VanDrunen on the Importance of the Penultimate



In contrast to diverse yet unified views (not least the currently dominant forms of Kuyperianism or neo-Calvinism) that society ought to be built from an ultimate perspective, David VanDrunen offers something from the older Reformed tradition:

The early Reformed tradition of social thought, therefore, provides resources for evaluating society from this penultimate perspective. Unlike the claim of the later Kuyperian Reformed tradition, civil society is not to be identified with the eschatological, spiritual kingdom of Christ. For Calvin, to associate this kingdom with the things of this world is an error of great proportions. This suggests that civil society is to be measured by a standard other than that of the eschatological kingdom. It serves different purposes—important, yet penultimate purposes, such as a measure of law and order and general cultural achievement and so ought not to be judged by the standards of the eschatological purposes of the spiritual kingdom. Therefore, we see the importance that Calvin granted to natural law for the civil kingdom. Natural law had its limits; it could not get one to heaven, but that was not the purpose of the civil kingdom, after all. Calvin could be satisfied with looking to natural law, applied with wisdom to particular social contexts, rather than identifying a biblical model for society, such as the Mosaic civil law. True, Calvin and the early Reformed tradition often drew normative lessons for contemporary society from the history of Old Testament Israel, and these early Reformed theologians may not always have been completely consistent. A fair reading of them, though, suggests that they saw in Old Testament Israel examples of the application of natural law at work. To put it in the words of a seventeenth-century Presbyterian confession, they viewed Old Testament Israel as normative insofar as they perceived the general equity of its law and practice.


That sounds familiar…


Liturgical Protestantism offers a way around this impasse. A different way of putting it is to say that liturgical Protestantism represents a way for Protestant believers to support the wall between church and state. By looking for religious significance not in this world but in the world to come, liturgical Protestantism lowers the stakes for public life while still affirming politics’ divinely ordained purpose. The public square loses some of its importance but retains its dignity. It is neither ultimately good nor inherently evil; politics becomes merely a divinely appointed means for restraining evil while the church as an institution goes about its holy calling.

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13 Responses to VanDrunen on the Importance of the Penultimate

  1. Todd says:

    Why only liturgical Protestantism? My non-liturgical Protestantism is as 2k as any liturgicalism.

  2. Zrim says:


    I am not sure what you mean by non-liturgical Protestantism. But my suspicion is that Hart’s implication is that high church Calvinists were perhaps just plain better at these distinctions than low churchers. Depending on what you mean, maybe you are an exception to the rule?

  3. Rick says:

    That VanDrunnen article was a nice find.

    We all have liturgy.

    The term is one of Hart’s categories in the article – liturgical as opposed to revivalist or progressive. I think.

  4. Chris Sherman says:

    “We all have liturgy.”

    It’s just that some know what it is.

  5. Todd says:


    We do not all have liturgy. Liturgy and order are not necessarily the same thing.

  6. D G Hart says:

    The term liturgical Protestantism actually comes from political historians in the ethno-cultural school. If it means an argument for liturgy, so much the better.

  7. Todd says:

    Right, I’m asking for the connection between liturgy and 2k. Ironically, the FV, theonomists types are big on liturgical reform also.

  8. John Yeazel says:

    Being among dispy’s for the last two months makes this post much for significant and profound to me. It is a good thing that the “public square loses some of its significance but retains its dignity.” The dispy’s make the public square the arena for eschatolgical watchfulness and place huge significance on it. It is no wonder that the aggressive new atheist’s think of them as nut cases who need to be shut up. I side with them against the dispy’s.

  9. Zrim says:


    It may be less that there is a connection between 2K and liturgical Prostestantism and more that anti-liturgicals (AKA evangelicals) tend heavily to be quite anti-2K.

    Sure the FV/theonomists give some of us interested in liturgical reformation(including weekly communion, ahem) a black eye, but Jeff Meyers’ “The Lord’s Service” is a pretty good read on balance. I wonder how different your implications are from Anabaptists who fault Reformed for being paedobaptistic simply because Rome is.

  10. Todd says:


    I am not making a connection between liturgy and 1k, I was stating the irony of theonomy and asking the connection between 2k and liturgy. The Anabaptist dig was a bit over the top.

  11. Rick says:

    “We do not all have liturgy”

    Todd, with respect (and I do mean it), An order of worship is a liturgy. Explain how it isn’t – or give me your definition of liturgy.

    I think the connection between 2k and a high-church Calvinist liturgy is the other-worldliness it communicates.

  12. Todd says:


    You might check out Andy Webb’s material on why Presbyterians have historically rejected liturgies, found here:

    There is more implied in the term liturgy than simply order. Not sure I have time to unpack it though, but Andy’s article might be a good start.

  13. Zrim says:


    I think the questions you raise about liturgy, etc. are interesting and certainly worth discussion, but sort of beside the larger point of the post.

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