Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Unpopular Opinionator Returns (Again): A Challenge to PC2K (formerly W2K)

Today, the following challenge was issued to Darryl Hart over at Old Life Theological Society here.  It'll be interesting to see if these questions are  substantially addressed or whether they'll elicit the usual handwaving from Hart and Zrimec. 

[Words in brackets are not in the original, but are added to clarify and expand the thought.  Some original words are crossed out because they are unneccessary or too strong.]

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Darryl,

I have followed your thoughts on this subject for several years now [Darryl and I had some feisty exchanges over at De Regno Christi back in the day.  We are still nominally fellow contributors to the blog].

Allow me to attempt a summary of the Post-Constantinian 2K position [formerly referred to as W2K or R2Kt-- Westminster Two Kingdoms or Radical Two Kingdoms to differentiate the position from the Two Kingdoms views of the magisterial Reformers].

PC2K says:

1) Natural law (apart from special revelation) is a SUFFICIENT guide for establishing earthly justice and peace in the common grace economy.

2) Natural law can ALWAYS [CAN] be rightly used for its natural end (earthly justice and peace) without reference to its divine origin and ultimate purpose.

3) In the interest of preserving freedom of conscience and ecclesiastical purity [and earthly peace] you maintain it is ABSOLUTELY ILLEGITIMATE and undesirable for the common grace state to confess the Lordship of either the biblical God or Jesus Christ.

Is this a fair summarization of your position?

If so, then my responses will be:

1) How do you know?

2) How do you know?

3) How do you know?

I doubt you could appeal to general revelation alone to justify these absolute claims. I’d like to see you or any of your fellow travelers try. Perhaps you’ll appeal to the common intuitions of the majortiy of mankind. Those of us who do not have these intuitions are perhaps abnormal–freaks born with a deficiency of [moral] noetic content every normal person naturally possesses. Or perhaps, we have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness because we’re trying to achieve justification by works. Either way, we have either lost or never possessed what everybody else “just knows.”

However, you do appeal to special revelation to support your views. I’m still waiting for either…

a) Deductive proofs from Scripture that validly demonstrate the above claims; or

b) A historical demonstration that the consistent, overwhelming, teaching of the Western Christian tradition is distinctively PC2K (and not just 2K).

Darryl, absent the demonstrations, why should anyone take seriously subjective biblical interpretations and historical evaluations inspired by private intution?

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Hart then retreats into his area of specialization (he's a historian) and that he is not being programmatic about... what?  PC2K?  He says he merely "observe[s] what has happened and where states and churches have been right and wrong."

He says that Calvin's Geneva was wrong to execute Servetus.  By what standard does he judge the rightness or wrongness of this action?  By natural law?  How does natural law inform him that it is wrong to execute a heretic who won't shut up?  Did the Israelites go against natural law when they destroyed pagan idolaters?  Or, does God contravene the natural law when he commands Israel to destroy certain Canaanite groups and witches for their sincerely performed pagan practices?

Then Hart makes the claim that virtuous pagans can be more moral (over the long-run?) than the biblical patriarchs.  He says natural law and general revelation enables him to explain this.

My response is below.

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I don’t necessarily have a quarrel with the proposition that a given virtuous pagan may be more “moral” than a given biblical exemplar of faith. I just wouldn’t know how we could ascertain this for sure. How does natural law help us here?


You have read and studied the past more than I. History is your field. So what? Richard Dawkins knows more about biology than I do, but I’m not convinced of his evolutionary theories. I don’t know how “programmatic” Dawkins is, but he certainly has a program.

I can appreciate the moral revulsion one feels at the cruel and unusual sorts of punishments/ executions administered in the good ol’ days of Christendom. One of the first books that had a formative influence on me was Foxe’s Book of Martyrs containing lots of lurid woodcut scenes of man’s inhumanity to man. But is the banishment of intransigent heretics really prohibited? Is capital punishment really wrong for those who year-after-year publicly attack the sacral foundations of government authority?

At some point, emotional reactions need to be checked and positive principles need to be articulated.

For PC2K, these principles have been articulated by the likes of Meredith Kline, Michael Horton, and David Vandrunen. The pattern I’ve been seeing are doctrines very much like the three points I’ve laid out above. I think it can be said that these views depend on [or perhaps are integrally connected with] the validity of the social contract theory of the state, a theory that actually fails to account for the diversity, order, and hierarchy [and purpose] actually inherent in nature.

Servetus received his due reward, because it is the king’s duty as father of his people to protect his subjects from all deadly harm, physical and spiritual. I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of Servetus’ trial and execution, but I do know the man was an unrepentant soul who would not desist from publicly propagating his heresy and sedition [Servetus denied infant baptism--thereby resisting the lawful authority of the ecclesiastical authorities].

I deny that any man has the inherent natural right to disturb the peace of society through heresy and sedition.

Servetus is not some kind of martyr. The redemption of Christ and the peace it brings is not available to those who, like Servetus, persist in error. It is only offered to those who repent and turn from their error. The state has the right to protect itself from errors [pernicious doctrines] that threaten its existence [i.e., the Church undergirds the state]. Servetus was a wicked man who received the prescribed penalty established by the lawful authority for defending the commonwealth.

Finally, I don’t know why PC2K secularism deserves preference over the Christendom view, which grounds human government in the divinely established created order as an institution bound to uphold the whole law of God. The Church can still function as an institution that [directly] addresses matters of the spirit and maintains a certain autonomy from the temporal power, as you pointed out [actually, as the Roman Catholic position holds by placing the Church above the state] in your recent post , “Two-Kingdom Tuesday: The Roman Catholic Version.” [link added]

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I hope UO readers aren't put off too much by the polemical nature of this exchange.  The whole point is to forcefully show that Hart and co. have no real justification for their position beyond a tenaciously held liberal sentiment which they confuse for the spirit of Christianity.

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