October 31, 2014

Why PR2K?

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

Earlier this year, I summarized an essay written by Pastor Ronald Baines called “Separating God’s Two Kingdoms: Two Kingdom Theology among New England Baptist in the Early Republic” which was published in the 2014 Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies (JIRBS).  I noted the importance of the essay in context of this website and the larger inter-Reformed debate on the Two Kingdom/Neo-Kuyperian debate.

The conclusions that I have reached on this matter, with my co-conspirator Brandon Adams, are twofold: We agree with the so-called NL2K (Natural Law, Two Kingdoms) that there is a sharp distinction between the Kingdom of God, which is spiritual (please consider Brandon’s notes from Abraham Booth here), and the kingdoms of this world to which everyone belongs and which is physical.  While we are to always speak truth to culture and States and communities which radically despise the Christian religion, we are to realize that our goal is not to redeem or conquer or exercise dominion over those who are not part of the kingdom of Christ.  As I have noted previously, we can be confident in speaking the Word of God to all that will hear, but in regards to wining the culture war and overcoming the world around us, Christ has already purchased victory and we await his glorious second coming.  We do not fight now so as to win.  There is nothing more to win.  We agree with the general idea of “2k.”

And yet, you’ll notice that the position promoted above advocates that truth be spoken and the Word of God declared.  Where else does truth come from than the mind of God?  Is there any other source of truth?  No, there is not; and God has graciously given us his thoughts, his mind, in the form of propositional revelation.  Only propositions can have truth value and there is no other perfect intellectual justification for our claim that a certain proposition or set of propositions is truthful than the highest authority: the Bible.  Importantly, God thinks logically and thus, not only can we trust the propositions of the Bible, but we can also trust whatever propositions can be logically deduced (WCF Ch 1, VI).  Right and wrong therefore can be justified by the Bible alone.  Neither the nature around us nor the idea of self-observation can yield an objectively true proposition regarding right and wrong.  It is clear, per passages like Romans 1 and 2, that human beings have consciences that are innately aware of the existence of God and of ethics.  But you’ll notice that these things are apriori, not found outside of the individual observer.  It is not in nature around us, that is, we do not utilize our senses to know what is right and wrong.  In order to make us intellectually aware of these rights and wrongs in propositional form, which are in our minds innately, we need the means of God’s written Word, since otherwise by our evil nature we suppress them.  Natural Law then, if it has any use, must be synonymous with God’s Moral Law as revealed in the Bible.

And yet, for the NL2K camp, this natural law is not synonymous with God’s propositionally revealed moral law, which means that they are advocating for both an epistemological and an ethical dualism.  That is, they do not believe that the Scriptures are to be the binding authority on the wrongful actions of those acting through the means of the State. Or in the words of eminent NL2K theologian David van Drunen, “Scripture, strictly speaking, is not meant to serve as the moral standard for the civil kingdom.”  Van Drunen continues to explain that “the point is that the moral instruction given in Scripture cannot be taken simply as the moral standard for the world at large.” (VanDrunen, David (2012-03-20). A Biblical Case for Natural Law (Kindle Location 606). Acton Institute. Kindle Edition.)

One wonders in that case what the standard might be by which God judges the sinner.  According to what law is the sinner compared and deemed unworthy of eternity?

We disagree then with the “NL,” part of NL2K, preferring instead Propositional Revelation, or “PR.”

PR2K in a nutshell.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • MikeD

    Hello C.Jay,

    Nice post. I figured, maybe, you’d be slightly interested in another discussion over at Reformed Forum that I’ve engaged in. http://reformedforum.org/podcasts/ctc205/#comment-70354 and http://reformedforum.org/podcasts/ctc205/#comment-70354.

    Well maybe not, but the reason I’m saying anything at all is that for all I’ve gained from Clark and his insistence on “good and necessary consequence” he may not be in good historical or modern standing as far as its meaning. Scott Oliphint in a recent lecture reiterated his sentiment that all that can be necessarily deduced from Scripture is not good. “Good” is not a sort of restatement of “necessary” but a distinct category that will limit our acceptance, thus truncate as acceptable, of some logically valid inferences from the Bible. Wow… I know! I remember Brandon sharing with me some historical commentary on WCF that seems to intimate a similar distinction. He may be able to share. All this to say that you may wish to reference the 1689 LBCF instead of the WCF since it remedies any ambiguity with its verbiage, “either expressly set down or necessarily contained in Scripture.” No confusing category of “good” for us to arbitrate. For Baptists, logical deductions from Scripture are always good!

  • Jordan Wilson

    Just to offer a counter narrative to a brother in Christ:

    Yes and Amen, the Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom. The question for me becomes, does not the spiritual kingdom of God have practical (and therefore, physical) implications for all of life here on earth? Do you deny the dominion mandate of the purpose of mankind in Genesis? Including both the commands to Adam pre-fall and Noah post-flood? Go forth and multiply? Fill the earth and subdue it? Take dominion over every living thing? We were saved for the purpose of doing good works, which were pre-ordained by God.

    The Biblical story is: Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation. Not simply Fall and Redemption. As the 2nd and better Adam, Christ’s work was about reversing the curse of sin in all its forms. In the garden, mankind was created for a purpose which we were made in the image of God to fulfill. We are beautifier’s of his creation in every way shape and form. We are cultivators of his creation and we pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. We seek to “heavenize” the earth. This cannot be accomplished except for Christ’s regenerating work. But once that is done in our hearts, how should we then live? Christ’s work is also to restore us to our pre-fall, imago-dei purpose.

    I would argue, our purpose isn’t just to be the world’s volunteer hall monitor (raising a wagging finger at the evil in the world, hoping we’ll get the occasional bit of respect, but not doing anything positively to change it) , but rather to transform this world in the power of the Holy Spirit by making disciples in every nation, teaching them to Obey God’s law. This will have a MASSIVE practical, effect on earth, but the source of this power is Heavenly. Christ’s kingdom is not OF this world, it is OF heaven, but we pray that heaven’s will is done here on earth. Given that all authority on heaven and earth belongs to Christ, and that Christ is now in history in the process of subduing all things (through the Church), should not we all seek to participate in this work?

    “As I have noted previously, we can be confident in speaking the Word of God to all that will hear, but in regards to wining the culture war and overcoming the world around us, Christ has already purchased victory and we await his glorious second coming. We do not fight now so as to win. There is nothing more to win.”

    Christ has already purchased the victory on the cross, but clearly, not everything is yet in subjection to him. So to say there is nothing more to win, is sub-biblical and a conflation of terms. There is nothing more to win as it pertains to Christ’s atoning work on the cross, but the Church has much to win as we seek to bring all things in subjection to Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. And physical death still reigns until the resurrection, which is the last enemy to be destroyed.

    • Hi Jordan,

      I was just re-reading this post today and saw your comment from a couple of years ago (wow time flies).

      Yes, our redemption absolutely has physical, practical implications for all of life. The point of emphasizing the spiritual nature of the kingdom, however, is to distinguish it from Israel, which was not a spiritual kingdom.

      I do not deny the dominion mandate: have children and subdue the earth. I do deny that the dominion mandate is to subdue and have dominion over other image bearers.

      What you are missing from your Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation is the fact that eschatology preceded soteriology. Yes, we were created for a purpose in the garden. The purpose was to perfectly obey the law and to work and keep the garden to spread it across the whole world so that God would dwell throughout the whole world and we could enter the Sabbath rest – to be transformed into an immutable nature that could no longer sin. But Adam failed and cast us all into sin. The world is under a curse and any hope of entering a Sabbath or of spreading the garden throughout the world is gone. No, we do not seek to “heavenize” earth because we cannot. Only Christ can when he returns and establishes the new heavens and the new earth.

      No, Christ’s work is not to restore our pre-fall, imago-dei purpose (Adam’s purpose). Christ’s work was to fulfill Adam’s purpose, not to put us back in Adam’s shoes.

      I recommend this book http://www.rbap.net/our-books/better-than-the-beginning-creation-in-biblical-perspective-by-richard-c-barcellos/