Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Law/Gospel and the Two Kingdoms: Paganism, Democracy, and the Separation of Church and State

By Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

The independence of the church from state interference was the intended meaning of the principle of separation of church and state in the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment.  But those are political issues which are not clearly outlined in Scripture.  I have to wonder if the two kingdoms theology is not reading modern political views into Scripture which may or may not be scriptural?  This is not to say that I am giving any sort of endorsement to the theology of the theonomists and reconstructionists.  It is only to point out that if theonomists are reading an alien paradigm into Scripture, then so might the two kingdoms view be doing the same thing.  I am certain that Luther would be appalled to learn that his theology of the two kingdoms was being used to endorse homosexuality in the civic realm.

What I am suggesting is that the church is called to preach the moral law--even when that moral law is diametrically opposed to the civil and criminal laws of a pagan nation, even though that nation generally calls itself a "democracy."  Pure capitalism and lassez faire economics can be as atheistic and materialistic as the Hegelian dialectic philosophy which Marx borrowed to support his socialistic and communistic political philosophy.  After all, it is pragmatically feasible for the state to endorse the porn industry since it is a multi-million dollar industry.  It is also economically and politically rewarding to endorse homosexuality, gay marriage and transgenderism--especially since that is quickly becoming the status quo as a result of the relentless propaganda released through the popular media.  The medium is the massage and the message.  The mindless masses do not wish to think more than superficially; so if David Letterman or President Obama says it is God's gift to be be gay, then of course it must be so.

The error of the theonomists and the reconstructionists is rooted in a confusion of civil law with the moral law.  In addition, theonomic theology for all practical purposes confuses justification with obedience.  These issues are problematic for the church.  The mission of the church is not cultural transformation via common grace as Kuyper and Bavinck and the Van Tilians insist.  In fact, common grace is nothing more than an adaptation of an Arminian and semi-pelagian doctrine into the Reformed faith under the dissimulation that this is really nothing more than general providence.  But in fact it is much more than that.  The doctrine of common grace claims to oppose the idea that this "grace" is saving grace in any way, yet the doctrine has been used to justify post-millennial ambitions for ushering in the return of Christ and a future utopia on earth.

Other problems with endorsing common grace as "Reformed" is that this doctrine in essence exalts general revelation to a status of equality with special revelation.  Even worse, common grace eventually gains a status of superiority to special revelation in Holy Scripture.  When this happens the doctrine of theistic evolution ensues.  From that point the mythological character of Genesis 1-11 becomes the established view, which really is nothing more than neo-orthodoxy posing as Reformed theology.  If Genesis 1-11 is "inspired myth" or "story," then what prevents the adoption of the same view of the whole of Scripture?  The creation account need not be a literal creation since God "could" have created the earth and man over long periods of time or ages, lending credibility to modern science as a source for philosophical and religious truth.  Unfortunately, once that door is opened religion, philosophy, theology, and metaphysics disappear into the vague morass of Kantian irrationalism.  Dr. Bruce Waltke might still believe in the historical reality of Adam and Eve as speculative first humans and primogenitors who evolved from apes, but eventually even that myth will be rejected in favor of "scientific" materialism.

The slippery slope continues to the homosexuality issue.  If Scripture is wrong about creation and evolution, then surely it could be wrong when the moral law of God condemns homosexuality, adultery and fornication?  Those are really just outdated moral codes of a pre-modern, theocratic nation, aren't they?  (Leviticus 18:22-29).

I totally agree with the two kingdoms view in that we must never confuse law and gospel.  Further, we must never confuse the gospel with cultural transformation or some post-millennial utopia to be ushered in by man's efforts to transform nations and cultures via common grace.  First of all, the Reformed doctrine is called "general providence" and under the Reformed doctrine there is not necessarily any transformation of any nation or culture.  In fact, in God's sovereign judgment individuals and nations can be hardened as punishment or simply just out of God's mere justice on the basis of the imputed guilt of Adam's original sin (Job 21:30; Proverbs 16:4; Romans 3:23; 5:12-21; 9:11-13, 20-23).  It is clear that in the Old Testament God did indeed judge entire nations (Psalm 110:5-6; Isaiah 45:7; Daniel 4:34-35; Amos 3:6).  God is not just some loving grandfather in heaven.  He is more than the ultimate being of benevolence (John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-8).  God is also holy and will execute His justice on earth and in the final judgment (Isaiah 6:1-5; Zechariah 7:9-14).

If the two kingdoms theology approves of the state's endorsement of evil in the form of abortion rights and gay/transgender rights as basic "human rights", then it has gone beyond the special revelation of the moral law in Scripture and has instead endorsed natural law, which is really nothing more than the self-evident axiom that man invents his own laws by natural reason rather than by special revelation from God as based on the principle of general equity.  Given that relativistic bent to natural law what is illegal in the "democratic" nation today may be the status quo of tomorrow, including homosexuality, pedophilia, and even euthanasia as a means of controlling poverty and human suffering.

In short, the two kingdoms view is correct inasmuch as it states that the role of the church is not political or social transformation of nations and the culture at large.  On the other hand, parachurch organizations are not churches or denominations and technically speaking it is not wrong for Reformed and Evangelical Christians to support political lobbies that speak out prophetically against the moral evils and vices that are currently being endorsed by the pagan state. 

Furthermore, when President Barack Obama had the audacity to say that God "created all men equal" and tied that phrase to the homosexual marriage issue, he was in effect saying that gay marriage is good and is blessed by God.  This is evident by the fact that immediately after he made that statement in his inauguration speech Kelly Clarkson sang, "My Country 'Tis of Thee."  The land of the pilgrims is now in favor of gay marriage?  Ironically, it could be that God did "create" homosexuals but not the way that Obama has envisioned or implied.  It might be that they were created as "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" (Romans 1:18-32; 9:22).

In a recent Sunday school class at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida, one of the Florida Supreme Court justices taught.  Justice Charles T. Canady was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush.  He is politically conservative.  What troubled me, however, was that the oath he swore "before God" when taking office was that he would uphold the law.  He was upset, he said, because someone thought he said he swore to uphold the "Lord."  Of course, he was correct.  The separation of church and state means that the state cannot endorse religion at all.  But why swear on the Bible before God to uphold laws that may be constitutionally acceptable but morally reprehensible by the standards of God's moral law as it is revealed in Holy Scripture?  Can there be an absolute separation between church and state?  Or does such a view eventually lead to a secular state that is essentially nothing more than a materialistic capitalism which is quickly becoming a materialistic and atheistic socialism?  I guess religion is merely the opiate of the people after all?

Mike Horton is completely right in his critique of the pelagianism infesting Evangelicalism at large.  Unfortunately, this pelagianism is quickly infesting the more Evangelical Reformed denominations.  When the Reformed faith becomes secondary to being part of the broad Evangelical movement, then the stage is set for a descent into an anthropocentric deism rather than the emphasis on God's absolute sovereignty over all things.  Even Horton has hinted that he thinks it ought to be the law of the land that gays have the right to marry.  After all, it's none of the church's business what laws the state passes.  Unfortunately, when the nation goes into worse evil and paganism the church accommodates to the culture more, even in Reformed churches.  Rather than risking the "fundamentalist" label, Horton would rather be seen as the tolerant Evangelical Presbyterian who is great friends with heretics like Roger Olson, the Open Theist and hyper-classical-Arminian.

Horton's cohort, R. Scott Clark seems to reject gay marriage in the church in his comments in the article posted as, "Steve Chalke Comes Out For Homosexual Marriage."  To use an old Pentecostal cliche, "Thank-you, Jesus!"  Clark is against gay marriage in the church.  But he conveniently refuses to say that he is against gay marriage as a matter of the law of the land.  The two issues are linked, as anyone can see.  The implications of the nation going in the normalizing and normativizing of homosexuality as a "human right" carries implications for the church in that the state will now try to invade the religious arena and silence the prophetic voice of the preachers in their pulpits and the church as an organization.  Furthermore, Clark seems to have a deistic view of providence since he refuses to link natural disasters with God's judgment against original sin and actual sins:

We’ve also had discussions, however, about the problems associated with interpreting providence, first under the heading of knowing the will of God and also in response to the bridge collapse in the Twin Cities. As I pointed out in those places both as a matter of history and, more fundamentally, as a matter of biblical revelation, we are clearly taught not to try to interpret providence. It is a temptation that we must resist. When God has not revealed himself (either explicitly or by “good and necessary inference” from Scripture) we should be silent. The plain fact is that we don’t know why a tornado struck that steeple just at that moment. It is fascinating, and surely it is sobering, just as a cancer diagnosis is sobering. But think of the difficulties attached to interpreting providence.  (See:  Interpreting Providence).
The fact of the matter is that evil exists in the world because of God's judgment against all humanity on the basis of Adam's rebellion (Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 5:12-21; 8:20-22).  It is no secret that God judges through natural disasters, wars, and diseases (Deuteronomy 28; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; James 4:1-4).  Anyone reading the Bible from cover to cover can see that these general principles apply to nations, churches, and individuals today.  Although Clark is correct in saying that we cannot make particular assessments of specific disasters as God's judgment against particular sins, we can reasonably say that all natural disasters, calamities, diseases, famines, wars, crime, poverty, etc., et. al., both natural and moral evil, are the result of God's judgment.  To giggle at God's sovereignty over evil as Clark does is nothing short of blasphemous and implies a form of pragmatic deism.

My view in regards to the state's laws that violate the moral law is that these laws are fair game in the pulpit.  That is, if we can preach against the sins of individuals, then the pulpit must be used to condemn the sins of nations as well.  The Bible does indeed address individual sin.  But it also addresses corporate sin as the doctrine of the federal headship of Adam demonstrates well enough.  When a nation chooses to commit genocide, should not pastors condemn that sin as much as any other sin?  Suppose more pastors had condemned the genocide of the Jews as sinful?  Maybe more individual Christians and Christian parachurch organizations could have influenced the USA to intervene earlier?  If sin is both individual and corporate then it follows that the church has the responsibility to call for the repentance of both individuals and corporate bodies, including nations and churches.  Although we cannot convert entire nations, we can and should speak against all sin and call for individuals and nations to accept the gospel message (Matthew 28:19-21).

There is danger for the church in regards to getting involved in political issues, namely that the message becomes confused with social reform and the social gospel.  But there is equal danger in ignoring the responsibility of the church and all Christians to call sin what it is:  utterly sinful.  That applies to our beloved pagan democracy as well.  It ought to be remembered that the loyalty and citizenship of the believing Christian is in heaven, not in the United States of America (Philippians 3:20).  If more so-called "churches" were willing to become prophetic voices against the evil of atheistic state governments, there might be more conversions to Christ.  As long as the church cowers before the state and refuses to preach the truth of God's propositional revelation in Scripture in matters of both the moral law and the gospel of free grace, then pelagianism and atheism will continue to dominate the public sphere and the political realm.  

For the churches to hide behind tolerance and the two kingdoms theology, as a means of avoiding the duty to preach the moral law to everyone everywhere, is to violate God's moral law by omitting what God has commanded the church to do.  "Preach the Word!" (2 Timothy 4:2).  The Word of God includes both law and gospel, as even the proponents of the two kingdoms theology must admit.  Without law there is no conviction and no need for gospel (Romans 3:20; 7:7).

Why is it that the Christian and Reformed churches are no longer the moral conscience of the nation?  Could it be partly because the two kingdoms theology--as right as it is in general principle--has gone too far in the other direction?  Just asking.


aaytch said...

Excellent article. As Reformed Anglicans we should insist on replacing the prayer "Lord, save the state" with "Lord, humble and preserve our nation". The churches need to remove all gratuitous approval of our government and of our culture.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thank-you, Hudson. God's peace.

Jack Miller said...

Sorry, brothers... I have to disagree with Hudson's amen. Charlie, I don't think you understand 2K theology. Have you read VanDrunen's two books on the topic? As to the idea that nations sin just like individuals... no. Only individuals sin. Israel is not an apt precedent or example. Israel was God's own special called out son (God's church in the O.T.), His corporate individual, a type that pointed to the 2nd Adam. No nation holds that place today. God's corporate man today is the church, his redeemed people, his kingdom. As Israel could and did have sin before God, likewise the church today can have sin before her Lord.

So yes, the church should teach and preach against sin. But if you say that she should do that as regards to specific nations or leaders of states, then why stop with homosexuality or slaughter of innocents? Why not adultery, not honoring parents, idolatry, not keeping the Sabbath, stealing, or coveting? There would be no end to it.

If your advice is to be taken then all sins should be spoken out against, for all are grievous offenses to God. Where are the warrants or examples in the N.T. for Jesus or the apostles speaking out concerning the sins of Rome? Against her slavery, slaughter of innocents in war, the hedonism and illicit sex that was celebrated and even worshipped?

Lastly, you again cast aspersions on good men like Horton and Clark by reading into their words positions they do not hold. Disagree with their expressed opinions or positions. But don't assign to them things they haven't promoted.

You seem to assume that for the church to not speak out against homosexuality in the civil realm is tacit agreement to it. And I think this is because for you part of the Church's mission is to be directly influencing and reforming society's sinful aspects. Again, where do we see that in the N.T.?

Ok, we disagree on this issue. We agree on many more.

aaytch said...

Charlie, do you still follow "Anglicans in the Wilderness" on Facebook? We're talking about this article in case you want to participate.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I think so. I'll have to check. Thanks for the reminder.... I've been busy lately with a teacher certification program.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Jack, so nations are not to be judged by God today simply because there is no longer a theocratic nation on earth but only the universal church? That's not in the Bible. The Scriptures clearly say that God does judge nations and that is a universally applicable proposition. By your judgment then, Hitler and Germany did nothing wrong by committing genocide. Rwanda and other nations didn't sin against God and neighbor by their corporate actions? Please:)

Your view is right there with Lee and Misty Irons and is essentially saying that God's moral law is not forever binding on everyone, believer and unbeliever, and on nations as well. That is not to say that the church is to police nations and enforce God's law by the sword. It is to say that the spiritual weapons of the church apply to both individuals and nations. If a minister refuses to preach against gay marriage in the church AND in the society in which he lives he is nothing more than a hireling who is more concerned with keeping his job and worldly security than with preaching the moral law and the Gospel. The church that stands for nothing will eventually accommodate to the culture, which is exactly what Lee Irons and his wife, Misty, has done.

Listen to the gays amen her compromising of God's moral law:

Misty Irons at GCN 2012 and Radio Interview

Charlie J. Ray said...

Where do we see the NT affirming challenging the state? I can give you many inductive proof texts:

Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 "Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life." 21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. (Acts 5:17-21 NKJ)

So one came and told them, saying, "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!" 26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!" 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:25-29 NKJ)

How the 2K people can ignore such obvious passages as these is beyond me.

John the Baptist lost his head because he preached against the sins of a state leader:

For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. 4 Because John had said to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." 5 And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. (Matthew 14:3-5 NKJ)

Who crucified Christ? Was it the Jews? OR was it the Roman government? Jesus challenged the secular government with the law and the Gospel and was crucified for it. Although our weapons are not worldly, there is NOTHING in the Bible that forbids the Christian believer OR the church from preaching against sin in the government--whether it be the secular government OR a religious government like church synods and denominational organizations.

It's silly liberalism that tries to silence the voices of critics who dare to dissent from the status quo and call men to account for their fake tolerance and their compromise of the truth.

Charlie J. Ray said...

It's becoming apparent to me that 2K is as bad as theonomy, especially since Luther's view of 2K did not mean modern democracy but rather an enforcement of the decalogue as the means of keeping peace in society. The secular realm, in other words, had an obligation to prevent gross immorality and vice. Luther didn't live in an American democracy.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The church is not able to save anyone or transform any nation. But it is called to preach the Word. Refusing to condemn sin in the world is to neglect that duty to preach the moral law against individuals and nations. Nations do sin because they break God's law. They promote evil as corporate bodies and they will be judged just as individuals will be judged. That's Bible, not speculation. Psalm 82:6-7;110:4-6; Daniel 4:34-35

Charlie J. Ray said...

Jack, the 2k view is based on the American political system. It's blatantly a political view read into the text of Scripture. The magisterial Reformers knew nothing about theonomy and reconstruction. Likewise, they knew nothing about the American political system. It's fairly easy to demonstrate that Luther's 2 Kingdom model had nothing to do with separation of church and state--and Luther can hardly be called a theonomist or a promoter of theocracy. This point is so obvious than anyone with any knowledge of the Reformation can see it--unless of course you have an agenda....

Charlie J. Ray said...

I should say that the Westminster view of 2k is based on modern democracy and separation of church and state. I suppose by that standard persecuted Christians and churches in Islamic or Buddhist nations should not work toward religious freedom?

William Wilberforce should just work by himself and hope he can overturn the slave trade?

As wrong as the postmillennial, theonomic view is, the opposite extreme is likewise false. The Bible nor the magisterial Reformers were promoters of the modern political doctrine of separation of church and state. To use 2k as an excuse for absconding from one's duty to challenge the world with the moral law and the Gospel is just silly, imo.

saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!" 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:28-29 NKJ)

I guess you're going to argue that Paul and Peter never preached against homosexuality except in some secluded church hidden away from the general public?

Charlie J. Ray said...

It is the responsibility of the church to be the moral conscience of the country in which it resides. If the church will not stand against liberal religion, gay rights, and evil in general, then it is essentially preaching liberal Christianity that stands for nothing and cowers in a corner. In preaching the law it should also preach the Gospel, not pelagianism or social gospel.

Jack Miller said...


I started to respond to your first comment to me then stopped. You waste virtual ink arguing against your assumption of positions I do not hold. Rather than engage my points rationally you do what you seem wont to do, you assign ridiculous conclusions to what I wrote and ascribe erroneous and offensive positions to me. You seem unable to view a difference of doctrine with your own in any way but through the lens of a moral defect, making it impossible to discuss. Why not also just ask me how long I've been beating my kids?

I'll leave it to that.

Jack Miller said...

As I said before, you do not understand 2K theology as taught at WSC. You argue against an inaccurate and distorted caricature of it. You might want to consider becoming a little less righteous in your arguments and do a little more homework.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I'm not the one issuing unbiblical "laws" like, "Thou shalt not interfere with the state." The Bible clearly says that the church ought to obey God rather than man. Also, the magisterial Reformers, including Luther, did not endorse separation of church and state. That's a principle of modern democracy, not Luther's two kingdoms. Luther most definitely advocated the decalogue as a matter of civil law. That's called the first use of the law under Luther's theology and the second use under the Reformed view.

Theonomy is wrong because of it's wrong theology and philosophy. It is correct in asserting that the 2k view is not the view of the Reformers. Theonomy, like triperspectivalism, arises out of Van Tilian paradox and irrationalism, not biblical revelation in the rational propositions of Scripture.

How is Scripture "prying into the secret being of God"? Deuteronomy 29:29; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21

Charlie J. Ray said...

It's always the tactic of those who refuse to answer criticism to respond with generalizations like, "You don't understand." Mormons use that same tactic.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Making empty assertions without details or definitions is to commit the fallacy of overgeneralization. The 2K view begs the question by assuming positions that were never taken by Scripture or the magisterial Reformers. In short, it's revisionism as much as theonomy is revisionism.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Since Van Tilians have no obligation to keep doctrine logical and consistent, I should be the one asking you why you keep asking me when I stopped beating my dog? After all, it is prying into the secret being of God to seek to be rational and logical in one's theology and arguments.

Charlie J. Ray said...

My advice is that "all sins" should be spoken against? I never said that and it would be logically impossible since I am not omniscient. But what I did say is that the sinful actions of nations and governments are fair game for the pulpit. When the Nazis committed genocide I can stand in the pulpit and call it evil on the basis of the moral law.

When the USA endorses abortion and the genocide of infants, I can stand in the pulpit and condemn that as evil, contra Horton and R. S. Clark. When the US passes gay marriage laws and censorship laws I can stand in the pulpit and dissent. It's called preaching.

Liberalism, otoh, is more concerned with keeping laws like, "Thou shalt be tolerant."

Jack Miller said...

At this rate, Charlie, you will end up in a church of one... You need to learn to dial it down, my brother.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Jack, revisionism is never right no matter how many "modern" Calvinists agree with it. I have said nothing that is not plainly revealed in the Westminster Standards. The only way to come up with this re-interpretation of Luther's 2K view is to read the American political system back into Luther and the Calvinists.

I totally disagree with the theonomists but from what I can see, Westminster CA is latitudinarian and Westminster PA has gone over to the legalists.

I don't much care who thinks what about my opinions. I intend to speak the truth as I see it for as long as I have breath. If Luther had not stood for the truth there would never have been a Reformation.

Here I stand. I'm not budging.

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