Archive for December, 2011

Several recent blog posts—the first by Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Gospel Coalition), the second by Michael Horton (White Horse Inn), and the third by James K. A. Smith (Calvin College)—seek to advance the discussion of issues involving the relation between Christ and culture, religion and culture, the church and culture, and two kingdoms theology.

On December 15, Keller wrote on “Coming Together on Culture: Theological Issues.” Then, on December 17, Horton interacted with “Christ and Culture Once More.” From an altogether different vantage point, on December 21, Smith teased us with “The Temptations of Assimilation: Schilder our Bellow?

Go back a moment to the last part of the opening paragraph above. Regarding the pairs listed there, it is important to note, in going forward, that each of these pairs embodies distinct questions and issues, and therefore these pairs should not be elided or merged. They are not interchangeable.

This can become clear from reading the 1947 monograph, Christus en Cultuur (Christ and Culture), by Dutch Reformed theologian Klaas Schilder. He began his penetrating analysis by explaining the inadequacies attending the discussions of “Christianity and culture,” or “religion and culture,” or “church and culture,” and even “Jesus and culture.” In fact, according to Schilder, the devaluation of the name Christ has brought with it the devaluation of the notion of culture. The starting point for clarifying this entire constellation of issues, then, must be . . . Christology, the doctrine of the person and work of Christ. The first and primary question is: What of Christ and culture?

In this masterful monograph, whose prose is as dense as its subject is complex, Schilder bemoaned the fogginess surrounding the rhetoric of the followers of Abraham Kuyper. The notion of “sphere sovereignty” was anything but clear, and the dangers of triumphalism were all too real. Schilder reminds us that though Christ healed lepers, he never founded leper-homes; though he delivered many who were demon-possessed, he never built a clinic.

But we will need to leave for a later time a fuller explanation of Schilder’s relevant contribution to this discussion.

It may be unfortunate, but it is no less true, that any helpful analysis of these matters hinges on fine points, narrow points, careful points. Until we are able to tease out the unspoken, unstated elements embedded within such fine points, the discussion will likely not progress. Without identifying inadequate choices and unsatisfying options, without honestly interacting with a third way, we will continue the temporary stalemate. Dr. Horton complains that the contemporary view of “two kingdom” theology is either ignored or misrepresented; but as will become obvious below, he himself continues to ignore a proposed alternative third way in his repeated defense of his “two kingdom” view.

In wanting to break the stalemate, Tim Keller’s essay is seeking that third way, and as someone who knows and appreciates the contribution of Dutch Reformed theologians Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck, he is quite able to “show and tell.”

In interacting with Tim Keller, Dr. Horton tries very hard to clarify, once again, his understanding of how two kingdom theology plays out among Reformed people. He writes:

The Reformers were convinced that when the church is properly executing its ministry of preaching, sacrament, and discipline, there will be disciples who reflect their Christian faith in their daily living. The goal of the church as an institution is not cultural transformation, but preaching, teaching, baptizing, communing, praying, confessing, and sharing their inheritance in Christ. The church is a re-salinization plant, where the salt becomes salty each week, but the salt is scattered into the world.

Much of this is very good. As far as it goes. But let’s try, once again, to clarify the real point at issue. Regarding the goal of the church, why are we being restricted to choosing between “cultural transformation” or “preaching, teaching, baptizing, communing, praying, confessing, and sharing their inheritance in Christ”? Here’s a third alternative: producing or generating culture as Christ-followers who are converted, taught, baptized, etc. Why not understand and extend the communio sanctorum to function beyond the institutional church, as the Heidelberg Catechism implies?

This fallacy of a false dilemma recurs when we are invited to make this choice: “Our goal should not be to change the world, but to maintain a faithful presence in the world as ‘salt’ and ‘light’.” How about this option: Let us as Christians-together-in-the-world generate a communal lifestyle of love serving justice in every sphere of human living? The communal response of Christian schools is “salt” and “light.” The communal response of Christian political and labor associations is “salt” and “light.”

Readers may, in fact, think Dr. Horton might agree with exploring a Kuyperian third way in this discussion, for he writes next:

If I’m not mistaken, this is pretty close to Abraham Kuyper’s distinction between the church as organization (institution) and the church as organism (believers in their callings). Kuyper observed that Christ is King over all kingdoms, but in different ways. None of the “spheres”—including the church—could encroach on the other spheres’ independence. Together, these observations yield a position that is in principle consistent with “two kingdoms.”

Well, pretty close . . . but not quite.

Because here’s the hinge—the fine point, that narrow, careful analysis on which the discussion swings.

You see, Abraham Kuyper employed this distinction between church as institute and church as organism precisely to pave the way for Christians-together-in-the-world to produce a communal, Bible-guided, gospel-applied, obedience-driven Christian way of life in every sphere of human activity. As many theologians have shown (including S. Greidanus, J. Wiskerke, S. G. de Graaf, C. Veenhof, S. U. Zuidema, W. Velema, and J. Douma), this distinction between the church as institute and the church as organism helped Kuyper to maintain an essential connection between special grace and common grace, with the latter being shaped by and serviceable to the former.

Now, if that’s what contemporary advocates of “two kingdoms” wish to endorse, then they have Abraham as their father. Kuyper & Co. were very well aware of “two kingdom” theology, both from the Reformed tradition and more existentially, during the years of World War II, from neighboring Lutheran Germany. But they refined it, clarified it, yes, improved it, by calling the church-as-organism to distinctively Christian communal cultural activity in every sphere of life. These true heirs of Abraham Kuyper were not interested in exercising Christian “influence” in the world, or in pursuing “secular” vocations in a secular way “as Christians.” They sought to live all of life pro Rege, for the King, under his banner and under the normative guidance of his Word.


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No apologies for this, yet another, lengthy Kuyper-quote. And on the same day, too yet. Good things come in large chunks!

It’s a bit like overdosing on banket. So be careful!

Dutch letters featured by Jaarsma Bakery in famous Pella, Iowa

Please note the specificity of this and the preceding blog posts: if anyone still supposes that Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper held to the modern innovative construal of the so-called “two kingdoms,” consider what follows.

Let me be clear: I’m making a historical point. Whether this innovative “two kingdom” construal is correct is not the point here. Whether one can amass Luther-quotes, Calvin-quotes, Zwingli-quotes, or Obama-quotes to support this innovative “two kingdom” construal is not the point here.

Whether Abraham Kuyper can be kidnapped to support that innovative construal is very much the point.

So, Invitation #1: Before responding to this blog with your own personally preferred quotes-that-put-Kuyper-in-your-dark-light, read what’s posted on this blog, and interact with what’s posted on this blog, not by flinging your rhetorical mud against the wall to see if something will stick, but by citing, analyzing, and responding to the ipsissima verba Kuyperiana. If you do, I’ll be happy to post your comments and interact with them. If you don’t, I won’t.

Invitation #2: Count—as in: enumerate—how many times Kuyper uses the name Christ in connection with the Savior’s rule over and redemption of all of human living in creation. And then recall that according to Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 12, Q/A 31, the name Christ refers to his office as Mediator of the church!

Invitation #3: Once you’ve finished reading this chunky Kuyper-quote, join me in singing the Doxology.

Here we go:

For this reason we must point out as decisively and earnestly as we can that for us sinners, the question “What must I do to be saved?” must remain central and must govern our thinking. On the other hand, however, we must confess with equal clarity and explicitness how this same Christ who has been given to us for justification and sanctification is also given to us for wisdom and complete redemption, that is to say, for the re-creation of our whole being, soul and body, and all of this together with the inclusion of the whole world we live in, the world that belongs to and is inseparably linked to our existence.

Scripture demands the restoration of this balance in our confession. Scripture shows us Christ as Savior of the soul but also as Healer of the sick, as Reconciler of our sins but also as the generous Savior who feeds the five thousand and the four thousand, and who turns water into wine at Cana. This Scripture not only focuses all the earnestness of our soul on the doctrine of justification, but also continually places before us in clear contours the resurrection of the flesh. Yes, in pointing continually to the primacy of God’s honor and only then to the salvation of the elect, Scripture cannot unfold before us the final act of the mighty drama without showing us Christ who is also outwardly triumphant over all his enemies, and who celebrates his triumph on a new earth under a new heaven.

And with this clearly in view, you immediately encounter the connection between nature and grace. If grace were exclusively the atonement for sin and the salvation of the soul, then grace could be viewed as something standing outside nature, as something circumventing nature. Grace could be viewed like a jar of oil poured on turbulent waters, separate from those waters, floating on those waters merely so that the drowning person could save himself in the lifeboat quickly rushing toward him.

If, on the other hand, it is definitely true that Christ our Savior is dealing not only with our soul but also with our body; that all things in the world are Christ’s and are claimed by him; that he will one day triumph over all enemies in that world; and that the culmination will be not that Christ will gather around himself some individual souls, as is presently the case, but that he will reign as King upon a new earth under a new heaven—then of course all this becomes entirely different and it becomes immediately apparent that grace is inseparably linked to nature, that grace and nature belong together. We cannot grasp grace in all its richness if we do not notice that the fibers of its roots penetrate into the joints and cracks of the life of nature.

And we cannot substantiate this coherence if with grace we focus first on the salvation of our souls and not in the first place on the Christ of God. This is why Scripture continually points out to us that the Savior of the world is also the Creator of the world—indeed, that the reason he could become its Savior is only because he was its Creator. Of course, it was not the Son of Man, the Incarnated Word, who created. Everything human in the Mediator himself was also created, just as creaturely as it is in us. But Scripture nevertheless points out again and again that this firstborn from the dead is also the firstborn of creation, and that the Incarnated Word always was and remained that same eternal Word that was with God and was God, and of whom it is written that apart from that Word nothing was made that has been made. So here we have the connection of Christ with nature, because he is its Creator, and also the connection of Christ with grace, because in re-creating he revealed the riches of grace in that nature.

(Abraham Kuyper, De Gemeene Gratie, volume 1, pp. 223-224.)

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If perchance anyone still supposes that Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper held to the modern innovative construal of the so-called “two kingdoms,” consider the following. Kuyper is warning against the error of those who ignore issues involving soteriology in favor of issues involving eschatology, whereby people are less concerned about justification, say, than about the time and duration of the rapture. But there’s an equal danger in restricting and narrowing one’s theological and religious (and homiletical!) focus to soteriology–yes, to justification by faith alone in Christ alone.

We are therefore not in the least blind to the danger that lurks here, and we certainly don’t want to reinforce the evil whereby the soul’s attention is diverted too much from the cross of Golgotha to the resurrection of the flesh. But from this it does not follow in the least that therefore we may understand the image of the Mediator differently from how Scripture presents it to us. And for that reason people go too far and fall into a wrong one-sidedness if, on the other hand, when they think of Christ, they think exclusively of the sprinkling with the blood of reconciliation and refuse to take into account the significance of Christ also for the body, and for visible things, and for the outcome of world history. Consider well that thereby you run the serious risk of receiving Christ exclusively for your soul and of viewing your life in the world and for the world as something standing alongside your Christian religion and not as being governed by it. Then the “Christian” aspect is relevant to you only when it concerns a specific matter of faith, or things directly related to faith, such as your church, your school, missions, and the like, but all other areas of life then fall outside Christ. In the world you do as others do. The world is a less holy, almost unholy area that should take care of itself as best it can. And with but one more small step you arrive imperceptibly at the Anabaptist point of view, which ultimately concentrated everything holy in the soul, and dug an unbridgeable chasm between this inner, spiritual life of the soul and the life around you. Then science becomes unholy, the development of the arts, commerce, and business become unholy, as well as holding office in government—in short, everything becomes unholy that is not directly spiritual and focused on the soul. The result is that you end up living in two spheres of thought. On the one hand the very narrow, reduced line of thought involving your soul’s salvation, and on the other hand the broad, spacious, life-encompassing sphere of thought involving the world. Your Christ then belongs comfortably in that first, reduced sphere of thinking, but not in the broad one. And then from that antithesis and false proportionality proceed all narrow-mindedness, inner untruthfulness, not to mention pious insincerity and impotence.

(Abraham Kuyper, De Gemeene Gratie, volume 1, pp. 222-223.)

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In memoriam: Jakob Kamphuis

by J. Douma

Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman

The passing of Prof. J. Kamphuis at the age of (nearly) 90 years old calls to memory a long stretch of the history of the Reformed Churches (Liberated) in the Netherlands. Jaap Kamphuis made an impression already as a minister. But he set his stamp on the Reformed-liberated life even more by means of his professorship since 1959 at the Theological University (Broederweg) in Kampen. From his publications it appears that he had a broad interest that included non-theological subjects as well.

Kamphuis’ articles in the church weekly De Reformatie (The Reformation) were wide-ranging and exerted more penetrating influence on church life. For ten years every week he wrote lengthy articles or brief paragraphs in this magazine, just like his great predecessor, Dr. K. Schilder, had done. Thereby Kamphuis provided leadership for church life. Shortly after I arrived in Kampen, he concluded this exhausting journalistic labor and entrusted the editorship of “his” magazine largely to C. Trimp and me, though he clearly continued to be present in the background.

The church split of 1967 and subsequent years did not simply appear out of thin air. Anyone wanting to be informed about this must peruse at least ten annual volumes of De Reformatie that appeared ahead of this split. During the split I came to know Kamphuis better. And even better after 1970 when I myself was appointed to be professor in Kampen. People naturally asked me during that time (and later even more often) how my relationship with Kamphuis fared. Surely I was a different person, wasn’t I, one who didn’t write as sharply as he, etc.? Undoubtedly I was a different person and there were confrontations between us, although with conviction I too had rejected the so-called “Open Letter,” which document had set fire to the powder leading up to 1967. Just as intensely as Kamphuis, I was averse to the ideas of Rev. Telder regarding Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22. I too rejected attempts to minimize the significance of the 1944 church reform known as “the Liberation.” At that time I could say that in Kamphuis I found not only a brother, but also a friend. Of course, he drew the boundaries sharply, but he also showed that he refused to be partisan. When after his arrival in the congregation in Rotterdam-Delfshaven, a woman asked, “In which boat are you sitting—that of Francke [his predecessor] or that of Knoop [his colleague]?,” Kamphuis retorted smartly: “Not a good question, since we have the Father’s Son on board and the safe harbor in sight.” One needs to read his sermons and Bible studies to comprehend what it meant to him to be a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then people would be talking and writing about much more than ecclesiastical trouble and misery. He drew the boundaries sharply, but he was hardly narrow-minded. For that reason it was good to work together with him. Once you had formed your own opinion, you could remain standing next to this strong-willed person, one who was “open and above board” (the title of a pamphlet about Kamphuis) and who did not avoid conversation if conflicts had arisen. He said what was on his heart, as did I.

I won’t expand on the differences themselves that arose between Kamphuis and myself. In the work of youth organizations, Kamphuis wanted to keep the boys’ and girls’ groups separate. He wanted the Reformed Political Association (GPV) to remain ecclesiastically closed and had difficulty with “political cooperation.” Theologically I stood at a bit more distance from Schilder than he, and thought a bit more broadly about the “church” than he. But in Kampen the nice thing was that the teachers could almost always keep their mutual differences outside the faculty meetings. I make bold to say that this made the time we spent together in Kampen very pleasant. We both were dedicated to spreading and deepening the Reformed religion both domestically and internationally. Indeed, internationally as well, since before and after the fall of the iron curtain, Kamphuis visited brothers and sisters in numerous places in eastern Europe. He was known as well in Korea and South Africa. The impressive anthology of essays, Bezield verband (Inspired Connection), that he received when he retired in 1987, testifies to the wide appreciation that he received both in the Netherlands and abroad.

During the last phase of his life, we enjoyed frequent telephone conversations. Our former differences vanished in the face of shared concern about the course of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. Without either of us being aware from each other, he stated in an interview in the Reformed church weekly of the northern churches, and five months later I stated in the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad, that we “were hurting for the church.” Formerly we had heard people within the Reformed Alliance (Gereformeerde Bond) within the state church say that about the Dutch Reformed Church. Now it was being said by two Liberated-Reformed emeritus-professors from Kampen who were having a difficult time with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

When shortly before his death I was able to say goodbye to Kamphuis, I mentioned once more our earlier differences, and added that we had always been of one heart in our love for the Reformed religion. Even though by his own admission at that moment he could not even lift a cup to his lips, he nevertheless raised himself up a little bit from his pillows to give a short and characteristic Kamphuis-reply: “Exactly! Whatever divided us occasionally as Liberated-Reformed people, these never took anything away from what continued to bind us together as Reformed confessors.”

Dr. Jochem Douma, Hardenberg

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Hmmm, here’s a voice worth listening to, given some teapot tempests:

Coming Together on Culture, Part 1: Theological Issues
15 Dec 2011 by Tim Keller

I don’t think you can tell it from reading on the internet, but among many younger leaders with Reformed and evangelical convictions there may be a slow convergence coming on the subject of the mission of the church and the relationship of Christ and culture. . . .

You will want to read the rest of this balanced analysis here.

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What: Christian’s Library Press will be launching the book Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art

When: Saturday, December 10, 2011

Time: 10:00 – 11:00 am

Where: DeVos Auditorium at Calvin Theological Seminary, 3233 Burton SE, Grand Rapids, MI

Join us as we launch Wisdom & Wonder in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Vincent Bacote, professor at Wheaton College and writer of the introduction, will be the speaker. Dr. Bacote will make a brief presentation on Kuyper, followed by a time of roundtable Q&A with Dr. Bacote, together with the translator of the volume, Dr. Nelson D. Kloosterman, and Dr. Mike Wittmer of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Afterwards, the panelists will be available to chat and copies of Wisdom & Wonder will be available for purchase. Discounted pricing for Wisdom & Wonder is available for this event. Check out http://www.clpress.com/ for more information on this book. This event is open to the public, so please share this event with your friends and family.

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