Watch What You Say…

Pastor Jim Cassidy contemplates two kingdom theology and concludes with a worry that it

…may in fact cause Christians to lose their greatest apologetic and witnessing opportunities. This is because while the unbeliever and the believer may not have any epistemological or ethical common ground, Christians do have a point of contact with him at every point. And that is because we all live in the arena of God’s covenantal fiat. And thus, we dare not be silenced: neither in the church nor in the public square. In fact, the latter is arguably the best place to bring both Law and Gospel to bear upon the consciences of fallen men.

It isn’t entirely clear to me how anything he says previously would lead one to conclude that two kingdom theology would be a culprit in rendering believers inept or silent in the public square. It also doesn’t seem clear to one commenter who does us all a great benefit by providing at length David Van Drunen’s response to Nelson Kloosterman:

But apologetic confrontation with unbelieving thought is not the only kind of interaction that Christians have with unbelievers. Christians are called not only to break down every pretension that sets itself up against Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) but also to live lives in common with unbelievers in a range of cultural activities. Christians may and even should make music, build bridges, do medical research, and play baseball with unbelievers. Believers are called to live in peace with all men as far as it lies with them (Rom. 12:18), to pray for the peace of the (mostly pagan) city in which they live (Jer. 29:7; 1 Tim. 2:1-2), and to interact in the world with people whom they would not admit to membership in the church (1 Cor. 5:9-11). There is a place for a believing musician to explain to an unbelieving musician that music is meaningless unless the triune God exists, but when they are rehearsing together in the community orchestra such a Van Tillian apologetic confrontation would be highly inappropriate—the task at that time is cooperation at a common cultural task. The same thing is true in regard to working on a construction site with non-Christians or grilling burgers with an unbelieving friend at a neighborhood cook-out or thousands of other ordinary endeavors. To try to put it briefly, we have different sorts of encounters with unbelievers at different times. Sometimes we have opportunity to engage in apologetic discussions, in which our modus operandi is confrontation and exposure of the futility of unbelief (though always in love). Other times (and probably most of the time for the ordinary Christian who is not a professional apologist) we have common tasks in which to engage alongside unbelievers, in which our modus operandi is trying to find agreement and consensus so that shared cultural tasks can be accomplished as well as possible in a sinful world.

And so with wise and measured words like this, I continue to wonder what is so “radical” about two kingdom theology that it deserves the scary moniker. Advocates are trying to give a theory for how we all, from neo-Calvinist to Catholic to Methodist to old school Reformed, actually seem to be living our Christian lives in the common sphere. One has yet to hear a critic come up with anything better. There certainly are those of us called to the very unique and specialized domain of apologetic engagement.

But one wonders if a sort of every member ministry underlies the notion that the rest of us in common vocations must behave and speak as if we’re all doing this specialized work. Do we really have to bring to bear on daily life covenantal fiat as we work together with unbelievers? I, for one, have never done this as I have mixed and mingled in various common environs. I don’t even think I would know how to do this. Sorry to wax personal, but in point of fact, it was precisely the sort of two kingdom theology expressed here by Van Drunen that drew me out of a wider evangelicalism to narrow Reformed confessionalism so many years ago. The very idea that believers are to be full-on participants alongside those with whom we are also as at odds as light is to darkness is what was so revolutionary. And to be quite frank, the critics of two kingdom theology—and even those who are mainly affirmative and yet hold out these sorts of concerns—sound disturbingly akin to the evangelicals who wanted redemption to swallow up creation (or at least toss it around between the cheek and gum) and who had no theory to explain the way they actually lived as rank and file believers. It was almost as if there was no distinction between those called to do specific forms of ministry and those not so called. The upshot was that common vocations had to be baptized and believers had to don the evangelical spacesuit before they could participate in the larger world. And once they got there, evangelizing everything from paperclips to bosses was really the point. The problem is that this just isn’t the way believers really live. Neither does it give anything but short shrift to the point of vocations. Is it really so radical and dangerous to suggest that the point of baking bread all day is to feed people and make a living? And does anybody really want to give the impression that because it isn’t enough to feed people and make a living that cupcakes should contain within them little notes that declare that said cupcake exists within God’s covenantal fiat and is best enjoyed with that knowledge? Critics may laugh at these questions, but speaking of theories to explain practices, I am not sure how else anybody ends up placing Bible tracts on the restaurant table in lieu of a tip without first thinking an unbeliever is always wrong and believers dare not be silenced in the public square. And when one matures and realizes tracts in lieu of tips is silly, how does he explain his conclusion that his meal was good, his service relatively adequate, and that it was sufficient to pay his provider and be done with it?

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21 Responses to Watch What You Say…

  1. David Beilstein says:

    Zrim — Rev James Cassidy considers himself 2k –– yet distances himself from “radical” 2k’ers. I believe what the fear is, is Natural Law hanging in the breeze unattached from Special Revelation. I happen to agree with you; there seems to be a tendency to “baptize” every single common kingdom vocation with critics of 2k. Critics, who by profession, are confessional. Yet as you point out, this seems to be a broadly “evangelical” way of seeing secular vocations and not confessionally reformed. The need to baptize all secular vocations (which I do not think can be done). That said, I do know James Cassidy has told me that he does not understand why a Christian can’t simply write a “secular” novel (non-evangelistic). So, I would not throw him into the evangelical tendency in this regard, if you understand my point. Further, my larger concern is that common kingdom vocations have their own corresponding “means” by which they are done and in this sense, cannot be “Christian”; which I believe was Dr David Noe’s point in some sense. Thanks for the wonderful post! -djbeilstein

  2. Zrim says:

    David, what still makes me wonder is what anybody means by “radical 2k.” What is it? If it’s natural law disconnected from the Bible, I don’t know where anybody has suggested such a thing. Does Cassidy mean Van Drunen? If so, I don’t know how anybody can read him charitably and think disconnect.

    My guess is that this is a function of the general Protestant suspicion of natural law. Stephen Grabill suggests several reasons Prots seem wary: natural law cannot be reconciled with a Reformed doctrine of total inability, natural law is too associated with Roman Catholic theological and philosophical presupps, and Barth basically won the day against Brunner’s championing of natural law. But if the concern is a disconnect from special revelation, doesn’t the point that God is the author of both books go a fair distance to quell any such fears?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Zrim — Ditto. All I can say is, I am talking to a friend who declares we must believe in two kingdoms. This is Biblical and apart of Reformed Theological heritage. I understand your point about the leeriness Protestants have with Natural Law, and believe you and Darryl Hart make excellent points that God made and sustains both “books” — General/Special Revelation. I also believe that Professor Vandrunen has defenses 2k thought and natural law within a covenantal understanding, but I am a laymen, so Mr Cassidy’s use of Voss and Kline is outside my understanding.

    From what my friend has told me (not Mr Cassidy) he feels that “radical” 2k gags the Christian … And, from the import of Adam in the garden both natural law is presumed (Adam knew the difference between all the trees he could eat from & and the tree he couldn’t) & Special Revelation is upheld. God directly commanded Adam not to eat from a specific tree. It required special revelation to get this across. Now, I am in heavy sympathy with what you and others have said on this point: that is, it is true Biblically. And it is theological astute and accurate and is a guiding director if you will to how Christians navigate this time in the “overlap of ages.” But, as you point out, Christians do not live in a constant whirling apologetical orbit.

    I have large agreement with the notion that novel writing is novel writing, filmmaking is filmmaking. As Sproul has said, “Art is its own justification.” I would add in a penultimate sense to this. And common vocations within all their diversity and beauty have their own justification. On an ultimate level, they are meaningless unless the triune God of Holy Word is true —- but they do have meaning by themselves in a penultimate sense which is why non-believers are viscerally moved and impacted by them.

    It seems to me, there is an evangelical mindset — or at least a “baptize” paper-clips and bosses —- in the thinking of those who are anti-2k outright, or simply wary of what has been called “radical” 2k. I’m with you, broseph, I don’t see anything radical about the expressions I’ve heard. Maybe some provocative polemics in defense of 2k but not radical.

    My big dilemma is that when it comes to witnessing or an apologetical encounter, I do see Van Til’s apologetic as the most Biblically consistent and useful. I think it holds up….however, as Dr Noe said the alleged implications that some Van Tilians go with it (and some quotes people posted by Van Til) seem very wrong indeed.

    Now, I claim no fake and have only been reformed since 2006. I am a recent member of the OPC. So what do I know! 🙂

    But I do know I am often very stimulated by Darryl’s blog posts and your points, Zrim, on here, Old Life, and the GreenBaggins debate against Turretin-Fan. Best-djbeilstein

  4. Zrim says:

    David, I suspect this idea that 2k “gags the Christian” is another strange fear that prompts the “radical” epithet. I don’t mean to sound overly nonplussed, but I still don’t get it. It seems to me that 2k gives us a way to engage the wider world with a wisdom and moderation that also never gives up one square inch of the antithesis.

    But maybe if one is starting with the idea that the antithesis is what should characterize not only our eternal relationships but also our provisional ones, then not bringing eternity to directly bear on provisional endeavors looks like “sitting down and shutting up.” That’s unfortunate, because what it really is, is making more careful distinctions about creation and redemption, distinctions that those whom we’re wanting to reach eternally might actually appreciate and so afford us a hearing. When you think of it, 2k might actually end up being a more effective way of doing witness, ironically the precise opposite of what Cassidy fears. I mean, put yourself in the unbeliever’s shoes and ask yourself who you’d want to hear more of–the guy who tells you you’re “always wrong” even though you’re doing right, or the one who recognizes your good citizenship? Is being in 24/7 antithesis mode the best way to make the antithesis point?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Zrim — Forgive me, beginner 2k member here. Just got done listening to David Vandrunen answer questions on some of these issues. I agree with you but will as some questions so I may learn — not challenge you. You’re first point: explain to me why one might think antitheis should characterize our eternal and provisional status as believers?

    And I do think the strength of 2k is that it does concede right behavior and respects common metyphiscal ground “imago Dei” so we can be better witnesses when that opportunity reveals itself.

    I have loved Vandrunen, Clark, and Hart’s books and I just believe they are striking at so much truth. But then you have folks like Turretin Fan who say this is bad theology and secular Christisnity. I am humble enough to know I am not humble — but I do claim all these men know lots more than me. I just do not understand why folks like Jamin Hubner at alpha & omega ministries blogs and others are attacking a doctrine that seems Biblically astute on every level but also simply apart of the orderly universe our triune God has made. 2k admits this! Call it radical or whatever but I believe it to be truth. And I can only thank you and others for your insight. Did you attend Seminary and have you read Jason J Stellman’s book Dual Citizens? I really enjoyed that book as well. Have a fantastic day Zrim. I will be talking to my friend I mentioned on Tuesday. I will take some notes and ask you some questions if you don’t mind.

    Regards,
    Djbeilstein

  6. David says:

    Zrim — some questions. When Cassidy writes: “However, where I disagree is on a fundamental, deep-structural level with regard to their covenant theology. And I disagree with them because of Geerhardus Vos, Cornelius Van Til, and above all M.G. Kline.” – James Cassidy

    What does Rev. Cassidy mean by this??

    “And what are the implications –– and do you disgaree with Pastor Cassidy when he writes:
    In conclusion, if we are to remain faithful to Kline, we must say that God’s creation is covenantal. It is formed by divine, covenantal fiat. And because of this, nature reveals the triune God at every point. And our call as Christians is to point the unbeliever to that reality and call him to repentance. Indeed, God’s common grace allows the unbeliever to function and even thrive in cultural endeavors, and we praise God for that fact. But such grace is only a restrainer. It is never to be confused with common ground.” – James Cassidy

    Forgive me, but I am still learning. It’s been a pleasure though!

  7. David says:

    *Cassidy’s first quote is a rejoinder to some 2k expressions I believe. He says he disagrees with the deep structural leve of some of these 2k theologians. Who, I dunno. But it appears to me, as Dr Hart has pointed out, that Dr Vandrunen’s approach has been radically steeped in a covenantal approach … Am I wrong?

  8. Zrim says:

    David, it’s just an observation on my part that some seem to be applying the antithesis more or less to provisional life. As to why anybody does this seems speculative. And you’re probably better off asking Cassidy what he means by his words.

    It’s as puzzling to me as it is to you why 2k earns the kind of criticism it does. It has always seemed to me that it captures the ethic of the NT the way that Reformed (and Lutheran) Christianity captures the gospel.

    Re Cassidy’s last quote, I am left wondering where he thinks common ground is grounded if not in common grace (or providence).

    I agree that DVD’s approach is classically covenantal. Where one sees this playing out is in a particularly helpful contribution to “Always Reformed.” He is making the point about the difference between ecclesiastical Christianity of paleo-Calvinism as opposed to cultural Christianity of neo-Calvinism. It seems to me that one can only make this point with a robust covenantal theology.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Zrim – that clears up a lot, thank you. And I agree with you. Cultural Christians “Calvinists” seem to retain a low church view, which you do not see in the reformers upon which so many of these neo-calvinists admire for their erudite illumination of the doctrines of grace. interesting.
    -djbeilstein

  10. David R. says:

    Thanks for finding my VanDrunen citation beneficial. I do hope Rev. Cassidy interacts with it. Regarding the issue of the deep structures of covenant theology, I have my doubts that VanDrunen would own that supposed disagreement with Vos and Kline. It does seem to me is that Rev. Cassidy’s antidote to the silencing of believers in the public square appears to ultimately delegitimize all non-apologetic interactions of any kind.

  11. David Z Beilstein says:

    @David R — Thanks for your response, Sir. What did you mean when you wrote:

    “It does seem to me is that Rev. Cassidy’s antidote to the silencing of believers in the public square appears to ultimately delegitimize all non-apologetic interactions of any kind.”

    I think you made a statement about “alleged implications” of Van Till in a forum I saw you on. You said you were not persuaded by this… Can you elaborate on this? For me, apologetically, I think Van Till was Biblical and consistent. But some folks who claim 2k and are Van Tillian, seem to be expanding the “antithesis” principal to provisional life BEYOND my understanding of common grace. When it comes to terms like Covenantal Fiat, I must humbly admit ignorance. My concern is folks leaping out of 2k theology (which I think is radically Biblical) to disavow the corresponding skill-sets of common vocational life–––aspects which there is meaning, penultimately, in themselves. My concern is not to be led astray but to be Biblical and confessionally reformed.

    I had the honor of speaking with Prof. Vandrunen when he was a guest speaker at our church this past Sunday. Following church, he answered questions. I asked him if he read Rev. Cassidy’s Reformed Forum article, but he said he did not. I wanted to ask him about Cassidy’s point in using Voss and Kline. In your response above, Mr R, did you mean that this is wrongly interpretation of Voss and Kline–––or no?

    I have only begun my reading of the late great Dr Kline’s (his essays) work. I will be starting Dr Kline’s Kingdom Prologue. It would be nice to be able to ask folks questions about it. I appreciate your help, Sir ––– you, Darryl, and Mr Zrim have been most helpful and winsome.

    Thanks!

    Regards,
    djbeilstein

  12. David R. says:

    Hi David,

    Unless Cassidy decides to clarify his point it’s hard (for me) to know quite what that point is. I take it he wants to make the case for a structural difference in VanDrunen’s covenant theology that allows DVD to concede too much to the unbeliever in terms of autonomy. But I really doubt that difference exists, at least not insofar as DVD has acknowledged it anywhere. So I guess what Cassidy is arguing is that DVD’s application is inconsistent. But how so? DVD points out for example that unbelievers, by virtue of natural law, already grasp that murder is wrong, so by making the case that abortion is murder, we can make progress toward the proximate goal of a more peaceful orderly society. But Cassidy appears to think that arguing in this way concedes too much to the unbeliever’s espoused autonomy. But if that’s the case, then I have a hard time seeing how any common cultural engagement would be allowed at all. For example, when my unbelieving grocer tells me that apple pie is on sale, am I obligated to assert that neither pies nor sales are intelligible apart from belief in the Triune God of Scripture and then call on him to repent? Obviously that would be absurd, so Cassidy can’t be saying this. But than I’m not sure quite what he’s saying, or where exactly DVD has transgressed in his view….

    Hope that helps. Reading Kingdom Prologue is a great idea. That book is definitely in my top five.

  13. John Hutson says:

    I think this recent post from Dr. Oliphant might be trying to answer some questions raised here: http://reformedforum.org/more-on-vossians-and-2kt/

    “Cassidy is not, I believe, saying we need to point out the difference in every cultural engagement. What he sought to demonstrate were the principles behind these cultural engagements that will hopefully inform conversations with unbelievers, equipping us with an awareness of the reality of who the unbeliever is and how consistent/inconsistent he or she is with his or her simultaneous drive for autonomy and knowledge of the true God.”

    The question remains: how does the antithesis inform conversations with unbelievers, besides in apologetics? The way I’ve seen it expressed I think will usually tend towards making the believer arrogant and unwilling to learn anything from unbelievers.

  14. David R. says:

    My question is, what is this difference between 2Kers and Vos (and Kline) that “goes without saying,” but that no one can seem to put their finger on.

  15. Zrim says:

    The other question, John, is why the need for epistemological consistency. When the unbeliever gives me correct change or a safe place to live I’m not too concerned if he can draw a straight line from his good behavior to his Creator. Now, if he wants to join me at the Table or is she wants to marry me, both have some work to do. But even then it seems more like confessional work than epistemological. After all, do I want a confession or a proof? I hope the former, since I bet nine out ten folks who meet with me every Lord’s Day can do only that, just like me. And I KNOW that’s all the one who married me can do, again just like me.

  16. David Beilstein says:

    Zrim

    I’m feeling you, brother man. While I think epistemological consistency is a Biblical apologetic ; some Van Tilians seem to be taking it way, way, too far. I think of what Vandrunen said in his Natural Law & The Two Kingdoms book where he sees Kline’s modifications of Van Til’s thought as helpful and consistent with a NL, 2k theology, though somewhat undeveloped. And so, some Van Tilians present an idea of antithesis which is not practical where Christians live.

    For instance, If I am working on a writing project I do not believe the template of (drama) is the place to “drive the non-believer” to epistemological consistency. I don’t believe the template of drama can do that work….And if it can, it is service-level and non-extensive–––and hence lacks any usefulness. Moreover, the fact my audience is alive and experiences true life inherently means good drama will be meaningful–––in a penultimate sense to non-believers and believers alike….And that is why so many Christians enjoy non-believers dramatic work (movies, novels, et cetera). There is a large sense that within this template (drama) non-believers are more able to realise the format’s inherent confine (which denotes meaningfulness) and it’s inherent restrictions.

    Question Zrim. Vandrunen says in Natural Law & The Two Kingdoms Van Til denied the Twofold rule of Christ––––as redeemer in the Sacred Kingdom, and preserver of remedial providence in the secular kingdom. Is this true and is this something that is effecting this dialogue with anti-2kers and 2’kers who are leery of “radical” 2k?

  17. David R. says:

    David, Not to answer for Zrim, but as I recall, DVD views CVT’s relationship to NL2K as somewhat ambiguous. In some ways he’s compatible but in others, perhaps not. One piece of notable evidence cited for the ambiguity claim is the case of two of CVT’s most devoted disciples, Bahnsen and Kline, who, though they both claim to be moving in the CVT trajectory, end up on completely different planets.

  18. Zrim says:

    David B., I can’t say that I recall that from NL2K. I wonder if you could be more specific. It’s hard to believe that CVT would be at odds with a basic principle of classic two kingdom theology (i.e. Jesus is Lord over both spheres but governs them in two different ways).

  19. Zrim says:

    And just to add to David R.’s comment, while it may be true that Bahnsen and Kline were devoted Van Tillians, Muether’s bio of CVT makes it clear that he consciously refused the crown the theonomists wanted to thrust on him (I can’t think of any 2kers who do the same). I wonder if that ever gives the theos pause to wonder about the planet they inhabit.

  20. David R. says:

    There’s a section of the book, beginning on page 401, in which DVD discusses CVT’s relationship to the NL2K doctrine. He says that CVT rejected Kuyper’s distinction between Christ as mediator of creation and mediator of redemption. Instead (quoting CVT), “We must unite the idea of creation in Christ with that of His redemption of all things.” (p. 402)

    “Van Til, therefore” (quoting DVD), “rejected what, historically, was perhaps the most basic theological foundation for the Reformed two kingdoms doctrine.”

  21. David Beilstein says:

    @ My 2k brothers Zrim & David R,

    Vandrunen’s Natural Law & The Two Kingdoms makes the point about Van Til and theonomists you made above from Mr Muther’s book. I agree. And as David R said, on page 401 and beyond of NL2K’s, Vandrunen does document Van Til’s stepping away from Kuyper idea (and two kingdoms doctrine) of Christ as mediator of creation and mediator of redemption.

    Van Til also would move away from Vandrunen in terms of the cultural mandate. As Vandrunen clearly teaches (and did when we had our question and answer session last Lord’s Day) that Christ has fulfilled the cultural mandate of Genesis 1.28.

    And it does seem, as Zrim pointed out, that some Van Tilians want the antithesis to stretch all the way through provisional life …

    Rev. Cassidy, always winsome, encouraging, and friendly, talked to me about these issues today via phone … I am nothing but a layperson so I do not feel comfortable repeating what he said to everyone on this page. I will say this, Mr Cassidy told me he is writing a PART TWO to his Reformed Forum article. So, more to come!

    From talking to Cassidy, I am comfortable saying this: I think he fears that Vandrunen’s position sounds (or does) give the unbeliever to much common ground –– or autonomy. So that is where this discussion is going and I do pray people from our side –– which on a basic level I am more sympathetic with ––– will answer these objections with clarity.

    Prof. Vandrunen has done excellent work here, in my humble opinion, but the dialogue does need to continue because of this confusion in our ranks.

    Thank you to all the men who know far more than I do on this website. It’s been a pleasure. Hope to trade twelves with all of you more often…

    Regards,
    djbeilstein

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