Reforms needed in Postmodern View of Natural Law

Over on the Heidelblog, there’s an interesting discussion between an African brother and Dr. R. Scott Clark of Westminster seminary on “Two Kingdom” theology. The modern version of “Two Kingdom” theology espoused by American Calvinists at Westminster appears to be different than that of the Reformers, particularly Calvin and Luther. We can get a better understanding of the modern view by looking at both sides of this discussion

My main concern with 2K theology now is that is primarily an “intra-American-Reformed-Church-” discussion.
Living in South Africa, reading van Drunen’s books and attending his lecturers when he came to SA, reading, reading Heidelblog, and the Reformed Confession, interacting with WSC alumni like Pastor Jooste (Cape Town) and Pastor Heck (Heidelberg, Germany), I was convinced of 2K theology for the past 8 years, until I recently interacted with the very brutal reality of Fascism, Muslims who won’t bend Shariah Law to anyone for anything, Big Tech company-driven “communism”, and Chinese communists in my business life.

Many a times I could only pray for all the death threats I received for rejecting the various “unwholesome” commercial agreements and partnerships (It is not that “easy” to walk away from those at the top!). The truth is I was “influenced” by 2K thinking in believing that a “good and reasonable” argument would make these groups “understanding” in terms of how to conduct business and commercial agreements, but alas, theirs is a “different gospel” and belief system. Death threats (for mere disagreement!) abound in these treacherous circles I unwittingly found myself in.

I only urge that my 2K brothers (I have now regrettably abandoned the position) comprehend this : 1) Muslim “nations” do not really care to budge to “natural law”, as witnessed by the persecution of many Christians over there; 2) Communists are not backing down on their China-led expansionism of their anti-God ideals and they will not listen to “argument” that derails them from their course; 3) Fascists (I primarily noticed this with an Italian I “almost” partnered with), don’t really live by any “law” except to protect and feed their own…

I am still not sure what the “resolution” is. But perhaps arguing “2K” in China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia is WAY BETTER than arguing about it within countries, and within Churches already heavily influenced by the Christian faith and the biblical/natural law. I REFUSED to give the “theonomy”/Belgis-36 crowd (J. Frame, etc) an ear 10 years ago; but I now reconsidering…

This brother is absolutely right. You can’t have a discussion about natural law with non-Christians because their religious beliefs always trump the commandments published at Creation. Non-Christian civilizations of the past and present have been dominated by homosexuality, polygamy, infanticide, murder, robbery, and suppression of free speech. For example, Muslims believe it’s ok to kill non-Muslims if they refuse to pay jizya. Mohammed had 13 wives despite God making clear at Creation that marriage is between one man and one woman. Hindus used to throw widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands before the British outlawed it. Pagans in the Ancient Near East and Greece and Rome made divorce, promiscuity, androgyny, and child sacrifice religious rites despite their obvious contradiction of natural law. It’s only in the Christian West that natural law has been affirmed and practiced somewhat. No sooner has Christianity been abandoned in the West that pagan sexual mores have returned with a flood of foreigners who practice the same? My question for modern 2 Kingdom Theorists, therefore, is “What proof is there for natural law as a basis for law and relations with fellow nations among non-Christian peoples?” I can’t find any. How do I have a discussion about natural law with non-Christians in the modern West when they think you can change from male to female???

R. Scott Clark’s reply illustrates the gaps in modern two kingdom theory, with my rebuttals:

I’m not sure what you’re in the process of rejecting. You write as if “2K” is a fixed, known, set of conclusions. I doubt that is correct. I would prefer to speak as Calvin did of the “twofold government” (duplex regimen) in which God is said to govern two distinct spheres in which Christians have two distinct sets of responsibilities. To deny that there are two distinct spheres commits one necessarily to (among other things) some sort of state-church. I share Abraham Kuyper’s question: Where in history has that worked out well for the orthodox? Athanasius stood for orthodoxy despite the magistrate, not because of him.

I don’t think anyone denies that there’s a City of God and a City of Man or Satan’s kingdom. The two are not even antithetical. There is still not a neat division between the two which is why we are to pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Meredith Kline and the Bible argue that Heaven will infuse earth at the day of judgment and we’re to live in light of that. It also argues that things will get worse until the end. The Bible says some paradoxical things as the Reformers well knew. -Bryce

I don’t think that you have accounted properly for natural law as a response to totalitarian movements (e.g., Fascism). I’m an American. Were it not for natural law, there would be no United States. Natural law was essential to our response to tyranny. -RSC

This is a rather flippant response. The African brother said that he has tried really hard to understand natural law and apply its principles to his common-grace life. The theory given to him doesn’t agree with his experience or reality. The response also ignores the historical context of 18th and 19th century American life. Natural law was practiced in the United States by the Protestants who founded it and governed it. As it has become less Protestant, it has become less governed by natural law. There is absolutely no proof that the tyrants of other nations would be persuaded by natural law, as if, for example, Stalin was unaware that he was murdering millions of people. What Stalin really needed to hear was the judgment awaiting tyrants and murderers. The fear of God should’ve been used to persuade men like him just as Paul attempted to persuade Roman officials during his trial in the book of Acts. -Bryce

I don’t see how adopting the Islamic view of Mosque & state helps Christians respond to the threat posed by global Islamism. D. G. Hart is right. It was the Christians who gave us the blessed category of secular. It was the pagan Romans who insisted on a state-cult. -RSC

This is a non-sequitur. No one is arguing for this. The Reformers were adamant that civil magistrates should be persuaded by the Bible though. R. Scott Clark believes this made Calvin a theocrat. I assume that he applies the same epithet to Luther who frequently counseled German nobles from the Bible. Civil government needs to be informed by religion. It WILL be informed by religion, one-way or the other. The cult of modern secular liberalism practiced by our elites is definitely a religion. – Bryce

The Israelite state-cult was divinely instituted and intentionally temporary. Where is the divine warrant for a Christian state-cult? Which apostle argued for it unambiguously? Natural law is entirely sufficient warrant for a civil-military response to totalitarian movements, whether Islamism, Communism, or Fascism. -RSC

I have refuted this above – Bryce

Who cares whether Muslim nations agree with civilized nations? International relations is a covenant of works. Civilized nations should arm themselves and fight to defend the civil-natural rights of their citizens when Islamist nations/groups violate that covenant (that covenant is essentially “leave us alone or die”). Christendom was at war with Islamism for 1,000 years. We had a respite of a few hundred years and, for a variety of reasons, that respite has ended. We are now back to the status quo ante. Now, post-Christendom, secular states have a duty to operate according to natural, including the duty to defend citizens against tyranny of all sorts. -RSC

Our elites definitely care whether we, the People, agree with the Muslims. They fall all over themselves to appease Islam now that we are post-Christendom. This isn’t terribly different from some of the Protestant states siding with the Turk against the Catholics in the past, but none of the leaders of Protestant states were arguing that their people should turn Turk or that Turks should be invited in large numbers to settle Christian lands. -Bryce

The problem academics have is they aren’t able to verify their theories in reality. The Reformers who gave us the Reformed 2 Kingdom view (as opposed to this modern one) got to test their theories in the school of hard knocks. Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door to have only an academic discussion with other monks and clergy. God had other plans: his theses were reprinted throughout Germany and he became a lightning rod for both church and state, much like Paul in the book of Acts. Show me a case in the history of the New Testament church where it has been otherwise? Even in the Dark Ages after the collapse of Rome, clergy were trying to restrain feudal lords with Biblical counsel and the power of the church. Without this Biblical counsel, the feudal lords would’ve done what seemed natural to them, which was oppress, tax, rape and murder more violently. Would this have been better? What would’ve happened to the laity if the clergy back then had said, “Welp, the feudal lord’s behavior is secular business? What has it to do with the Church?”

Whining about Wilson

Many people in the Reformed/Calvinist community warn their flocks about Doug Wilson for his involvement in the Federal Vision. He now says he no longer identifies with the Federal Vision, and many Calvinist ministers retort that he still has the same theological views regardless of whether he identifies with the movement. Wilson says pretty much the same thing on his blog:

This statement represents a change in what I will call what I believe. It does not represent any substantial shift or sea change in the content of what I believe. I was, am, and will remain a Westminster Puritan within an irenic river of historic Reformed orthodoxy. I am making this lexical shift for the sake of clarity and communication—defining more precisely what was already there. Good fences make good neighbors, and so do good nouns and adjectives.
This represents no change in my friendships or personal commitments, or denominational relationships. All my friends are still my friends. Although I am currently the presiding minister of the CREC, this statement is in no way a statement on behalf of that body of churches. What I am saying here represents my views only. I hope that it has a good effect elsewhere, but I am not speaking on behalf of anyone else.
I trust that a proper development of doctrinal precision can be matched by a corresponding zeal for doctrinal charity. Charity and clarity should not be at odds. They even rhyme.
I would still want affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement, but would also want to point out two things about that statement. First, it was a consensus document. I would now want to go further in some directions with that statement while other signatories would almost certainly want to go further in other directions. And that brings us to the second point. Some of those areas of divergence would be highlighted in the postscript to the statement, and the tension that exists there in that section does require some sort of resolution. I am attempting that resolution here.
In short, I believe the statement was fine as far as it went, but does not say everything that needs to be said. My proposal for a true resolution is to sign away all rights to the label federal vision. What I used to call oatmeal stout federal vision should now just be called federal vision. What I used to call amber ale federal vision should just be called . . . something else. I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.

Personally, I don’t see how you can call yourself a subscriber to the Westminster Standards if you’re modifying them into a form of “covenantal Arminianism” which not Calvinism at all.

Wilson is also a post-millennialist. That, by itself, is not a huge issue since Calvinists have held many views about eschatology. BB Warfield, for example, was a post-millennialist. Those who hold this eschatological view can tend towards a triumphalism that isn’t warranted by Scripture. As an amillennialist, I think this present evil age is going to get worse as in the days of Noah. That said, Paul is certainly a triumphalist in the sense that with Christ, we’re on the winning side in the long run and we need to fix our hopes on that.

In summary, I condemn Wilson’s views of the end times and his doctrines of justification and perseverance of the saints as far as they disagree with the Westminster Standards. I think the Joint Federal Vision Statement was unnecessary if you already subscribe to the Standards. I wouldn’t attend his church because of his involvement in the Federal Vision.

With all that said, he’s completely right about the state of Reformed churches these days – particularly the PCA – and their capitulation on so many cultural issues. The PCA, in particular, is about to cave-in to the “Side B” homosexualists within its ranks as he explains here:

He’s also correct about the Reformed community’s cave-in on sex roles:

He’s right that no one in the Reformed world is leading the charge against the issues that are tearing it apart. He actually tackles these issues, provides a platform to those who also want to tackle these issues like CR Wiley, and has a plan. He fights on issues that matter to the laity. As a minister and Christian thought leader, he’s like Ullyses S. Grant as a general: definitely not a perfect man but he fights, and fights strategically.

Here’s my charge of you’re a NAPARC minister and you don’t like Wilson and won’t recommend ANY of his books or books of those associated with him: what else should I read? Where else should I turn for advice on how to be a biblical man? Why aren’t you tackling the issues of Side “B” Christianity, feminism, the Federal Vision, the loss of community and Christian worldview from your pulpit? As a general rule, the biggest cultural problems inevitably flood into the church and are the least preached-on or handled by elder boards. I’ve brought up the lack of men in church and the lack of guidance to young men and young fathers. I’ve brought up the lack of discipleship for young women who want to be good mothers. I’ve discussed how Side B Christianity was going to split the PCA. I’ve discussed the isolation experienced by many Calvinists in many parts of the country. To all these things, I’ve received shrugs or changes-of-subject. With the divorce rate in excess of 60%, men dropping out of the workforce, a lack of even Christian families, cultural collapse and looming persecution, we need leadership from the church just as the first and second century church lead the flock through difficult times. If we don’t get leadership, we’re going to do what seems right in our own eyes. Every man for himself! Is that what we want?

Say what you want about Wilson, but he at least sees the problems and is willing to tackle them. He’s not in the mushy middle – pastoral flotsam like so many ministers today who just fail to combat the liberals within their denominations until yet another collapses into liberalism.

Michael Vlahos on the weakness of empire

This is an article from 2006 by Michael Vlahos on the weakness of empire vs. the strength of republics. The United States has transitioned to empire while maintaining some of the framework of a Constitutional republic. The Constitution is eroding with the decadence of the American people which is demonstrated by our political instability. In Vlahos’ short article, he didn’t have time to discuss the 100-150 years of political instability and civil war that resulted from the collapse of the old republican order in Rome before finally stabilizing in the person of Octavian aka Caesar Augustus. Octavian had a long life and a long tenure as emperor. Succeeding emperors often had shorter tenures than many of our presidents and often died by murder. By the time of Marcus Aurelius, the political instability was marked by severe instability throughout the empire, eventually resulting in its final collapse with the sack of Rome in 420 AD. So, empires are definitely weak, unstable, and often violent. You could even argue they’re a judgment on both the rulers and the ruled.

Insurgencies already a reality in the United States

After 9/11, the massive security and intelligence apparatus that failed to predict both 9/11 and the collapse of the Soviet Union was turned on global Islamic insurgencies. After this happened – you’ll notice – Islamic insurgency because more of a problem: we’re everywhere so Islamic insurgents felt they needed to be everywhere also, particularly in hotbeds of jihad like Mesopotamia where ISIS began. We also increased Islamic immigration, setting the stage for future Islamic insurgencies in CONUS. The Bawstun Bombers and Representative Omar are just the beginning. While we were distracted overseas, domestic insurgencies sponsored by Latin America and China expanded like wildfires at home. H. John Poole explains this in two of his books written in the Aughts: Homeland Siege, and Tequila Junction. He repeated his warnings about the Chinese in Sinoland.

Given Poole’s excellent research and his popularity among military and Federal security agents who form the tip of the spear, you’d think our security apparatus would be focused on the threats he identifies. Instead, it’s focused on Dread White Males (DWMs). I think the reasons for this are several. They are discontent and therefore a source of insurgents. They also tend towards outrageous acts of leaderless insurgency which make for bad press that cause the voters to scream “WON’T SOMEONE DO SOMETHING!” They are also potentially easily-monitored using the unconstitutional bulk data collection apparatus we’ve set up over the past 17 years. Most DWMs spend a lot of time on their cell phones and on the internet. It’s their primary form of communication. You can collect intel on them without leaving your office chair.

Whatever the reasons for focusing on them, the best way to combat DWMs is by policies that shore-up the family and wages: stop forcing young men entering the work force to compete with foreigners. Make divorce rare so young men have a father at home to teach them the basics of life and young men know that when they marry and have families, their families and wealth won’t be stolen through a state-sanctioned divorce process. Married men with jobs, families, and bills can’t go a-viking. Instead of doing this, our elite – and therefore security apparatus – appear to be doubling-down on the failed policies of the past several decades which have weakened not only men and the family but also state legitimacy. Bronze Age Pervert explains this in his response to Michael Anton/Decius Publius Mus. DWMs, which where barely a problem before, will become a serious problem in the future if we keep headed in the same direction. Does the United States need more insurgents in addition to the thousands of street gangs, cartels, Triads, Islamic insurgents, and Chinese double-agents? (More on this shortly)

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Academics and men of letters tend to work off each-other. They are now discussing the prospect of a second American civil war. Bill Lind’s latest essay on the topic of Constitutional breakdown leading to civil war appeared the same day as Michael Vlahos’ essay on the same topic. Bill Lind wrote an entire book on the topic called “Victoria.” The parts about the green totalitarian state of Cascadia are more and more true every day.

The basis of our civil war is conflict between two worldviews: a nominally-Christian, rural Constitutionalist one and an urban, materialist, secular humanist one. Both sides carry heavy baggage of postmodernism and neither side would be recognizable in 1776. Most of the bad ideas leading to the mess we are in today were just invented or were just being invented and hadn’t worked their way into the marrow of our civilization yet.

Whichever side wins, the old order isn’t coming back. There were civil wars in the Roman republic before it gave way to the empire. Attempts to save the republic were made but failed. Killing Julius Caesar didn’t bring back the Republic after he declared himself dictator for life. So it is with the United States. The people and the state are too decadent for the order established in 1776 to persist, and most great powers last on average 250 years. The United States is right on the brink of its doom one-way or the other: senescence, decadence, demography, and invasion are bringing it down right before our eyes.

The implications for the dissolution of the United States are large: it is the lynchpin of the 372 year-old Westphalian nation-state order established in 1648. Its navy and army rule the world though they’re being severely challenged by an upstart China. It is the guarantor of the world order inherited from the British Empire. When the US is gone, the nation-state system is gone. It’s helpful, therefore, to see this nation-state era as just another epoch in history. There will be others until the eschaton which could come in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet.

People already sense the fracture of the United States and are working in its fissures. Vlahos explains this in a previous essay that compares gangs to the local powers that sprung up during the collapse of Rome. These local powers are who you’re going to answer to if the state and federal government can’t maintain order. In California, for example, the ability to maintain order is the subject of ridicule since the government can’t keep the fires out and the lights on.

Who do you live around? Who would take power should there be a vacuum? These are things to consider. Pretending it can’t happen won’t do you any good. Public order can break down in as little as 24 hours, as it just did in Ecuador. Panic is also unwarranted. God shatters kingdoms as a way of judging its kings and their gods. It’s not directed at you if you believe in His Son.