Making suits from Adamantium...

A common refrain lobbed from R2K adherents is a "lack of consistency" on the part of those holding to the historic Two Kingdoms doctrine. If you think God has called you to call sodomites and baby-killers to repentance, why not call on civil government to enforce the worship of the Trinity and punish Sabbath breakers?

At the heart of this complaint is R2Ker's notion of the "spirituality" of the church. What is the spirituality of the church?

Good question. On its face, the term lends itself to being so vague as to be nearly useless. Calvin and others following him use this term much different than R2K men. Hisorically, it wasn't a paradigm.

But R2K has co-opted the term and R2K men are all over the board as to its meaning... They use the term equivocally and then, anachronistically, read their curious abuse of the term back into history.

Talking "spirituality" of the church, R2K men may mean:

  1. The activities of the Church with spiritual means seeking spiritual ends. (Who would argue with this meaning? Yet the way R2K men use it, their logic is circular. The very issue at hand is “spirituality”, so appealing to the notion without defining it is fallacious.
  2. The visible church.
  3. The invisible Church.
  4. Explicit Christian worship.
  5. Government of the church.
  6. The things that endure, are eternal, and/or are not burned up at the eschaton.

It's apparent that no item in this list is equivalent in meaning to any another item. Take Lord's Day worship, for instance: it can be an example of numbers 1, 2, and 4 but not numbers 3, 5, or 6.

To be sure, the visible church is made up of individuals who are also members of the invisible. We can be assured that there are actual converts in many of our churches; but there are also visible members who are not invisible members because they are unconverted and not even elect: tares among the wheat. The tares get burned up.

The gifts being used in the worship are not eternal, either. We know in part and prophecy in part; but when the perfect comes, these gifts go away (1 Corinthians 13:9). The sacraments will be done away with as well. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he returns (1 Corinthians 11:26). No one with a glorified body will need to be baptized into Christ’s death. At that point, baptism is over.

While each of the six notions above are problematic, I’m turning my attention primarily to the eschatalogical notion (number 6) because it demonstrates a crucial dilemma for R2K adherents that cannot be overcome.

For a number of R2K adherents, the spirituality of the church primarily refers to an external structure of church government and the execution of processes related to that hierarchy. You know, the church (ordained officiants) performing duties (churchy things). 

But obviously we are not saved by presbyteries, and certainly not through General Assemblies. Yes, obviously the Great Commission is accomplished through the means of the church. Church officers hold real authority. There really is structure to the government of the body. That is what church government does: it governs the body. The body is necessary for there to be a means for governing her. So the body, the church, is not identical to the government; rather, she is the Bride with bodily members (men) ordained (men) to govern her.

The government and ministry of the church is a means, not an end. All of her work is preparation for the return of the church’s Bridegroom. After Christ returns, there is no more need for reconciliation with God, nor sanctification.

Applying R2K's eschatological spirituality litmus test to church governance

Premise 1: Christ's eschatological return ends temporal things
Premise 2: Things that are spiritual are those that endure forever
Conclusion: Whatever endures after the eschaton is spiritual

Forms of church government and ministries are structures with a definite temporal use in both the reconciliation of sinners with God and the government of God's people while Jesus' physical presence is absent. When Christ returns, His rule will be direct making the delegated tasks of the church of reconciliation and sanctification unnecessary. Ergo R2K's "spirituality" of church polity is not, in fact, spiritual since it will not endure when Christ returns.

Makes one scratch one’s head. Why do R2K’s adherents criticize other men with different opinions about temporal matters like the government and ministry of the church? Live and let live. The church is in the naked square with no contact with the spiritual, after all. If we confuse the government and operation of the temporal church with the spiritual kingdom, we'll lose our grasp of what God cares about.

Wouldn't it be more consistent if they directed their efforts toward constructing suits made from Adamantium?

Comments

I never expected to read an X-men reference on the BaylyBlog. 

Mr French,

Thanks for the post. Your post undermines a key tenet of R2K, namely the distinction between the "common" kingdom and the "redemptive" kingdom. (spiritual vs. temporal; sacred vs secular/profane)

This distinction is an artificial one, as you allude to in this post, with the implications concerning church govt, which I feel is a good one, and one that I personally have not thought of as extensively, but will clearly keep now in my memory bank. 

In addition to your comments, we could also talk about other things that are not "spiritual" or in the "redemptive" kingdom. For instance, one issue that could be brought up, but I feel not as strongly as the church govt example is: many reformed seminaries are technically in the "common" kingdom because they refuse to be under the jurisdiction of the church (denomination), among other things.

Van Drunen even recognizes that WSCAL is technically in the common kingdom (I guess we should appreciate his consistency).

If we are to understand that things in the "common" kingdom are not to be under the jurisdiction of the Bible, does it really make sense to have so many common kingdom institutions (reformed seminaries) to be educating those who are to be ministering in the "redemptive" kingdom?

That being said, I feel that the specific issue of seminaries is not as water tight as the church govt example. Within their R2K "logic", R2K folks could simply say that this is an issue where the seminaries are not being consistent with their relationship with the church.

(This issue to a certain extent is also affected by one's understanding of the role of a parachurch ministry. This is why I say this example isnt as water-tight. Personally, I feel that seminaries should be under the jurisdiction of the church, and we could probably get into debates about the proper role, if any, of parachurch ministries, of which WSCAL is one...)

I think that last point about adamantium is probably the strongest theological argument that can be made. Outstanding.. This could actually solve all of our debates concerning R2K, theonomy, kuyperianism, culture war etc...

;-)

Christopher,
The point you make about WSCAL is spot on. I recently read that very observation over at the Calvinist International:

At the recent Westminster Seminary California conference, ‘Christ, Kingdom, and Culture,’ a question was asked, ‘To which kingdom does an independent reformed seminary belong?’...(Craig insert: VanDrunen offers a careful dance routine; original quote in article)...his (VanDrunen's) specific expression of the two kingdoms cannot be coherently applied in the world.  This is because he is still attempting to distinguish the kingdoms along the lines of vocation.  Churchy callings and, specifically, Bible-teaching, are the business of the spiritual kingdom, whereas more ordinary jobs like committees, administration, and custodianship are the business of the worldly kingdom.

But what business does a common institution have training up the leaders of the spiritual kingdom?  Indeed, under the terms of de jure divino Presbyterianism, this would mean that the spiritual kingdom of Christ is in fact dependent upon the worldly kingdom for one of its essential marks.  Is VanDrunen now also among the Constantinians?

Is VanDrunen now also among the Constantinians?

Therefore it became a proverb... (1 Samuel 10:12)

Also, Craig--of course you meant it's the tares that get burned up.

Love,

Also, Craig--of course you meant it's the tares that get burned up.

Right you are! Fixed.

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