20 June 2010

Two Kingdoms and Separatism (updated)

updated 6 July 2012(originally appeared in June 2010)

Separatism…Tactic, strategy, or a misunderstanding of our relationship to culture?

There is a movement at present within the greater Reformed world that advocates a kind of Christian Agrarianism. However rather than derive this from the Bible it comes from a complex of social and historical categories mixed with a little theology, although I am unsure as to how many of these folks really understand the roots of their movement. It actually stems from a kind of Confederate Romanticism.

There are numerous writings, Christian and non-, that make much of the cultural divide between the North and South. It is without dispute, the North was an Industrial powerhouse in comparison to the mostly Agrarian South. But in this movement's interpretation, the South was traditional, comprised of largely patriarchal-based families, Christian, and as I said agrarian. The North was progressive, industrial (industrialism was akin to slavery rending families asunder), and Unitarian. At least that's something of the argument. If you've read any social histories on the period, there's a little something to it…but only a little. They would also include the bitterness and division of the English Civil War period which they impose on the cultural legacy of the antebellum United States. The Scots-Presbyterians had loathed the English Puritans, especially the Independents symbolized by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was in my estimation the same as many great people in history….good and bad.

Anyway, they cite books like Albion's Seed and McWhiney's Cracker Culture to justify this culture clash…north and south….Scot v. English. Again there is something to it…on one level. However, it would seem a lot of these folks haven't actually read the books. Had they done so, they wouldn't be pleased with the portrait McWhiney paints of the Old South and its culture. I see with the Borderer portrayed in Albion's Seed as well as the Cracker Celt of McWhiney….once again, good and bad. But they're ignoring time and other factors which shaped the American landscape.

So the south was a Christian, Familial, Agrarian society and slavery was not all that bad. The north was aggressive, Imperialistic, modern, industrial, and Unitarian.

Hence, we can wave the American flag, blend American ideology with Christianity, romanticize America's history because we can say it all went wrong and ended on 9 April 1865. If we can just turn back the clock after America collapses and rebuild the Confederate Agrarian society, minus slavery (at least I think!)……then all will be well. That's kind of the idea. So picking up where Dabney, Palmer, Thornwell and other Southern Presbyterians left off, they want to re-create a modified antebellum South…even down to the chivalry and something of the manners of the plantation class.

Many in this group also tend to be adherents of the Quiverfull Movement, and you will also find a great emphasis on piety and separation. It's interesting, because they're heavily influenced by Kuyperian Reconstructionism. But most Reconstructionists are rather aggressive about having to be involved in culture in order to capture it. Are these people really separatists as some would accuse them? I hope it will become clear that they're not.

In addition, with Vision Forum and the larger group they seem to represent, you also have a big emphasis on homeschooling and wives staying home etc…Biblical Patriarchy is the movement that delineates the family.

I've seen several interactions with Niebuhr's Christ and Culture model which everyone admits is deficient, but we all keep using it. Homeschoolers and other similar people are usually categorized as Christ against Culture….separatist, Anabaptist types. That's true for some.

But with this movement in Reformed circles, nothing could be further from the truth, and this where Niebuhr's model doesn't work. It's too simple.

For example, we homeschool our children, my wife stays home based on our reading of the Scriptures, we don't shall we say, believe in hindering the natural generation of children.

We have much in common right? Not really.

We homeschool our children because we, like others are convinced educating our children is our spiritual duty. This duty can be delegated, but since even most Christian schools are following the Mann/Dewey/Prussian model, we're not interested. We're also not interested because we believe it is impossible for our children to spend 8-9 hours a day during the formative years of their lives surrounded by pagans, emissaries of a very powerful seductive culture and expect them to come through unscathed. They are lambs. We cannot throw them to the wolves. They're not ready.

As far as prayer…we don't want teachers leading our children in prayer and teaching them wrong things about the Bible.

As far as evolution…we're not scared of evolution. We want our children to understand it. I let my children listen to things on NPR, we sit and watch programs on Netflix and YouTube. We watch movies, sometimes that would be surprising to other parents. But I want to watch it WITH them, with my finger on the pause button so we can talk about it. We don't need to be afraid. We cannot shelter our kids. We must to a certain level, but we know people who won't let their 18 year old son go to the mall…with them! He might see an inappropriately dressed girl. They are setting him up for a fall. Our culture is wicked, but 2nd century Rome was a wicked place too. There was plenty of foul graffiti, prostitution, nude slaves being paraded in the market, sex religion etc… I remember thinking of all that as I walked around Pompeii. There were undoubtedly Christians there in AD79 when Vesuvius erupted and buried the town in ash. Even the ruins show it was a wicked city. We must shepherd our children, protect them, but prepare them. Morally speaking, our culture is only going to get worse.

So, we homeschool…also because we then have more control over our lives. I'm self-employed…I can work or not work when I want and my family is available if we have something we need or want to do. It's more efficient, we can cover in 1 hour more than they would get in 8 hours at school. We consider the socialization argument more or less not worthy of consideration. Peer based socialization does not reflect real life and actually can hinder an adolescent's ability to mature and interact with a full array of age groups and situations. We consider youth culture to be detrimental to a Christian family structure.

We believe Covenantally we are raising Christian children, preparing them for life….citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom. If things work as they should, my daughters will be wives and mothers. My sons will support their families doing something that feeds their families, something they can do with a clear conscience, and something I hope, they enjoy. It doesn't matter to me if they drive tow trucks or work in an office. What they need to do is be Christians and support their families.

Why do the Vision Forum people homeschool? Again, there are many more than just Phillips and the Vision Forum people. There are other parallel movements associated with them. Why? Because they want to produce soldiers, culture warriors to take Dominion. They are raising daughters to produce more warriors, sons to go out in conquer in the different spheres of Culture. In the Monistic view, all of culture is Holy, so the tasks whether they're hanging drywall, running a cash register, filing lawsuits, or passing legislation….it's all holy kingdom activity. If you've read any of my other posts you will know I profoundly disagree with this concept of the Kingdom. When I pump gas, I live as a Christian, but pumping gas isn't a Holy Kingdom building activity, it does not help the Kingdom of Righteousness to advance. It's not sin…but it's not holy either.

What do you find in Dominionist Homeschool Catalogs? Well, I would have to say it's largely propaganda and indoctrination type material. There's little in the way to really promote someone who thinks through why they believe. I know they would really disagree with me on that point, but it's pretty plain. Others have pointed this out as well. The idea with them seems to be to 'capture' or 'claim' parts of history, rather than the tell the truth…warts and all. Meta-narratives interpret history and politics, things are cast in pretty simple and clean cut terms. Anyone who has spent any time looking into these things will realize this is not an accurate view.

Don't we indoctrinate? On a certain level yes, but while I have no problem with parents who have their children memorize the Shorter Catechism or something like that, I would rather read through the Bible with my kids and repeatedly discuss everything with them. Then, I ask them questions when were out walking…our favourite family activity. I want to see those little cogs turn. I love it when they can come up with the answers on their own, rather than repeat something. Catechisms and confessions are wonderful tools, but not an end in and of themselves.

Further, we find it reprehensible that so many patriotic activities are encouraged in public school. They're writing letters to soldiers in Iraq, attending recruiter sponsored music events. We reject our children being indoctrinated with Nationalism and establishment views of American History. We reject them being taught to support crime and murder in foreign countries. So our rejection of Public School is for a complex of reasons…on the political spectrum (which is the level most Christians operate on)…they're too liberal, and in some ways too conservative.

But Vision Forum wraps the proverbial cross in the flag…to the point that you can't separate what's Christian from what's American. Somehow, Calvin founded America! Apparently they've not read about Geneva in the 16th century! I could go on and on regarding the Christian America view of history and theology. They have romanticized it to the point of a myth.

So we both homeschool but the reasons are different and the goals are different.

My wife stays home and doesn't have an outside career. Why?

Because the New Testament indicates as much in the epistles. I don't think Lydia is a model…but of course a widow or single woman would be a different matter. As far as Proverbs 31, a modern career woman is not in the scope of that passage. It's really just verse 16, and if you want to apply that literally, it still doesn't present the modern picture. That said, I am not one to tyrannize another's conscience. Other believers cannot ignore the Scriptures, they must interact with the text and at least give some account. After that, unless they are blatantly sinning…we need to hold our tongues and let the Spirit work. So if one of my Christian brothers allows his wife to work at the local grocery ten hours a week….I don't agree, but I'm not going to condemn him. It's not my place. If she's the career woman, and he's Mr. Mom....that's something quite different. We have to be careful and wise on these issues. The Scriptures teach something….but sometimes it is not as clear as some think….which is actually what I've come to expect. We must be careful not to turn wives working or any of these issues that are not 100% cut and dry into the gospel. In other words if I think my wife should stay home, I don't denounce others as being non-Christian because their wives work. God isn't done with any of us. What I'm looking for is a kindred spirit, one devoted to understanding Scripture, knowing God and applying these things to our lives. We're all at different points. I've met cold orthodox people who are doctrinally astute, well versed and well taught but seem to lack zeal, they're almost gripped by a cold apathy. That's rare, but I've seen it.

Rejecting the Egalitarian view of gender, we are often a bit disappointed in some of the sentiments of noted Complimentarians, but cannot fully agree with the tenets of what is called Biblical Patriarchy. Interestingly, Sacralism again seems to enter the equation. Women shouldn't run for office etc…Why? Because of the ecclesiastical arguments. If they can't lead in the church, they can't lead in the state. Remember…it's all Monistic. Kuyperian Sphere Sovereignty breaks it up a bit, trying to delineate tasks or roles for church, state, and family...but largely they fall back on the same type of Patriarchal and Sacralistic arguments of old.  It's akin to Knox's old trumpet blast meant for Mary Tudor to say a woman sovereign was a nation with no head…thus a monster. I'm referring to 'The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women' written in 1558.

Now these folks didn't like Sarah Palin and there was quite a buzz about this when she was running. Theonomists like Gary DeMar were supporting her while equally zealous Theonomists like Einwechter were against her. I too am very against Sarah Palin, because her Christianity is in reality false Americanism and she's one of the most dangerously ignorant people to even enter the American political scene. Am I against 'a' woman running for office? I'm not for or against…it doesn't have anything to do with me. Whether I live in China, America, or Rome doesn't matter. I'm sorry to see Christian women running for office, but if infidel women run…who cares? What do you expect? Lost people are going to act like lost people. Again to clarify, I don't want to see Christian women running….but I don't really see Christian men running either….not in our government. If Nancy Pelosi runs…her being a woman is not the issue to me.

I don't agree with their concepts of Dominionism and I fear for some of them producing children has become a supplemental if not a substitute gospel. What's really weird is that so many of them are Baptists! If you're a Baptist your children are pagan and you run a terrible risk they won't covert. It makes more sense in a paedo-context where you are raising your children as covenant members. Be fruitful and multiply has been taken to mean have as many kids as you can no matter what. And of course there is the Quiverfull movement appealing to Psalm 127. Children are blessings and we should never want to miss a blessing. I appreciate that and no doubt our culture is not always favourable to children. Although in other ways they've made children a golden calf.

Blessings can become curses when one tempts God. Again, we believe in letting Providence rule the course of things in our marriage and we are dissatisfied with the available means of restricting conception….but for these folks it seems to be…. make babies for conquest….for dominion. The reasons are very different.

The cultural mandate of Genesis 1 was severely modified by the Fall in Genesis 3. I believe our children are part of the covenant but I would say if there is a 'be fruitful and multiply' application in the New Testament it is encompassed in 'Make disciples in all nations….'

As far as tempting…well, watch the Duggars for example, they're part of this camp. See, you too can have 18 kids….except the Duggars are obviously millionaires. It sounds like they were pretty wealthy before….selling real estate (I could say something here but won't)….and then uh, marketing your family on television to make tens of thousands of dollars per episode? I know they think they're being a witness. Let me tell you something, lost people are not impressed. They either watch in morbid fascination as they would a freak show at the circus or they watch in fear as they see the Christian Right as a growing power. The Duggars scare them.

I'm not for a moment suggesting you have to live a middle class lifestyle or be rich to have a bunch of kids. Not for a second…but there are issues when you have 10 or 12 kids that people with smaller families don't even have to think about. There are housing laws, automobile laws etc….not everyone can have $150k bus to haul their family around in. It almost seems like the message is…look, it's easy, you can be just like us. Well, maybe. But a guy working at Wal-mart bringing home $10hr might have some real problems just trying to get by. A lot of stress there…a lot of strain on a marriage and family.

Most Reformed people seem to be quite well off…in America it seems to be largely a professional class movement…but not everyone is well off or even middle class. I do better than the Wal-mart guy, but our income would make a lot of people hyperventilate. Now if the Bible commands it…lifestyle, laws, and the rest don't enter the discussion….obedience is paramount. But if the Bible is being misapplied and misread…..what's happening here? We've seen families in chaos due to this doctrine. I know we could just say well they're in sin and need to get it together….maybe….but it could also be they're reaping the harvest of foolish choices.

So again, on the surface there are similarities but very different motivations.

Back to Christ and culture….

You see with this movement their apparent retreatism is actually not a strategy…but a tactic. Really they would belong in the Christ the Transformer of Culture category. They believe the American system will utterly collapse and from its ashes they will Reconstruct a new Western Christendom. David Engelsma of the PRC mentions listening to Rushdoony years ago speaking about this and his advice for Christians in light of impending civilization collapse?……..buy gold. Engelsma was right to point out how sad that was. It does indeed expose their rather base understanding of the Kingdom.

All is Holy and must be conquered, but the writing on the wall tells them it's time to hunker down and wait.

The Amish, Mennonites, and some of the Holiness groups believe in Separatism as a strategy. All is holy, so you can't corrupt yourself. Build a Christian sub-culture to keep from being polluted and made worldly.

Vision Forum and other Dominionists want to conquer….some believe conquer the existing…others seem to separate…almost like guerilla warfare. They can't win now, so they're going to flourish on the side and either take over from the rubble….or just plain outbreed them. They actually say that….again, another example of this becoming a substitute gospel.

I'm advocating a position that rejects both of the positions. Two kingdoms theology allows us to live in the world but not be of the world. I think it is the exact position outlined in the ancient epistle to Diognetus dating from the late 1st/early 2nd century…before the corruption had completely taken hold. The epistle mentions that Christians don't look different, dress different, things like that….but we act different. We live as foreigners in our own countries.

Several years ago I got a hold of RC Sproul Jr.'s Basement tapes and we started to listen to them. I so appreciated the spirit of those discussions and how they seemed to be thinking outside the box. I even spoke with him on the phone and we had been considering a move….suddenly Southwestern Virginia came into our radar. It sounded like a good place to go. I had already heard about the fallout of the Lancaster/Patriarch magazine group and it really started me thinking. On one level it seemed like we would have so much in common with the Sproul folks but then I began to realize the similarities really stop on the surface.

The fundamental reasons underlying why we do what we do are very different. Even the issue of family integrated worship so touted by these folks. In fact for some of them it has indeed become a mark of the church. In other words if you have Sunday School, you're not a church. I too reject Sunday School under the present model but because I believe the gathering of the church is regulated by Scripture not tradition, Sunday School being yet another innovation. With Vision Forum, it's a cultural critique that has led them to this position. They blame the fall of civilization and the church on the breakup up the family and have now gone to absolute extremes to stand against it. I wouldn't leave a church just because of Sunday School. If it bothers me and I don't want my kids colouring pictures of Jesus(which I don't) then fine, I won't send them. But family integration and making babies, good things to be sure….but not the gospel.

Again, we don't go to Sunday School, we don't send our kids to the children's church, they never were in the nursery…..but the reasons are different.

They use words like 'Biblical' for everything they do and promote the 'Sufficiency of Scripture,' as do I. But as T. David Gordon points out in his article, "The Insufficiency of Scripture," they've misunderstood this doctrine. In fact almost the entire Evangelical church has misunderstood it. The Scriptures are for the church…they give us everything we need for the Christian Life, Worship, Doctrine, Polity, Counseling etc….. But what do we have today?

Christian Life?….no the Scriptures aren't enough. We need personality tests, and every fad from What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD?), Promise Keepers, and Purpose-Driven Life.

Worship? No, simple Scripture delineated worship isn't good enough. We need to be relevant, we need praise teams, entertainment, architecture, and music… or High Church liturgy based on Old Testament models or invented dialogical models. It's not just the modern movements which reject Sufficiency when it comes to worship. Advocates of 'High' worship or 'Liturgical' worship can be just as guilty of innovation. Just because something is old doesn't make it right.

Doctrine? No, the Scriptures and a theology built on them aren't enough. We need endless self-help books, people taking trips to heaven and hell, and your best life now….or endless works from a Monistic framework creating a Cultural Theology. Books espousing the 'Biblical Worldview' on Economics, Politics, Art, and the rest……

Polity? No, the Bible only gets us started. Today, we need small groups, regional bodies, denominations, hierarchies, and ministries, ministries, ministries.

Counseling? The Bible is woefully inadequate to the modern Church. Apparently we need psychology, Christian yoga, psychosomatic drugs….whatever.

Hardly anyone seems to believe the Bible is SUFFICIENT for the church. They act like it is INSUFFICIENT. But then when it comes to culture….they scream for the Bible. BUT….
The Bible is NOT sufficient for economics, politics, government, physics etc….

That's not what it's for. It informs us as Christians how we are interact with and understand the world. It tells us how we as Christians are to approach economics and government, but it doesn't give us models to build Christian macro- or social systems. It was never meant for that, and thus in that sense it is INSUFFICIENT. Those that try and use the Bible this way are abusing its message.

And it's funny once you abandon Sacralism, some of these things are not terribly important. These things belong to the natural law realm…they will always fail and be imperfect because we live in a fallen world.

I've said this in other posts but I'll say it again. The Bible does not lay out an economic theory. The Mosaic Code was a picture of Jesus Christ established for a true Theocracy. You can't slice and dice the Covenantal Law into categories like civil and ceremonial. Everything was Holy. It wasn't a Sacral State…it was a Theocracy, ruled by God…through His typological proxy kings, mediated through his priests and prophets….types of Christ all. It was a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, Eden re-visited….with a Sabbath and everything. It's not meant for the life of the church nor was it ever meant for the Gentile nations, not then, not now.

It's not because I just don't like the Law and I have some kind of Libertarian notions. It's a doctrinal issue. Just like it would rightly offend us if someone tried to perform a Jewish Sacrifice in the middle of our Sunday Morning meeting….because it would blaspheme Christ and be tantamount to saying He hasn't come. In the SAME way, trying to impose Mosaic law also says the One Greater Than Moses has not come.

The Bible doesn't teach Capitalism…nor does it teach Socialism. As Christians, well Acts certainly taught a communitarianism…but that's for us, not for the world. If there is an application of Moses for today, that would be for us, not for the world. Our Christian economics are for the church….telling us how to live. It's not a macro-system for American society. Loving your neighbour as yourself and giving sacrificially doesn't look very good to the stockholders, nor would it make for sound fiscal policy. That's fine. The commandments aren't meant for the Federal Reserve in its attempts to make policy.

The gospel message is for them and if Ben Bernanke embraces it, then the reality is...he'll probably resign. He will recognize the systemic corruption, the glorification of greed and avarice and the wickedness and injustice of the American economic system. He's not going to redeem the Federal Reserve. While that kind of abandonment is unacceptable to a Dominionist, from my perspective someone like that stepping down and denouncing the system speaks loudly and would represent a powerful manifestation of Salt and Light teaching.

Can't the Theonomists see the so-called ceremonial law is a picture of Redemptive Blessing and the so-called civil or penal sanctions are a picture of Judgment curse? They go together or it destroys the picture. How can you separate them and say this part continues and this part is fulfilled and passes away. It's a unit! Who gives you the right to do that?

The Bible doesn't teach a Constitutional Republic, Social Democracy, Limited Monarchy, Oligarchy nor the Plutocracy that is the United States. It teaches us to understand the powers that be are ordained by God. Romans 13 is not a positive doctrinal statement laying out the functions of a limited state. That's not the context. It's a guide for Christians to function under any government.

The Bible doesn't teach us science. It teaches us how to be Christians which we would take with us if we are scientists.

My point to this rambling aside was to show that there are many who say Sufficiency but aren't willing to apply it where it is Sufficient, and force it where it is not. What would motivate someone to try and force the Scriptures to apply to non-redemptive culture and society? Sacralism drives these other categories not found in Scripture.

So just because we have a bunch of kids, that we homeschool, my wife stays home and likes to wear long skirts (she just likes them), we live out in the country, and talk about the Sufficiency of Scripture does not mean we are anything ideologically near others who do so.

With some hesitancy I recommend for those wanting to understand groups like Vision Forum a little better, go to Wikipedia and look up Biblical Patriarchy. There is a link there which will take you to a video by Cynthia Kunsman where she criticized groups like Vision Forum. A word of warning, she's certainly not very conservative in her theology…..at the end she includes incorporates a great deal of un- and anti-Biblical psychology…and she gets hung up on a Trinitarian issue that I think she misunderstands.

Just because she adheres to psychology as she does, and is perhaps a bit of a feminist does not negate the picture she paints of Vision Forum. She seems to more or less understand them. On this issue she definitely sees the forest through the trees. She needs to learn something of the sufficiency of Scripture and then she would abandon the psychology. If she wishes to defeat the arguments of Theonomic Dominionist Patriarchy, the Scriptures are sufficient. One doesn't need to turn to psychology to help pick apart their thought processes.

As far as the Trinity, she seems upset Biblical Patriarchy references the Trinity as a fundamental concept to the ordering of the family. They appeal to the economic relations between the Persons. She seems to believe this is Subordinationism (a tendency leading to tri-theism)…which if it was, it would be heresy, but I don't think they're guilty of it. She seems to only see the Ontological Trinity, the Divine Unity and rejects an economy among the persons…not the essence or substance, as the words have been historically employed... but the way in which the relations are revealed to us and how each Person functions.

Some might accuse her of Sabellianism or Modalism. She's just concerned to keep Christ equal to the Father. The dynamic (or dialectic) of the Ontological and Economic Trinity is quite orthodox. This is not the issue with Vision Forum.

This movement is growing in popularity and just adds another piece to the very confusing mosaic of not just Protestant Christianity but Reformed variations or mini-factions. The reason I wanted to talk about this is it is very relevant right now…and as I talk more about the medieval underground, and if there are apparent similarities to groups like Vision Forum I want to show the superficiality of the comparisons. My family on the surface might look like it would fit in at a Vision Forum gathering…but actually we are completely opposed to them.

In fact if these groups ever got into power I would be part of the underground resistance. It's a false doctrine of the Kingdom and very dangerous. They would recast the Medieval Order….I would go underground like my spiritual forebears.

One final note…with many of them there is a hostility to the concept of public schooling. I've expressed my opinion on the subject. I understand from the standpoint of the state why they have an interest in seeing that children receive something of an education. Of course the public system has become something of a bad joke and I won't deny it serves certain integrationist purposes….another reason for us not to participate. But I find it hard to believe if these people ever actually did take over the United States that they would be willing to allow Leftists, Hippies, Anarchists, whatever….to school their children exactly how they would want. Are they going to allow Marxists to set up charter schools? Public School has always been until recent times a Protestant Sacralist endeavour. Knox and Calvin's Geneva had early forms of it, but its first serious undertaking was in diehard Protestant (Lutheran and Calvinistic) Prussia. Due to their geopolitical situation they needed a strong unified militaristic state and compulsory public education was a strategy to help form that social unity. Without a doubt it did much to form the 19th and early 20th century German character as Prussia became the dominant force in German affairs. I find it really hard to believe these folks wouldn't repeat that. They want everyone to integrate and that can only be achieved by getting the young, the next generation indoctrinated.

1 comment:

Lisa Brabant said...

Well, there's a lot in this post one could comment on but I just want to say as a homeschool mom - thanks for saying the things you did.
I'm the email sender of our group of Christian homeschoolers and sometimes the things I pass on make me cringe. I won't pass on anything political but sometimes it's borderline.
It's great to be part of a group and participate in field trips together and science fairs and other clubs - but I'm often finding myself feeling out of place.
I hear a lot of positive talk about the Duggars (I've never seen their show) and a lot of Americanist talk...it's sad.