely disagree.” That, (aside from the unkindness of this particular pastor), I think, is the nature of this.”

    Seems to me that this basically comes from a Rushdooney take on things: the Church in general is in sin because of her unwitted allegiances with secularism and her subsequent failure to correct it via mission to promote conformity to God’s law in the world.

    Thus, any 2kt advocate is simply by definition one who is explicitly perpetuating that sort of corporate sin plaguing the Church. The language must be strong then, since strong medicine is required for strong sickness.

    That’s the view taken by such theonomists in this debate. I assure you given their view on the state of affairs, their motives and passion are commendable, though they probably do cross the line at times (who hasn’t?) and even while I do not subscribe to such a view myself.

    j

  5. Zrim says:

    But, Joe, FVers believe they are combatting antinomianism in the ranks. Where’s the love for them these days? Sorry, I still have little to no sympathy for a zeal not according to knowledge. Theonomy is a false teaching put down by the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, much the same way they are putting down this FV stuff.

    Passion does not justify being wrong.

  6. ef says:

    Zrim,

    Passion doesn’t justify being wrong, but as a guy who is only vaguely familiar with the teachings of Rushdoony and his apostles, Joe’s explaination helps me understand where the guy is coming from.

    Have the major bodies (PCA, URC, OPC, RPCNA) made formal position statements on Theonomism? I doubt the CRC (or RPCNA for that matter) would or could since they’re so deeply entrenched in Kuyperian Transformationalism, but who knows.

  7. Echo_ohcE says:

    The coming of Christ, the true Son of God, abolishes national Israel. Since the coming of Christ, there is no more reason for the theocracy. Whether they mean to or not, theonomists are an affront to Christ. They want to have the theocracy that Christ abolished by his coming. He fulfilled the purposes of Israel. To claim those purposes for ourselves is to reject Christ himself.

    Read Gal 5:1-5 and replace “circumcision” with “theonomy”.

    E

  8. Zrim says:

    Eric,

    That is a good question. I don’t think any formal statements have been made the way something like FV has demanded. I think that is because the latter directly challenges the confessions, etc. But it seems that theonomy is broadly regarded in Presbyterian and Reformed bodies as something as odious as Revivalism. It is curious how much of the roots of theonomy are found amongst the FVers. James Jordan, for example, is an old Reconstructionist. Yet, at the same time, blantant and offensive kingdom-confusers like James Kennedy was adamantly opposed to FV. As usual, it can be complicated.

    But Echo fairly well sums up just why theonomy is such an affront. I think it is upon the faithfully Reformed to reject this error as forcefully as any Federal Vision or Revivalism.

  9. Zrim says:

    Bret,

    I get the feeling you are trying to say something. Feel free to speak up a bit louder, because every time I try to listen a password of which I am completely unaware is demanded of me.

    …which is quit fitting, if not hilariously ironic.

  10. Greg says:

    Is there such a thing as an amillenialist theonomist? It would seem difficult to imagine: (from ironink)

    “I do have in mind a Triumphant age in which cultural institutions this side of the second advent submit to Christ’s always present Lordship. And I would contend it is only post-millennialists who have a theology of the cross because it is only post-millennialists that the enemies of Christ would bother to persecute for the Kingdoms sake. It’s easy to talk about a Theology of the Cross when you don’t do anything that would make anybody want to persecute you.”

    I guess that preaching an exclusive Gospel of grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone is no longer foolishness, a stumbling block or an offence. He is correct, however, that (Christians or followers of any religion) trying to take over the culture (politically) does make enemies. How many are persecuted for trying to transform the culture instead of for preaching the gospel?

    How has theonomy aided us in loving our neighbor in gratitude for the grace of God? (As though the law can sanctify) What I’ve witnessed is a tendency in theonomists toward combativeness with the world, i.e, us versus them, world perceived self-righteous Christians. Or will we love them when we’re not fighting them? I don’t lay this on all theonomists (I’ve not read everything or know many), but this has been my experience. Perhaps “we” will have more time to love our neighbor after we’ve changed the world for Christ.

    Interestingly, I got a bit wrapped up in PM/Theonomy some years ago before I was Reformed(!). I say “interesting” because of all the reading that I did, I never recall having gotten the gospel from the theonomist authors; I never got a Calvinistic understanding of the Gospel from them. In retrospect, they seemed too busy with redeeming the culture to bother with the repetitive preaching of Christ crucified. By God’s grace I found the Gospel in Romans (and the rest of Scripture). When one reads Mike Horton, one can’t help but get the Gospel repeatedly!

    Another thing I don’t understand: If we accept that the law doesn’t justify, sanctify, etc., but is intended to drive us to despair and to Christ, how does the theonomist expect to change the world using the law? If we can not perfect in the flesh how can the world even “begin” in the flesh? The law doesn’t make us better, although when we become aware of it, we may want to sin all the more. So then, are the theonomists “paddling up stream”?

    For years I listened to Kennedy… until I understood the gospel! After that I sadly found his “preaching” to be devoid of spiritual nourishment; but he sure had a plan to restore America (to what? deism?). While there is no doubt that Kennedy understood the gospel, he certainly abandoned it from the pulpit to pursue his own agenda for transforming the culture for Christ.

    Finally, I’ve sometimes wondered: How should a Christian in an Islamic country feel about “transforming the culture”? How would he/she perceive “success/failure” or how much “transforming” is needed?

  11. efwake says:

    “In retrospect, they seemed too busy with redeeming the culture to bother with the repetitive preaching of Christ crucified. By God’s grace I found the Gospel in Romans (and the rest of Scripture). When one reads Mike Horton, one can’t help but get the Gospel repeatedly!”

    My impression as well.

    “Read Gal 5:1-5 and replace “circumcision” with “theonomy”.”

    My thoughts exactly, you gnostic!

  12. Zrim says:

    Greg,

    You are exactly right. Being at war with the world is to be expected, but the reasons make all the difference. Being hated for one’s own sake is one thing, being hated for Christ’s sake is another.

    This “it’s easy to talk about a Theology of the Cross when you don’t do anything that would make anybody want to persecute you” argument is formulated in the bowels of hell.

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