David Chilton on Natural Law

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ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
So the real fight is over whether or not there needs to be a recontextualization for today's circumstances vs. the magisterial reformers getting it completely right instead of denial vs. acceptance of natural law.

Yes, for all the magisterial Protestants, natural law = moral law = decalogue in both tables.

They were all, more or less, theocrats, even Luther! They did not always distinguish clearly between their own circumstances (as heirs of 1000 years of Christendom their context made it nearly impossible for them to imagine things any other way) and those of national Israel.

That's why I say that we must re-contextualize the 16th century theory of two kingdoms in a post-theocratic, post-Christendom world. The first colonial Synod of the Presbyterian Church in 1729 recognized this fact implicitly.

As I understand the pre- and post-theocratic obligations of the civil magistrate, they do not entail enforcement of the second table. Only the Israelite theocracy was authorized to enforce the second table.

rsc
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
I think we need to restore theocratic Christendom.

As I understand the pre- and post-theocratic obligations of the civil magistrate, they do not entail enforcement of the [first?] table. Only the Israelite theocracy was authorized to enforce the [first] table.

Dr. Clark, how can you be so hard on the Theonomy boys for impudently rejecting the wisedom of our confessional reformed fathers and then do it yourself?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I think we need to restore theocratic Christendom.



Dr. Clark, how can you be so hard on the Theonomy boys for impudently rejecting the wisedom of our confessional reformed fathers and then do it yourself?

That's a fair question.

1. The confessional era folk weren't theonomic, they were theocratic. There's a difference.

2. The confessional era folk were, in my view, wrong about science and politics in certain respects. This changed, however, through the 17th century. I find threads in the 16th and 17th centuries on which we can capitalize today.

It was very difficult for them to see beyond Christendom. I think it became possible after the end of the 30 years war. This war doesn't mean much to us because kings aren't drafting our sons to fight for Rome or the Protestants and because soldiers aren't tramping across our front lawns. If they were, we might see the point of re-thinking whether there really is a post-canonical state that effectively becomes a new Israel.

Certainly the folk who came to the New World gradually realized that there is no civil "city shining on a hill." Remember too that the 17th century saw the rise of chiliasm and strong eschatological expectations that were disappointed and that also led to re-evaluation.

I do believe in doctrinal progress and I think the realization that, in this epoch of redemptive history, between the advents, we are not to re-establish a civil theocracy is that sort of doctrinal progress.

rsc
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
So the real fight is over whether or not there needs to be a recontextualization for today's circumstances vs. the magisterial reformers getting it completely right instead of denial vs. acceptance of natural law.

No, I don't think that's quite right.

1. Many theonomic/reconstructionist types agree with Chilton's utter rejection of natural law. If, however, there is such a thing as we used to think, then we have a resource for Christian ethics and social engagement beyond either theonomy or right-wing transformationalism (e.g., "taking back" whatever).

2. The doctrine of natural law, however, just like the doctrine of the two-kingdoms must be extracted from it's context in Christendom and re-applied today. The attempt, even theoretically, to re-establish Christendom is a mistake and a non-starter.

rsc
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
So it seems that the answer to Peter's question is that you are hard on those who disagree with the confession when you believe the confession to be correct but then go ahead and disagree with the confession where the confession is in your view, wrong.

With this stance you cannot use the confession/historal theology as a battering ram, all you are left with is using the Bible as a battering ram.

That's a fair question.

1. The confessional era folk weren't theonomic, they were theocratic. There's a difference.

2. The confessional era folk were, in my view, wrong about science and politics in certain respects. This changed, however, through the 17th century. I find threads in the 16th and 17th centuries on which we can capitalize today.

It was very difficult for them to see beyond Christendom. I think it became possible after the end of the 30 years war. This war doesn't mean much to us because kings aren't drafting our sons to fight for Rome or the Protestants and because soldiers aren't tramping across our front lawns. If they were, we might see the point of re-thinking whether there really is a post-canonical state that effectively becomes a new Israel.

Certainly the folk who came to the New World gradually realized that there is no civil "city shining on a hill." Remember too that the 17th century saw the rise of chiliasm and strong eschatological expectations that were disappointed and that also led to re-evaluation.

I do believe in doctrinal progress and I think the realization that, in this epoch of redemptive history, between the advents, we are not to re-establish a civil theocracy is that sort of doctrinal progress.

rsc
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
No, I don't think that's quite right.

1. Many theonomic/reconstructionist types agree with Chilton's utter rejection of natural law. If, however, there is such a thing as we used to think, then we have a resource for Christian ethics and social engagement beyond either theonomy or right-wing transformationalism (e.g., "taking back" whatever).

Actually it looks like a case can be made that the attempt to recontextualize is an utter rejection of natural law and just an attempt to keep the name.

2. The doctrine of natural law, however, just like the doctrine of the two-kingdoms must be extracted from it's context in Christendom and re-applied today. The attempt, even theoretically, to re-establish Christendom is a mistake and a non-starter.

rsc

I think the reformers might disagree and believe that it is a starter.
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
I think it's worth noting that the idea of non-theocratic state is a thoroughly modernist error. Very few nations in the history of mankind have been so impious as not to attempt to enforce the first table of the law in some form; Christian, heathen or otherwise. The "non-religious" state is a blip on the radar and it will inevitably pass into oblivion because it plainly attacks the natural law implanted in every man's breast that tells him his creator's rights deserve the same protection as his. (where's the 2 cents smilie?)
 
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crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
(where's the 2 cents smilie?)
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R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
So, the only way to be Reformed is to be a theocrat?

I doubt this proposition very much on the same grounds I've given before. That's like saying that the only way to be faithful to the Reformation or post-Reformation theology is to agree with their view of science, to be a geocentrist.

It's a matter of distinguishing between substance and accidents. The "system" of Reformed theology (the three covenants, doctrines of Scripture, God, man, Christ, salvation, church, eschatology) are essential to being Reformed and those essentials are confessed by the churches in the Reformed confession.

Few of the American Reformed or Presbyterian churches have adopted the confessions without revising them re the state.

I don't know of any major Reformed theologians in the modern period who were theocrats including Mr Murray, Van Til, Machen or the Old Princeton fellows.

As to Peter's charge that to be non-theocratic is heresy, well, that's not a particularly responsible way to use the word and it condemns just about every NAPARC denomination to eternal condemnation. I doubt that's what he intends, but heresy is a strong word.

As for battering rams, I'm not sure what that means. I've criticized the moralists for abandoning the Reformed confessional doctrine of justification and the historic doctrine of covenant theology because those things are essential to being Reformed.

The same case cannot be made for views of politics or science. The odd thing is that some seem to be quite liberal on essential matters such as justification and quite illiberal on accidental matters such as civil politics and science. The reversal of priorities is exaclty what's wrong with contemporary Reformed theology, piety, and practice. It's QIRC-y.

rsc

So it seems that the answer to Peter's question is that you are hard on those who disagree with the confession when you believe the confession to be correct but then go ahead and disagree with the confession where the confession is in your view, wrong.

With this stance you cannot use the confession/historal theology as a battering ram, all you are left with is using the Bible as a battering ram.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Actually it looks like a case can be made that the attempt to recontextualize is an utter rejection of natural law and just an attempt to keep the name.

I don't understand this criticism at all.

If I say that there is such a thing as natural law (as I've argued) but that it has two tables and that the civil magistrate has one relation to the second table and another relation to the first table, it does not follow that I'm denying natural law.

I don't accept the premise of the criticism, i.e., there there is only one kingdom in this world.

There are two divinely ordained kingdoms. The civil and the ecclesiastical. Only the the latter can "enforce" the first table in the post-theocratic (i.e.,m after Christ's fulfillment of the Israelite theocracy) world, and that, as Paul shows in 1 Cor 7, only through the means of ecclesiastical and not civil diiscipline.

Rejection of the theocratic application of natural law is not rejection of natural law.

You speak of appealing to Scripture as if it were a problem or a mistake? I doubt you mean to say this. As has been pointed out on this board, our confession is not incorrigible. The Scripture is the norm that norms the confession. The problem with the revisions proposed by the moralists (in answer to the implciit question, how can Clark oppose covenant moralism on one hand and criticize theocracy on the other) is that they attack the essence of the Reformed confession, the thing without which nothing (sine qua non). So, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Reformed churches recognized the error of theocracy or civil enforcement of the 1st table. That's progress. That's semper reformanda because it's a better application of the principle of the two kingdoms articulated in the 16th century (by Calvin) than was made then just as Galileo's application of the principle of accommodation relative to science was a more thorough application of it than Calvin made.

So there is continuity in principle and discontinuity in application. It's the organic link via principle that keeps my proposal from being revolutionary of Reformed theology. This is what the covenant moralists lack: continuity in principle. They appeal to Scripture often in a naively biblicst way: "I'm just following the Bible," in a way that is not too distant from the Socinian hermeneutic. Indeed, they are reaching Socinian conclusions in some cases (attacking the covenant of works, the necessity of merit etc).

rsc
 

tewilder

Puritan Board Freshman
It's a matter of distinguishing between substance and accidents. The "system" of Reformed theology (the three covenants, doctrines of Scripture, God, man, Christ, salvation, church, eschatology) are essential to being Reformed and those essentials are confessed by the churches in the Reformed confession.

Few of the American Reformed or Presbyterian churches have adopted the confessions without revising them re the state.

I don't know of any major Reformed theologians in the modern period who were theocrats including Mr Murray, Van Til, Machen or the Old Princeton fellows.

Well, Murray took exception to the confessions on the covenant. Van Til was a revolutionary in amost everything. Certainly these guys are far from any model of confessionality. When will you begin to see that you have a choice to make here?


As for battering rams, I'm not sure what that means. I've criticized the moralists for abandoning the Reformed confessional doctrine of justification and the historic doctrine of covenant theology because those things are essential to being Reformed.

The same case cannot be made for views of politics or science. The odd thing is that some seem to be quite liberal on essential matters such as justification and quite illiberal on accidental matters such as civil politics and science. The reversal of priorities is exaclty what's wrong with contemporary Reformed theology, piety, and practice. It's QIRC-y.

rsc

Really? You entered this thread by criticizing Chilton's view of natural law in science as not being that of the reformers. So just the other day you were being illiberal on science. Today you say that that is to have priorities backwards.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Well, Murray took exception to the confessions on the covenant. Van Til was a revolutionary in amost everything. Certainly these guys are far from any model of confessionality. When will you begin to see that you have a choice to make here?

This is overstatement isn't it? Actually Murray affirmed the covenant of works in some places in his writing. He wasn't entirely consistent and he never took an ecclesiastical exception. I do think that when he published his qualms about it his views should been tested in the courts of the church, but it was in the middle of the fight with modernism and folk were happy just to have a faculty that believed the Bible and predestination. I get the impression that, for a long time, there was a sort of minimalist approach to Reformed theology in the USA in what is now NAPARC. I guess we have freedom now to try to recover the older theological categories.

As to CVT, most of what he did theologically was quite traditional. He simply re-described a lot of Reformed theology in new (most idealist) categories. His language about the Trinity was unhappy but I don't know where else he was revolutionary. His generic survey of Reformed theology in Defense of the Faith is pretty straightfoward, isn't it?

Really? You entered this thread by criticizing Chilton's view of natural law in science as not being that of the reformers.

No, I criticized his language as an example of the sort of rhetoric that has caused any number of folk in the modern period to reject the very notion of natural law.

So just the other day you were being illiberal on science. Today you say that that is to have priorities backwards.

As I think I've shown, this is a non sequitur.

rsc
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
So, the only way to be Reformed is to be a theocrat?

If I was to invent a time machine and I took you back to the Westminster Assembly, Calvin's Geneva etc. and you asked them that same question, what do you think their response would be?

I doubt this proposition very much on the same grounds I've given before. That's like saying that the only way to be faithful to the Reformation or post-Reformation theology is to agree with their view of science, to be a geocentrist.

I actually believe that one would need to be a geocentrist to be able to hold to the Reformational view of science, now you can just reject that view of science but then have the decency to call your view of science something other than the Reformed view.

Let us say that we took the time machine back to see Turretin and friends. What would they say if you said you have the same Reformed view of science as they did?

It's a matter of distinguishing between substance and accidents. The "system" of Reformed theology (the three covenants, doctrines of Scripture, God, man, Christ, salvation, church, eschatology) are essential to being Reformed and those essentials are confessed by the churches in the Reformed confession.

I have no problem with this paragraph, but would just point out that Turretin and others would fight you on your view of scripture, and it perspecuity on various matters.

Few of the American Reformed or Presbyterian churches have adopted the confessions without revising them re the state.

And this sentence is supposed to have what power exactly as far as this discussion goes? Is it an appeal to numbers or majority? I have no problem saying that the errors concerning the state and the church have been in the system and have propogated for a long time.

I don't know of any major Reformed theologians in the modern period who were theocrats including Mr Murray, Van Til, Machen or the Old Princeton fellows.

See above.

As to Peter's charge that to be non-theocratic is heresy, well, that's not a particularly responsible way to use the word and it condemns just about every NAPARC denomination to eternal condemnation. I doubt that's what he intends, but heresy is a strong word.

Actually from how I understand the word, heresy has various stronger and weaker connotations. The word can be used without condemning the target of its use, to hell.

As for battering rams, I'm not sure what that means. I've criticized the moralists for abandoning the Reformed confessional doctrine of justification and the historic doctrine of covenant theology because those things are essential to being Reformed.

I point to what was written above, would the Reformed Ancestors have recognized the positions that you expoused as being within the pale of Reformed Orthodoxy. I would say no, but you have to come to your own conclusion on that.

The same case cannot be made for views of politics or science. The odd thing is that some seem to be quite liberal on essential matters such as justification and quite illiberal on accidental matters such as civil politics and science. The reversal of priorities is exaclty what's wrong with contemporary Reformed theology, piety, and practice. It's QIRC-y.
rsc

One is not saved from having to fix one's own errors by pointing out the errors of others.

CT
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
So, the only way to be Reformed is to be a theocrat?

Actually, I'd say it's more than just Reformed. You were the one pitting all of Christendom against your view. But you're right that some things are just in the realm of accidents. So do you think our intitial reaction to Theonomy's rejection of natural law might have been a little overblown?

Dr. Clark, please entertain these questions with regard to your two kingdoms view
1. If the civil kingdom does not get to enforce the first table then does the ecclesiastical kingdom not get to enforce the second table (eg, no church discipline for adultery)?

My understanding of the divisions of the 2 kingdoms is that it is a difference of the kind and subjects of the powers not of the extent of the powers. Civil magistrate has temporal power, power over the body of his citizens while the church has spiritual power over members of the church. Both have power to enforce the whole law, limited to their respective citizens in their respective manner.

2. Getting nearer the marrow of the controversy, what is the Reformed view of the two kingdoms in anceint Israel? I thought we believed in Israel there was a general kingdom separate from the Mediatorial just the same as in the NT. You seem to contend that there was no separation of church and state so that anything and everything the Jews did in the civil sphere was typical. Didn't our fathers alledge the exact opposite the Erastians?

I changed "heresy" to "error." You're right, that term is too confusing.
 

tewilder

Puritan Board Freshman
As to CVT, most of what he did theologically was quite traditional. He simply re-described a lot of Reformed theology in new (most idealist) categories. His language about the Trinity was unhappy but I don't know where else he was revolutionary. His generic survey of Reformed theology in Defense of the Faith is pretty straightfoward, isn't it?

This is what your former colegue John Frame has to say about it:

<blockquote>
“But remember that all teachings of Scripture are 'limiting concepts.' All concepts of Scripture are 'mutually supplementative' in the above sense [i.e. “Since man is finite, none of his concepts exhausts the 'essence of the thing it seeks to express'” p. 326] The doctrine of justification by faith also supplements, and is supplemented by, the doctrine of divine sovereignty. The doctrine of divine sovereignty tells us what sort of God is justifying us. Thus, the doctrine of justification by faith incorporates the paradox of divine sovereignty. The doctrine of justification by faith—when fully explained in its relations to the rest of scriptural truth—is just as paradoxical as divine sovereignty.” (Frame, "The Problem of Theological Paradox" p. 327)</blockqute>

It is any surprise that the Federal Visionaries went ahead and did the doctrine of justification just this way?

And is it any surprise the the followers of Van Til, "the greatest Christian philosopher who ever lived" and who, we are told, invalided all previous apologetics, based on natural law, should go ahead in radical ways?

Finally, read what Herman Hoeksema has to say about Van Til's arminianizing.

The problem with Van Til is that he saw a problem with Barth, but never could figure out what to do about it, and ended up playing around with Barth's ideas in a way the pollluted Reformed theology in America in the 20th century.

No, I criticized his language as an example of the sort of rhetoric that has caused any number of folk in the modern period to reject the very notion of natural law.

As I think I've shown, this is a non sequitur.

rsc

You do realize that Chilton was talking about natural law science, i.e. the view of the physical world as containing the principles of its nature, and that his point was actually rather like that of the idea of <i>concurance</i> held by the late medieveal natural law theologians?

Chilton, unfortunately, was rather vague, as all the Tyler people tended to be when they got onto science and philosophy. What he was trying to be, though, was Vantillian. This is the cosmic personalism of the Vantiallians. No brute facts, uninterpreted being or the like.

Also, it is worth noting that Jordan went another direction. He did not like the immediacy of God in everything, so he interposed angels, who swarm all over making things happen in the physical world.
 

tewilder

Puritan Board Freshman
Actually, I'd say it's more than just Reformed. You were the one pitting all of Christendom against your view. But you're right that some things are just in the realm of accidents. So do you think our intitial reaction to Theonomy's rejection of natural law might have been a little overblown?

Please note that you are confusing natural law ethics with natural law science. Chilton was attacking natural law science, that is, the idea the there are laws that inhere in nature itself that account for its regularity.

This, in fact, is what most people mean by natural law. They never think of ethics unless that went to school with Jesuits.
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
Please note that you are confusing natural law ethics with natural law science. Chilton was attacking natural law science, that is, the idea the there are laws that inhere in nature itself that account for its regularity.

This, in fact, is what most people mean by natural law. They never think of ethics unless that went to school with Jesuits.

I'm aware of the difference. See my first post in this thread.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
I don't understand this criticism at all.

If I say that there is such a thing as natural law (as I've argued) but that it has two tables and that the civil magistrate has one relation to the second table and another relation to the first table, it does not follow that I'm denying natural law.

Okay, I'll modify the criticism to a certain extent. Your version of natural law is different enough from the reformers to need a new qualifying term if not a new term altogether. How about Neo-Natural law theorist?

I don't accept the premise of the criticism, i.e., there there is only one kingdom in this world.

To this, I would just reply that I stand with the reformers on the issue. If the civil magistrate enforcing both tables makes me, one kingdom, I will be one kingdom like they were. If it makes me two kingdoms, then I will be two kingdoms like they were.

There are two divinely ordained kingdoms. The civil and the ecclesiastical. Only the the latter can "enforce" the first table in the post-theocratic (i.e.,m after Christ's fulfillment of the Israelite theocracy) world, and that, as Paul shows in 1 Cor 7, only through the means of ecclesiastical and not civil diiscipline.

Where does Paul say anything about what the civil magistrate "can" or "should" do in relationship to the first table in 1 Cor. 7?

But looking at the bigger picture, your objection would have more force if the Theocrats did not have 1 Cor. 7 in their Bibles. They did and they did not read it as you do now. Since this is the case, How can you claimed to be within the Reformed view on this matter?

Rejection of the theocratic application of natural law is not rejection of natural law.

Actually this leads to an interesting question that I have had running through my head for a while. At what point does one go from accommodating scripture to something outside of scripture to an outright rejection, and does it in actuality matter?

For example, Christian Feminists accommodate their view of gender relation passages to their view of history etc while upholding infallibility etc.; while regular femistists just reject scripture in toto. In practice I really see little difference.

My stance on your view of natural law and the civil magistrate is based on your view of history and what did and did not work. You have accomodated your exegesis based on what you believe did not work and cannot work.

What in practice is the difference between a rejection and an accomodation that ends up in the same vicinity?

You speak of appealing to Scripture as if it were a problem or a mistake? I doubt you mean to say this. As has been pointed out on this board, our confession is not incorrigible. The Scripture is the norm that norms the confession.

I have no problem appealing to scripture, however I do have a problem with appealing to scripture and just attempting to forget historical theology whenever it goes against whatever we want to get done. "Oh they were apart of a different era and cannot see the stuff that we see now"

The problem with the revisions proposed by the moralists (in answer to the implciit question, how can Clark oppose covenant moralism on one hand and criticize theocracy on the other) is that they attack the essence of the Reformed confession, the thing without which nothing (sine qua non).

How did Turretin and friends defend spilling ink against the anti-geocentrists? They say the opposition as making a direct attack against scripture (which you have already stated is part of the sine qua non of the reformed faith)

So, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Reformed churches recognized the error of theocracy or civil enforcement of the 1st table. That's progress. That's semper reformanda because it's a better application of the principle of the two kingdoms articulated in the 16th century (by Calvin) than was made then just as Galileo's application of the principle of accommodation relative to science was a more thorough application of it than Calvin made.

Or the Reformed churches accommodated a second time which was made easier after the Galileo accomodation. Potato vs. POTATO.

So there is continuity in principle and discontinuity in application. It's the organic link via principle that keeps my proposal from being revolutionary of Reformed theology. This is what the covenant moralists lack: continuity in principle. They appeal to Scripture often in a naively biblicst way: "I'm just following the Bible," in a way that is not too distant from the Socinian hermeneutic. Indeed, they are reaching Socinian conclusions in some cases (attacking the covenant of works, the necessity of merit etc).

rsc

Oh I am not defending any monocovenantalists or anything close. I just think that since the church has accomodated before, why is it so hard to accommodate some more?

CT
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
If I was to invent a time machine and I took you back to the Westminster Assembly, Calvin's Geneva etc. and you asked them that same question, what do you think their response would be?

I actually believe that one would need to be a geocentrist to be able to hold to the Reformational view of science, now you can just reject that view of science but then have the decency to call your view of science something other than the Reformed view.

Let us say that we took the time machine back to see Turretin and friends. What would they say if you said you have the same Reformed view of science as they did?

There's no question what most of them would say. That's the point. They were mostly wrong on politics and science, at least in practice. I want to keep their theology and ditch their view of politics (since 1729) and science. I think I can do it because we don't confess their view of politics and science. We confess their theology.

I have no problem with this paragraph, but would just point out that Turretin and others would fight you on your view of scripture, and it perspecuity on various matters.

It's not a matter of perspicuity. There scripture is perfectly perspicuous on the temporary nature of the Israelitish theocracy. They didn't see that. Okay. The Patristic church didn't see justification very clearly. Every age doesn't see everything as clearly as it should. That's no argument against perspicuity. Read the WCF very carefully. It doesn't say that the pre-modern views of science and scripture are perspicuously revealed in Scripture. It says that the things necessary for salvation are perspicuously revealed in Scripture. The attempt to stretch perspicuity to cover every and anything is part of the rise of QIRC in our churches.

I point to what was written above, would the Reformed Ancestors have recognized the positions that you expoused as being within the pale of Reformed Orthodoxy. I would say no, but you have to come to your own conclusion on that.

I don't know that very many of them would have or did make political views a matter of orthodoxy. As to their view of science and orthodoxy, that was a shifting standard through the 17th century. Voetius held one view and others held more liberal views. That's why I can make this distinction.

rsc
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Okay, I'll modify the criticism to a certain extent. Your version of natural law is different enough from the reformers to need a new qualifying term if not a new term altogether. How about Neo-Natural law theorist?

I think, if you'll read the Calvin and Lex Naturalis Essay, you'll see that I hold the substance of what Calvin taught. The natural law is the decalogue.

What's unclear about that?

I do differ with him and other 16th and 17th century folk as to its application to and by the civil magistrate. I wouldn't agree with Olevianus on the justice of executing the Heidelberg anti-Trinitarians in 1571, but I'm confident that Olevianus would recognize my theory of natural law as consistent with his.

The problem is that we don't live in Christendom any longer. It's gone. The question is what would Olevianus do in our time?

Where does Paul say anything about what the civil magistrate "can" or "should" do in relationship to the first table in 1 Cor. 7?

The point is that Paul doesn't say or suggest anywhere that the magistrate has any business in punishing adultery or in handling the fellow in 1 Cor 5. These are ecclesial, not civil matters.

[22 October: On reflection - I don't think I want to argue this exactly. I do think the magistrate has a role via natural law in punishing both and in punishing or restraining things such as homosexual acts which are also contrary to creation/nature. What I want to argue is that I think it's significant, as Mr Murray pointed out in his book on ethics, that what under Moses what required the death penalty, in 1 Cor is addressed by a ecclesiastical discipline. That's a different argument however. Relative to this discussion, I should say that the magistrate has a creational mandate to enforce heterosexual marriage, monogamy as creational institutions. -rsc]

But looking at the bigger picture, your objection would have more force if the Theocrats did not have 1 Cor. 7 in their Bibles. They did and they did not read it as you do now. Since this is the case, How can you claimed to be within the Reformed view on this matter?

Of course they had these passage but they read them assuming the righteousness of theocracy. I don't accept that assumption. I don't read that assumption back into Paul as they did.

Actually this leads to an interesting question that I have had running through my head for a while. At what point does one go from accommodating scripture to something outside of scripture to an outright rejection, and does it in actuality matter?

That's just it. I'm not accommodating anything. I'm trying to be faithful to the Word of God. As I've said many times, Christendom was a mistake. We should never have done it and in the providence of God we were delivered from it in the modern period. It's one of the few good things that actually accompanied the Enlightenment. I don't think it came via the Enlightenment, but it was roughly contemporaneous with it. Lots of folk who rejected the basic assumptions of the Enlightenment, as I do, agreed in the 18th century (and some before) and since that Christendom was a mistake.

So, I'm reading the Word of God in its own context. I'm not deconstructing anything! Paul was not a theocrat. He's the one who points out that Moses was temporary and nothing but a big sermon illustration pointing to Christ and the New Covenant. The Israelitish theocracy died with Christ.

That is why one does not find the Apostles writing the Institutes of Biblical Law or Theonomy in Christian Ethics. One finds them (1 Pet 4 is the locus classicus) teaching Christians to live in quiet humility. This is not the age for "transformation" or "taking back." It is the age of waiting for the consummation and suffering and preaching Christ and administering sacraments and the like.

Theocracy is an over-realized eschatology (as all chiliasm is).

I have no problem appealing to scripture, however I do have a problem with appealing to scripture and just attempting to forget historical theology whenever it goes against whatever we want to get done. "Oh they were apart of a different era and cannot see the stuff that we see now"

I'm not forgetting historical theology. You misunderstand what HT is and does. It describes it does not prescribe. Prescription belongs to exegetical and systematic theology. My ethics (as a discipline) and theology have to stand on their own two feet. The job of historical theology is to tell truth about the past as best one can in order to facilitate ST and BT. So, as I formulate my views, I must take into account what was taught and why. HT does not mean: repeat slavishly everything that everyone held prior. In no age of the church and certainly not in the Reformation did we function this way.

How did Turretin and friends defend spilling ink against the anti-geocentrists? They say the opposition as making a direct attack against scripture (which you have already stated is part of the sine qua non of the reformed faith)

I don't understand this point. I don't know that Turretin commented on geocentrism. It wasn't a major theme. It was Voetius who went to war with Descartes over astronomy and blood ciruulation and the like because he couldn't distinguish between Descartes' ultimate views (epistemology and theology) from his penultimate views on medicine and astronomy. As a result the University of Utrecht was retarded for a century from the latest science.

To a certain degree, on these issues, Voetius was an example of QIRC-y theology.

rsc
 
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R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Peter,


Actually, I'd say it's more than just Reformed. You were the one pitting all of Christendom against your view. But you're right that some things are just in the realm of accidents. So do you think our intitial reaction to Theonomy's rejection of natural law might have been a little overblown?

Yes, I and most modern (i.e, post 1650) Reformed theologians reject theocracy. That shouldn't be a shock. I also reject a 1000 years of medieval teaching on justification! I reject most of 1000 years of teaching on monasticism and on many other things, as do you as a good covenanter!

No, I've argued with theonomists for 20+ years over this. Most of them reject natural law ethics as Timothy does. That's why I wrote the essay on Calvin's natural law ethics, contra Barth and the theonomists. It was the theonomists who tipped me off to the issue. I read them bad-mouthing "natural law" as some sort of wickedness. I recalled reading in Calvin so I started reading Calvin more intensively for a number years. It turns out that Calvin had a vibrant doctrine of natural law along the lines that I've described here.

1. If the civil kingdom does not get to enforce the first table then does the ecclesiastical kingdom not get to enforce the second table (eg, no church discipline for adultery)?

That's the point of the 2 kingdoms and that's why we see ecclesiastical sanction for adultery. The church as the KOG has a responsibility for the entire decalogue. If one is committing sins against any of the commandments impenitently he should expect to face ecclesiastical discipline. It is the civil kingdom who's sphere is properly limited to only one table. The distinction does not mean there is an exact parallel between the two kingdoms.

2. ...what is the Reformed view of the two kingdoms in anceint Israel? I thought we believed in Israel there was a general kingdom separate from the Mediatorial just the same as in the NT. You seem to contend that there was no separation of church and state so that anything and everything the Jews did in the civil sphere was typical. Didn't our fathers alledge the exact opposite the Erastians?

My understanding, and I think the tradiitonal understanding of the Israelite theocacy is that there was no chuch/state separation. That claim is, I believe, a theonomic novelty (which novelty, Hermonta, does not ipso facto make it wrong).

I don't think I can answer the bit about the Erastians without doing more reading.

You fellows really are asking/complaining to or about the wrong fellow. You should be reading VanDrunen and Grabill and Hart and Horton. I've only really done historical work on natural law. I'm still a newcomer to the two-kingdoms theory. I can sketch the outlines but that's about it.

I changed "heresy" to "error." You're right, that term is too confusing.

Thanks!

rsc
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
That's the point of the 2 kingdoms and that's why we see ecclesiastical sanction for adultery. The church as the KOG has a responsibility for the entire decalogue. If one is committing sins against any of the commandments impenitently he should expect to face ecclesiastical discipline. It is the civil kingdom who's sphere is properly limited to only one table. The distinction does not mean there is an exact parallel between the two kingdoms.

I'm sure all will grant this so I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth but I don't think it is precise enough to say that the civil magistrate is to enforce the second table. I don't think it is in their jurisdiction to enforce the 10th commandment on coveting. Also, can we legislate an honoring of one's father and mother? To the 10th commandment I would argue that in no place in the OT was there a judicial law enforcing it. So I would say that what should be enforced today would mirror what was enforced in the OT. As far as the father and mother, there was no postive law to enforce that but there was one for rebellious youth.

What about adultery? If the C.M. is to enforce it what should the penalty be? Penalties for theft? If we are allowed access to the OT, restitution makes a lot of sense. What does natural law demand and can someone show me? Bearing false witness...Penalty for it today?

If we keep it in the realm of where most of us agree regarding the enforcement of the second table (or most of it) will we be able to agree on the punishment? Or was the OT sanctions a matter of intrusion? If it was, then what are we left with?

Random musings and questions.:handshake:
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The civil magistrate DOES make enactments with relation to both tables of the law. It is inescapable. When he makes Sunday a trading day, he necessarily prejudices the Christian who observes the Christian Sabbath, and hinders his ability to make the most of a free market. When the magistrate honours personal property according tot he Christian view of it, he necessaarily prejudices tribal religion's belief in the land as sacred. The list could be multiplied exponentially. The civil magistrate inescapably legislates concerning both tables of the law. Perhaps to the surprise of many Christians, even our Church/State separation policy is a religious establishment. The State has thereby enacted that all religious denominations shall be acknowledged as valid.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
There's no question what most of them would say. That's the point. They were mostly wrong on politics and science, at least in practice. I want to keep their theology and ditch their view of politics (since 1729) and science. I think I can do it because we don't confess their view of politics and science. We confess their theology.

Here in lies the rub. If you used the neat time machine, the Reformers would have told you that that you could not separate their theology from their politics. Their theology necessitated their view of politics. It is only in modernity that the terms have been redefined to allow even the attempt to do so. The attempt at neutrality does not work here. For when someone claims that Christians should stay out of or entire into the political field, they are at base saying that God wants them to either do or not do something. There is no avoiding this. So it is not a fight over separating politics and theology it is a fight over what one thinks God is telling them to do.

It's not a matter of perspicuity. There scripture is perfectly perspicuous on the temporary nature of the Israelitish theocracy. They didn't see that.

From reading ahead a bit, it seems that the basis of this argument is good ole fashion dispensationalism.

1)Paul wrote a letter to the church of Corinth about how to deal with evil in their midst.
2)In Paul's letter he does not tell the state of Corinth that they should Enforce both tables.
3)If Paul had wanted a theocracy he would have said so.
4)Therefore, Paul was no theocrat.

Okay. The Patristic church didn't see justification very clearly. Every age doesn't see everything as clearly as it should. That's no argument against perspicuity. Read the WCF very carefully. It doesn't say that the pre-modern views of science and scripture are perspicuously revealed in Scripture. It says that the things necessary for salvation are perspicuously revealed in Scripture. The attempt to stretch perspicuity to cover every and anything is part of the rise of QIRC in our churches.

First, I do not think that I know what QIRC means.

Second, I never made the statement that the premodern views of science etc were ever explicitly included in any confession. (To some extent this is along the lines of the "In the Space of Six Days" debate) however certain things are implicit due to the views held by the people who crafted WCF.

I basically included the science discussion as an addendum to the explicitly theocratic Original WCF. If you asked the Divines if theocracy was perspecuiously given in scripture, they would have said yes and that is the reason that the confession defends the position.

Also I do not understand your point about the stretching of perspecuity leading to the rise of QIRC. Basically every pre modern saw scripture as "stretching" to include the scientific realm. This was not some novelty that a single person tried to introduce.

I don't know that very many of them would have or did make political views a matter of orthodoxy. As to their view of science and orthodoxy, that was a shifting standard through the 17th century. Voetius held one view and others held more liberal views. That's why I can make this distinction.

rsc

I think it depends on how far the political view in question deviated from theirs. I think people from all sides would have been in opposition to the modern view of neutrality.

CT
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
Rev. Winzer is an expert in the history of the theology of the 17th century and since he has joined the conversation perhaps he can answer the question. In the traditional presbyterian view, was Israel simultaneously the church and a state or was it a nation which contained the church and had a divinely instituted state? was church and state separate in Israel? I'm thinking specifically of the controversy between Presbyterians and Erastians and what I believe I see in the book "Aaron's Rod Blosoming." If I read correctly, the Erastians maintained that there was no church distinct from the state in Israel therefore we must ignore the church of Israel. The 2 kingdomists say there was no church distinct from the state in Israel therefore we must ignore the state of Israel.

I believe there are two kingdoms but I believe there have always been two kingdoms. I believe the bible is the only rule for the Mediatorial Kingdom and that natural law is normative for things in the general or providential kingdom of God, however, the bible perfects and corrects our understand of NL. Men are blinded by sin, as Paul said, he had not known sin but by the Law. God effectively expounds NL (properly moral law) in the Pentateuch and in the Judicial laws he applies it to the circumstances of the Jewish nation. Even in the Judicial laws we see God's will for the modern state, modified to remove the peculiarities of 15th century BC - 70 AD Jewish society.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Peter, I doubt if "expert" applies to a non-academic like me, but I have read widely in reformed literature, and I am sure there is a reformed consensus on the view that Church and State in Israel were both distinct and connected. If a nation is explicitly Christian, it is regarded as being covenanted with God just as the nation of Israel was; while the church of the Jews finds its continuation in the NT church of all nations. There was an unwavering vision in the establishment of a unified Protestant Christendom, which I am afraid has been blurred in the modern day, and is probably the underlying reason why alot of theological formulation is deviant, namely, because it lacks direction.

A reading of The Harmony of the Reformed Confessions, section 19, of the civil magistrate, will leave no doubt as to the fact that there is an explicit reformed consensus on the "two-table guardian" concept. If any differ from this consensus, they have no right to call their view "reformed." I think some room is left for differences in application, especially when we consider how curtailed the modern magistrate's authority has become under democracy; but there is only one reformed view of the magistrate's duty in principle, and that is, that he is bound as a minister of God to uphold the moral law of God in the civil sphere as he punishes evildoers and protects and serves those that do well.
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
Peter, I doubt if "expert" applies to a non-academic like me, but I have read widely in reformed literature, and I am sure there is a reformed consensus on the view that Church and State in Israel were both distinct and connected. If a nation is explicitly Christian, it is regarded as being covenanted with God just as the nation of Israel was; while the church of the Jews finds its continuation in the NT church of all nations. There was an unwavering vision in the establishment of a unified Protestant Christendom, which I am afraid has been blurred in the modern day, and is probably the underlying reason why alot of theological formulation is deviant, namely, because it lacks direction.

A reading of The Harmony of the Reformed Confessions, section 19, of the civil magistrate, will leave no doubt as to the fact that there is an explicit reformed consensus on the "two-table guardian" concept. If any differ from this consensus, they have no right to call their view "reformed." I think some room is left for differences in application, especially when we consider how curtailed the modern magistrate's authority has become under democracy; but there is only one reformed view of the magistrate's duty in principle, and that is, that he is bound as a minister of God to uphold the moral law of God in the civil sphere as he punishes evildoers and protects and serves those that do well.

thank you and a hearty ditto and amen

One further note, in earlier posts when refering to church and state as separate I meant nothing near to the modern idea. I meant only distinct.
 

tewilder

Puritan Board Freshman
The point is that Paul doesn't say or suggest anywhere that the magistrate has any business in punishing adultery or in handling the fellow in 1 Cor 5. These are ecclesial, not civil matters.
rsc

If the state has no business regulating marriage, should it simply legalize gay marriage?

Should Christians refrain from campaining against gay marriage because state regulation of marriage is illegitimate anyway?
 

tewilder

Puritan Board Freshman
No, I've argued with theonomists for 20+ years over this. Most of them reject natural law ethics as Timothy does. That's why I wrote the essay on Calvin's natural law ethics, contra Barth and the theonomists. It was the theonomists who tipped me off to the issue. I read them bad-mouthing "natural law" as some sort of wickedness. I recalled reading in Calvin so I started reading Calvin more intensively for a number years. It turns out that Calvin had a vibrant doctrine of natural law along the lines that I've described here.


rsc

Just for the record, I have said since the early 1990's that the theonomists were wrong on their take on Natural Law, because there is something to it. But there is not enough to it because you can't reliably recover norms from it.

Because God created man in the world, for man to be true to his nature and thrive in the world, he needs to obey God's law. Breaking the law brings him into friction with both himself and the outer world.

Here we should notice that Frances Schaeffer's apologetic method was based on this, and that Van Til attacked him for this. Schaeffer said that man's rebellion always brought it him into conflict with reality, so that man had to become inconsistent in order to get on with life. This inconsitency gave a point of contact for evangelism. Further, since Van Til denied this, Schaeffer said that Van Til was like Barth at this point. (The reconstructionist also denied it, following Van Til. I remember arguing with Jordan about this.)

But this nature of the world and of man, that is aligned with moral norms is not what makes those no norms normative. It is God's command that does so.

This is the point of the command in the garden, not to eat of the fruit of the tree. Adam saw that the fruit was good: that, by natural law so to speak, there was nothing wrong about eating it.

But the tree was the tree of the knowlege of good and evil. What was this knowlege? That good and evil are determined by the word of God and not by external nature (the goodness and beauty of the fruit) or by man's internal nature (hunger, desire for nutrition, etc.). The tree, taken together with God's command, gave this knowledge without man's having to eat from it. Eating the fruit from the tree is not aquiring knowlege of good and evil but going against that knowlege.
 
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