Darryl Hart’s Response to My 2 Kingdoms Essay

Dr. Hart has given some of his thoughts about my recent critique of VanDrunen over at Old Life Theological Society.  I almost never agree with Dr. Hart, though he almost always makes me laugh.  Laughter is a gift from God, and so too, I suppose, must Darryl Hart be.  I appreciate his willingness to engage with the common folks (like me), though I do find this particular instance fairly unimpressive.  It doesn’t seem that he’s clearly read my argument, but has instead lumped me into broader groups that he can more quickly dismiss.

1) It seems like Dr. Hart is characterizing me both as a Federal Visionist and a Theonomist.  He never calls me this directly, but he does engage in some guilt by association.  And of course, no critique from the Westminster California theologians would be complete without the obligatory reduction to Roman Catholicism.  However, he has failed to note a few aspects of my paper which would clearly distinguish me from each of these groups.

a) The guiding theological principle in my paper is a distinction between the visible and invisible church.  This is hardly a Federal Vision approach.  I argue that the two kingdoms correspond with the invisible church and the rest of the world, with the visible church being one institution of the temporal kingdom.  This is my strongest criticism of VanDrunen, and Dr. Hart lets it go by without comment.

b) I do affirm that the Reformers advocated natural law.  In fact, though I didn’t have the time in my paper to go into this, I advocate natural law.  My view of Christendom is wholly bound up with natural law theory.  This makes me a very poor theonomist.

c) I also make use of the two kingdoms in order to prop up the Reformation’s use of the civil magistrate against the bishops and magisterium of the Roman Church.  I affirm universal priesthood and vocation, arguing that these Protestant doctrines justify the actions of Christian laity in the public sphere.  Furthermore, since I believe that the spiritual kingdom is the realm of the soul’s immediate communion with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, there is no room in my own theology, nor that of the original Reformers, for the visible church to be identified with the spiritual kingdom.  In fact, it seems to me that the threat of latent Romanism is pointed in the opposite direction.  If the spiritual kingdom is identified with the visible church, particularly its polity and discipline, then I do not see how we escape the necessity of a rule by law.

2) Dr. Hart claims that I do not take care to represent the diversity of thought within the Reformation.  He erroneously says that I fixate on Calvin, though my paper made substantial use of Luther.  I also mentioned Bucer in Strasbourg, and I made references to the English churches.  One of my more significant influences has been Paul Avis, who explains the thought of Richard Hooker on this subject.  I see a general continuity between all of these subsets of Reformation thought.

a) Hart mentions the difference between Zurich and Geneva, but that only has to do with the question of excommunication.  It is true that there is some difference between the two schools, but it does not change the fact that Calvin was himself employed by the city of Geneva.  He believed that excommunication and the distribution of the sacraments were exclusive to church ministers, but he did not say that the civil magistrate should be disinterested in the visible church.  In fact it was quite the opposite.  I will give a few pieces of evidence from Calvin, and then so as not to illegitimately focus on him, I will point out other Reformed representatives.

b) Calvin writes to King Francis that:

The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word. For the heavenly oracle is infallible which has declared, that “where there is no vision the people perish.

c) Calvin writes to King Edward VI of England:

Only then, sire, aim at the mark which is set before you in the example of this holy king, so that it may be testified of you that you have not only destroyed impieties which were repugnant to the honour and service of God, but also that you have abolished and rased to the foundations every thing that tends only to the nourishment of superstition. For when God wishes to commend to the utmost those faithful princes who have restored and re-established the purity of his service, he especially adds, that they also brake down the high places, that the memory of the idolatrous worship might be destroyed.

d) Peter Martyr Vermigli writes to Queen Elizabeth I:

…if the bishops and ministers of the churches have not performed their duty, if in handing down dogmas and administering the sacraments they forsake the just regulation of the divine letters, who will recall them to the right path unless it be the godly prince? Your Majesty should not expect in the current situation that they will be impelled to these by themselves; unless royal spurs move them they will not rebuild the ruins of God’s temple.

e) Jerome Zanchi writes of the civil magistrate:

Now, since the duty of a godly prince, that is a magistrate, which hath a free power over any people and authority within his jurisdiction to institute and reform religion, is twofold, which he oweth to Christ and to the church in the cause of religion. One about such things as belong unto religion; the other respecteth men, which are in his jurisdiction and subject unto him. For the first, our belief is that he should diligently take heed that by the pure word of God rightly understood and expounded by the very word itself and according to the principles of faith (that which they call the analogy or rule of faith), religion may be instituted in his dominion or kingdom; or where it is instituted, may be kept sound and pure; or where it is corrupted, may be restored and reformed to the glory of God and salvation of his subjects. For this we read hath been commanded of God and of Moses, and ever observed of all godly princes.

f) We can also look at a survey of the Reformed confessions to see if there is a consistent doctrine.  Even if Hart’s point about Geneva is true, it would be the odd-man out by far.  Of course, Geneva does say that the magistrate is holy, and the English Congregation at Geneva has no trouble advocating the political suppression of idolatry.

g) But let’s cut to the chase.  Does anyone think that Calvin and the city of Geneva objected to the civil magistrate enforcing distinctively religious laws?  Even if we leave the big counterexample out of it, since it does get overplayed, we have to remember that the consistory had a rather this-worldly function of policing the citizen’s daily lives.  Skipping church could result in fines or jail time.

h) Let it not be forgotten, of course, that I originally argued that this sort of Christian political action followed from the Reformers’ notions of the two kingdoms and natural law.  This is not a theonomist or neo-Calvinist position.  This is the old vanilla Reformed position.  We might certainly want to make some modifications.  Richard Hooker, as you might recall, was a little concerned by Geneva’s discipline.  Let us not misrepresent the past in doing this though.  There were certainly developments, and we should be open to them, but we should also maintain that they are developments within a tradition.  

3) Hart finally tosses me into the generic neo-Calvinist camp of transformationalism, even finding time to suggest that I might be toying with Roman Catholicism.  I didn’t find him actually interacting with what I said on this point, however.

a) I argued that the best neo-Calvinists could be translated into natural law theory.  If their notion of “redemption” is that of a regained creation, then it follows that their notion of redemption rule or redemption ethics would be rather close to creation rule or creation ethics.  If this could be worked out consistently, then they would in fact be advocating something like natural law.  That was my entire point about Francis Schaeffer (who is probably more of a fundamentalist than a neo-Calvinist, but he’s certainly inspired young people among the latter).  He argues for shared reason and the common ground of the imago dei.

b) Dr. Hart does mention my concern with the disagreement between the Christian’s two selves.  This was not a concern about different vocations or different purposes at different times, but rather one of ethics and the heart.  The two-kingdom dweller does, in fact, possess a singular heart.

c) I would certainly agree that no magistrate is a mediator for the Christian in the spiritual kingdom.  I don’t see Hart’s citation of McKay on Rutherford as having much of a target in my own writing.  Of course, if Hart wishes to deny that political magistrates are mediators for Christians in the temporal kingdom, then he’s going to find himself outside of the Reformed camp in the opposite direction.  I’m sure that this is not the case and merely reflects overanxious rhetoric.

Again, I am glad to see some interaction with my piece, but unfortunately the actual engagement with my words was sparse in Dr. Hart’s response.  While I’m confident that he and I will still disagree, a more careful reading would reveal that I’m tracking closely with the original Reformers.  Of course, much of the positive construction is still to be done.  Perhaps another day will provide us with the opportunity.

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About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

111 thoughts on “Darryl Hart’s Response to My 2 Kingdoms Essay

  1. Steven,
    I really did enjoy your essay and want to compliment you on a good job of it. I also enjoyed the above response to Hart. I have a tangential question: on lines of Christian rule and the magistrate, have you read much on monarchy as it related to the medieval world? I have in mind E. Kantorowitzc’s (sp?) *The King’s Two Bodies.* I was told it was a classic text on medieavl kingship.

    Anyway, good job.

  2. Maybe this is a tangent, but, you say

    “Furthermore, since I believe that the spiritual kingdom is the realm of the soul’s immediate communion with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit”

    How “noumenal” is your understanding of the soul’s immediate communion? Does it register phenomenally on the “mind”?

    Say a man gets Alzheimer’s. Is his soul’s immediate communion with Christ in ANY WAY impaired by his Alzheimer’s? Might a man feel or think that his communion is impaired by his Alzheimer’s? If he thinketh so, is he?

  3. The soul is not just what we think of as the mind, and it is certainly not the brain in any physical/physiological sense. It is heart. It is spirit.

    Alzheimers cannot break the mystical bond of the Spirit.

  4. Jacob,

    Kantorowitcz is indeed a classic. I own a copy of *The King’s Two Bodies,* and it was very enlightening. He gives a very good explanation of the “divine” nature of kings, and he also interacts with De Lubac’s work regarding the mystical body of Christ.

  5. Steven, ahem, is not Credenda Agenda an outlet for Doug Wilson and is not DW a Federal Visionist? You had no idea that your review might be comforting to the FV effort? Come now.

    You can find oodles of quotes for your side, and VanDrunen has oodles for his side.

    You say you want to cut to the chase. It is hardly a historical question about Geneva. It has very much to do with the responsibilities of the churches now and their relationship to the state. Since the editor of CA fancies himself an advocate of Christendom and a Constantinian, is that also your project? And do you think that the kingdom of Christ is embodied in the US, Somalia, or Scotland?

  6. You said,

    “I do affirm that the Reformers advocated natural law… My view of Christendom is wholly bound up with natural law theory. This makes me a very poor theonomist.”

    Then you quote Calvin saying to King Francis,

    “He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word.”

    I’m confused. How is the idea of a kingdom ruled by “the sceptre of God” “by his divine word” natural law and not theonomy?

  7. Dr. Hart,

    I write in the service of truth. There are parts of my paper which will “comfort” the Credenda audience, but there are also parts that will challenge them. My goal is to sharpen, edify, and transform a wide-ranging group of readers.

    As to the issue of VanDrunen’s “oodles of quotes,” the problem is that he is badly misreading the very quotes he provides. I showed how he equivocates on “church,” and I’ve provided a larger theological context by which the Reformers’ views are not inconsistent (as DVD is repeatedly forced to say).

    So again, my primary goal is to faithfully expound the Reformers’ position.

    Only after we’ve done that should we move on to contemporary applications of the Reformers’ principles. I am an advocate for Christendom, though I doubt you and I define that in the same way. Let me put it to you in a slightly different way than usual:

    The only society which can consistently allow for religious liberty and personal freedoms, a sort of pluralism, is a society which is explicitly founded on Protestant Christian principles.

    Think of in this way- Remi Brague’s Eccentric Culture argues that the only culture in world history that was ever truly “multicultural” was Western Europe. I think he fails to show the problems of the Roman magisterium in this regard (He is Catholic himself), and so I would add Charles Taylor’s work to his thesis, thus arriving at the Protestant Eccentric Culture.

  8. Daniel,
    One can say that a kingdom is ruled by the sceptre of God and not be a theonomist—quite easily. Theonomy is simply a specific hermeneutics relating to the case laws of Moses. And a quite novel one at that. Many medieval and post-Roman realms were ruled by some form of natural law, but seeing that natural law as participating in the divine law. See Sir Steven Runciman’s *Byzantine Theocracy.* And Charlemagne, whether he was consistent or not, saw himself as a King David but he didn’t see the need for Bahnsen’s view of Moses’ judicials to be enforced.

    Prof Hart,
    I don’t see where you have a substantial problem with steven’s piece. He distances himself from theonomy and affirms a natural law theory. You do realize that most of Church History’s proponents of natural law advocated a form of Christendom, no? Or at least presupposed it’s validity. The R2K view of natural law is quite novel.

  9. Daniel,

    Natural law is given by the same God who wrote the Bible and was always said to be essentially synonymous with the Decalogue. If you read the rest of Calvin’s writings regarding statecraft, his rejection of “theonomy” (rule by the Mosaic law/torah) is quite clear. He regards that view as Anabaptist and a serious misunderstanding of the Biblical text. He does think that Israel can be exemplary, of course, but it is not any sort of law for the nations today.

    Natural law, as I’m found of saying, is itself already theonomous in the basic sense. It comes from God’s own nature and for that reason cannot contradict any moral revelation found in the Bible. It is not identical with any historical polity, however, and must always be interpreted and applied in context.

  10. To anyone: why does natural law mean no theonomy? The Covenanters believed in natural law. They also believe the state is to preserve the true religion — which by the way means not a real good place for Roman Catholics.

    Steven, I don’t think you “showed” that DVD “badly” read his quotations. What you seem to be unable to do is to resolve Calvin’s two kingdom affirmations with his recommendations to various rulers. DVD actually does try to resolve this tension.

    Your appeal to visible and invisible church, and the church as part of a public manifestation of the spiritual kingdom won’t exactly do since the Reformed confessions and catechism are clear in their teaching on the keys of the kingdom that the church’s rule is for a different than the state’s.

    When it comes to Protestantism being the only basis for a truly liberal society I do not know what history you are studying. The only time that the West finally came to terms with freedoms for all religious groups was during the revolutions of the eighteenth century. I will concede that the Enlightenment has many flaws. What I can’t understand is a way of looking at the past or at the state which says that a religious establishment will lead to protections for those who don’t hold the state’s religion. Have you no sense of the European wars fought over religion, the confessionalization of Europe to get around those wars, or even in the liberal context of the United States how Protestants did not make room for Roman Catholics and Mormons?

  11. I guess the word theonomy has a lot of baggage. Let me ask this way.

    Even though the reformers advocated natural law, wouldn’t they also say that rulers should rule according to how God has reveled himself in scripture or as Calvin says “by his divine word”? A “natural law as participating in the divine law” makes sense, but would they allow for a natural law that can exist exclusive of scripture?

  12. Dr. Hart,

    I’ve got to go watch the soccer match in a bit, so I can’t stay long. Briefly-

    1) Almost all of the theonomists rejected natural law, either saying that it was not accessible post-fall or that even if it were accessible, it would still be insufficient for any common societal order. They furthermore insisted that the Mosaic economy was universal, thus putting it in the place that natural law had held in the older Reformed theories.

    You seem to be using “theonomy” to refer to any religiously based political order, which is historically not how the term has been used.

    2) I resolved the tension in my original paper. Following William Wright, I argued that the spiritual kingdom refers to the invisible church. This directly follows from justification by faith alone and the freedom of the Christian man.

    3) The visible or institutional church’s rule is for a different purpose than the state’s. I agree with that. All of the Reformers (and mostly all of the pagans!) also said that the state’s foremost duty was to protect and provide for the proper religion, including its churches. I don’t find your offering up Larger Catechism 45 as sufficient to contradict the more explicit statements, nor do I see it getting into distinctions between “church” and “state,” but rather it leaves the rhetoric at “people,” “officers” and “laws.” We’d have to get into this in more detail, but the monarchs of England were themselves officers of a sort in the church, and the laws of the Church of England were approved by the civil govt. I seem to recall that this was still the case with the Westminster Confession, as it was called by Parliament (and only approved by the Scottish govt., hence only widely used by the Scottish churches prior to the American settlement).

    4) I’m reading a wide variety of history, and we can talk about those sources at length in the future, but one of the most relevant sources for this discussion would be Charles Taylor. He connects the Reformation’s doctrine of vocation or the goodness of “ordinary life” with modern notions of societal freedom.

    There’s no spotless period of history to repristinate, and you are correct to point out the flaws. The principles of Zanchi were directly influential upon Althusius (per Stephen Grabill), however, and Althusius is a great resource for the modern questions. Much of that is still to be done.

  13. Daniel,

    Natural law exists independently of Scripture, but it is still God’s nature, and thus it could never contradict Scripture. Calvin often added that special revelation further and better illuminated natural revelation.

    To the question whether pagans could rule nobly, Calvin and the Reformers always answered in the affirmative.

    For a more contemporary take, see C S Lewis’ The Abolition of Man.

    I have to rush off for now.

  14. Steven, I don’t think appealing to a book on Martin Luther resolves your tension or a point about the Reformed view of the church. To say that the spiritual kingdom refers to the invisible church doesn’t make any sense to me as an officer in the church. My rule, such as it is, is not over the invisible church. It is over the visible. And the Confession of Faith is very clear in saying that the visible church is the kingdom of Christ, and that the visible church has spiritual rule, as opposed to civil rule. So I don’t think you’ve resolved this.

    I may be using theonomy inaccurately. But where has there existed a theonomic state. It seems that you want to claim Calvin and other reformers for a theonomic position. But then the reformers affirmed natural law. Another tension in search of resolution.

    Last, I do think you need to consider more carefully your assessment of Protestantism as the basis for civil society. Taylor may make claims that you like, but I hardly think he would go in the direction that your editor does at Credenda Agenda. So how do you get a confessional or conservative Protestant basis for liberal society? It makes sense that a liberal Roman Catholic might say that. But a theonomist using a liberal Roman Catholic? Did a soccer ball hit you in the head?

  15. btw, forget the Dr. Hart business. I appreciate the manners. But I’m just a duffer in the blogosphere.

  16. Darryl,

    Wedgeworth has defended his position so well, and your critiques are so loose and haphazard, that I’m inclined to think that little remains to be said. But there are a few points it might be worth making for the sake of readers.

    On natural law:
    There are two kinds of natural law thinking, broadly speaking; one is compatible with theonomy, because it holds that a) the natural law and the law of Christ are simply identical but b), none can know it except the regenerate, and it can only be lived by the regenerate. The other view is that natural law (which is not to be understood as a code, but rather as the conatus toward the Good which is inseparable from personal and communal history- its positive-law body is made of decisions, and it is accessible only hermeneutically) is accessible to all by remnant nature and reason, and serves as the basis of republics. This is incompatible with theonomy. The first position was associated with some Anabaptists, some of the very extreme Reformed, and a handful of Lutherans in the 17th c. The second is the position of Aquinas, the better medievals, the Reformers, Hooker, many Puritans, and the great Protestant jurisprudential tradition generally.

    On theonomy and liberalism:
    You must be unaware of the basic meaning of Westphalia, and of the work of Pufendorf, Thomasius, and even Locke. A society which allows for maximum personal freedom, even of religion, will need principles by which it does this: and the fact is that historically, those principles are Protestant. Is Protestantism the *only* doctrine capable of informing such a settlement? I’d argue yes; but that would be a different conversation. But the fact is that the Protestant division of the realm of grace, personal spiritual freedom, and the civic world ruled by law which law is, by that very settlement, rendered non-absolute (thus relativizing all political rule, and making peace, not holiness, its primary concern), is the foundation of our free commonwealths here. The difference between a naive liberalism such as yours, and Wedgeworth’s defense of a free society, is that SW is aware that political systems are founded in vision and decisions, are contingent creations, and that they are not, as we learned in WW II, a suicide pact- they require maintenance and have form and limits. None of this is difficult or obscure, Darryl; and it’s not just Taylor- the understanding that Protestantism underlies modern free-state order is a commonplace of political philosophy; try Geuss, for instance.

    On theonomy and Wedgeworth, or rather, theonomy and you: Who here is the theocrat? Wedgeworth’s view is that religion is architectonic to the commonwealth, but that Protestant religion is architectonic to a necessarily free commonwealth. Your position abdicates any responsibility for the general commonwealth, since you seem to think it’s just given and self-maintaining (like someone in a restaurant unaware of how the food actually gets to the table, or where the dishes go), so clearly the actual how-work of any kind of civic “ocracy” isn’t going to interest you; but your “visible-spiritual rule” certainly looks a lot like microtheocracy, or play-theocracy; theocracy confining itself to a voluntary society, which society is, however, peddled as being compulsory for those professing Christian faith. There are indeed some tensions in Reformed ecclesiology; Wedgeworth resolves them toward the Protestant consensus (and Calvin), but you, like the Puritans who after failing as civic clerocrats then quickly retired into unassuming sectarian Independency and microclerocracy, prefer a small pure church where that odd-man-out nonmark of the Church, clerocratic discipline (which even extends to the realm of the mind, in the form of hyperconfessionalism), can have pride of place, while passing unconcerned through civic society, and thus you resolve the tensions toward Reformed sectarianism. Thankfully, in a free society, we are free to judge the difference between a faith as wide as the world, and a faith of pressboard pulpit and polyester suit conventicles, and make our choices accordingly.

    SW has already made it clear that “theonomy” will have different senses, according to the different modes of God’s rule. The “theonomy” of the law of gravity is not quite the same as the “theonomy” of the laws of logic; and the most basic division for human life is the two kingdoms. For the consensus Protestants, the “theonomy” of the state means governmental prudence, tracking with the natural law, and having common peace and freedom as its proximate aim. That is the law of God for the state; and it can be that way because the Lord fulfilled, on behalf of mankind, the absolute law of God on the Cross, which was a different aspect of theonomy.


  17. Steve, I’m sure you’ve done this elsewhere, but can you give us a title or two to read by Charles Taylor?


  18. Peter Escalante, I didn’t say that you could call me by my first name.

    I’ll keep it simple. If Protestantism is the only basis for a free society, how do you account for Aristotle, the Greeks, Roman Law, and the extent to which the West emerged from the ancients — not to mention that SW’s editor is something of a fan of Constantine and Christendom. You guys really need to get your stories straight.

    And if Protestantism is the only basis, why are you sitting back and not attempting to establish religious tests for holding public office? Come to think of it, try running that policy measure past Charles Taylor. Please then share his response with the readers.

    One thing you didn’t mention, Pete, is that SW’s opposition to distinguishing between Christ’s mediatorial and creational rules is — according to Rutherford — papist.

  19. Darryl,

    You have such lovely manners. That must be one of the charismata you receive as a spiritual ruler in place of Christ?

    But to your points:

    First, neither SW nor myself deny that the prechristian Europeans made great strides; given common grace and natural law, of course they did, and SW and I both have share Lewis and Schaeffer’s very optimistic view of the prechristians. But if you think that the Greek polis or the Roman empire were free societies of the modern type, you should probably enroll in a community college history class. Aristotle doesn’t even imagine a free society of individual persons; at most, he might say of the unique sage what we say of all citizens, and his citizens are Greek males only, and that’s not an accident. Christianity really did make a difference. As for Roman law, its strengths were in the development of jus gentium and equity, and it was in some respects a remarkable example of Noahide order; but it too was committed to a kind of civic positivism and ancestor-worship at odds with its best instincts, which needed Christian revelation to achieve assurance and clarity. Remember, that old Roman empire, for all its merits, couldn’t handle even the idea of a quiet sect devoted to prayer and good works, simply because they wouldn’t worship the Emperor as God.

    Regarding tests for office: one wouldn’t need them, so long as the principles of the constitutional order were clear; probably only the sovereign would need to to subscribe. But perhaps your peculiar principles make it impossible for you to see that the UK is a free society, so I won’t adduce it as an example. But we actually have office tests too in this country here; if you are committed to an ideology which makes it impossible for you to subscribe the Constitution, then you cannot hold office. That’s a secularized version of the religious test, secularized meaning disguised, since we refuse to come clean about where exactly the Constitution gets its basic ideas; but it is a test nonetheless. But I get the idea you aren’t really interested in the political philosophy involved here- if you were, you might have actually addressed what my comments about the Protestant jurisprudential and constitutional tradition.

    Regarding Rutherford: this is positively turning into a tic, Darryl, your bringing this up; which is fine, because it illustrates exactly the opposite of what you hope it to. SW hasn’t confused a thing. It’s more that you seem to have trouble distinguishing the senses of terms. SW has simply said that Christ is king of all, but in different ways. Christ rules mediately through officers of the temporal realm, but rules directly in the spiritual realm. That would be what we call a distinction. As for whose foot fits the papal slipper: the Anglicans, following the Lutherans and early and continental Reformed, commonly accused the de jure divino Presbyterians of being in essence Jesuits, and with good reason: the djd Presbys held that the visible church was basically identical with Christ’s spiritual kingdom, which makes ordained ministers mediators of grace, and makes the realm of grace a realm of law. Guess who else held that position? Right! The papists, Darryl. Like Milton said: new presbyter, old priest.

    Maybe the clerocratic pretensions of your ecclesial ancestors make it difficult for you to imagine any kind of religiously informed constitutional order other than a clerocracy; which, if that project is untenable, leaves only the option of what I above called play-theocracy, which has given up on the real commonwealth and settles for a Sunday clerocracy. Happily, there are other options.

    So let’s review the principles: Christ is mediator with respect to the absolute law, God’s justice, and riverhead of restored grace: our only Mediator in that respect. Christ, in His temporal plenary absence, has allowed temporal officers to be his relative lieutenants as creational rulers, but not his lieutenants in the spiritual realm of atonement and grace. He has no real lieutenants in the spiritual realm; any who believe on Him are directly and immediately united to Him. Sorry is that looks bad for the job security of “spiritual rulers,” but you can take that up with Him if you please.

    But what really strikes me as curious, DGH, is this: given that you and your crew are known for (rightly) emphasizing the continuity and consistency of Protestantism, and the harmony between Luther and Calvin, that you of all people should then turn around and fault SW for citing Luther and studies of Luther as relevant to the Reformed tradition. It is equally curious that you should fault him for taking Calvin so seriously. I think is not SW or myself, but rather you, who might want to ask himself some questions about getting stories straight.


  20. Mark:

    I’m sure Steven would recommend Taylor’s /A Secular Age/ as being an important text. There are probably others, but that’s one of his biggies.

  21. Sources of the Self is very good too.

    The thing about Taylor is that his books are long and not easy to read. Feel free to skim through some of the historical connections if you need to. They really are valuable books, but I fear that most people won’t make it through them.

  22. BTW, I know Steven knows about this, but in case others don’t, Vern Poythress’ /The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses/ explains fairly well how a state ordered by special revelation would support freedom of religion. So, support for a Christian state or “Christendom” can mean different things…

  23. Pingback: Some notes + natural law redux : Theopolitical

  24. Miss Manners Escalante,

    I happen to know that Rome and Athens were not the U.S. I’m not sure that the editor of Steven’s piece knows that since he likes Constantine and Christendom. I for one don’t know how you have a free society on confessional (ie Protestant grounds). You have to engage in a whole bunch of historical denial, and a bit of discontinuity as well.

    I really don’t understand your point about spiritual rule and clerocracy. You seem to be a theonomic anabaptist. Maybe I’m just stupid. But if you want to be part of the magisterial reformation tradition, authority of ministers is something that goes with the turf. If you don’t want to be, it’s a free country.

    As for the continuity of Lutherans and Reformed, you simply have failed to read. There is plenty of discontinuity. The continuity is Augustine. So next time you are channeling Steven maybe you could find a Reformed source for ecclesiology. (Hint, Anabaptist aren’t Reformed.)

  25. Petey E.

    One more thought: you wrote “[Christ] has no real lieutenants in the spiritual realm; any who believe on Him are directly and immediately united to Him. Sorry is that looks bad for the job security of “spiritual rulers,” but you can take that up with Him if you please.”

    But Steven is in a congregation that belongs to the CREC, and the mother of CREC congregations has this on its website:


    Duties of Elders

    Under Christ, the authority of the local church is the board of elders or presbyters in session. The elders are collectively responsible for ruling/shepherding (1 Pet. 5:1-2); equipping (Eph. 4:11-12); prayer/fasting (Acts 6:4; 13:1-3); teaching/preaching (1 Tim. 5:17); administering baptism and the Lord’s Table (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26); administering church discipline and restoration (1 Cor. 5:1-5), and visiting the sick (Jas. 5:14-15).

    The elders are responsible to delegate responsibilities to the deacons, hire and fire church staff, define responsibilities for church staff, delegate responsibilities to the staff of subordinate ministries, and approve the annual budget. The elders also commission or license ministerial students, and oversee the course of their training for the eldership. Under the guidance and oversight of the elders, such men may perform all the various ministerial functions of elders, participation in the rule of the church excepted.

    Elder business will be conducted at the weekly meeting or at special meetings called for the purpose. The elders will rotate the responsibility of chairing meetings, and will appoint a secretary to record minutes. Individual elders are responsible for those duties delegated to them by the elders in session, as recorded in the minutes, with due regard to their gifts, abilities, and desires.

    The session contains three distinct callings or offices. The first is called to a pastoral ministry of the Word, and called by us a minister or pastor (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:2-4; 1 Tim. 5:17). A second is called to a didactic ministry of the Word, called by us a teacher or doctor (1 Cor. 12:28; James 3:1). A third is called to government and rule according to the Word, called by us a ruler or ruling elder (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:7,17; Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28), which function is shared by all elders. Each elder will have his calling and office acknowledged by the elders in session. In all meetings of the session of presbyters, each elder has one vote.

    Elders whose assigned duties preclude them from providing for their families in the ordinary way will be compensated by the church (1 Tim. 5:17-18). [end quote]

    Perhaps you could take this up with Steven, or maybe with Doug Wilson.

  26. Darryl,

    Both SW and I have given you much to engage with; the reasons why you refuse to engage with it are known only to God and yourself. So, at this point, it seems the only use in replying to you is whatever readers at large might gain from it.

    The trouble is that you don’t actually make any really intelligible points one might get a purchase on; even your name-calling doesn’t really make much sense. For instance, you call me a “theonomic anabaptist”, whatever that means, but if one tries to make sense of it, it seems to apply not to my position, but rather to microdenoms which fancy themselves Christ’s visible-spiritual kingdom on earth in sharp distinction from the commonwealth defined as *not* under the kingship of Christ. Disciplinarianism+civic quietism looks more like you than me; presuming, that is, you actually intended some sense to your remarks, which isn’t entirely clear to me.

    But a few clarifications, for readers’ sake. I do not deny ministerial authority at all. I simply assert that it is an authority of the Word and of grace, and that discipline is an opus alienum of ministry, undertaken only in service of charity and clarity. The authority of ministers does not establish them as gatekeepers of the Kingdom, for any can believe and lay hold of Christ directly. Ministers are governmental rulers in temple matters exactly the way citizens are rulers in civic forum matters; they are representative of the people of God, in sacra. Disciplinarianism, that old Reformed aberration, makes of them, however, gatekeepers of the Kingdom. Originally, the disciplinarians wished to rule the whole commonwealth, by virtue of the magistrates’ inclusion in the church: and this is clerocracy, where ministers are conceived as meta-political lords with meta-coercive power- and when they failed, as the militant Presbyterians and later the RCC did, they retreated to that condition of “virtual sovereignty”. Both myself and SW oppose clerocacy absolutely. Where you and I agree is in thinking that ministers of the Word have, as such, no competence or authority in the civic forum; though personally, as citizens and public speakers they might have a great deal, and their Christianity cannot be bracketed there; it will necessarily inform their performance in that regard.

    But your position, with its emphasis on polity-discipline and its claim that a given visible church, precisely in its political form, is the visible Kingdom of Christ and that nothing else is, is where we disagree. Your view is closer to the Anabaptist ecclesiology, where the commonwealth might at best be under the reign of the Father (or at worst, the Devil), but is not under the reign of the Son. This allows for a church constituted primarily by discipline to exist as a supposed societas perfecta apart from the commonwealth. It is not only the ecclesiology of the Anabaptists, however, but also the ecclesiology of Rome; and thus it is no surprise that modern Rome’s accommodation with the secularist State, as one sees with Maritain, looks remarkably like your own: same talk, same basic incoherence.

    Both SW and myself, following the Reformers and Hooker (and Althusius and Pufendorf and Thomasius), hold that the architectonic principle of a commonwealth’s government is inevitably religious, and further, hold that Christ’s Kingdom is cosmic in scope. He rules directly and immediately in the spiritual realm, the communion of saints united to Him by faith alone. What the tradition denies is that Christ directly rules the temporal realm of order; it asserts rather that in His plenary absence, He rules mediately through human officers and orders. This includes ministers of the Word in their governmental aspect; which assimilates them, in *that* regard, though not in the essential aspect of their office, to the same category as magistrates and civic officers. You will probably be scrambling eagerly to grab for the word “Erastian” right now; but it makes more sense to me to call the position which asserts that Christ’s Kingship is all-encompassing, simply, “Christian”. What one might call the notion that Christ’s Kingdom is limited to a handful of acronyms in the Presbyterian alphabet soup I don’t know. Perhaps, with your facility for names, you might be able to think of one yourself.

    As for free societies and religious foundation: this really isn’t hard. And it really is a commonplace of political philosophy; most serious historians of Liberalism admit that its necessary machinery was Protestant-theological. I could give as historical examples the United Kingdom and 19th c Prussia, not to mention the great jurists such as Thomasius or Boehmer. Andrew, just above, has even cited a modern Reformed writer, and there are others one might mention; David Koyzis’ excellent work comes to mind. The position, unlike yours, is coherent, follows directly from the integral principles of the Reformers and best Protestant jurists, is and capable of further development for modern circumstances. I could even explain it in detail for you, if you’re interested.

    As for your strange citation of Christ Church Moscow’s bylaws, that is something SW can address better than I; but I note that they don’t say anything about being Christ’s visible and exclusive Kingdom, and moreover, they’re just CC’s bylaws; they have no universal force in the CREC.


  27. Mr Hart,
    On a slightly different note, but related to the area of political theology, are you familiar with Oliver O’Donovan’s work regarding political theology and a renewed look at what “Christendom” means and doesn’t mean?

  28. Peter (and at points Steven),
    You have rather forcefully (and rightly) pointed out the problems with “clerocracy” as you call it, with the papistic tendencies of a de jure divino Presbyterianism that Anglican and other early Reformed theologians perceived and rebuked. In response, you have emphasized (in fact, you and Steven have both emphasized) the historical point that the mediation of Christ’s rule over the visible Church was given to civil authorities in the Reformation, not to church authorities, and the theological point that in the spiritual kingdom of Christ, there is no mediation between the believer and Christ.

    Now, I am a bit curious as to just how far you want to emphasize this. Presumably neither you nor Steven want to return to an Erastian system in which the magistrate has rule over the visible Church, even if you both think (and I agree) that the magistrate should still rule his kingdom in a Christian manner. This being the case, then what authority should belong to the visible Church? Dr. Hart has pointed to the CC constitution on the duties of elders, and has reasonably asked whether you really want to say that there are “no lieutenants in the spiritual realm,” no “spiritual rulers.”

    Let me try to get at this question from another angle. On my understanding, one of the points at which the FV types and the R2K types found a convergence between their goals (as evidenced in the interest both have in Nevin, for instance) was in a recovery of a very high doctrine of the visible Church. According to Leithart, this is what “FV” is all about, as much as he (and I) eschew the label–not “what power is in baptism?” but “what power is in the visible Church?” The visible Church, the FVs have wanted to argue, does mediate grace–not in a Tridentine Catholic way, to be sure, but there are other ways of speaking of the mediation of grace. Associated with a high doctrine of the visible Church, it seems to me, is a high doctrine of the Christian ministry, and with ministers as mediators. None of this is to deny the priesthood of all believers, of course…simply to add some complexity to the doctrine. Now, if this is what the FV is about, then why do you, who would identify as broadly FV (at least, I know Steven would; I do not know much about Peter’s affiliations), want to emphasize things like: “Furthermore, since I believe that the spiritual kingdom is the realm of the soul’s immediate communion with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, there is no room in my own theology, nor that of the original Reformers, for the visible church to be identified with the spiritual kingdom”?

    Or rather, given that you want to emphasize this, and do not want to be Erastian, and do not want to be Catholic, how do you want to articulate a strong doctrine of the visible Church? On this one point, at least, it seems Dr. Hart makes a fair objection.

  29. Hi, I just came to this fascinating discussion! To back up a bit to a point that was made, I’ve always thought that the phrase “natural law” is practically meaningless apart from a larger understanding of what nature is and also of the human intellect (I mean questions about being, teleology, matter, universals, forms, substance & accident, change etc.). I wonder if someone can point me to the Reformers’ views or discussions of these matters in their advocation of natural law.


  30. Brad,

    Whatever we decide about the civic realm, and I’m open to a few possibilities, I don’t think we want to change the Reformers’ doctrine of the spiritual realm. I know that it is pretty unpopular with FVers and Westminster Westers alike, but the notion of immediate grace is inseparably tied to justification by faith alone, Christian liberty, and the Pauline concept of Spiritual union with Christ. This is a point where I suppose I’m not a member of either party.

    My understanding of the New Testament is that all of the blessings of Christ are apprehended by faith (belief) with the primary bond being the Holy Spirit Himself. The visible church is a witness and testimony to this, as are the sacraments, but the key is still personal belief. The “not-yet,” which will be external and temporal, is “already” present in the Spirit, Who every believer fully possesses by faith alone. I define “the Church” first and foremost as “the people of God” and only secondarily as the institution.

    My view of the ministers would probably strike folks as “Lutheran” today, though it is also the original Reformed view. I do not believe that the ministers have any particular infused grace, but rather I believe they are set aside for vocation and order’s sake. Their power is representative (as every believer actually possesses the keys to the kingdom), and they are mostly in the business of proclaiming the objective promise of God. Obviously we believe in the value of the “external call” to ministry, so things like personal gifts, training, and experience all come into play. This is all still visible/temporal kingdom stuff though.

    The visible church can be as “high” as you like, as long as the “highness” is understood to be a testimony to the things which are objectively true in the Spirit and held out to all indiscriminately. I would not hold polity, liturgy, etc. to be of the esse of the Church, but rather the bene esse.

  31. Also a note to all,

    I’m going to be out of pocket for a while. I leave this Tuesday to go get married, and consequently, I won’t be back around until July 20th at the earliest. I can’t say how active I’ll be in the next few days either, as I recently moved and have yet to install an internet connection at my new place. This will affect my ability to reply to comments, as well as all comment moderation.

  32. Mary,

    You are right to think that “natural law” is practically meaningless apart from a deep understanding of human nature and human origins and end. And, as CS Lewis on the Protestant side, and AP D’Entreves on the Papal side have each pointed out, natural law is an impulse toward the Good which is always embodied in choice by prudence, and thus is, both personally and politically, historically embodied. Natural law is not a given, readily available set of propositions, which function as a sort of positive law above all positive law.

    It sounds like you already have a good enough foundation in scholastic philosophy to need no propaedeutics to the philosophic presuppositions of the Reformers’ doctrine. If you Ineed some pointers with regard to their Biblical principles, just let me know and I can suggest some useful works. For the Reformers’ views, some good beginning sources besides those already mentioned by Pastor Wedgeworth are:

    a) on Luther: see the seminal exposition of F. Edward Cranz, “An Essay on the Development of the Idea of Justice, Law and Society in Luther’s Thought”; also useful is George W. Forell’s “Faith Active in Love.”

    b) on Calvin: it’s best and easiest to start with the discussions of Calvin in the context of the teaching of the great English Reformed political theologian Richard Hooker, which can be found in multiple books and articles by the Canadian scholar W.J. Torrance Kirby.

    c) for an overall view, read the comprehensive discussion of the topic in Chapter 12 of Emil Brunner’s “Justice and the Social Order.”

    This is a vast field, of course, and I’ve given here just a small handful of useful (and secondary) references. I would want to note further that is important to distinguish between medieval and Reformation era natural law teaching, and the later “law of nature” doctrines of the 17th and 18th centuries (“Enlightenment”) which were in part descended from the common tradition, but involved considerable modifications, whose meanings and merits cannot be easily assessed. in any case, there is a difference. The modern Reformed who are interested in retrieving natural law seem to consistently confuse the natural law doctrine of the old tradition with the most secular-deist versions of the Enlightenment; for they need it be like the latter for it do the work they want it to do.

    I hope you find this helpful!


  33. Hi Steven, long time no chat (not sure if you remember me from back in the xanga days). Grats on the Credenda article. You have certainly cleared up some things for me as well as given me much more to think about and look into. Also, I just had to tell you that I clicked on a google add beneath this post for Oceanside URC, which is RSC’s congregation. So they are paying you to refute their new 2k agenda. Grats again 🙂

  34. Thanks Peter,

    Those sound like excellent suggestions and I will definitely check them out. But can you tell me if there is anything primary sources? I mean in Calvin and Luther’s own writings. For example, I am very interested in what they thought God’s relationship with nature really is. As a philosophy major, I know that Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure and Duns Scotus all had elaborate and systematic views on the subsistence and intelligibility of nature that complimented their theologies.
    Since the Reformers were advocates of natural law (in the true pre-Enlightenment sense) I’d expect they addressed this sort if thing. I mean, Catholic thinkers weren’t the only ones with a philosophies of nature, right?!


  35. Steven,
    Thanks for the clarification. I thought I inferred something of the sort from your remarks, and it’s good to know I wasn’t imagining things. That is interesting–a bit unexpected and idiosyncratic (from the perspective of current debates, though not necessarily history), and I can’t say I like it that much, but it’s coherent at least, and helps me understand what’s going on in this particular dispute.

  36. Brad,

    The position SW outlines is definitely the consensus Protestant position. I wish I knew more about your own view, as it would help me to answer your questions better. There seems to be a lot of “in some sense” in your earlier comment, but I would need to know in what exactly what sense you mean terms like “mediator”, “high”, and so on. And I’d need to know what you like, to know why you think you don’t like SW’s view.

    But I’ll do what I can do address your questions.

    First, it is shrewd of you to notice that both the FV and the R2K have a “high” view of the visible church. But I would clarify: the R2K people have a “high”, that is, authoritarian-disciplinarian, view of the ministerium, which is for them the really “churchy church”,whereas the doctrine of the FV is notoriously unclear- perhaps due to the conceptually and linguistically obfuscating effect of their interest in postmodern philosophastering. If by visible church they mean simply the people assembled around the Word and manifesting visibly, in charity and praise, the power of the Kingdom, fine; if however they mean that the church is a genuinely alternate commonwealth, then I’m afraid they deserve all the criticism Dr Hart can give them- and more.

    To the historical point about magistrates and “Erastianism”. It is important to remember that for Reformers, the visible church broadly speaking was simply the Commonwealth; the Sunday assembly was simply the Commonwealth at public prayer. The magistrates, as chiefs of the commonwealth, dealt with matters of public concern for the commonwealth- including arranging for the disputation of controverted questions, which is how the Reformation began, from the magistrates’ end. But note: no Reformer or orthodox evangelical divine held that the magistrate had, ex officio jus in sacra, that is, regarding doctrine or proper ministry. Clearly, in practice, a magistrate could do a lot, by way of being in charge in appointments, to come very close to meddling in sacra; but in principle, no. And no one said he could. The bogey of “Erastianism” had to do with things like excommunication and tithing. If excommunication cut one off from the corpus christianorum, then to excommunicate a magistrate would be in effect to depose him, to excom a husband or wife would in effect to disrupt the marriage, and so on. “Erastians” said that this wouldn’t do, as it disrupted the order and harmony of temporal, civic life. This was never wholly resolved, but Protestant jurists such as Selden and Pufendorf and Thomasius went a long way toward a solution, and the Cromwellian settlement also set a remarkable example. The eventual solution was, of course, to place assembly in the realm of social association, and relieve the confessionally founded State of everything but the broadest oversight of general rules. But it is still the case that there is nothing wrong with non-ordained persons exercising control over externalia of church affairs: this is the role of the vestry in the Episcopal tradition, for instance.

    The visible church is simply the body of the professed; and they are especially visible when assembled. I don’t like altitude metaphors, but I could say I have a “high” view of the visible church: it’s simply that I would mean just that, and would not be using “visible church” as a covert metonym for “ministerium'” or adiaphoron institutional arrangements. I would simply mean, the body of Christians, especially insofar as they are really living as Christians.

    Let me parse out “mediation” a bit. We all agree that there is only one Mediator between God and man. SW and I, following the Reformers, think that anyone can lay hold of that Mediator, Christ, by faith alone- period. This relation to the one Mediator is itself “mediated”, but not by mediators in any political sense or indeed in any sense analogous to the way Christ is mediator: it would be better to call those instruments- whether texts or ordained men or radio waves or what have you- “media”, the plural of “medium”. A medium is a transparent/transsonant thing, it does not interpose. It is not a valve or checkpoint or bottleneck. Ministers of Christ are to be conformed to the Word and wholly its media; they cannot interpose themselves. Discipline is a function of the whole body of local Christians, whose ministers are representative of them, and it has to do with judgment in foro externo, and for the sake of order and therapy of the offender. It is not a power of ministers to lock people out of the Kingdom of God as “rulers.”

    Further, where Hart et alia are right, though in a confused and distorted way compared to the Reformers, is that neither the ministerium nor even the body of Christians has any monopoly on common grace, natural gifts (including reason), civic righteousness, or generally available knowledge of creation. The point that SW and I are making, however, is that even these distinctions (common grace/regeneration, et c) are drawn only in light of revelation, and are not simply given. There is a natural law, and even “natural theology”, but the first isn’t a readymade positive law, and the second is simply ontology, and cannot and does not function as a civic theology. All polities, as opposed to mere alliances, are, however, theological at root; and polities can indeed recognize the kingdom of Christ. And that’s the thing, contra Hart et alia, we’re insisting on. For Protestants, however, a constitution Christian in principle necessarily arranges a free society, because of what we believe about law and freedom.

    Now, where this leaves us in our present political situation would be another conversation. Suffice it to say that I believe that the core evangelical tradition still has the necessary answers, and that both the quietists (R2K), and the activists (FV? Moral-Majoritarians, et al.) fall away from that core tradition in different directions.



  37. Mary,

    You’re quite right- evangelicals did have fully developed doctrines of nature. It was only in the 20th c that certain radical Protestants began to raise specious criticisms of the common tradition their wiser fathers had taught for generations.

    Unfortunately, there is no way for me to give here catenae of citations in the primary sources, since that would take up much more space than is proportionate to this forum. I can point you to useful secondary sources which will of course give you many loci in the Reformers’ text; just let me know if you’d like me to do so. I might also suggest that you peruse Epistole, a blog linked on this one- it’s the blog of Eric Parker, a good friend of SW and myself, and he presents there quite a lot of fascinating information and discussion about the natural philosophy of the evangelical divines.

    One thing worth mentioning here is that the old evangelical doctrine of human nature differed from what would become the prevalent RC view. Our fathers taught that communion with God was connatural to unfallen man, whereas the Roman doctors tended to say it was a donum superadditum. Since our views of original nature differ, our views of what the Fall did, and what redemption does, differ markedly, and this has many consequences. For instance, we do not think of nature as a provisional or “also-ran” status, and thus we deny the distinction in ethics which RC draw between precepts and counsels, and deny that virginity is intrinsically superior to marriage, etc, because we think that this very life, even its broken condition, is theophoric by design, and needs no transcending.


  38. Peter, you wrote: “[Christ] has no real lieutenants in the spiritual realm; any who believe on Him are directly and immediately united to Him. Sorry is that looks bad for the job security of “spiritual rulers,” but you can take that up with Him if you please.”

    And then you wrote: “Ministers are governmental rulers in temple matters exactly the way citizens are rulers in civic forum matters; they are representative of the people of God, in sacra. Disciplinarianism, that old Reformed aberration, makes of them, however, gatekeepers of the Kingdom.”

    Yes, you have given me a lot to think about. I’m still struggling with the coherence of it all.

    My emphasis on discipline is mixed with the other marks. But you came on with this everyone a ruler position as if the kingdom of Christ is in the invisible church. I certainly think the Westminster Divines and Bullinger and Beza were thinking of their churches in London, Zurich, and Geneva as the kingdom of Christ, and that those outside those churches were not in the kingdom — I can think of the Anabaptists and Roman Catholics for starters.

    But in your mannerly way you simply construe what I say to score your own points. I have never denied that any government is independent of the rule of Christ. I know you think it is a tic but the distinction between Christ’s rule as mediator and as creator has a place in the tradition and with that in mind one could argue that Sadam Hussein and Pontius Pilate were under the rule of Christ.

    Oh, if you mean that Protestantism was responsible for liberalism in a negative way, sure. Protestantism destroyed Christendom and the sacred canopy and unleashed Locke. But I read SW as saying Protestantism was an adequate basis for liberal society as a good thing.

  39. tesla, I am somewhat familiar with O’Donovan but I disagree with his reading of the Lordship of Christ. I think it is too political and leads to a post-mill view.

  40. Darryl,

    I’m for having this conversation- if you’re willing to give a fair and reasonable go, you’ll find me game.

    Let me know exactly what it would be helpful to clarify, and I will. My point about rulership is simply this: law has no place in the zone of grace. We are united to Christ by faith alone, and one of the consequences of the medieval discussion of excommunication and interdiction in light of Augustinian and Pauline principles was precisely this clarification. To give a historical reference point, both SW and I would undersign Hooker’s critique of the Disciplinarian Puritans, which he makes on Reformed principles. However, as I’ve said above, the people of God have to organize their affairs circa sacra, and there, ordained ministers act in a governmental way: but as I’ve noted above, they are not acting as Word-men in that regard, and their operations as governors are assimilable to the same category as the work of magistrates. Polity-form is adiaphoron, and polity-leadership is external to the Word. It is true that a wing of the Reformed tradition comes closest, in its ambiguity, to the RCC and Anabaptist ecclesiology; as Hooker pointed out. SW and I, following the better tradition, resolve that toward Luther and Calvin. But even the divines you cite thought of their assemblies as basically focally representative of the local Christian commonwealth. And that’s why they recognized that their job as “governors” was not that different from, and in that respect even subordinate to, the magistrates. They in no way held that the Christian people assembled around the Word under pastoral leadership was somehow an essentially different society from that same people living their daily lives following the rule of the magistrates. What SW and I would insist on is that the two kingdoms correspond to the invisible and visible, in opposition to your confusion of them in a “visible-spiritual” entity ruled by law.

    To the point about governments being under Christ: now, its seems to me, we’re talking. I am happy and surprised to know that you agree with me that all governments are under Christ- this sounds startlingly unlike VanDrunen, but I’m happy to hear it. You however choose misleadingly negative illustrations: Saddam Hussein and Pontius Pilate (though according to the Eastern tradition, Pilate converted!). Yes, even tyrants hold their office “mediatised”, as they used to say in dynastic days, from Christ, whether they know it or not; but I would say that once they do know and recognize that fact, a real difference is involved. You seem really committed to denying this. Believe it or not, I am very, very sympathetic to some of your reasons- i share your hostility to all attempts at coercion of faith or clerocratic running of the State. But your sharp and apparently absolute distinction between creational and mediatorial, as though Christ were somehow two persons, seems to me inadmissible, and I’d very much like to see that “place in the tradition” you cryptically say it has.

    As for Protestantism and Liberal order: sorry, no go. I’ve given names and historical arguments. If you want to simply repeat the baseless critiques of RC apologetics and cartoon versions of Whig history, feel free; but don’t think you’ve given me an argument. I can cite many, many leading political philosophers and jurists living now, most of them secularist and or unbelieving, who see that simply as a historical and ideological fact Protestantism and Protestantism alone gives the necessary infrastructure for the modern order. Protestantism did not destroy Christendom: it simply reconfigured it for the better, with the accidental circumstance of having to adjust for retrenched RC opposition to integral Reform. The great work of the German Protestant jurists of the Empire, which laid out the lineaments a profound and coherent political theology of free order, cannot be simply ignored.

    I see no need for this discussion to be polemical, and I’d much rather it not be. Both SW and myself are saying things which you ought to be happy to hear; and as he says in his essay, we’re optimistic that the old Reformation tradition holds the possibilities for a charitable and commonsense rapprochement between what’s true in some things your camp has to say, and what’s true in what the better Kuyperians have to say. Yes, I do think you’re profoundly wrong to call what is, in effect, a Whig Liberalism the genuine two-kingdoms doctrine of the Reformers, and I’d also have some things to say about the ahistoric way you read natural law, and the common good- but we’re at least talking about the same loci. And that’s something, don’t you think?

    D. Henreckson at Theopolitical sums up the thrust of SW’s essay here nicely:

    “…the resurgent Reformed interest in natural law from scholars like Hart and VanDrunen may be historically — and programmatically — distorted by anxiety over the Christian Right (including the unique aberration of Christian Reconstructionism). But as Wedgeworth points out, it’s possible to reject politicized religion as well as de-spiritualized politics. The “secular,” or temporal, need not be wholly independent or wholly evil. So a project like VanDrunen’s, while ably pointing out the uses of natural law in the Reformed tradition, cannot conceive of a more nuanced and eschatologically-complicated relationship between church and earthly government.”

    Henreckson nails it: we’re rejecting politicized religion, as much as you do; in fact, our position would be more proactive politically against it, whereas yours must needs confine itself to pulpit exhortation alone. If you actually read what SW and I are saying, you’ll find a trenchant attack on clerocratic pretensions and the utopian, realized-eschatological fantasizing of at least the extreme wings of a lot of the people who make you understandably nervous. We just don’t think that your view and theirs are the only options.

    I do hope that we can have this conversation in a Christian and illuminating way; many would find it useful. As I said, I’m quite game if you are.


  41. I’ve got a faint signal coming in from the neighbors, and so I’ll take a moment to chime in.

    I suppose that I seem idiosyncratic if one approaches this conversation from an FV vs. FV-Critics point of view. I am really not either, though my friends and associates are more FVers than not (And this is largely bc the FV-Critics have made it impossible to really associate with them. They’ve said “No thanks.”). Richard Hooker, along with Torrance Kirby and Paul Avis really did me in, as they diagnosed the problems with the hard-line Puritans. John Davenant and Richard Baxter’s historical tenacity (though the latter of these had his own issues, to be sure) also helped me to see where Calvin and the best of his heirs truly stand. I’d have to join in with men like Ursinus, Pareus, John Forbes of Corse, and Archbishop Ussher, while not failing to acknowledge the virtues of Dabney, Hodge, Schaff, Kuyper, Bavinck(!), and Lewis.

    As I understand much of the FV historical narrative, they saw the history of the Reformed to begin with Calvin and co. defining “the Church” as the visible Church, with Westminster really changing the direction by adding the section on the invisible Church. What I found, however, was exactly the opposite. If you attend to Luther, Calvin, and even Bucer at his best, you’ll see that they define “the Church” primarily as the invisible Church- though this is not conceived of in mere predestinarian terms, but rather the mystical union of the Spirit for all who believe. (Some of those cats even acknowledge temporary faith!) Word and Sacrament are gospel.

    Calvin is clear that the spiritual kingdom is the kingdom of the soul, the kingdom of full liberty of conscience, and the realm of justification by faith alone. However, this is precisely the realm of the soul and not the body. Living Christians, of course, have bodies, and so they find themselves in the temporal kingdom as well. To make things even more complicated, these two realms will eventually come together at the resurrection. Jesus Christ is definitely interested in the temporal realm. It will be redeemed and not replaced.

    But there is not a one-to-one identity between the two realms at the present. There is neither male nor female in Christ. We will not be married in the resurrection, but rather like the angels. There will be no slavery in the New Jerusalem. Prior to that time, however, there is slavery, there is marriage (as well as hierarchal relationships), and there is public significance to gender. These seem to me inescapable facts. Males and females, to take just the one example, are perfect equals “in Christ,” yet in their bodily lives they retain old world realities. As I said earlier, the “not-yet” is fully realized in the Spirit through faith (seeing the invisible and believing that life comes from the dead, as Paul says).

    This allows us to get as “high” as we want, just so long as we keep it in the visible/temporal kingdom. It isn’t “nothing,” but rather a sure and infallible testimony. It ought to form our identities, for it is something that we are supposed to actually believe. I reject that faith is an infused virtue, able to remain dormant apart from our knowing. Rather, I see faith as something that we are all supposed to go out and do. Again, sacraments, liturgy, etc. are all gospel. Believe this and rejoice.

    That puts me at a great distance from any form of Baptistic Presbyterianism.

    My understanding of the two kingdoms also allows for the Christian to be a true citizen of worldly kingdoms as well, since the Spirit is not necessarily undermining the civic order (contra Rad. Orthodoxy). Following Diognetus (and the Apostles), the Christian ought to be the best citizen and the most loyal. Fear God; honor the king.

    Yet we also, as Peter has pointed out, do not have to say that the king’s spirituality is indifferent to civic order. It is not. Even the pagans know this, as Calvin reminded us. Plato writes that the poets (ie. the preachers) craft the personalities of the citizenry, and thus the framers of a republic have an interest in this. The Christian is concerned about both kingdoms, and he knows that the soul/heart does drive the whole person.

    That’s a bit of a summary and will have to do for now. I’m enjoying the discussion and glad to see that so many others are being helped by it.

  42. Peter,
    Thanks for your extensive reply to my query. That’s helpful in clarifying for me what’s going on here, and reminding me again with what a complicated mess the Reformed landscape is here–you can’t just tune out for a couple years and think you know who the players are.

    I will opt not to engage your comments further, though it does seem perhaps rude to have jumped in and asked questions about where you were coming from without replying to your questions about where I was coming from. However, this discussion has more than enough going on in it for me to try to complicate it by intermeddling my own bizarre ecclesiological concoction…suffice to say that it appears that I do not have a dog in this fight, to use a favorite expression of Doug Wilson.


  43. We might make a point of clarification regarding the use of the term “Christ” as well. The term itself is a redemptive one, speaking of the messiah, and so when one simply says “Christ,” he is traditionally understood to be speaking of the humanity and redemptive mission of Jesus. If one wishes to speak of the deity qua deity, then the term Logos is typically used.

    This would seem to be a necessarily qualification for debates about “creational” vs. “redemptive” rule. As I understand VanDrunen’s work, he definitely does not want a redemptive rule in the civic realm, and so I would not speak of him as saying all governments are under “Christ.” He would affirm, certainly, that all governments are under the divine Logos.

  44. Peter,

    Thanks! I would indeed like reference to some secondary sources that can point me to the Reformers’ analysis of nature.
    By the way, what do you think was the cause of the Protestant rejection of philosophy you refer to? It seems like the common view of the Reformers’ is that they were contemptuous of philosophy and Greek learning. Probably from those statements from Luther made on the subject.
    Also, I am have read a little on the pre-Fall veiw of man that the RC church espouses. I understand their view of the “donum superadditum” as following from a metaphysical necessity in that man, being a creature, and therefore not possessing Being in its fullness, would tend towards non-being without special grace from God. But I have not really read enough on this subject to give a fair assessment. Nor have I really made up my own mind on the subject.


  45. Dear All,

    If I might venture an observation on this excellent discussion, it seems to me that an underlying issue could perhaps be fruitfully made explicit: what is the nature and value of modernity/post modernity?
    In a word, does “modernity” include an identifiable spiritual ill that is part and parcel of today’s political, ecclesiological, familial, educational structures? If so, what are its sources?
    Or, on the other hand, are today’s spiritual ills simply accidental to the modern liberal project, which can in reality proceed to reclaim its Christian basis with those structures intact?
    A third option would be to deny that there are any uniquely modern spiritual ills at all, but only those that have been seen previously in history. (This seems unlikely to me, for many reasons, only one of which is the unprecedented widespread rejection of natural law)
    Peter Escalante’s comment that “Protestantism did not destroy Christendom: it simply reconfigured it for the better” suggests the second option, while Dr. Hart’s comments about the loss of the “sacred canopy,” suggests the first option, though I may be wrong.
    I would venture that settling this issue of fact beforehand might avoid misunderstanding with regard to a discussion of the proper relations of the political and spiritual authorities and arguing their legitimacy.
    Though I am not well read in specifically Reformed political theory, I do have some understanding of the major political philosophers of the eras in question.

    Mary Campion

  46. Hello Mary,

    That’s an acute question, and you’re right I think to detect that it lies back of at least part of the dispute here, and you’re right to suggest that as a point of method, in a longer conversation, it should be settled first. Dr Hart, in his published works, has expressed a rather low opinion of modernity. I myself, however, hold to your second option (which you’ve expressed very succinctly), and thus I am inclined to regard Dr Hart’s project as basically one of constructing an ecclesiological bunker to keep “modernity” out, or perhaps as a virtual respite from it one day a week- a sort of Sunday Ren Faire, with theological echoes of American Dispensationalism. He doubtless has a different account of it, and I’m open to hearing it. But that is how it looks to me.

    It seems to me that one of the markers of extreme Enlightenment and Romantic notions of modernity was the notion of the absolute epoch: the idea that this moment is unique- uniquely good or uniquely bad, but unique. A pessimistic version of this outlook would regard modernity as unprecedentedly bad, but it would still be presuming the existence of “modernity” in that absolute sense. I do not, and regard such a view as an optical illusion.

    May I ask if you’re Protestant or RC? My own academic background was in medieval and early modern philosophy, and there aren’t as of yet many Protestants studying the medievals, so I’m curious.

    Also: I’ll compile a short bibliography of helpful starters on the Reformers’ view of natural philosophy, and either post it here, or send it to SW to forward to your email, within the next couple of days. In the meanwhile, if you haven’t yet, please do scroll through Eric Parker’s blog; you’ll find much food for thought.


  47. Peter,

    Thanks so much for your response and for your very lucid insights. I will definitely check out the blog you mentioned.
    As far as my own faith, I can say that I very joyfully wear the papal slipper you spoke of!

    Best Regards,


  48. Peter, I’m glad for a fair and reasonable conversation, but when you begin two comments in response to me with the following, “Wedgeworth has defended his position so well, and your critiques are so loose and haphazard, that I’m inclined to think that little remains to be said,” or “Both SW and I have given you much to engage with; the reasons why you refuse to engage with it are known only to God and yourself,” I’m not so sure of your intentions. Indeed, as much as you share SW’s mind, you comments — unlike SW’s — suggest condescension to positions other than yours. That’s fine. I don’t mind snark. It’s part of the blogosphere. But you might want to consider how your own tone contributes to fair and reasonable.

    This problem of tone goes to something deeper. It is the confusion of dealing with a shadow boxing partner. SW’s review of DVD held DVD up to a standard that is at best quirky and has yet to be subject to peer review. I mean, this conglomeration of Hooker, Luther, Reformed writers, and German Protestants (from the 19th c?) is a concoction that prompts some of us to reach for our reference works in search of a clue.

    It is fine to have your opinions and they do seem to be based on reading of lots of different sources. But I am not sure it is fair or reasonable to subject DVD to a critique of being outside the pale when it is not clear what the pale is (and when the pale is being defined by folks who only seem to define the pale on blogs). A fair discussion would be to outline your view in ways similar to DVD’s book or mine on American politics and then see what editors and reviewers say.

    But to be clear, SW says that DVD does read the tradition correctly, that 2k and natural law are there. This is a major accomplishment for several reasons, little having to do with an over-reaction against the Religious Right. First, both mainline and sectarian Reformed rejected NL either on Barthian or Van Tillian grounds. So pointing out that NL is part of the tradition is something of a breakthrough.

    Also, to put 2k on the table is something of breakthrough because of all the bad mouthing of dualism that goes on at least in DVD’s and my circles. Again, to point out that Calvin even talked about 2k strikes many conservative Reformed Americans as strange. If it doesn’t resolve all the questions of church polity and power, well, that might have to wait for another book. But for now it’s a start.

    Also, worth noticing is that DVD’s work resurrects arguments from the likes of Old Princeton folks like Hodge or Machen or Warfield which have fallen into disuse. His book helps us make sense of the arguments they made. Even if you don’t agree with them, to write them off either because Kuyper or Barth or Van Til say so is not to do justice to what they were trying to argue.

  49. Darryl,

    Come now. I wasn’t the one who began by asserting that someone must have been knocked in the head by a soccer ball, was I? You began with really silly snark directed not only at a friend, but at a friend whose tone both in his original piece and in his response to you was gracious and measured. I just didn’t put up with your snark and your casual unargued tosses.

    Your appeal to peer review is pretty transparently a bid to pull rank. Sorry, I’m unimpressed. You might not be familiar with the Protestant political-juridical tradition, but academic studies of it- peer reviewed, even!- have long since been in the libraries to read. Try CJ Friedrich, or Harold Berman, or Otto von Gierke, or WJT Kirby, or John Witte. Neither I nor SW have cobbled together some new mix tape of heterogeneous tunes. You just haven’t heard the music yet. In any case, to in effect say that no one can review a book without writing one himself is a proposition no one in the academy would seriously agree with.

    Your reading of SW in your last paragraph is egregiously off, and I can’t help but think you know it: either that, or you still haven’t really read the piece. SW’s critique of DVD has nothing to do with any Kuyperian or Barthian Vantilian say-so- SW has in fact persistently critiqued Van Til, as have I, and he critiqued Barth just a few posts ago!

    Since you want to be clear, yes, let’s be *very* clear: SW’s critique of DVD is primarily by way of comparing DVD’s theory with what the Reformers actually taught. And he finds that DVD is seriously modifying the Reformers’ teaching in a way which doesn’t follow any logic of real development. This is simply a historical point, apart from the question of doctrinal or political truth; though for those who hold to the original idea in its true line of development, obviously there is going to be an opinion on that second point too.

    Yes, DVD is right, barely: natural law and 2K are there in the Reformers, though not quite as DVD reads those things. That the Reformers taught NL and 2K was not rejected by mainline Reformed- Brunner famously defended both, and tracked very closely with the Reformers in doing so. The doctrine itself was rejected by certain extreme backwaters of the Reformed, though they usually did recognize the fact that the Reformers taught it- they just thought them wrong on that point (see the very beginning of RJR’s Institutes) . But to take a wider view for a moment, the fact that the Reformers taught natural law might be a new discovery for the parochial world of the American Reformed theological academy, but it’s old news to political historians.

    In any case, you have yet to answer SW’s incisive critiques of DVD’s reading of the tradition. He has given texts, and compared them. Is it too much to ask that you address the point?


  50. Steven, I can’t say anything interesting about the larger questions here, but I do want to ask, how can one speak of the Logos apart from the man Jesus? It’s a bad move – parses out the work of Jesus the Son into ‘human’ & ‘divine’ as though it isn’t through and in his humanity that we encounter him as God the Son.

  51. Prior to the historical event of the Incarnation there was no “the man Jesus.” The Logos is eternally begotten before all worlds. Also, after the Incarnation, the Logos is still not limited to the human nature. It remains infinite and omni-omni, even though it is true that we creatures encounter his humanity through the Spirit. This is that point of dogmatics you like so well called the “extra Calvinisticum.”

    Unless we are to become Monophysites and blur the two natures (ultimately thus making God a creature), I don’t see any way out of it.

  52. You mean that ‘extra’ which I reject, along with all its pomps and works? Yes, well, we have nothing to do with the Son apart from his flesh and blood. I’ll risk Mono, that’s fine.

  53. Steven,

    It’s been refreshing to read a lot of Jenson lately. He’s clearly on the side of a very radical form of Lutheran monophysitism, but clearly admits that Calvin’s view is in line with the Catholic view, which is in line with Chalcedon (though he tries to claim Neo-Chalcedonian thinkers for his view, which I am extremely skeptical of, so say the least)…

  54. By the bye, Mono doesn’t imply that God is a creature; it implies that a creature can become God. That makes it far less annoying a heresy than that of Nestorius.

  55. Andrew,

    That’s correct. The extra-Calvinisticum is simply a logical distinction and not an assertion of dual personality. It’s good to see that Jenson acknowledges us as owning the older orthodox position.

    As the old council put it: “the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved…”

  56. Hi, everybody. Since it has come up a couple of times, let me just say that the “mere Christendom” that I advocate is one in which religious liberty is honored and protected. The Lordship of Christ can protect liberty of conscience in ways that secularism cannot. And the Constantinianism I advocate is one that includes religious liberty as well — as argued for by Lactantius, tutor of Constantine’s kids.

  57. Douglas,

    You beat me to it, thanks- I had wanted to make that clarification on your behalf earlier, since DGH seemed to want to use your name as some sort of symbol for advocacy of a totalizing religious establishment, and yet it is quite clear that such a view is not at all your position.


  58. Monophysites and Diophysites ….

    These words sound like something out of a physics textbook. In fact they describe two ways of thinking and speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ regarding the union and distinction between the divine Logos and his humanity.

    Historically the Christian Church was divided by the Council of Chalcedon. Both sides agreed, and still do, that Christ is one person in which perfect divinity and perfect humanity are perfectly united. The difference lay in the terminology used by Chalcedon to describe this union. The monophysite (one nature) churches could not agree to the wording, so they withheld their consent. They were the African Churches of Egypt and Ethiopia, the Syrians, Armenians and the Indians. The diophysite (two natures) churches were the Western and Orthodox churches, and since then, the Protestant churches.

    It may sound like a stupid argument about words, not substance, but there is a real and valid point to the Monophysite objection.

    They argue that St. Cyril has taught us that since the incarnation it is wrong to speak of Christ as if he is two, and not one. For example, it is wrong to say that he is God and man, since that is to speak of two entities. Rather we should speak of the incarnate God, since that is to speak of a single entity, a single person.

    They use the example of burning iron. One does not speak of it as fire and iron, but as one thing. To do otherwise is unnatural. Man is a perfect union of body and soul, yet we do not speak of man as body distinct from soul. When you have indigestion you do not say, “My body is feeling discomfort but my soul is not”. That is an absurd mode of speech.

    There is a far more serious reason not to speak of the incarnate God in this way. Nestorianism teaches that Christ’s deity and his humanity are so distinct that they are in effect two persons. There is a divine person and a human person, but the union is hardly a union at all. The argument is that when Chalcedon speaks of Christ in these dualistic terms, even though they formally affirm the perfect union, they are thinking in a way that has very strong Nestorian tendencies, a way that is unnatural, and a way of thinking about the two natures that is heretical, because it is so much like Nestorianism.

    If we are to speak of the Hypostatic Union even the language employed must avoid Nestorian-like modes of speech and categories of thought.

  59. Don’t forget the monoenergists and dienergists, as well as the monothelites and dithelites…

    The Reformed have always been the least crazy on this subject.

  60. Also, it should not be forgotten that ecumenical breakthroughs have occurred between the Coptic Church and the Roman Catholics in the 20C. It was agreed they were saying the same thing the whole time in different words. (Which essentially adds them to the general consensus of the rest of the church…)

  61. Peter, neither am I the one to start off with a comment about SW getting knocked in the head with a soccer ball. It didn’t occur until the third comment to be precise, and it was in reference to Steven’s watching the world cup. Since I’m not a soccer fan, mine was an attempt at humor. Either it failed or you don’t have a sense of one.

    But I am glad to see how respectful you can be to Douglas. Such manners.

    If you think, for instance, that John Witte is in the mainstream of political and legal historians, has it occurred to you that he is the editor of the series in which DVD’s book appeared? Maybe you also know the name of Russ Hittinger. I don’t mean to name drop, but Russ is a friend and he thinks DVD’s book about the best he’s seen on the Protestant tradition. Sorry to pull rank, but you sort of asked for it.

    Now, as for this grand tradition of obvious political theory for whom DVD’s book will come as old news — I guess minus Hittinger and Witte — do you mean to suggest that there is one school and that you and SW are smack dab in the middle of it? Maybe, but how would I know from either SW’s blog or yours?

    It’s not a matter of pulling rank. It is one of outlining the standard by which to critique DVD in more than three graphs on a blog comment page. I don’t mind criticism and I don’t think DVD does either, though I can’t seem to channel him the way you and SW speak with the same voice. All I’m asking for is some reference to a longer piece by SWPE on Protestant political theology. Believe it or not, PE, it is a pluralistic field.

    Please then remind me of “the point” that I’m supposed to answer from SWPE.

    BTW, taking on the Barthian-Van Tillian phalanx of mainline and sideline Protestants on NL is no small achievement. But I guess I don’t get around the way you do.

  62. Rev. Dr. Douglas Wilson, since you have identified yourself again as a Constantinian and a Christendomist, where pray tell was the religious liberty for the Arians, Huss, Wycliff, the Waldensians, the Muslims or the Jews prior to 1600? And where was the religious liberty for dissenting Protestants in Europe prior to 1790?

    I know you want to uphold religious liberty, and I know you want to be consistently Christian in doing so. But can’t you give the Lockes or Madisons or Jeffersons of the Enlightenment world any credit?

    Long live American Independence.

  63. Roger,

    The Egyptians are not monophysites. They also reject the Eutychian heresy. They are miaphysites.


    You write 1790 because it’s the date of the French Revolution? Aside from the fact that saying the French Revolution brought in religious tolerance is about as ludicrous as saying the Russian Revolution did; do you really want to side with Robespierre against Calvin?

  64. Darryl, I am afraid I have been remiss in earning a doctorate, and I am only Rev. on my good days, which ought to be more frequent than they are. Please call me Doug. Hope I can call you Darryl, since I did already.

    I will in fact be setting off some firecrackers tomorrow in the spirit of your last exhortation. Down with the House of Hanover!

    And I honestly do give Locke, Madison, and Jefferson a lot of credit, and am profoundly grateful for their contributions. But they did not pop out of thin air. Their contributions were made possible by the environment of Protestant Christendom. Locke was the son of a Cromwellian parliamentarian, Madison was a student of Witherspoon, the Presbyterian parson off with whom America ran, and Jefferson leaned on the work of the Mecklenburg gang, a bunch of oatmeal-eating Calvinists.

    The abuses of Christendom you mention were sins, and that is exactly my point. In Christendom, there is a standard whereby sins may be rebuked and repented of. These things were inconsistent with the standard that they said was the ultimate standard. But take our secularist democracy — what standard are they violating in the summary execution of a million or more children annually? According to their own principles, none. Fortunately for those who want the Church to recover her prophetic voice, they don’t answer to their own principles. They answer to Christ.

  65. I’m curious – how do we advocate religious liberty at the same time as we advocate the falsehood of all other religions? How can Christ be king in the secular sphere – through a Christian civil magistrate – if the secular sphere continues to be treated like a great marketplace of ideas?

    I’m not wishing to argue against religious liberty, necessarily – my question is one of genuinely not understanding how the two things can go together. All societies have to have boundaries, and all have to police them. Perhaps the policing doesn’t have to be death to heretics and infidels, but it has to exist all the same. Doesn’t it?

  66. Darryl,

    As I recall, VanDrunen does want to link the Protestant theology to the modern American situation. It seems that on that level, he and DW are actually different sides of the same coin, whereas you are arguing a wholly different point.

    VanDrunen says that the Reformers were inconsistent proto-moderns. DW, PE, and myself would say that the moderns were inconsistent ante-Protestants. You are the most clear (at least in this most recent exchange) in asserting that the original Protestants were up to something fundamentally different than moderns, and you take your stand with the moderns.

    A big part of “our” (DW, PE, and myself) thesis is that the Protestant civic position, which does in fact include natural law and the two kingdoms (properly understood), is both uniquely Christian and also able to provide for civil liberties. It is precisely because Christ’s spiritual kingdom is not of this world, and thus there are no spiritual rulers over men’s souls (apart from Christ, of course), that this could be the case. Islam, Roman Catholicism, and Anabaptism all hold to some form of worldly/temporal kingdom of Christ (the original Anabaptists were all militant, after all). This is why, as Pastor Wilson says often, not all sins are crimes.

    I honestly think that if the conversation could be de-snarked, you would see that my position (and especially PE, who has done more work than I) is something of the “best” of what you and your associates are after, while at the same time retaining the “best” of what DW is all about. And to top it all off, we say that this is the traditional view. Ancestral piety and contemporary ecumenism all in one place! 🙂

    But again, this only works if “the spiritual kingdom” is fully out of the temporal realm. If you just put it in the visible church you are going to run into those clashes that they faced throughout the middle ages all over again, just without the fire-power (for now, at least).

    We can all see how this worked with the Covenanters. They started off with worldly aspirations, and after that failed, they became political quietists, all the while still managing to have a hard time getting along with other churches. Rather than seeing them as the true heirs of Calvin (which would in fact debunk VanDrunen’s read of Calvin on 2k), though, I’d prefer to see the irenic doctors and particularly Richard Hooker’s civic view as fitting the bill.

  67. The point that PE was alluding to was the original discussion of the two kingdoms, by the way.

    If the spiritual kingdom is the visible church, then this would be the view at odds with Luther. It would also set up mediators in the spiritual kingdom, thus raising serious questions about justification by faith alone and christian liberty.

    Calvin says that the spiritual kingdom is the life of the soul, as distinct from the body. That doesn’t fit the visible church very well at all.

    As to your question about when tolerance was allowed, there are many such examples, but perhaps one of the best is Cromwell’s England. Jews, and all varieties of Christian sects were permitted. Anyone who wasn’t a threat to a shared civic space was allowed. The folks Cromwell went after were those whose systems were opposed to the civic arrangement.

    Muslims had a more difficult time precisely because of the incompatibility of their own principles with a non-Muslim civic order. Remi Brague shows this very well in his The Legend of the Middle Ages. That is also why the fully privatized religion-approach will not work for a mixed civic order- Not all religions accept it! You’ll have to step on their toes to get tolerance.

  68. Darryl,

    A gentle reminder: you have yet to make an argument. Just give me a heads up when that’s about to happen, would you?

    On John Witte: my reference to him, among others, was expressly to your claim that you weren’t used to seeing Calvin, Hooker, and German jurists all lined up, and your insinuation was that to do so was idiosyncratic. My rejoinder was that such a connection was old hat, and I am in fact right. I mentioned Witte, among others, as evidence of this. I did not say anything about his personal opinion as a believing thinker on questions of the public role of religion. I have read most if not all of his books, and if he’s trying, in his retrievals of Protestant social thought, to support your brand of quasi-Manichaean absolute separation, he sure isn’t trying very hard. I’m looking right now at the concluding passages of his “From Sacrament to Contract”, and it doesn’t sound quietist- not at all; and all over his works, he finds models and suggestions for the commonwealth in the unitary religious vision of the Protestant writers. Witte certainly doesn’t support your dim view of Protestantism and freedom: vide p 292 of “Law and Protestantism.” And in any case, for a man to be an editor of a series is not exactly like being censor deputatus of each book, is it?

    As for Dr Hittinger, he is a Roman Catholic, and I very much doubt he claims special expertise in Protestant political theology or Protestant jurisprudence. And, since he is a Roman Catholic, he might well incline to the Maritain/Dulles version of things, which Rome, given its ecclesiology, will perforce prefer as the offical position where it cannot establish itself. If (and I’m saying “if”, because I don’t know the man) RH does hold in fact to some kind of Maritainism, then of course he would find DVD’s take the best thing on the Protestant tradition- because DVD’s view makes Protestantism look a lot like Maritain. So still no dice, Darryl. I don’t know what you’re pulling, but it’s certainly not rank. Maybe it’s my leg?

    The Protestant political tradition is indeed hardly uniform taken at its broadest- but the core magisterial (means “Magistrate’s”, Darryl) tradition is remarkably consistent. If it isn’t, then there wouldn’t be much point in your trying so very hard to appeal to the Reformers to justify your radical secularism, would there? Steven’s point, and mine, is simply that your interpretation doesn’t work, even historically. Once again: the two kingdoms are the a) the invisible realm of union with God in Christ, attained by faith alone and all grace, and b) the visible realm, which includes the visible church in its bare externality, and especially in matters of church governance. The two kingdoms do not correspond to church and state in the modern sense, and the classical doctrine absolutely does not support political atheism. Th tradition does tend naturally toward supporting political liberty (see Thomasius and Boehmer), but realizes that this is not coherently possible with political atheism.

    I haven’t denied that taking on the Barthian-Vantilian phalanx is an achievement- I simply point out that Brunner did it before you, and better; but alright, if you’re feeling unrecognized, let me give credit where credit is due, and say that you should be thanked for pointing out that the Reformers were not Van Tilians or Barthians. But that’s where the praise has to stop, unfortunately, because your own views are just as off track, just in a different direction. If you don’t want to hear it from SW or myself, then I recommend to you the locus I mentioned earlier to Mary: chapter 12 of Brunner’s “Justice and the Social Order.” Or you could read the whole book.

    The readers, I think, have heard quite enough to be able to form their own initial opinions. I can’t see the use of replying to you further unless, as I said above, you decide to actually give me an argument- historical, theological, anything. Just an argument.


  69. Tim,

    The answer is simple, and it gets right back to that “dual governance” which is the topic. The Reformers had medieval antecedents, and Dante was among the foremost of them: his doctrine of “two beatitudes” anticipates the genuine two kingdoms distinction of the Reformers, and in his teaching on the sovereign and the commonwealth, he says that peace and order is the goal, not holiness or evangelization; the magistrate hold’s Christ’s place as king, but not as priest or prophet or eschatological judge, and Christ’s delegated kingship here is about peace and order. Christ’s kingship spiritually is in the Spirit, calling all to accept forgiveness, repent, and come to faith and life. This lays it out.

    There is a line running straight from Dante through the Reformers to Pufendorf and Thomasius, and on to Kuyper in his better moods, and then to moderns such as Brunner, Avis, and Koyzis. The idea is that Christ’s temporal-aspect kingship is delegated, and this is coercive but only with respect to the conditions of civic righteousness, the goal of peace; not coercive of conscience; but it functions indirectly as creating the conditions of the Gospel’s free proclamation and free reception.

    Of course, if someone’s beliefs militate against the conditions of peace, then that is a problem; but in that case, such persons are themselves the enemies of liberty. It is only in this respect that the State could act against them, not because they hold religious falsehood. Luther was absolutely clear about this, and his intuition is later worked out into a full juridical doctrine by the German Protestant jurists. Christ’s spiritual-aspect kingship is not delegated, but exercised by Him directly through His Spirit. Here, there is no coercion at all: sheer grace and invitation, which is how we are called to proclaim the Gospel: proclaim the sheer grace and love and invitation of God’s winning mercy in Christ.

    So the limits of civic tolerance have to do not with truth or falsity of personal opinion (religious or otherwise), but rather with willingness to honor the political covenant of temporal peace, and the basic order of natural law (which is, as I’ve emphasized here, always historically embodied because always rendered by prudence and decision; and Selden was likely right to avoid abstraction, and say instead Noahide order) Locke’s discussion of this point is still useful, with qualifications.

    The point I must insist on is that this law, like all human political arrangements, is a contingent production, an institution of vision and decision, and in no way self-producing or just given. In other words, it has to be set up and maintained; and the principles of the set-up are always at a level of depth which is necessarily religious. On this point Milbank and the Neo-Calvinists are right, and Dr Hart is wrong.


  70. Steven, no offense but your idea about the spiritual kingdom not having reference to the visible church is odd. Presbyterian church polities have long asserted that church power in the particular communion writing the polity — a visible church — is spiritual. And for you to say that the spiritual kingdom being the visible church violates Luther, then I’m not sure how your read Article 28 of Augsburg (I humbly apologize to Peter for quoting rather than making an argument):

    “But this is their opinion, that the power of the Keys, or the power of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain sins, and to administer Sacraments. 6] For with this commandment Christ sends forth His Apostles, John 20:21 sqq.: As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. 7] Mark 16:15: Go preach the Gospel to every creature.

    “This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their calling either to many or to individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. 9] These things cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1:16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. 10] Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government. 11] For civil government deals with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers defend not minds, but bodies and bodily things against manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.

    “Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not be confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission to teach the Gospel and 13] to administer the Sacraments. Let it not break into the office of another; let it not transfer the kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the laws of civil rulers; let it not abolish lawful obedience; let it not interfere with judgments concerning civil ordinances or contracts; let it not prescribe laws to civil rulers concerning the form of the Commonwealth. 14] As Christ says, John 18:36: My kingdom is not of this world; 15] also Luke 12:14: Who made Me a judge or a divider over you? 16] Paul also says, Phil. 3:20: Our citizenship is in heaven; 17] 2 Cor. 10:4: The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the casting down of imaginations.”

    If this is your main point against DVD, then it seems that your beef is really with most Reformed and Lutheran churches and the way that they understand church authority to be spiritual within a visible church.

    Part of what may throw you off is that you say DVD is writing for the contemporary situation. And you’re not? You also say that he is claiming the Reformation as proto-modern. I don’t think that’s what is going on. I see DVD trying to get around Christendom and Constantine to a situation where the early church was not in pursuit of a magisterial reformation and was living in the reality of the end of a civil/spiritual kingdom, experiencing the difference between a state that did not support the faith and a church without political power.

    As I read DVD’s book, I do not see him trying to address either church polity or civil polity. He is looking at the way that NL functioned in select Reformed thinkers and that the 2k doctrine is the intellectual mechanism that makes it work.

  71. Peter, yes, I am a fool. My views are dim. I didn’t know that magisterial was a form of “magistrate” and I apologize for my difficulty with concocting arguments. My bad all around.

    But as I said above to SW, this assertion — not an argument — that the spiritual kingdom cannot be visible is the beam that you put most of your weight on — sorry too for ending with a preposition. But this makes no sense since lots of visible churches say their power is spiritual. I myself think of my office as elder as spiritual rule — and yet I have a body — oh my! Plus, your initial assertion about no rule in the spiritual kingdom did meet with a measure of retreat. Perhaps you’ll recall your bluster and then your filibuster.

    “[Christ] has no real lieutenants in the spiritual realm; any who believe on Him are directly and immediately united to Him. Sorry is that looks bad for the job security of “spiritual rulers,” but you can take that up with Him if you please.”

    “Ministers are governmental rulers in temple matters exactly the way citizens are rulers in civic forum matters; they are representative of the people of God, in sacra. Disciplinarianism, that old Reformed aberration, makes of them, however, gatekeepers of the Kingdom.”

    I grant, it’s not much of a concession, but it did show that you had probably overexerted yourself in the first instance.

    Either way, I know of no communion that actually holds the view that SWPE do. But since I am regularly wrong and misguided I await your further counsel.

  72. Sir Douglas, I don’t know why you would call the persecution of heretics sins. Excluding aberrant or heretical views is what churches do. And so when you have a political order premised on orthodoxy, persecution of false views is par for the course. So I’m not sure why you want to back away from church discipline. The question is whether the state or sword should enforce such discipline.

    I don’t see how you can have a religious basis for a political order and not have cases of Servetus. One way around the difficulty is to separate theology from politics. Yes, it has its disadvantages. But it’s not as if the other system worked all that well.

  73. Darryl, let’s take the worst of the worst — the Spanish Inquisition, say. They killed about 2,000 people in the course of their whole business. That’s Stalin on a slow afternoon. And lest we rush to distance ourselves from the commies, that’s Planned Parenthood on a slow afternoon. We, here, in the U.S. of A, outdo the Spanish Inquisition on a daily basis. The salvation from blood-letting that the secularists preen themselves on has been greatly over-rated, in my view.

    To the substance of your objection, I agree that every society has standards, and needs to police those standards in order to remain upright. But in order to work through this issue, we have to distinguish views from practices, ideas from behavior. In other words, I can understand a Christian society not allowing the building of a mosque or a minaret, and not allowing Muslim prayers to be broadcast in the streets. Church bells, great, calls to Muslim prayer, not so much. But that is quite different than disallowing Islamic views.

    Servetus was a hard case, because he was deliberately playing a high stakes game of brinksmanship. Go ahead, I dare you, as if to say. But I can easily envision someone with the views of Servetus living to a ripe old age in a Christian republic.

  74. Darryl,

    This is getting tiresome, but in case there’s some use in continuing to reply to your misfires, since they do sometimes serve as occasions to make a point, we can go around once again.

    To your point about spiritual kingdoms: yes, many Presbys claimed to have a visible-spiritual kingdom. But both SW and myself have pointed out that djd Presbyterianism was an aberration approximating Anabaptism and Rome in that regard. Hooker certainly thought so, and argued so from the principles of Luther and Calvin. That same djd Presbyterianism held the bloody tenet, and it followed from their principles; you want the spiritual rulership bit, but not the full consistent view.

    The Augsburg quote flies right back in your face. It is a direct assault on RC “sacred rulership,” and says the power of the Ministry is simply the Word, as opposed to the claimed RC power of being keykeepers of the Kingdom of Heaven or rulers in a political sense. Your militant Presbyterian ancestors would find little title or comfort in the passage you’ve quoted. And neither can you.

    As for me, apparently you read me as hastily as you read the Augsburg. I conceded nothing- you’re just seeing things that aren’t there, because you persist in your confusion and can’t imagine that others don’t share it. I said “Christ has no lieutenants in the spiritual realm.” Let that sink it for a bit- the “spiritual realm”. You next quote me as saying, Christian leaders are rulers in church-governmental matters just the way they are in civic matters. I understand that perhaps the word “ruler” gets you very excited, but let’s slow down a bit. I’ve made it extremely clear that I’m saying that church government is…what again? visible church, not invisible. And the visible church, which classically is simply the commonwealth or body of local professed Christians, is, on classical principles not…what? I think you remember now. It’s not the spiritual kingdom. It’s a sign of it, and can even be said to stand as body to soul, but it’s not it. You’re the one, along with the RCC, who thinks they’re the same. I don’t. The only overexertion going on is, perhaps, us trying to have a reasonable conversation with you.

    As for whether any communion holds what we hold- well, communions hardly know what they hold anymore! For instance, used to be, you really count on Presbyterians to be consistent and hold faithfully to that auld bloudie tenet- but now they up and go sounding just like Roger Williams! It’s sort of dizzying. Who knows what they’ll give up next. But, since you mentioned it, traditional Lutherans are in principle committed to something very much like what we’re defending, and it was the doctrine of the C of E until the influence of the Oxford Movement, whose ecclesiology resembled yours (“Gentlemen, magnify your office!” as Newman said. Hm, maybe you could aim for Cardinal! Spiritual rulership, plus Italy!) made that less clear. And the old doctrine still has proponents.

    As for your remark to Steven: well, long ago, as a wedding approached, the groom’s friends rallied round to make sure there wasn’t trouble. We live now in gentler times; but the fact remains that preparing to get married is still very preoccupying, and SW is getting married in a week, and is thus preoccupied. So I’m doing of some of the discursive work here, while he has much better things to do. And the similarity of our opinion shouldn’t surprise you: we’ve read the same books, and share the same ideal. If you were to read those books, or shared that ideal, you would very likely agree with us.

    As for your remark to Doug: Doug can answer for himself, but no, Darryl, it doesn’t follow that an orthodoxy must suppress all difference from itself. Protestant orthodoxy is committed to the civic magistrate not coercing conscience or engineering holiness, but that commitment follows from Protestant principles and distinctions (though there were medieval antecedents). Hence, Luther was all for a Christian commonwealth, but denied that there could be any such thing as a “war for Christ”, or persecution of heretics qua heretics, only qua political subversives. And Pufendorf and Thomasius were both quite committed to Christian establishment, but they were also thoroughgoing tolerationists, and consistently so. They could tell a Christian monarch to stop going after “witches” and heresies, and have very good, even compelling, reasons to give him why he ought to stop.

    Which raises a question. What if the State we live in suddenly stopped being tacitly Protestant, and thus you could no longer passively benefit from that fact- and what if that new State decided to prosecute people for belief? how would you tell them to stop? On what principles? It seems to me you couldn’t tell them to stop, because your rationale for absolute separation of church and State follows from your theology, which, in this thought experiment, the State doesn’t share. What would you do? Appeal to natural law? Doesn’t work. Maybe as a last resort you’d have to convert that commonwealth to ofifical Christianity… but that would put a man of your principles in quite a pickle!

    This is a real question about your position, Darryl. If you can’t answer any of the others, still, do answer this one.


  75. Peter, the quote from Augsburg is about the power of bishops. Hey now.

    Also the U.S. govt was never tacitly Protestant. Have you not read the Constitution? Or maybe you’re just the smartest person in all of history.

    As for your remark “Protestant orthodoxy is committed to the civic magistrate not coercing conscience or engineering holiness” what exactly do you think Servetus’ experience was.

    By the way, there is a difference between a difference with orthodoxy and heresy. But surely you’re smart enough for that.

    So what gift did you get the new bride and groom? An autographed portrait of yourself? (a measure humor there)

  76. Peter, btw, you wrote “yes, many Presbys claimed to have a visible-spiritual kingdom. But both SW and myself have pointed out that djd Presbyterianism was an aberration approximating Anabaptism and Rome in that regard. Hooker certainly thought so, and argued so from the principles of Luther and Calvin. That same djd Presbyterianism held the bloody tenet, and it followed from their principles; you want the spiritual rulership bit, but not the full consistent view.”

    Since DVD is treating the many Presbyterians and Reformed and not Hooker and the difficulties of British political theology, you are judging the book on grounds that don’t apply. He is trying to account for NL and 2k in the Presbyterian visible-spiritual kingdom.

    If you want Hooker, put away your U.S. flag.

  77. Douglas, would there be room for Servetus if he publicly disagreed with or ridiculed the Christian teaching of said republic? I think you’ve dodged the issue.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen the video of you and Hitch. So I guess they’ll be room for Hitchens — should he live — in the U.S. if Jim Jordan is elected president.

    If so, then I’m not sure how your view of making Christ Lord of everything differs from my Secular Faith.

  78. ***On the other hand, I’ve seen the video of you and Hitch. So I guess they’ll be room for Hitchens — should he live — in the U.S. if Jim Jordan is elected president.***

    I usually don’t chuckle at Mr Hart’s attempts at humor, but that really was funny.

  79. Darryl,

    You just keep doing it to yourself, don’t you.

    You have once again dodged a very simple question. Maybe public debate is part of the civic sphere you’ve withdrawn your heart from?

    Be that as it may. Since the claim you make about the Constitution is worth addressing, well, yes, I will say that the Constitution is tacitly Protestant. More precisely, I will say that the Founding is, because the Constitution presupposes the Declaration, and all of it was an organic moment within the continuum of British Christian common law and the broader European jus commune, outside of which the Founding documents are not wholly intelligible. Surely you’ve read enough to know what it means for the US to have explicitly received common law and what’s more, to have more or less officially received Blackstone as the commentator. For the barest beginning, you might try Sandoz’ “Government of Laws.” Or I could point out to you the Protestant suppositions which informed Locke, who had such an influence on the Founding.

    As for DVD and the Presbys: good, now you’re admitting something: DVD is trying to reconfigure 2K along lines which take as granted djd Presbyterianism. Thanks for your candor. The resulting 2K given those parameters will not be recognizable as the teaching of the Reformers, but that’s what we’ve been arguing all along. As for your apparent denial that Hooker is Reformed: well, I suppose it’s no surprise that someone who could confine the Kingdom of Christ to a few little sects, would be willing to confine the name of Reformed to them as well. I doubt very much that you will want to better inform yourself, but readers can consult the works of WJT Kirby on this point, and they might also look at the Continental Reformed, especially the German-speakers.

    On orthodoxy and heresy: not sure what your little blurt there means- maybe you’re just having trouble getting it, so let me try again. A political order established on orthodox principles need not have as one of its ends the enforcement of that orthodoxy on all private persons within its jurisdiction; the orthodoxy in question might as a point of principle rule that out. And in fact, Protestantism naturally tends in that direction, given Protestant principles about conscience and the external civic realm. Protestant civic orthodoxy would be concerned about maintaining its constitutional form, which would involve principles of religious orthodoxy, but not about imposing that orthodoxy coercively on citizens who personally don’t hold it. See? that’s no so hard.

    On Servetus: all of us here have been presuming the fully developed tradition. I’m guessing that you haven’t actually read the later jurists, but that’s no excuse. Read them. One can easily explain the case of Servetus historically; but we’re talking about the general trajectory of Protestant political theology.


  80. Darryl, here is the difference. I believe in a maximum of religious liberty because I believe it to be the will of God. You believe in it . . . why?

    The strength of the reason you point to in defense of your desire for such liberty is going to be the same as the strength of your objections when it is taken away. If you have no basis, other than your own political convictions, then that is all you have to appeal to when they start marching us off to have our thoughts elevated.


  81. Eric was right, Steven, this is good stuff.

    It is very difficult to deal with historical misreadings, but you’ve done a great job. I think you have started to clear the crumbs off table. This “two kingdoms” stuff has gone unchallenged for far too long. I look forward to more.

    We need to talk about “natural law” soon. I was taught to reject natural law and natural theology. But, maybe it doesn’t mean what I think it means. 🙂

  82. Douglas, then why is religious liberty not taught in the Bible or even by Calvin? If it is the will of God, how have others missed it?

    I’m also puzzled, then, if religious liberty is the will of God, why do you object to the current toleration of religious and moral liberty?

  83. Peter, thanks for this exercise in exposing my complete misunderstanding of the world. It has been a sincere sensation.

    You may want to reconsider your own thinking on some things. You may want to think about Jefferson and Madison and their Protestant sensibilities. Maybe you are of the Lillback school which claims for Reformed everything with which you agree. But last I checked, old Tom and Jim were not necessarily riffing on Hooker or Winthrop. You might also want to consider Hooker’s place in the Reformed tradition. Good historians like McCulloch and Benedict don’t exactly place him there, but like me they may be fools. And again, whoever you agree with must be right.

    It’s been fun.

  84. Darryl, I actually do think that religious liberty is taught in the Bible, by good and necessary consequence. If we refuse to criminalize what we have no biblical authority to criminalize, the end result of that kind of civil prudence and humility will be a true free society. God gave us ten commandments; the secular state gives us ten shelves of commandments in the nearest law school library.

    I think something similar is true with Calvin. Biblicist societies are a seedbed for free societies. I agree with Kelly’s point in his The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World. The freest societies grew out of Calvinistic societies, and I don’t believe that was a coincidence.

    I don’t object to the current toleration of moral and religious liberty. I object to false religions that claim the right to be able to kill people on the altars of their false gods — whether those victims are in utero or skyscrapers in NYC. A theocratic state, on biblical principles, would allow liberty of opinion, and would deny the right to practice certain things that their ideology would allow them to practice, were their ideology in charge. Those restrictions would include, but not be limited to, killing the infidel and screwing the pooch, Outside of that kind of thing, they would have the run of the place — just like the rest of us. We certainly would have a lot more of that than we currently have.

  85. Darryl,

    Do try to argue like a grownup, please. In fact, please just try to actually make an argument. Other people’s time is worth something, after all.

    There were indeed, however unwittingly so, Protestant suppositions back of Jefferson and Madison, though they were both somewhat inconsistent thinkers; but I can’t imagine that you want to take those two as the only authoritative criteria for Constitutional interpretation. Or do you? In any case, I doubt you’ll deny that Locke was an enormous influence on the Founding; and yet Locke is most definitely, and explicitly, riffing on Hooker. It’s all over his work. On the inescapably theological character of Locke’s principles, for starters, you can consult Joshua Mitchell’s “Not by Reason Alone.”

    Speaking of Hooker: neither McCulloch nor Benedict specializes in Hooker, last I checked; but WJT Kirby does, and he has proved, over and over, that Hooker is not only Reformed, but in fact is more consistently consensus-Reformed than the militant Presbyterians were. A glance at the work of Hooker’s friends Saravia and Field will reveal that both of them were ferociously Reformed, but neither were Presbyterians.

    And Kirby is hardly alone on Hooker; for instance, I doubt you’d want to accuse the Calvin College Post-Reformation Digital Library of being idiosyncratic or non-Reformed, but look where their researchers put Richard Hooker:


    Right there in the “Reformed” section- where he should be.

    It would be useful to actually have a conversation about these things, Darryl; they really are very important things. Have you got any friends who’d be interested in having a serious conversation about them?


  86. Dear All,

    If I may, I would like to address the original question that started this captivating discussion. The issue as I understand it is whether, or to what extent, the spiritual kingdom is to be identified with the visible church in a proper Two Kingdoms understanding.

    Mr. Wedgeworth (in his book review) and Mr. Escalante, as I read him, are maintaining that the original reformers did not equate the two, and they place the visible church squarely in the temporal kingdom, with the spiritual kingdom being exclusively the realm of man’s direct relationship with God. Furthermore, they maintain that some contemporary Protestant thinkers, while admirably advocating a recovery of a Two Kingdoms approach, nevertheless err by confusing the spiritual kingdom with the visible church. According to them, this is both a misreading of the original reformers and is also imprudent as a political enterprise.

    Practically speaking (and I am reading more between the lines now, so correct me if I am wrong) the concern for SW and PE seems to be that, in addition to being a misreading of the reformer’s teachings on the subject, linking the visible church with the spiritual kingdom will marginalize religion in the body politic pursuant to the separation of church and state (as we have seen happen in the modern era). But if the spiritual kingdom is independent of the visible church, it can prevail “within” the magistrate just as much as it can prevail “within” the church leaders, thereby allowing for a renewal of Christian society bodies politic within the framework of modern democracy (having, in the words of PE, “reconfigured [Christendom] for the better”). On the other hand, and more in line with contemporary modern liberal democratic thinking, Mr. Hart, seems to see some identification of the church with the spiritual kingdom as both protective of individual religious freedom and also protective of the church itself which, while “separate” from the state, can also be defended on that basis (thus leading to Mr. Escalante’s characterization of Mr. Hart’s thinking as a “bunker” mentality).

    Now, before I go any further, would anyone like to correct me on my characterizations or interpretations?


  87. Mary’s helpful summary has my vote for fairly interpreting the article and response.

  88. Mary,

    Once again, you’ve put your finger on it exactly- very elegantly done. Many thanks for your helpful contribution here.


  89. Mary,

    Since your characterizations & interpretations are exact, please do “go on further”.


  90. Dear All,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I was away from a computer all weekend or I would have written sooner.

    I guess what I have next is a clarification that maybe someone could help me with. I do have a book on order (which should be coming in today) on the writings of Luther and Calvin on the “Secular Authority,” so perhaps I should read this before asking these things, for fear of detracting from the conversation with my ignorance. On the other hand, if anyone feels that my question is an interesting addition to the discussion, I would be very appreciative.
    Also, I must say that I do find Mr. Escalante’s and Wedgeworth’s critique of the modern situation more compelling, as I do see the marginalization of religion as being the intrinsic fruit of the current thinking. As a result my question will be directed more toward that line of thought, though I would love to hear Darryl Hart’s thoughts on the subject as well.

    My question concerns the Spiritual Kingdom. Now in my understanding of Two Kingdoms thought, following Augustine, as I read him, the momentous issue is conceived of as a distinction of “citizenship.” That is, although the two are intermingled in this world, a person is in reality either a citizen of the earthly city or a citizen of the heavenly city (or City of God and City of Man). Although this “citizenship” ultimately corresponds to a man’s eternal destiny, Augustine describes the immediate fulcrum of the distinction as being what a man “loves.” Citizens of the earthly city primarily love themselves and citizens of the heavenly city primarily love God.

    Now obviously the two different “loves” correspond to the life of grace (or lack thereof) in the soul. But what strikes me is that, while I think Augustine would acknowledge that Christians taken together are members of the “mystical body of Christ,” his use of the concept of “citizenship” does not seem to indicate that the Spiritual Kingdom is in any sense a metaphysical reality in this life. Rather, it seems to be merely a way of talking and thinking about the political realities facing fallen man.

    Do the reformers see it differently? At times in this discussion the description of the Spiritual Kingdom seems to suggest this. For example Mr. Wedgeworth has indicated that the Spiritual Kingdom “is not conceived of in mere predestinarian terms [by the reformers], but [is] rather the mystical union of the Spirit” and that “the spiritual kingdom is the kingdom of the soul, the kingdom of full liberty of conscience, and the realm of justification by faith alone.”

    What is the metaphysical status of this realm for the reformers? Is it the seed and beginning of a reality that will flower into heaven in an actual sense? Or is it only a way of conceptualizing the dilemma of Christians in this world?

    Put somewhat differently, if you defined “the church” as the totality of people in this world that are going to heaven because they have been redeemed by grace (that is, they are citizens of the City of God), would the reformers still not equate the church with the Spiritual Kingdom? If not, is this because Christians are- at least bodily- visible? Or, and this is how I take what has been said in the discussion, does the Spiritual Kingdom in the reformer’s view refer to that part or aspect of a Christian, or Christians taken together, that is invisible and immaterial, i.e. their spirits and/or souls: a “kingdom of full liberty of conscience, and the realm of justification by faith alone.”



  91. Please let me hasten to add:

    Or, to put a finer point on it, is the Spiritual Kingdom an otherworldy “dimension” that exists independently of all human beings (that, theoretically at least, would exist even if human beings did not) and “within which” we are able, by grace and the Holy Spirit, to dwell and enjoy “full liberty of conscience” and “justification by faith alone.”


  92. Mary,

    Let me start by making a historical point, then move on to the doctrine.

    Augustine’s “two cities” is a source of the Reformation clarification, but finally, it all comes from the Reformers’ reading of the Scripture, particularly Paul on the Law and justification. But Augustine himself probably held a more nuanced view of the Christian’s relation to the civic order than is usually attributed to him- John von Heyking’s reading of Augustine is persuasive in this regard.

    So on to your question. It is a question of modes of participation.

    The spiritual kingdom is simply the Kingdom of God, which includes all creation; creation’s laws are God’s laws, for God is maker and king caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium. However, due to the Fall, man and the cosmos which he represented before God were alienated from God and from themselves; and God’s law, including the law of our own being, testified against us and harried us, and we were (and are yet, since we are still sinners) incapable of rightly following it. The Kingdom of God in the sense of God’s sovereign creatorly rule is simply, “reality”. But there is a more specific sense of the term, applicable to beings made in God’s image, which is: “God’s communion and favor”. We are always wholly and necessarily in the Kingdom in the first sense, but not so in the second.

    But from the first God reached out to restore His children and His creation to communion with Him, through gracious covenants, granting favor and working toward His final victory. Part of that covenantal work involved law, law which Jesus perfectly fulfilled, and the sin measured by which law Jesus took upon himself and expiated. Thus, He opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers, and He did so in a way which made that Kingdom of God accessible, participable, by trust in the Word alone, not by work normed by law. Thus, the constraining terror of the Law was lifted, and in faith we are restored in Christ to an original freedom of love action- Luther’s “freedom of a Christian man,” which the Spirit increasingly enables us to do good with.

    So, the Kingdom of God would definitely exist without us, if say it were only angels; and even if there were no creation at all, since, in a way, God’s Kingdom is Himself, the same would be true. Justification by faith alone is God’s gracious provision for men to be able to enter the Kingdom gratis, and the way they enter it is the way they abide in it- gratis. Being then without the constraining terrors of the Law, our illuminated and grateful consciences are free, with creational norms, and the demands of love, as guides of action- the law of our “selfsame” or “integral” identity, as Wojtyla used to say, from which we are, in Christ the perfect Man, no longer alienated. We can thus “go in peace to love and serve the Lord” and our neighbor, and glorify God by making the earth as much Eden as we can, until the Lord come again.

    But, since we still sinners, and social animals too, our freedom does not at all entail or involve ultraindividualism or civic lawlessness. We must submit to and make use of human ordinances insofar as they are good, just as we must heed our conscience when it accuses us of sin so that we can repent and amend . What we cannot do is pretend that salvation, entry to the Kingdom, is conditional upon law-observance.

    This is a very brief and very general account, and I have only very obliquely touched upon the matter of “visibility” and what that does and doesn’t mean. But I hope it helps answer your question, and please feel free to ask more of them as need be.


  93. Peter,

    Thanks for writing! I did get my book of Luther and Calvin’s writings, which I am looking forward to delving into. I have previously only read secondary sources on their political thought and I am looking forward to correcting this inadequacy.

    I do have a follow up question, but first let me explain a bit about my somewhat strange previous question. You see, I am always vigilant to discern the inroads of modern philosophy into Christian doctrine, since it is almost always subversive. In this case, my concern is that the Spiritual Kingdom as it is being formulated as a “kingdom of full liberty of conscience” is in grave peril of becoming Kant’s “kingdom of ends” couched in Christian terms. Now I think a case can be made (e.g. in Kraynack’s “Christian Faith and Modern Democracy”) that Kant’s kingdom of ends- a realm of autonomy, freedom and pure reason as it were- is what theoretically underlies the “natural rights” thinking of today, with its conception of man as an “individual” (see Pierre Manent on the modern “creation” of the individual) whose very essence is to be a bearer of inalienable rights. This is in contrast with being a creature indebted absolutely to his Creator, whose “freedom” is only a faculty that is legitimately employed when choosing the potentialities for good which have been established by Him.

    The disguised Kantianism of “natural rights” is precisely the root of the tree to which the axe must be resolutely set.

    Of course, a Christian faith and belief in Divine Law and Natural Law would all set boundaries to the “realm” of freedom, liberty of conscience, and pure reason, curtailing the scope of “legislation” therein. However, it is my view that this is an untenable compromise that must ultimately fail or, as we have seen, render the concept of natural law ersatz. The attempt to reconcile the modern conception of freedom with natural law has, in my opinion, even seduced- to some degree- some great figures of my own faith who have attempted to reconcile Thomism and modern “Rights of Man” doctrine. Unfortunately this robs Thomism of its true existential depths, as well as heights (see Etienne Gilson’s “The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas” on St. Thomas’ existential foundation).

    All of the above is why I find Augustine’s use of the concept of “citizenship” as being useful, as well as his view that what a man “loves” is dispositive.

    Practically speaking: of course, unfortunately I do not think my views will find much sympathy among our readers but I thought I would share them if anyone was wondering. If I may be so bold to say, I do believe that the solution to the dialogue we having- to the extent that one is possible in this life- has been given by God in the gift of apostolic succession. It is the missing link. Let me explain.

    Apostolic succession avoids the flaws of the modern “separation of church and state” approach, as held by Darryl Hart, as I read him, in that the church is divinely instituted as a historical presence. God has, though his church instituted by Christ (“and I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”) been given, in the words of the Bard, “a local habitation and a name.” An address if you will. As a result, the state must be subordinate to the church. However, as formulated in Unam Sanctum, the “Two Swords” are not to be conflated. Rather, “it belongs to the spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and pass judgment if it has not been good.” This means that the Spiritual power only rules the Temporal power mediately, as opposed to immediately, as it does within the church. What this usually means in practice is subordination on questions of “faith and morals.” This makes the church/state relationship complimentary rather than either 1) merged, such as in Islam or a theocracy or 2) alienated, as in modern liberal “wall of separation” thinking.

    Apostolic succession also avoids what I believe are the weaknesses in the approach of reformer’s view. For because of the two radically different loves of the heavenly and earthly cities, the two cities seem destined to be always at war to some degree. Jesus seems to accept this state of affairs when he advises to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s,” and speaks of his Kingdom as “not of this world.” History certainly bears this out as well. As such, while the invisible church, which will be the bride of Christ at the Great Wedding, is not simply to be identified with the visible church in this world, there is however an inseparable link through apostolic succession. This gives God’s church an anchor and sticking point, if you will, which no totalitarian regime, or soft despotism of consumer degradation- indeed, not even the gates of hell- can prevail against. In short, it seems to me that the idea of making the Magistrate a Christian, while admirable, and perhaps possible and hoped for, is not to be relied on or expected.

    My new question is whether you think that modern democratic liberalism is inherently the regime most compatible with Christianity?


  94. Off topic request:

    Can anyone recommend a book about the “protestant suppositions” behind the Constitution?

  95. Stewart,

    Two easy places to start are Joshua Mitchell’s “Not By Reason Alone”, on the early modern and Enlightenment background of English liberalism (I would recommend Eldon Eisenach also, but if you read Mitchell you’ll get a lot of Eisenach), and Ellis Sandoz’ “A Government of Laws.”

    One problem is that the way the history of the Founding gets told, the Founders are read as being influenced largely by English and French thinkers, but they read Germans too. Pufendorf and Thomasius were in people’s libraries, and they should get some consideration alongside Locke and Montesquieu.


  96. Mary,

    Well now, that is a grand question- or rather, several grand questions. You are getting to the heart of the difference between evangelical Christians and papalist Christians on the doctrine of the church.

    I’ll want to take some time, a day or two, to properly reply to your ecclesiological points. What I should say here is that you need not worry whether your position will be understood- I was, before becoming Protestant, a traditional (not traditional*ist*, but traditional) Roman Catholic, with a special interest in canonical jurisprudence. I am still something of a Thomist, and had a very traditional Thomist education. So I am probably in some position to be able to address your reflections on “apostolic succession” and the nature of Christian life in the world. It is helpful to know that you’ve read Manent, since I’ll be mentioning him, on the historic concern about the meta-temporal power of the Papacy as inimical to civic life, in my later reply.

    On Kant, the resemblance between his doctrine and the Protestant idea of the realm of freedom is not accidental- Kant was brought up a Pietist. Of course, his variant changes a great deal, perhaps fatally so. It is in any case no longer the same teaching.

    On modern democratic liberalism: I’ll reply at greater length when I write next. The short version is, as you might expect, “yes and no.”

    Thanks for the questions, and for the conversation.


  97. Peter,

    I’m glad to hear of your background! Maybe you still have a soft spot for us outdated, out-of-step, papal loyalists?

    At any rate, I do appreciate you taking the time to give my ideas a thoughtful response. I have enjoyed the discussion.


  98. Mr. Escalante,

    I was wondering if you still intend to respond to my post?


  99. Mary,

    If I’m correct, Peter’s out of town visiting family and won’t be back until after the weekend. I’m sure he does intend to respond.

    I might make this recent turn of the discussion into its own post, though. It seems different enough from the original point at hand here, and I think it might also help any other readers.

  100. Thanks, Steven. Yes, it does seem that we’re entering new territory. I hope I did not detract from the previous discussion.

    Also, congratulations!


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  102. Stewart,

    The work of Daniel Dreisbach and Mark Hall is excellent stuff. One of the central points they make is that there was a lot more to the American founding than just Jefferson and Madison. Jefferson was one member of a five-person committee to draft the Declaration, and he had zero–got it?–involvement with the Constitution. He was out of the country when it was being debated! Mark Hall especially has done work on Roger Sherman–turns out that Sherman actually won more debates at the convention than Madison, so that the Constitution actually embodies more of Sherman’s views than Madison’s. Yet, old JM is trotted out every time, and who has actually read Sherman?

    Anyhow, I would highly recommend Dreisbach and Hall–much of their stuff is simply collections of primary sources (like the most recent The Sacred Rights of Conscience).

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