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Drew soccer

Grandson Andrew Hans Kloosterman moving the ball downfield.
Photo © Nelson D. Kloosterman

With this very helpful post, the discussion of “two kingdom theology” is surely being advanced!

Three notes for further reflection:

1. The term eschatology is not simply a “time word”—as in: something we wait for until after we die. As strange as it sounds, the Bible teaches us that the future is now already. For the Christian, the future drives and shapes the present. In the Bible, eschatology is always for ethics!

2. Based on this post, there seems to be a very close resemblance, if not identity, between this description of “two kingdoms theology” and the “already/not yet” distinction long employed within Reformed biblical studies—as in: “the kingdom of God is already present but not yet complete.” That’s been the diet for decades of students of Geerhardus Vos and  Herman Ridderbos and Richard Gaffin and George Eldon Ladd and Graeme Goldsworthy and . . . the list could go on and on. So then, what’s new?

3. Please munch on this sentence from the post: “Temporal actions are spiritual for Christians both because they point to the justice of the coming kingdom and because they carry with them eternal rewards.” The eternal rewards of faithfulness-in-history—now that deserves a book!

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Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 3.00.35 PMIf you hurry, you can get this wonderful primer on classic Calvinism before Christmas. In fact, get a copy for each of your children . . . or elders . . . or pastor!

Chapter 2, “The Place of the Bible” (pages 24-28), features an important section on the relationship between the book of nature and the Bible.

A number of adjectives come to mind to describe this material: sober . . . clear . . . confessional . . . motivational.

See for yourself!

But God also has another book, the Bible. Originally there was only one book, one revelation of God, namely, nature. And in the next world there will again be only one book, the new nature, in which man will see God and his revealed will. Adam saw, and redeemed man in eternity will see, God’s will clearly revealed in his heart and in nature round about him, and will, therefore, have no need of a special revelation in a Bible.
That fact accounts for the existence of the second book, the Bible, or the special revelation as we have it today. This book became necessary because of sin. When man fell, both he and nature changed. Man’s mind became darkened so that he could not see things as they are; and nature was distorted, as the statement in Genesis about “thorns and thistles” suggests. Nature today still is a mirror in which the virtues of God are reflected, but because of sin it has become a decidedly curved mirror. Manifestly, a curved mirror makes things look grotesque, very different from what they actually are. How now is man with his beclouded mind and distorted nature to know God and the universe aright, or to know his true nature and the purpose of his existence? These are three fundamental questions at the basis of his whole outlook upon the world.
How is man to obtain the proper insight into ultimate issues under such conditions? The only solution is that God give him another book, the Bible, in which he clearly and unerringly reveals the truth about these matters to man, and then enlighten man’s darkened mind by his Holy Spirit, so that he will be able to understand this biblical truth.
Thus we see the relation in which the Bible stands to the book of nature. The Bible is not on a level with nature as a revelation of God, but it is rather a corrective of false impressions made by nature in its distorted condition. It presents to us views about God and the universe which nature today does not teach properly. As Calvin states, we must look at nature through the spectacles of the Bible. So then, while God has indeed two revelations which he calls upon his creature to study, the Bible after all becomes the ultimate basis for the whole view of life for the Christian, since he needs the biblical outlook to properly interpret nature and life round about him.

Dr. Meeter next reminds us that the Bible does more than interpret the book of nature, since it also discloses the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. “Yet,” he hastens to add, “the salvation of man is in fact the central theme of the Bible and is inseparably bound up with the view which it presents of the universe and of human life.”
And then comes this significant and relevant paragraph:

Do not mistake the purpose of the Bible as if it were intended to be a textbook for the various sciences. It is not intended as such. One gathers the facts for the various sciences from the fields which he is investigating—nature, history, psychology, and related studies. However, when the student proceeds to interpret and correlate these facts, relating the truths of any particular science to the whole body of knowledge, then he needs the unifying interpretation of Scripture. We cannot have a proper view of God, the universe, man, or history without the Bible.

Okay, since it’s Christmas season, let’s unwrap the present that Dr. Meeter himself has crafted for us. Here it is:

This book [of Scripture], therefore, besides teaching us the way of salvation, provides us with the principles which must govern the whole of our life, including our thinking as well as our moral conduct. Not only science and art, but our homelife, our business, and our social and political problems must be viewed and solved in the light of scriptural truth and fall under its direction.

This, dear reader, is classic Calvinism. Its claim is very clear, and comprehensive: The Bible’s principles must govern the whole of Christian living in the world.

And this hermeneutic (method of reading and using the Bible), dear reader, constitutes the fundamental problem within current radical “two kingdom theology” and its associated religious secularism that has raised its head among Reformed and Presbyterian folk today.

Next up: H. Henry Meeter gives three answers to the question: Must or can the state be a Christian state? No . . . yes . . . and no. Stay tuned to learn how Meeter managed to merge a Calvinian two kingdom theology with whole life Bible-normed cultural obedience.

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H.H. Meeter ImageBy now, those following carefully our presentation of material from Dr. H. Henry Meeter on “The Bible and Politics” will realize that, given the “sides” often portrayed in contemporary discussions of “natural law” and “two kingdoms,” Dr. Meeter was not what some call a “theonomist” or a “Christian Reconstructionist.” Neither was he a “religious secularist,” like those who insist that the Bible belongs in the church, while unaided reason and natural law govern everything else. But as a classic Calvinist, he firmly believed the Bible is related to politics . . . and education, and more.

How the Bible relates to these areas of Christian cultural activity can initially be expressed this way: the Bible supplies principles that guide and govern Christian cultural activity in the world.

So that’s where we pick up his discussion.

Where in the Bible are these principles to be found? Some think these principles are only to be found in isolated texts of the Bible. And if they are not very successful in finding suitable texts, they soon come to the conclusion that the Bible must not have much to say about politics. The Calvinist believes that the biblical basis for his political or his theological or his social views is not to be found in mere isolated texts. He rather discovers these principles in the rule of faith that runs through the whole of Scripture and manifests itself in a variety of ways, also at times in special texts, such as, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers,” or “By me kings reign” (Rom. 13:1; Prov. 8:15). But these principles are not at all confined to such special texts.
These principles deal not only with such very general matters like the sovereignty of God and the duty of obedience to governments, but also with many other political problems, such as the relation of the individual to the group, the relation of churches and other ogranizations in society to the state, the limits of governmental power, and the rights of individuals. Calvin in developing his political views made much of such biblical principles as justice, equity, and the well being of the people.
The Calvinist insists that the principles of God’s Word are valid not only for himself but for all citizens. Since God is to be owned as Sovereign by everyone, whether he so wishes or not, so also the Bible should be the determining rule for all. But especially for himself, the Christian, according to the Calvinist, must in politics live by these principles. He declares that not only with his soul for eternity, but as well in matters that concern his body in time, he belongs to his faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Him, therefore, he must obey in all walks of life.
The great value of adopting the Bible as his unconditional positive rule of faith and life, also for political matters, will become increasingly clear as we study the various aspects of Calvinistic political theory.

This ends our extensive citation of Dr. Meeter’s thoughts on this matter of “The Bible and Politics.”

Notice carefully what Meeter has not said. Several who defend modern religious secularism (religion, the Bible, and Christianity belong in the church) mistakenly allege that their critics must surely hold to the underlined words in bold in the following statement: “The Bible alone is the source of every principle for Christian political activity.” Neither Dr. Meeter, nor Abraham Kuyper, nor John Calvin, nor modern defenders of whole life Calvinism have defended that position.

Rather, one of the most fundamental disagreements lies in the two claims being defended by some modern religious secularists, that: (1) the principles of the Bible are authoritative only for Christians, and (2) the Bible says nothing authoritative for Christian communal cultural obedience in the world today.

One feature of this disagreement involves the following binary thinking: either the Bible alone is the guide for Christian communal obedience beyond the church, or the Bible says nothing for Christian communal obedience beyond the church. The error of this binary thinking is this: if we disagree with the second clause, it is alleged that we must agree with the first clause. If we disagree with the first clause, we must necessarily agree with the second clause. The truth, however, is this: as Dr. Meeter has explained it, neither the first clause nor the second clause is valid. Classic whole life Calvinism has always championed a third way!

But there’s more meat in Meeter! Next time we’ll look at the relationship between the Bible and “the book of nature.”

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Here is a Keynote slide that illustrates and explains Abraham Kuyper’s position regarding “sphere sovereignty.”

Much could be said about Kuyper’s view, and the wonderful Common Grace translation project will provide important clarity about the relationship between common grace and particular grace, and the correlative relationship between the institutional church (think: “means of grace” and “marks of the church”) and the church as organism. We offer some notes below the diagram.

Note the following:

1. The human heart is the “seat” of the Trinitarian activity of grace, the focal point and integration point of all Christian (i.e., fully human) personality and personal existence.But this is a heart-in-community.

2. It is the regenerate heart, the redeemed heart, that is occupied by King Jesus, who rules by his Word and Spirit.

3. The inner black dotted circle represents the activity and sphere of particular grace, namely, the institutional church. It is a dotted line because the influence and effects of the means of grace flow beyond the institutional church into all of life. Particular grace is the foundation and seasoning of common grace. Neverever would Kuyper have separated, isolated, or disjoined particular grace from common grace. The proper functioning of the latter depends upon the effectual functioning of the former.

4. This “inter-penetrating” symbiotic functioning of particular grace and common grace (note the heavy bi-directional arrows) takes shape when God’s “gathered people” become God’s “dispersed people,” so that the activities of the church-as-organism begin to permeate the arena of common grace.

5. Notice that here, the institutional church is not just one sphere alongside all other spheres of human activity. The institutional church is sui generis (one of a kind), and as K. Schilder said, it is the hearth of all genuinely Christian cultural obedience. The other spheres of Christian (i.e., fully human) activity are arranged concentrically around the institutional church. Again, note the dotted line of the institutional church, indicating that the ministry of the institutional church has “something to say” about Christian (i.e., fully human) living in society.

6. Notice the solid green line at the outside of the illustration. This represents the world, encompassing all of human culture and activity.

7. The communal activity of Christians in various spheres of activity is connected by another (blue) dotted line, to indicate the missional character of Christian (i.e., fully human) cultural obedience. This must become in our generation the “new” feature of Calvinism, whereby Calvinist Christians realize that such communal activities and organizations are not pursued primarily, exclusively, and structurally “for us,” but really “for the world,” in the fullest proper biblical sense, as taught, for example, in Matthew 5:13-16.

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. . . that I find extremely persuasive, and therefore attractive.

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Charles Murray is a controversial social analyst whose latest book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, covers a slice of history in America that spans a significant portion of my own life. This interview that provides a good introduction to Murray’s worldview.

Please consider watching the entire 34+ minute clip, so you can savor this articulate descriptive analysis whose crescendo begins at 31:37, leading to a startling denouement lasting from 33:16 until its peak at 34:25—I’ll explain why it’s startling after you listen to the interview.

Indeed, this is what it means to be living in a post-Christian culture: “The most impoverished part of all is they [members of the new lower class] don’t know there is anything better out there. We have kept that information carefully to ourselves.”

Charles Murray: “We have to address it [the cruelty of permitting deep cultural despair among the lower class] by a deep introspection and do what we most deeply believe about the sources of satisfaction in a human life.

Ronald Bailey: “And how do we transmit that [knowledge about the deepest sources of satisfaction in a human life]? We live it.”

Charles Murray: “We live it openly. And we don’t make it easy for people to live miserable lives.”

I’m not sure what Murray’s last statement means, but the Bailey-Murray exchange about living openly from the sources of our happiness—religion, family, vocation, and community—symphonizes well with the gospel driven cultural obedience that constitutes the preeminent “show and tell” form of the church’s cultural evangelism.

This Matthew 5:13-16 style will lead inevitably to a 1 Peter 3:15 encounter!

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What follows are the very words of Abraham Kuyper:

“The life of particular grace does not stand by itself, but has been placed by God amid the life of common grace. Since Holy Scripture is definitely not limited to opening up for us the way of salvation, but has been given also to enrich common grace with new light, for those who confess that Word not to make this higher light to shine upon the arena of science, which belongs to the field of common grace, constitutes deficient devotion to duty.”

(De Gemeene Gratie, volume 3, “Common Grace in Science and Art,” p. 37.)

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