Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The UO knight sallies forth to slay the W2K dragon

The Rev Jason Stellman, a fellow Orange Countian transplanted to Washington to found Exile Presbyterian Church (PCA), is an ardent proponent of the two kingdoms theology spawned from Westminster Seminary California. Since this theology detracts from the Christian's true cultural calling, and is in fact calculated to undermine the cause of Christian conservatism, I believe it must be discredited. Many people might be led astray by this teaching, which is in fact a theological rationale for secularism. The body of this post reproduces a comment I made at Pastor Stellman's blog, De Regno Duobus. Go here to follow the discussion.

Pastor Stellman, this response is as long as it is because I had to accept your challenge and raise the ante. We may not be able to carry this debate much further, but I’ve found the exercise to be beneficial. I hope it will be clear if it isn’t already that I have substantial reasons to think W2K to be a theological and practical dead-end.

1. Yes, the W2K claim is that society should not glorify God nor thank him (Rom. 1:21) by its cultural activity. W2K claims culture is a “common” sphere where cultural man provides “bread” (sustenance and security) for himself and is assuredly not to acknowledge that he lives by every word coming from God. Only some of God’s words are applicable to order man’s collective existence (i.e., natural law as defined by W2K secularists).

Of course, this wasn’t the case before the Fall. So, the W2K theory (formulated by Meredith Kline) is that while man was formerly supposed to dedicate his labor to God, he is now to work for temporal ends (peace and prosperity) only. To say human culture has no confessional “function” is to say that society’s purpose is neither to acknowledge nor thank the Lord. W2K then, is essentially a theological rationalization for practical atheism on the macro scale.

2. Of course, you object to this characterization, pastor. You say, “People should be free to worship whomever or whatever they want. That includes Yahweh, Allah, or no one.” But I am not talking about the inviolability of my fellow citizen’s conscience; I’m talking about the objective telos of human action. There is no doubt that W2K requires the suppression of public Christian confession outside cultic activity, strictly defined. W2K calls for the expurgation of religion from all temporal endeavor, and would counsel civil coercion to accomplish this if necessary. Thus W2K advocates side with the secularist party to purge the religious party’s political influence.

In place of obedience to the lordship of Christ, W2K substitutes atheistic materialism and humanistic utilitarian principle under the guise of natural law. This is seen by the fact that W2K men will never invoke “Thus says the Lord” when they appeal to the consciences of their fellow men. They will always use reasoning that thus-and-so is right, not because it is good, but because it provides the greatest material (never spiritual) benefit for the greatest number. This greatest good is determined not by God’s justice, but what would be good irrespective of eternal rewards and punishments. God cannot be invoked in any cultural matter because that would constitute an illegitimate confession of man’s accountability to God in the common public sphere.
These radical consequences must be exposed so that W2K will receive the condemnation it justly deserves.

3. The Gospel calls all men to discard those obstacles that impede entrance into the Kingdom (Matt. 5:29-30; Lk. 9:57-62). Leftist radicalism, though sanctified by its association with the Democrat party, is no exception because it is political. People who embrace Enlightenment liberalism, or, who ignorantly live under the influence of its logic, will find it extremely difficult to conform their lives to godliness. And this is not to say the Republican Party is God’s party. It isn’t, and I never implied such a thing. I would vote for Joseph Leiberman against a less worthy Republican candidate.

Finally, I don’t especially enjoy acknowledging that the majority of my countrymen are spiritually enslaved to pernicious antichristian ideals. I wish it wasn’t the case, but spiritual rebellion has been institutionalized in the West at least since the founding of our republic.

4. Your fourth paragraph evidences an uncritical acceptance of socially radical ideas. This is confirmed by the fact that you have confused true tolerance with the social protection of infidelity and advocacy of immorality. Tolerance does not trump justice, and Caesar’s primary duty as God’s minister is to reward the good and punish evil (Rom. 13:4; 1 Pet. 2:13-4). From this follows Caesar’s responsibility to recognize the true religion (Christianity) and promote it (Rom. 13:4) in a way consistent with the maintenance of social order. This involves a careful process of incrementally adjusting state law to preference the Christian religion.

4.i. Multiculturalism has nothing to do with natural rights (respecting the life, liberty, and property of individual citizens). Equal protection has been codified in American constitutional law since 1868 (the 14th Amendment), a 100 years prior to the advent of Multiculti. As a legal principle it is far older.

Multiculturalism is a more recent phenomenon where various subcultures (especially non-heterosexual, non-affluent, non-male, non-white) are molded into voting blocs that further the progressive (i.e., radical) cause. Within multiculturalism, the traditional loyalties of faith, country and family are replaced by supposedly more fundamental identities: sexual orientation, class, sex and race. All of these “identities” are generic, that is, they are not associated with any particular cultural tradition, and thus provide suitable media on which liberals may anachronistically project their ideals. We see this in the popular portrayals in literature and film of gay, working poor, female, or black protagonists (real or imagined) as being the historical forerunners of liberal progressivism. This fraud continues to succeed due to the historical ignorance of the gullible populace.

4.ii. Political correctness has nothing to do with libeling and slandering minorities. There are laws for those kinds of crimes, though our legal system is highly selective about who is actually protected. Political correctness has everything to do with an Orwellian manipulation of language to effect a transvaluation of values in western civilization. The rational pretext for this repudiation of traditional values is alleged to be found in the disparity that exists between Christian historical practice and Christian ideal. Again, a lack of historical knowledge helps such false judgments to form in the minds of the credulous. It is not commonly known that the Crusades were defensive wars fought in response to centuries of Islamic aggression. It is also not well known that the Inquisition primarily targeted social radicals who used religion as a vehicle for their transformative agendas. Nor is it well known that black witchcraft was practiced in colonial Massachusetts.

I’m not arguing for some kind of insidious conspiracy carried out by a cabal of Trilateralists and Freemasons. Political correctness is what naturally happens when educated elites exchange the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25) and consciously engage in an attempt to undermine the cultic foundations of culture. As it works in tandem with the hostile forces of liberalism, W2K acts to undermine the foundations from within as a sort of fifth column.

4.iii. If you think that social egalitarianism and feminism are all about getting fairer wages for minorities, think again. The egalitarian goal is to flatten the organically developed strata of society by eradicating privilege obtained through achievement and/or inheritance. The feminist goal is to supplant man with woman. This exaltation of the “humble” and humiliation of the “proud” mimics prophetic biblical expectation, but is counterfeit because illegitimately foisted upon society by radical social engineers. The exaltation of the humble that the Gospel anticipates is to be achieved by other means and will have other results.

4.iv. My name is not Jim Dobson and I’m not on a crusade to outlaw premarital sex. For one thing, such a law would not address the root cultural problem. Homosexualism is not the same as homophilic sex. Homosexualism is the ideology that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon, that homophilic behavior is just as beautiful as heterophilic behavior, that society ought to accord homosexual unions the dignity of marriage, and that homosexual couples should be able to adopt children. Homosexualism is a view about what is good for society. Then there’s the whole transgender issue.

Free love is likewise an ideology: that having lots of uncommitted sex is good for one’s psychological health. There is also a weird mystical element involved. I believe these ideologies (which are linked) are harmful to society and should be discouraged and counteracted. What about you, Pastor Stellman?

4.v. You seem unaware of the ideological motivation behind birth control policy. Based on junk science that the world is in danger of overpopulation, birth control advocates have long argued for the enforced sterilization of various groups. It is government policy in China. BTW, what do you think about the cultural mandate? Oh, that’s right; Christ fulfilled it for us so we don’t have to obey it.

4.vi. So, in your mind bellicosity is the opposite of pacifism. If I think pacifism immoral because it makes no distinction between just and unjust violence, you think I must be a warmonger. Nice. By this logic, if I think the anti-capital punishment position immoral because it fails to distinguish between innocence and guilt (the dictum that all killing is unjust), I must be a blood-thirsty monster. Stop the hate.

4.vii. Actually, I’m not much of a capitalist. However, I definitely think the trend toward more and more socialism will actually stifle creativity and achievement in the long run. I’m probably a corporativist, but I’ll admit a lack of conviction in this area.

Pastor Stellman, I hope I’ve demonstrated I’m not merely some Republican Party hack or religious right Kool-Aid drinker. I don’t want to needlessly discourage people from coming to church either. Please allow me a candid moment. I suspect you’ll eventually find that a ministry bending over backwards not to offend liberal “seekers” will have difficulty speaking to the concerns average Christians have about the state of the society in which they live. If you are not counseling your people how to resist the spirit of the age, but are in fact oblivious to the spiritual contest going on between the two cities—the real culture war—then the effectiveness of your ministry will not be very great.

“For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.” (Ps. 125:3)


Jason J. Stellman said...

OK, I've taken the bait, Andrew, and have begun a series on W2K over at De Regnis Duobus.

I hope you haven't retreated here to circle the wagons, we need a dissenting voice!


Neiswonger said...

I hope I can agree and disagree. I think I can agree with the more traditional Augustinian/Reformation Two Kingdoms view, in which there is a meeting point in the ethics of the two, without falling into the Klinean trap of cultural despair and theological irrelevance.

Think so?


Mike Spreng said...

Wow, that "view" is neither Presbyterian nor Anglican. Jason, if "civil affairs" are not to be Christian, what are they to be? nothingness? There is no such domain! If there was then all could go there to escape wrath.

May I suggest Henry Van Till's Calvinistic Concept of Culture to you?

Andrew Matthews said...

Jason, have no fear. I'll be right over.

Chris, St. Augustine definitely picked up on an important theme in Scripture: Jerusalem and Babylon, the two eschatological cities that are governed by contrary loves. However, I don't like two kingdoms language because I think God has only one kingdom. That kingdom was committed to the Lord Jesus when he ascended and received his throne. At the eschatological consummation, he will offer the world to God as the High Priest who has reconciled all things, and as a Son gives glory to his Father.

Mike, thanks for dropping by. I learned a lot from Henry Van Til's book. I especially liked the chapter on Klaas Schilder.