Jeffrey Fowle arrested...

A man's enemies will be the members of his household. - Matthew 10:36

Imagine having retreated into the radical two kingdom (R2K) posture toward the state, then waking up to find you are a citizen of North Korea. Your civil magistrate is Kim Jong-un and he's just arrested Jeffrey Fowle, an American missionary in his seventies on a group tour through North Korea, for leaving his Bible behind in a hotel room. You have many brothers and sisters in Christ who have been executed by the state for testifying to Jesus Christ and you're a pastor of a house church. What do you do?

Maybe...

A: You disband the house church because it is in violation of national law.

B: You write essays to other North Korean pastors, exhorting them to submit to Jong-un and to disband their churches, also.

C: You refuse to administer the sacraments, even to your own family members, because Sacraments belong to the Church, not the family, and there is no church.

D: You work hard to explain to anyone who will listen that God's law is sorta-kinda not binding on Jong-un, that there's no reason for Christians to oppose his laws persecuting Christians, that he's the authority God has placed over you and thus he must be sorta honored and kinda obeyed, that there's no Scriptural law that requires public displays of piety such as preaching and witnessing, particularly when those public displays are violations of the law; that the Kingdom of God is a private kinda other-worldy kingdom, primarily for deep down in our hearts; and that if some Christians don't like Jong-un's laws and massacres, they should emigrate.

E: You write the Escondido men an encrypted e-mail asking if you've got it all right?

These thoughts come after reading Shusaku Endo's Japanese classic, Silence, telling the story of the martyrdom of seventeenth century Roman Catholic priest-missionaries to Japan; but also the story of unfaithful priest-missionaries' betrayal of the Lord and His sheep, and their escape from death.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

Tim,

While I'm no expert on R2K, your scenario strikes me as really odd. I haven't read anything by any of the faculty at Westminster Seminary in California that makes your options following "maybe ..." above seem even remotely plausible.

A basic tenet of Reformed ethics is that we are to obey the civil magistrate unless he forbids what God commands or commands what God forbids. Since forming local churches and proclaiming the gospel are things that God commands it is hard to see how any Christian, let alone the faculty at WSC, could agree that closing local churches because the civil magistrate commands it is the right thing to do. Do you have any evidence which suggests that the faculty of WSC would disagree with that?

BTW - The capitulation you describe above of the church to the State strikes me more as a One Kingdom view than a Two Kingdom view. Again, I'm no expert on R2K but doesn't the Two Kingdom view insist that the State has no authority to close local churches precisely because the Church is a distinct authority directly answerable to God?

Perhaps I've misunderstood your point. I would appreciate any clarifications you could offer.

Your brother,

David

Dear David,

If R2K provides a hunkering-down place now, which I believe is inarguable, it would provide a hunkering-down place in North Korea. He who is faithful in small things.

Love,

The Fowles situation is good to think about. If I go to North Korea, should I too leave a Bible in my hotel room and risk arrest? Should we criticize Fowles for breaking the civil law for what he did? It isn't exactly proclaiming the Gospel, and a strict regulatory principle advocate might even say it's forbidden since distributing copies of Scripture isn't mentioned in the Bible as a means of evangelism, so maybe there's wiggle room to say that he should have obeyed the civil authority in its restrictions on how he proclaimed the Gospel.

The problem with R2K is that it gives people, especially pastors, wiggle room to get out of doing things with awkward consequences. We Christians in America are already too timid about tangling with The World, and we look for every excuse not to.

Let me add one more comment: I know those familiar with R2K arguments will say my points here are proof either that I know nothing about R2K arguments or that I've lost my head. Over the past couple years, there have been many arguments engaging R2K errors, specifically, here on Baylyblog. Read the R2K tag and you'll keep busy for some time.

Here in this post, though, I'm not engaging their logical errors, but rather warning of the fruit of their errors we may expect as the persecution of the church and her members grows.

While right now R2K men say they would finally stand up against the government when the government tried to shut down churches and Christian life and worship, I believe their present arguments and conduct is a certain predictor they wouldn't (and won't). And that's my point—not that R2K men have ever said that the persecuted church should submit to the civil magistrate in his persecution of the church.

Before they are persecuted, no one has ever argued we should submit to persecution. Every man thinks he would be faithful and stand against it.

Meanwhile, though, the R2K men are laying track that leads somewhere. And if you get behind them and look down past them, along the rails they've laid, you should have no trouble seeing where they're headed.

Their scheme has served perfectly these past few years to justify Christians' silence while laws against sodomy and homosexual marriage are repealed. There's no reason to think their silence would end when preaching is outlawed, churches are disbanded, and fellow Christians are imprisoned and executed.

Love,

 

Breathtaking post.

Dear Roger,

Which is worse, North Korea or these United States? Starvation and persecution, or normalization of every form of sexual perversion as well as massive child slaughter for decades, now, with victims well over 50,000,000 and counting?

Consider Orthodoxy's abject fealty before Communism's KGB, Lutheranism's abject fealty before the Third Reich, and the Reformed church's abject fealty before slavery, apartheid, and now child slaughter.

Many say they would stand firm in defense of the church if it were to start to be persecuted. I say if we are not known for defending the unborn, today, there's no reason to believe we would be known for our defense of the born, tomorrow. The born fellow Christian tomorrow. The born fellow Christian in church at worship tomorrow. And, in my judgment, watching them lampoon those who speak up for the unborn, this is true in spades of R2K men.

The slaughter of the unborn, newborn, and elderly all around us here in these United States is the grid through which we must evaluate ourselves and our churches for the presence or absence of the power of the Holy Spirit. After all, the unborn, newborn, and elderly are the least of these, our Lord's brethren.

Love,

 

Would an R2K advocate be able to advocate for Christian groups like this one? Whose rules to play by?

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/10/us/colleges-and-evangelicals-collide-on-bias-policy.html?_r=0

Good question. What would be a good way to phrase it to pin down an R2K advocate to answer clearly?

I met Pastor van Drunen at a conference earlier this year, and I'd like to email him to see what he thinks, but I'd like to ask in such a way as to get a clear answer.

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