27 December 2010

A Kingdom discussion at GreenBaggins

Here's a rather extensive record of a good series of exchanges over at Green Baggins. No one changed anyone's mind, but it's yet another good example of the issues at stake and how someone like me pursues them vs. those who hold to what we would call the Christian Right. These interactions/comment threads seem to generate interest and some of you seem to find them helpful. This one has a different tone than the exchange last night on this site.

The conversation was good, a little depressing from my standpoint....but I'm pleased it stayed pretty civil. I'm afraid in the end my theology was pegged as Anabaptist....which if you've read anything here, you'll know that while I have some sympathy with them, there's much of their theology that I don't share. I'm not a Baptist to start with.

The Anabaptists picked up a vital part of the proto-Protestant mantle, but in reaction to the new Constantinianism birthed by the Protestant Reformation, they went too far in some of their theological constructs. Verduin talks about how some of this played out in The Reformers And Their Stepchildren. The whole baptism issue for the Anabaptists was really more about baptism being tied in with state citizenship vs. a theology that allowed children to be part of the Church. The latter they were not totally opposed to from the onset. But over time they moved toward a more hard line Credo-Baptist position....believer's baptism only. Children were in no way part of the visible manifestation of the Body.---That's my interpretation of how things developed. Modern day Anabaptists may differ. Verduin himself seemed to agree with what I'm saying. He seemed to lament the rift that took place in Zurich. The issue wasn't really about Baptism....it was Zwingli's refusal to set aside the Sacralist-Constantinian legacy of the Middle Ages.
The original post can be found here.

One of the commentors posted a critique of me and my website. It's down at the bottom. I'll post that separately at a later time. For those of you who care to wade through it all...enjoy and I hope you'll find some benefit in this conversation.

It actually was dealing with an issue peculiar to Reformed Confessionalism. I entered the discussion with the following post:

John A. said,

December 22, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Of course to many in the Reformed world, the PCA long ago ceased to be a Reformed denomination.

What is Reformed? The 5 pts? Luther was certainly Augustinian. That wasn’t the issue. Reformed meant a lot more than that.

Does Reformed mean 19th century Princetonian and Southern Theology? I know many in other shall we say smaller Reformed spheres who have been chased out of the PCA because they zealously guard the WCF on many points….e.g the Solstice Day many will celebrate in a couple of days. Constantine, the reason for the season didn’t fly with the Olde Westminster crowd.

I appreciate the spirit of the inquiry, but it seems to often everyone sits around and argues confessional traditions, when I don’t think the modern denominations reflect the tone, spirit, and certainly not the method behind the construction of those confessions.

Or has Reformed come to mean a body of denominations with numerous broad traditions rather than a way of thinking about the Bible and applying it to the life of the Church?

I am more concerned when I see Reformed people selling out (in my opinion) to champion Nationalism, appearing on Glenn Beck and holding hands with Focus on the Family and other Christo-American (Constantinian) power-seeking groups.

Unity and Peace may be the idolatries of the day, but Factionalism and power-seeking (gatekeeping being a means to that end) are idolatries that have plagued the Church since Apostolic times.

Someone finally responded much later, but what was addressed was my comments regarding Glenn Beck. And so it began......

Pilgrimsarbour said,

December 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm

John A.,

Regarding your comment about appearing on the Glenn Beck show being a kind of theological “selling out;” I’m assuming, if I’m not mistaken, that you’re referring to Dr. Peter Lillback’s appearance some months ago.

I had a conversation with my Westminster friends at church, some of whom thought it was a bad idea and some of whom thought it was fine. Those opposed to the idea are not American citizens and have a tendency to be highly critical of all things dealing with American politics. They actively tried to persuade Dr. Lillback not to go. My own position is that any opportunity to reach a national audience with the gospel is a God-ordained opportunity and is not to be eschewed. Afterward, when I asked my one friend what he thought of Dr. Lillback’s appearance on the show, he replied, “Well, at least it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.” I laughed because his disdain for Beck makes him unwilling to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in this situation to proclaim His word to a very large television audience. I should add, merely by way of information, that that one appearance tremendously boosted the sales of Lillback’s book, George Washington’s Sacred Fire,>/i> to the point that Amazon ran out of copies and new hard cover editions had to be printed.

Whatever we may think of Beck and his admittedly badly flawed theology, I think too many Reformed folks are needlessly in hysterics over Beck’s nationalistic influence. Our duty is to proclaim God’s Word and to help ensure that people do not confuse the gospel with national pride, not exactly a new problem in our culture.

American civil religion has been with us for centuries and will continue as long as the country does. Diligence. Consistency. Tireless efforts to educate, assist and help people to understand the Scriptures. That is our task. Let’s use every means to clarify God’s Word. Going on the Glenn Beck show does no more to legitimise his belief system than James White does to John Shelby Spong’s or Bart Ehrman’s belief systems by debating them in public.

Blessings in Christ,


John A. said,

December 26, 2010 at 5:56 pm


Thanks for the well thought out response. Yes, I was referring to Lillback and to Beisner as well.

I realize Civil Religion has always been part of the post-Revolution American experience, but I don’t think we should be content with that. I would argue that it’s a huge problem for the Church and has led to massive confusion. I think we should listen to Trueman and others like him. It’s healthy for us to listen to someone from outside our culture. Britain especially, because though they’re outside, they can easily understand our culture and relate to it. He’s pretty calm and level-headed about it, much more than I would be.

While I certainly reject Beck’s Mormonism, with equal fervour I reject his nationalism. Christians cannot be nationalists. As a rival ‘-ism’, I would argue it sets up a parallel religion that can sure look very similar to our own and before long we’re confusing American ideas and values with those of the Bible… then we go looking for them in the Scripture to vindicate our position. I’m not saying everyone is guilty of that. I’m just saying it’s a danger. We need to be a Pilgrim people which is really incompatible with what’s happening right now in the Christian Right.

God can use any situation and we should be keen to take advantage of opportunities that are given. But with FOX it gets a little iffy from my standpoint. Fox is not really trying to be a valid news organization. It’s agenda is pretty patent and many Christians have confused the Christo-American/Fox worldview with Biblical Christianity. I think it would be good to stay away. Rather than educate I think it does more to confuse.

Going on Beck with his specific Americo-Theological outlook is akin to sitting in the Pythia’s seat at Delphi. You can preach ‘at’ Delphi….but shouldn’t sit ‘with’ the Pythia to proclaim the gospel. It’s another religion. In fact Beck is worse, because it looks far more Christian than Delphi ever did.

I know you won’t agree, but I appreciate the sober reply as well as the thought you gave to it. But I think we would both agree, this whole issue has huge implications.

Pilgrimsarbour said,

December 26, 2010 at 6:32 pm

John A.,

Thanks for your response. I’m mindful of the difficulties in explaining to the brethren why American nationalism is not the gospel. On the other hand, I’m not willing to throw out patriotic pride altogether for the sake of the abuses that can result from such thinking. I agree, however, that the whole issue has huge implications. I just think that the attending problems are not insurmountable.

You said: Fox is not really trying to be a valid news organization.

I respectfully say, nonsense. Are you sure you’re not swallowing all the leftist media claptrap about Fox being invalid as a news orgainisation, whereas MSNBC is the quintessential example of veracity? You ever see Olbermann and Schultz? Oy vey! Everybody has an agenda, but we need to discriminate between the opinion commentators and the hard news crew. I address some of this, if you’re interested, in my review of Carl Trueman’s latest book Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative. You may read it here, if you wish:


Carl told me today that he recently went on a right-wing radio host’s program and had a very good time. The questions were general, but good, and his answers regarding his criticisms of the left were well appreciated. He told me the name of the person, but I had not heard of her, and I’ve forgotten her name. He said he would send me a link to her website.

I’m thinking, if even Trueman can go on a right-wing show to proclaim the gospel, then my ideas may be enjoying some kind of vindication! :-)

Blessings in Christ,


John A. said,

December 26, 2010 at 9:08 pm


Yes, I will check out the review. I would be very interested.

MSNBC as just as atrocious as Fox. I agree. Neither are very concerned with presenting the facts accurately so that we can discern the truth.

As Christians I think we should refuse the provided paradigms. I don’t really find Left or Right to be acceptable. As a citizen of the heavenly Kingdom, I want to look at all these issues in way that excludes the American lens. I think we can form of Biblical view of the fallen world, realize all systems fail, all towers end up becoming Babels, and all nations become Babylon. The only Holy nation is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. We can’t split our allegiances right or are we going to try and say a fallen kingdom of the Common Grace order is in sync with the Gospel imperative of the Kingdom?

There are some excellent news outlets available, but I think Trueman is right….the best source is multiple sources.

So if I’m not patriotic, some will say I’m extreme left. But leftists will accuse me of being extreme right. We shouldn’t be either. We should reject the paradigm. That’s not being irrelevant. The gospel message is always relevant and can speak to anyone anywhere and nationalism, patriotism, and/or cultural superiority should never be factors in this. If we’re including those in the gospel, we’re in trouble. I’m not accusing you of that, but I certainly would many others. I think all forms Constantinianism are in error whether it be the Left of Wallis and Campolo or the Right of DJ Kennedy and Richard Land. And thus, a news outlet that supports that even if implicitly….should be avoided.

I just can’t find patriotic pride to be compatible with Scripture. Where do we find that?

As for me,….. I’m a Mayflower descendant, with settlers in Virginia and Pennsylvania as well. One of my grandfathers fought in the Pequot War and settled Connecticut. My ggggg-father fought in the French and Indian War, and then fought in the Revolution with all of his sons. One of my ggg-fathers was a Confederate Cavalryman in Arkansas, another was a Union soldier at Vicksburg. Did I mention the War of 1812?

My grandparents were pioneers in the West, one ggg-father came west for the gold rush. I have a nice picture of my young uniformed grandfather standing in Paris in 1945. I’m even a veteran myself, though not proud of it. If you’ll bear with my foolishness you can see I have plenty to be patriotic about, but I believe I need to count it all as dung.

Trueman’s a charitable guy. I could learn a thing or two from him. It doesn’t surprise me that things would go well for him on a show like that. We don’t have to be afraid of people like Beck, but I don’t think we should any way appear to endorse his message.

Darrell Todd Maurina said,

December 27, 2010 at 4:13 am

I woke up this morning and found my in-box filled with email by people who are saying FOX News isn’t trying to be a news organization and who are saying they’re veterans but not proud of it.

I’ve got better things to do with my time this morning, but frankly I’m angry and I’m going to take time I don’t have to say something that needs to be said.

Guys, I’m a right-wing Calvinist by any definition of the word. I’m also a reporter living and working outside Fort Leonard Wood. That’s the home of the Army Engineer School (think of the efforts to stop the improvised explosive devices that are the major killer of our soldiers in Iraq), the Army Chemical, Biological, Nuclear and Radiological School (think of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, plus trying to identify the nuclear weapons sites in Iran and North Korea) and the Military Police School (think re-training our MPs to prevent another Abu Ghraib debacle — our two-star general who commands the post is the one who had to clean up that mess a few years ago).

Believe me, living and working in a community where “green suiters,” their families, and military retirees are the majority of the population, I’m more aware of the problems of the modern American military than most.

I also have a wife whose mother was in a South Korean village when it was overrun by the North Korean Communists, and whose brother served in the South Korean Special Forces. My niece is planning to enlist in the Army soon, even being fully aware there’s a very good chance she’ll end up in combat in the near future, and given her Korean fluency, quite possibly part of a major war in the Korean peninsula.

Frankly, if American Christians aren’t grateful for the freedom to worship given us by the United States Constitution, we’re nothing but ungrateful wretches who deserve a good kick in the teeth. Sorry for being blunt, but it’s true. Go ask a few victims of Communist aggression or Islamofascist persecution, what they think about the alternatives to American freedom and democracy.

If you know a veteran, go thank him or her today (unless, of course, he’s not proud of his service — he’s earned the right to his opinions and they need to be respected).

If you know someone on active duty, ask if there’s anything you can do to help — at this time of year, a prepaid phone card for families is often a good choice.

And if you have a son or daughter who is considering the military, make sure they know what they’re doing, but also remember that if it weren’t for the sacrifices of previous generations who served in uniform, you wouldn’t be speaking English today and there’s a very good chance your church building would be a pile of rubble and you’d be hiding your Bible in the floorboards to keep it away from the secret police.

I think it was Winston Churchill who said that democracy is the worst system in the world — except for all the alternatives. I happen to think that Puritan New England, Calvin’s Geneva, or Knox’s Scotland might have been a little better places than modern America, but we don’t have those alternatives today, and reading Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, or the histories of Calvin or Knox, makes clear that their civil affairs weren’t exactly a piece of cake, either.

For those Reformed people who want to join the “attack America first” crowd, I’ll pay attention to you when you show me someplace else in the world where you have greater freedom to criticize the government combined with greater cultural support for the basics of Biblical Christianity.

I think I’ll be waiting a long time before you can give me a better example in the modern world, though I’ll fully grant that there have been better examples at other times in history.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 6:40 am


This is a helpful example of what I’m talking about. We need to reject the paradigm. Since we’ve been raised in American culture and shaped not by the Bible but by its values by default we think this way. Why is it that if I don’t like Fox News and the Christian Right, I therefore must be a communist or pro-Islamic? It doesn’t follow. The conclusions are flowing out of a model given to us by society and the media.

We may have very different views of current events and history which I would argue are within the realm of Christian liberty, but I don’t think you would reciprocate.

Pretend for a moment were in the 2nd century….

We need to be thankful for the legions stationed here in Pannonia. They’re leading the charge against those awful Dacians and Marcomanni across the border. They’re defending us and working out the methods of warfare that will teach those people to submit. They even have a new general who’s training them to prevent another massacre, like the kind that was depicted on Trajan’s column.

If Roman Christians aren’t thankful for the defense the legions give to us, then we’re just wretched. Go thank a member of the legions today. Rome is the greatest place in the world……..


Now if you don’t like the analogy, apply it to the Constantinian era and the Persian wars. Let’s just say the Christians in Persia weren’t terribly thrilled with Roman policy. It caused them considerable grief.

Obviously you’re very passionate in your love for America, but where does the Bible teach me to think this way about a country in the common grace order? Would you be equally fervent if you lived in Italy, or Austria? Do you think Christians there put flags up in their churches and sing nationalistic songs during worship? I’m not saying you do that, but I think everyone knows what I’m talking about, or at least I hope so. Where does the Bible teach us that we’re to be caught up in political factionalism? If we were in Byzantium should he have been cheering for the red or the blues? It seems absurd to us because we’re not in that context. Don’t you think for Christians in other lands they might find our way of structuring our view of the world in a similar manner?

Pilgrimsarbour said,

December 27, 2010 at 8:17 am

John A.,

Thanks for taking the time to engage me in a (to me) very interesting discussion.

To clarify my position, I do not believe that love of country is the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor is it any part of the gospel. However, nor do I believe that love of country is by default sinful and is to be avoided at all costs. As with anything in life, it needs to be assessed as to its benefits. If it takes priority over the gospel then it needs to be modified or abandoned. Love of country is a natural, tangible expression of gratitude to the Lord Christ for His grace and providence in the lives of His children. Even those living in dire circumstances with cruel governments experience a love of country; it is part of the human condition. My guess is, as Dennis Prager would say, that you are a part of the modern American university system and all that entails. :-)

I don’t know what happened to you that you would find your military service to have been something of which you are not proud. I don’t need to know. I can tell you, though, that that is relatively rare among veterans; my father (WW II) and brother (West Point, ’76–Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq) are two that I know who would be sorry to hear that. But as I said, we don’t need to get into that, especially since I cannot discuss it from the experience of a veteran; I was too young for Vietnam and too old for the Gulf, and never felt led by Christ to serve in that way.

I find myself in the strange and oft-repeated position of trying to pull out of the person with whom I’m having a discussion anything specific about Beck, O’Reilly, Hannity, Krauthammer, Hume, Wallace–or any other conservative opinion commentator or straight journalist on Fox which is so offensive, wrong-headed and fallacious that they are to be dismissed out-of-hand. I can tell you right off the bat how I feel about each, and my reasons are mixed. I like some, and others I don’t really get how they made it there. But I must tell you that statements like Fox is not really trying to be a valid news organization strike me as pedantic, a parroting of the jealous common criticisms heard from the main stream media cable competitors who find their audiences steadily dwindling. Please forgive me, but it doesn’t seem well thought out when compared with your other reasonable comments.

Can you give me a specific example of what burns your wings so about these people aside from the occasional jackassery comment that can be found anywhere in print, online or on television? I’ll tell you straight that I can’t get my “foreign” friends to be specific. It’s all general impressions with them, which I find quite unsatisfying, and certainly has at least as much to do or more with cultural issues and what they’re familiar with than it does with theoretical/ethical/moral/theological concerns. On the other hand, both the BBC’s and the CBC’s anti-American bias and sentiment is well-documented and is something to which I can point as a pervasive taint on their newscasts and on their entertainment programming. Are we to think that being exposed to that kind of thing their whole lives has no bearing on their thinking? Let’s just say I don’t dare bring this up:




As far as Carl is concerned, he mentions O’Reilly in his book as having once used the term “socialist” in what he considered to be an inappropriate context. Uh, okay. So that means he’s a troglodyte, and all Fox people are clever and insidious propagandists? I’m a bit confused as to how they can be both clever and insidious and yet stupid nitwits at the same time (something of which George Bush was regularly accused by the left). I’ve never found anyone who could explain that to me. And as far as Beck is concerned, I don’t have any idea why someone like yourself would consider him to be someone of whom we might have cause to be afraid.

I say fear the Lord instead, and make it a point to proclaim the gospel without the nationalistic baggage that often accompanies it in today’s America. I don’t say throw out all nationalistic or patriotic baggage–merely assign them their proper place.

Go on Beck’s show. Go on Hannity’s. Go on O’Reilly’s. Proclaim the gospel with boldness. For that matter, go on Hardball. Go on Rachel Maddow’s show, or Ed Schultz’s, or even the program of that wretched refuse of reactionism, Keith Olbermann. If I were offered the opportunity (and I can’t think of a reason in the world that I would be since I am nobody) I would thank God and grab it with fear and trembling. Talk about why the gospel must not be confused with nationalism or patriotism. Make waves. Get people thinking. Make some new enemies. And maybe a new friend or two. But do it because it’s the right thing to do in advancing the Kingdom for Christ.

I believe in American exceptionalism because of God’s sovereignty and His decree, not because we as a people are especially meritorious. Quite the contrary, to be biblical and truthful about undeserved grace and mercy. There’s the difference. Don’t reject it out-of-hand, explain it, define it properly under the rubric of Reformed theology.

See what you’ve done now? You’ve gone and got me all worked up! :-)

End of lecture.

Blessings in Christ and no worries,


Darrell Todd Maurina said,

December 27, 2010 at 8:36 am

First off, it’s interesting you ask how I would react if I were Italian or Austrian. Maurina is an Italian name, and my family comes from a part of northern Italy that Austria continued to control until the end of World War I. My father grew up during World War II with his mother and father both working in the city of Flint in the war defense plants. I have other relatives who participated in the American invasion and subsequent occupation of Italy. Questions of what it means to be a loyal American when one is not an Anglo-Saxon dating back to the Mayflower are not unfamiliar to me or my father’s family. (Unlike my father, my mother does have ancestry dating back to the English Nonconformists, though they came to the American colonies after Cromwell’s efforts failed, not as part of the founding generations of Puritan New England.)

More importantly, however, if the only thing you said was that you don’t like FOX News, I would not have written what I did.

Rupert Murdoch is not Marvin Olasky and FOX is not World Magazine, and I can also make a long list of things I don’t like about FOX. (Olasky too, but that’s a very short list.) The problems go beyond the mere fact that Murdoch is a secular conservative rather than a Christian conservative. He doesn’t even support traditional conservative secular morality; his “sex sells” model of television journalism appeals to some of the very worst elements of the Southern conservative culture. Murdoch’s model of entertainment journalism, if consistently followed, would lead to the “Page Three Girls” that his newspapers have in England. Murdoch is not stupid, and he knows he can’t do that here without antagonizing his primary audience, so he takes partial steps to attract audiences without antagonizing religious leaders. Furthermore, anyone like Murdoch who divorces his wife of many years to marry a woman young enough to be his daughter who has serious ties to the Chinese Communist Party is certainly worthy of a ctitical eye for political as well as moral reasons.

However, your objections are to much more than just FOX News.

I don’t know you personally so I can’t and won’t comment on your motives, but I get very frustrated when I see conservative Bible-believing Reformed Christians joining the “blame America first” crowd.

I am quite capable of joining you in pointing out lots of problems with the United States. What’s the point? Have Reformed people adopted a perfectionist attitude in our views of civil affairs despite the fact that our ecclesiology teaches us, correctly so, that churches are always more or less pure? Why should we expect perfection from the civil realm when we know better than to expect it in the ecclesiastical realm?

Furthermore, can we not recognize the obvious fact that, for all its many flaws, there is no major nation in the modern world with a culture which is currently more favorable toward the Gospel than the United States?

I readily grant that there are some countries in the modern world that are at least arguably more Christian than the United States. It’s quite possible that several Latin American countries will turn into a Pentecostal version of the American Bible Belt in the next century, and South Korea is already far more Christian in its cultural and ecclesiastical life than most of the United States. It’s possible that something similar could happen in some parts of Africa and Asia. On the other hand, there are numerous countries where, like the United States, people have every right to criticize their government and worship freely.

However, there is no other major country in the modern world with a long history of freedom of speech and freedom of worship whose culture is anywhere near as supportive of historic Christianity as the United States. South Korea is one generation away from a military dictatorship and has no tradition of popular suffrage. Latin America and Africa are full of corrupt and despotic regimes. Perhaps with time Christianity will change their political cultures, but that takes generations, not just a few years.

Coming from a family which has been involved in politics long before I was born, I am painfully aware of how bad things have gotten in our political classes in the United States and how apathetic too many citizens are who have the ability to use their votes to fix the problems, but do not.

You ask whether as a Christian in Rome, I would be an uncritical advocate of Roman patriotism because of its fight against the barbarians on the frontiers. Of course not! Rome was persecuting the church, and modern America is doing nothing of the sort — at least not yet.

I’m also anything but an uncritical advocate of America. As America continues to deteriorate, there may very well be a day that Christians need to regard the American civil government as an evil and oppressive anti-Christian band of persecutors, in which case ordinary citizens or subjects need to adopt the stance which Christians have taken for centuries under persecution, namely, praying for their government. God forbid that it ever gets to that point, but if things ever deteroriate that badly, Christians in the role of lesser magistrates, following Knox’s correct understanding of the role of lesser magistrates in defending their citizens against evil sovereigns, will have to make some very difficult decisions.

However, as long America remains a free republic in which citizens have the ability to affect policy by our votes, and in which we have freedom to worship God according to the Scriptures, we need to do whatever we can to preserve those rights.

There’s a wing of Reformed Christianity which, in just the last few years, seems to have decided to follow the world-fight model of the fundamentalists, or worse yet, the Anabaptists. I frankly don’t understand that. I sincerely hope it’s not what you’re saying.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 9:19 am


I appreciate the response.

I think you may have missed my point on the heritage bit. I was simply trying to say that I as much as anyone should be true-blue patriotic, but when I became a Christian, it suddenly didn’t matter anymore. When I start focusing on those things, I start becoming proud…I don’t need that.

I’m not advocating ‘blame America first,’ nor am I looking for perfection. It can’t be found in any nation. I’m content living here, but as a Christian I had better be content living in Tanzania, Spain, or Iran as well. That doesn’t mean I have a Biblical imperative to join their political factions and foster nationalistic passions about those countries. I think you would argue that America is different from those other countries, but there are many, myself included who don’t think so. Most countries are a mix of good and bad. That’s life in a fallen world.

As Christians we turn to the Bible, so again I ask, where do I find sanction, justification, or even a positive statement that promotes nationalism? If I’m morally bound as a good citizen to be patriotic and nationalistic in America, then doesn’t it follow that would be equally true for a Christian in France…or even Iran? I think…I don’t want to put words in your mouth….you would say American is a Christian country in some form? If so, I would have to ask…what is that? Where do I find a doctrine that teaches Common Grace nations can somehow become Christian?

As far as America being favourable to the Gospel? Well, that depends on how you look at it. Sure in terms of civil freedom, the United States has a fairly decent record. But from another perspective I could say the United States is positively hostile to the Biblical gospel. But that really isn’t the salient point. South Korea is very favourable to the gospel. Does that mean I should be a South Korean nationalist if I lived there. If so, for what Biblical reason?

As far as Rome, so does that mean Christians should be nationalistic and patriotic in any country that isn’t actively persecuting the Church? I’m not sure I see your point.

Where can I read about lesser magistrates in Scripture? It seems to me that’s an argument built on several layers of assumption.

I’m not an Anabaptist, but I do believe as pilgrims and strangers on the earth we pray for the peace of the city, and like the Jewish exiles in Babylon, we build our houses and live our lives, and support the city….yes, even wicked Babylon. But we sure don’t support Babylon in its deeds, even when she doesn’t persecute us directly, and we don’t ever confuse Babylon with Israel

dgh said,

December 27, 2010 at 9:25 am

John A., as a Rush listener might say, “mega dittos.”

Stuart said,

December 27, 2010 at 10:09 am

John A.,

I do believe as pilgrims and strangers on the earth we pray for the peace of the city, and like the Jewish exiles in Babylon, we build our houses and live our lives, and support the city….yes, even wicked Babylon. But we sure don’t support Babylon in its deeds, even when she doesn’t persecute us directly, and we don’t ever confuse Babylon with Israel.

I appreciate your attempts to clarify what I think we both believe a Christian’s response to nationalism should be. And so with dgh I would give my “mega dittos” as well.

As I have tried on numerous occasions to engage this issue with others, I’ve found nationalism to be a particularly stubborn idol in the hearts of many. Any challenge given to this nationalism usually ends up with someone being called unpatriotic or ungrateful to live in America. It’s a very touchy subject with some, especially if you live in a mostly Republican, military town in the South (as I currently do).

We should be grateful as Americans (Scripture calls us to be thankful in all circumstances including the circumstances of the nation in which we live), but we should also remember our citizenship is primarily eschatological. Yes we are citizens of the nation in which we live, but we are citizens of the age to come first and foremost. And so if we are going to pledge ultimate allegiance to any kingdom, it should be Christ’s kingdom. And that kingdom, whether we like it or not, will always be in contrast with the kingdoms of this age.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 12:19 pm


Great conversation, I agree. These are good things to talk about. It’s not always a bad thing to get worked up.

I’m not in any way saying we have to hate where we live or despise our heritage. I like most here love history, but it’s always frustrating. It doesn’t satisfy. No one is really ever fully in the right…or the wrong. It’s hard to cheer on any side. That may sound wishy-washy, but the fallen world is a complicated mess. I think when we over-simplify—which I believe Nationalism does—we start down a wrong path.

Your comments here show that you’re not oversimplifying and though we disagree, I respect what you’re saying.

Well with Beck he starts with…America is Good. That’s plank #1 of his manifesto. I’m afraid I have a theological difficulty with that. He, like O’Reilly treat certain realms….patriotism, the military, and other American icons as sacred and untouchable. There’s just certain areas that you can’t venture into….you can’t even begin to question. Everything by moral necessity has to be viewed through this American lens. That may be good for this common nation, but I don’t think it’s good for the Holy One of which we are a part.

If we were talking about the Incarnation or something I would be sympathetic to such rigidity, but to ascribe a de facto sacred status to American interpretations of certain historical events, the integrity of certain American persons, and viewing everything through a lens which says America is the altruistic good guy….and everyone else either wears a black cowboy hat or needs to get in line, is really problematic to me.

‘My country right or wrong’ is not compatible with a Christian view of a fallen world. Thankfully you’re not saying that by any means, but I think we all know there are many who do….and Fox seems to promote that. And to many Fox is practically speaking the Christian news station.

I see Fox as largely contributing to a climate of fear. I personally know people that are on the verge of a nervous breakdown because they’re avid Beck watchers but don’t have the discernment to see that he’s misusing basic terms, and most of what he’s saying is based on conjecture, and lots of non sequitirs based on this conjecture, mixed with circumstantial evidence. People are demonized because they don’t share the America is Good lens. Now, you’ll disagree and to dive into the nitty-gritty details is another matter. I’m trying to explain what I see….knowing you’re not going to concur.

With O’Reilly if you verge into one of those sacred areas, it’s time to cut the mike. Rather than honest discussion, he shouts people down. I don’t find an honest attempt at reporting the news or discussing it. He tells you what to think and has the text alongside to support it. If people understood these shows to be commentary that would be one thing (still not a good,) but most fans I talk to seem to believe these people are reporting the news. They’re telling it like it is. Are they clever? Yes and no. These people are a product, a presentation, a package. There are many people behind them and contributing to what they’re doing.

I don’t dismiss them out of hand, but I find Olbermann and the Fox crew to be two sides of the same coin. I’m saying toss the coin in the rubbish bin. Both groups have wrong worldviews. Neutrality is impossible, but news organizations can do a little better than that. I’m not sure why you would think the BBC is anti-American. I’ve been a BBC reader and listener for years and haven’t found that at all. No, they don’t treat America as Exclusive, but any news organization that does (which would include the entire mainstream media in the United States) has immediate problems to my mind. I wouldn’t look to the BBC for a good coverage on a British military scandal, but being free from corporate interests, sometimes outfits like the BBC or even NPR can actually do a better job. They’re not trying to make money by targeting a specific consumer interest. Even liberal outfits like MSNBC or CNN report the news from an American perspective. If you don’t believe me, ask someone from outside the United States.

We do need to submit to God’s sovereignty and decree and right now clearly…America is top dog. But Britain thought herself to be God’s gift to the world at one time and seemed shocked that world-over many were not terribly pleased with her empire. Not a few of those folks were our ancestors. Rome, the Carolingians, the Plantagenets, the Habsburgs, Byzantium…they all thought they were right too, blessed by God. Hindsight being 20/20 we can clearly see where they all were dreadfully mistaken. I’m arguing for a little perspective.

Darrell Todd Maurina said,

December 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm

OK, let me try to respond on several points.

There may be conservatives who start with the premise that America is good, or with American exceptionalism. That’s not me. I’m very pessimistic about the long-term future of the United States unless some major changes occur in the next decade to two decades. Jesus Christ most emphatically does not need the United States, and if the United States decides it doesn’t need Him, then God will bring America what it will richly deserve, and may or may not raise up some other country. God doesn’t need a civil government to promote the Gospel, but it certainly helps, and it’s pretty difficult to argue that the Reformation or the missionary movement of the 1800s would have succeeded without backing from the civil power.

Perhaps an example from the church world will suffice to point out what happens when God’s people don’t do their jobs. We’re already to the point that South Korea, with barely more than a tenth of the population of the United States, has more conservative Bible-believing Presbyterians than the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Scotland,and Ireland have in total membership of all Presbyterian denominations, liberal or conservative, combined. South Korean churches already send about as many missionaries overseas as the entire United States evangelical world. There was a day when if people wanted to study Calvinism they traveled to Geneva or Heidelberg; a century or so later, they traveled to England or Scotland or the Netherlands; for the last century, the travel has been to Princeton followed by Westminster. How long will it be before we have to study Korean to read the best Reformed theologians and church planters? How long will it be before the PCA gets finds that most of its Mission to North America staff members have names like Kim or Lee?

Does that mean God has decided He’s done with the American Reformed church world due to unfaithfulness and has raised up Reformed other countries to embarrass us for our wasting of His gifts to us? I’m not prepared to say that — yet. But I think it is patently obvious that God **IS** doing that in the Anglican world to rebuke the liberal bishops of the United States and Canada by using the bishops of Africa and Asia to remind elite white Episcopal priests that the faith of Archbishop Cranmer and the English Reformation was far more than rich people getting together and calling themselves vestrymen on Sunday morning.

(Yes, I’m well aware that Koreans will talk about all their church problems. I don’t deny that for one minute and I’ve seen a lot of that firsthand. However, when I see the worst problems of the Korean church world I’m reminded of the problems caused by Davenport and his radical colleagues during the First Great Awakening, or the Anabaptists during the Reformation itself, or the the extremes of the conventicles during the Dutch Second Reformation (Nadere Reformatie). I typically tell Koreans that I wish American churches had their problems.)

Now back to your other questions:

1. Regarding being a Christian in Iran or some other explicitly anti-Christian country — Scripture is quite clear. People in such situations are to pray for their government that it will allow the gospel, and pray for the personal conversion of the leaders. They’re also to obey their governing officals in all things which are not sinful, while absolutely refusing to sin and bearing testimony to the civil rulers even unto death if needed. Individual Christians have no right to overturn their governments except as granted to them by their governments, and if they have no such rights, they are to use the best weapon available to any Christian in any situation, namely, the weapon of prayer.

2. Regarding the doctrine of the lesser magistrates: This is a standard part of Scottish Presbyterianism, and has been since the days of Knox. I’m well aware that the details are complicated, but the basic biblical principles are really quite simple. First premise: The Old Testament royal kingship was unique to Israel, and divine right of kings does not exist under the New Testment; if it did, we would have one divinely ordained king who all Christian governments must obey, just as David obeyed Saul and refused to overthrow him as the legitimate king, and there’s no hint of that in the New Testament. Second premise: Divine authority **IS** given by Romans 13 to civil magistrates to bear the sword to punish evildoers. Conclusion: Lesser magistrates have the right to punish their superiors if they become evildoers in gross public sin against God.

I don’t think any of that is very controversial in the year 2010, but it’s a major part of why Calvinism was viewed with horror by Roman Catholic rulers all over Europe who realized that they might be able to bully a Lutheran ruler into submission based on his oath of fealty, but if they persecuted a Calvinist baron or military leader, there was a good chance he’d take up arms to defend himself.

Fortunately we don’t need to deal with that sort of thing in America. We have the right to get rid of wicked, incompetent, or even just less-effective rulers by the ballot box.

Now why would Christians possibly **NOT** want to work hard to preserve that right which we have, by God’s grace, in the United States?

Pilgrimsarbour said,

December 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm

John A.,

I think Beck, O’Reilly, et. al. are responding to decades of a pendulum which has swung far to the unfavourable left side where America is portrayed as the harbinger of all evil in the world. It’s as if we invented slavery, cheating, lying, double-crossing and whatever other evils are attributed to our founding and expansion. How far back should we go with the reparations? Should Israel sue Rome for their little adventure in A.D. 70? It is the continuing sorry story of mankind. So while I agree with you that nothing “secular” should be considered truly “sacred,” I certainly understand the frustration that these folks have experienced, and they have tapped into that vein in the conservative American consciousness. To not see or acknowledge this is shocking to me. But I too understand the concerns about hijacking biblical and Christian language to be used as a rhetorical political device.

Now to me, the issue is not so much nationalism as it is the fact that we have a representative republic which affords and requires our active participation. I lose hope and respect for believers who refuse to participate in this great gift God has given us. It’s biblically appropriate to point out that we are pilgrims and strangers here on earth. I also think that that can become an excuse for believers to be intellectually lazy and to not do the difficult work of trying to discern God’s will for us as we participate in the societies in which He’s placed us. If you think that it’s not the believer’s responsibility to participate (as afforded by the government which has been instituted by God Himself) in his society and government, then we are at an impasse. Nonetheless, wherever we all fall on this issue, I don’t think Christians who wish to actively participate in the gift of a representative republic should be made to feel as if they’re less spiritual or diluting or mixing the gospel, unless, of course, it can be clearly demonstrated that they are seriously doing that. And I don’t mean Beck, who by any clear theological understanding is not by definition a true follower of Jesus Christ.

As far as personalities, I agree that O’Reilly shouts people down, and I don’t watch him much because of that. As far as the BBC and the CBC are concerned, did you click on the links I provided? These are people within their own organisations admitting this. It’s really not up for debate. You seem to be saying that state-sponsored media is the way to go. But as I said to Carl (Trueman), it’s not in the American DNA. If NPR/PBS (which I like and watch) could stand on its own in the marketplace, we wouldn’t have to have fights over federal taxpayer funding for it. We won’t settle the argument here about what the preamble of the Constitution means when it says to “promote the general welfare.” I doubt that the founding fathers had in mind providing individuals and families with taxpayer-funded entertainment.

And why is it that “corporate interests” regarding media have you all in a tizzy whereas you seem to have no concern whatsoever about government-run media interests? Two sides of the same coin to me. Big Corporations on the one hand and Big Government on the other. As Dennis Prager says, “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen (or individual).” The difference is that Big Corporations can only persuade you to buy into their products or philosophy. Big Government can compel your compliance through legislation. Do what Big Government says or be fined and go to prison. It’s that simple. Corporations can’t do that. So maybe we believers all need a lttle more self-control (that is, Spirit control) when it comes to feeding at the corporate trough.

In addition, it’s ludicrous this idea (which I have not seen you put forth here) that only the right wing has special interest groups. Unions and trial lawyers are special interest groups just as much as any corporation lobbyists. And the bottom line for corporations is the profit margin; they will support whatever political party will help them best achieve their financial goals. Corporation politics are neutral, neither a “Republican” nor a “Democratic” thing, though the left’s rhetoric of race and class warfare are geared to demonising the right as corporate lackeys, racists, imperialists, homophobes and now “Islamophobes” and whatever else suits their interests.

I ask my left-leaning American Christian brethren, how can anyone who has a conscience possibly support a political party whose very plank includes abortion on demand for any reason whatsoever? Just look at the folly of these left wing folks who want to make abortion “safe and rare.” Why rare? If there’s nothing wrong with it at all, why try to limit it? They are walking contradictions and don’t even know it. How about environmental concerns which go well beyond biblical stewardship into the idolatrous realm of earth-worship? Have we no biblical warnings for those believers?

A “climate of fear,” as you call it, is not necessarily a bad thing. If bad things are coming, then I thank God for those who will put their reputations and lives on the line to warn us. Fear is a God-given mechanism which enables us to be vigilant. The fact that it may appear to some to be over-the-top rhetoric does not necessarily negate it as a reality. How we as believers respond to these things is a matter of both biblical understanding and Christian liberty.

Continuing blessings in Christ,


Darrell Todd Maurina said,

December 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

JohnA and other “Two Kingdoms” advocates:

I realize this discussion wasn’t intended to be about Two Kingdoms stuff. Rather than hijack the thread, I have posted a rather pointed critique of JohnA and his Anabaptist presuppositions, via Verduin, over here on CO-URC:


The problem, unfortunately, is much broader than JohnA. I ended my post on CO-URC with this:

“I close with this quote from JohnA, which ends a section attacking not only
theonomists (who deserve attacks) but also Abraham Kuyper: “Even institutions that don’t specifically advocate the extremes Judaizing positions of Theonomy, still strongly advocate Dominionistic and Sacralist Theology. Only the small Escondido school seems to be standing for the truth on this issue. And even among them, many advocate Cultural Doctrine that is rooted in Sacralist presuppositions. We are in the dark ages once again as far as the church goes.”


With ‘friends’ like this, Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido,
California, most assuredly does not need enemies.”

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm


You’re very pessimistic about the long term future of the United States. But let’s say you weren’t. Would the United States be good? Or let me phrase it another way? Was Geneva good? Or Scotland in 1560? Good of course has to be defined, but thus far, I don’t think we’re on the same page. I have a theological problem with any nation being labeled….good.

Where can I go in the Bible to determine if Scotland was good or the United States is good? Will they not burn up at the eschaton? Are they good because they are Christian? What’s that mean? How does the New Testament describe a Christian Society. It does of course, but that’s the Church. How does it do it in reference to a nation? Please don’t refer to the covenanted, typical, redemptive nation of Israel. If there is a NT parallel it’s the Church, not a common grace nation.

I’m sorry but I take great exception to your statement that civil government helps the gospel. What Biblical justification do you have for such a statement? How does forcing the unbeliever who cannot obey the laws of God, who is at enmity with God’s law….how can he bring glory to God by conforming with a Kingdom ethic that cannot even be grasped but by those who have been born anew? Doesn’t this just create a sort of societal veneer? Doesn’t it lead to a violent backlash, exactly what we are experiencing at the moment? Our society is reacting to decades of forced and pretty hypocritical conformity to an ethic that makes no sense to lost people. Rather than the gospel….it seems like we’ve given them a social ethic, a nation, a political structure, and a foreign policy.

I would say the Magisterial involvement with the Reformation was one of its great failings. That’s my interpretation of course. I would say missionary collaboration with the British Crown is a great black mark against the Church. I think we’re still feeling the fallout of this with much the anti-western animosity in the Middle East and especially parts of Asia. The Church was viewed as a tool of the state and both were and are resented.

Though you won’t agree with my take, I have to return to the basic question. Where do we find state co-operation with the Gospel?

If you really believe that…. how strange then that you would be against the state fulfilling other redemptive roles. Isn’t that the Jim Wallis argument for the state helping the poor etc?

I feel Biblically compelled to reject both forms of Constantinianism whether left or right.

I agree with point #1 in reference to Iran etc…. So how is that situation any different for Christians in the United States? We pray for Obama to be converted. We pray for George Bush to be converted. At least in Iran there are no doubts about Ahmadinejad. But in America there is confusion…that’s what I’m getting at. Explicitly anti-Christian? Just because the United States doesn’t violently persecute Christians, that hardly means our society is pro-Christian. If Christians in other countries don’t think our government is pro-Christian either, shouldn’t we listen?

People supported Bush, because they thought what he was doing was Christian. But again…..this where the confusion comes in. What if what Bush was doing was very evil? How would Christians in America have known? Cheerleaders aren’t very critical or discerning. I have no idea if you supported him or not, so please don’t take that personally.

I know the doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate. I’m well aware of its history. But where is it in Scripture? Is it Biblical, or is it built upon assumptions? I certainly can’t find Christians supporting a lesser magistrate— overthrowing a primary magistrate —in order to conform with our notions of what a good government is out of Romans 13. This hearkens back to the general set of questions I keep asking. Where can I find any of this Christian patriotism, nationalism, exclusivity of nations, Constantinianism in the Bible? A lesser magistrate doctrine based on Romans 13 is begging the question, the unproved argument that the State has a symbiotic relationship with the Church.

You ask why would we not want to work hard to preserve our rights in the United States?

What is our objective here, as a Church, as the people of God? Why are we here? Are we here to build nations or build the Kingdom of God?

I’m guessing that’s not an either/or question for you. Okay. How do we do it? Are our weapons for this warfare…the tools of the gospel……..magistrates and lesser magistrates, voting, culture war, and nationalism?

I hope that’s a rhetorical question, but I’m guessing it won’t be.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm


For the sake of argument I’ll assume you’re correct that America has been portrayed as the source of evil.

Does that justify what the Fox people are doing? Isn’t that the end justifying the means?

Am I being intellectually lazy?

Participation is a broad word. Like it or not, we’re constantly participating in our society almost every moment of the day. Does participation necessitate politics? I’m not saying you can’t vote, but I might come at the whole issue in a very different way. For my part, I can’t find anyone to vote for. In many cases it’s almost better if I don’t know that a particular politician claims to be a Christian. Because if they make such a profession and start tying in what I believe to be erroneous theology in with their agenda…..I actually have more of a problem with that, than some lost person just doing the best they can to make society work in an equitable way. They fail, but the Church isn’t confused by it.

I’m not arguing for state media, but at present those are good examples of media outlets that have a better approach because they’re not profiteering. While we certainly have Big Government in both the U.S. and the U.K., the governments are checked by their own polarization and the management structures of these news outlets are sort of untouchable.

I will admit NPR has an American bias. Can’t escape that. BBC has a British bias. That’s why I rely on many media sources from all over the world. Corporations wield a different of power than the state….though as the state knows, it’s every bit as powerful. If the corporations turn against the state….well, we just saw it last month, didn’t we?

I don’t agree with your assessments, but in regard to the abortion trump card… The Republican party with its militarism and pro-war doctrine can be accused of being equally pro-death. If pro-life is the core criteria, then there’s no one to vote for.

But see, now were enmeshed in the mire of Nationalist categories. There’s a basic theological difference. I don’t expect the United States to be anything but another Babylon. I want to know from the New Testament where I can find a doctrine that supports the idea that America or any other nation has Divine sanction.

Please remember Assyria was the rod of God’s anger, but then he destroyed them for their….abortion? homosexuality?…no, for their pride and their bloodthirstiness.

The fear that you think is healthy in promoting vigilance….is doing the exact opposite. American Christendom now more than ever needs to think through these issues, but it seems like people stop their ears and start chanting, “I’m not listening.”

You can’t touch what they’ve made sacred. Pilgrim, (I’m not trying to sound like John Wayne) I think you know better. The sobriety and judgment you possess is not found in the average pew.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm


I guess calling me Two Kingdom just ends it right? You win?

I haven’t counted the number of times I’ve asked the same basic questions….never got an answer. But I’m Two Kingdom…so you win.

Yes, I’m very critical of Abraham Kuyper. I’m fundamentally opposed to his Transformationalism, believing it to be unbiblical. And I would point to Holland today as an example of its multi-generational outworking. Transformationalist doctrine only transforms one thing….the Church.

I am appreciative of some of the people at Escondido, though they would have nothing to do with me. In no way would they endorse what I’m saying. There is some overlap, and I appreciate them to that extent with regard to this one category.

Victory by ad hominem eh?

I think this thread is winding down. It’s been….interesting. I’ve enjoyed it. I still have my teeth, though you have indicated that you wish otherwise.

Well at least we agree, these issues are pretty important.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 5:20 pm


I don’t have the time to mess with joining the URC group at Yahoo. I’m awaiting approval.

I think I’ve been decent and respectful in this discussion, and I’m going to ask you to show me the same courtesy. Could you at least email me what you’ve written? I think that’s fair.


David Gray said,

December 27, 2010 at 5:38 pm

>>The Republican party with its militarism and pro-war doctrine can be accused of being equally pro-death.

Not by any serious adult. The church has taught that war can be just. We are then left with subjective judgments by the magistrate as to whether the requisite criteria have been met. There are no circumstances in which butchering innocent children can be considered as just. For Christians to pretend otherwise can only be pleasing to hell, not heaven.

Darrell Todd Maurina said,

December 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I’m a Calvinist. I believe in total depravity. If even with regard to elect Christians all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, I cannot imagine me **EVER** calling a civil goverment “good” in any sort of absolute sense of the word — “better” or “worse,” maybe, but not “good.”

As I remind some of my friends who you’d perhaps accuse of “dominionism,” we must remember that the Puritans were regularly holding days of fasting and humilitation for things going on in their civil government which were far less serious than our modern problems. Our idea of a “good” government would fall so far short of their standards that the founders of New England would accuse us of extreme wickedness and laziness if we were satisfied with what we consider “good.”

You probably don’t even want to begin to hear my views on state-controlled or state subsidized media (NPR, PBS, BBC). I own the media organization which, albeit on a small scale in a rural community outside an Army installation, is beating the pants off my competitors and has the highest average daily readership of any of them. There might be reasons for that!

Hint: Hard work … works.

Communism didn’t work in Russia, socialism isn’t working in Europe, monopolies didn’t work for the old AT&T or the modern post office, and there’s no reason we should think any of those will work any better in the media.

Your comments on the doctrine of the lesser magistrate appear to presume that the role of the magistrate in Romans 13 on punishing evil do not apply to other magistrates. Prove that from Scripture. You know that the kings of Israel and Judah removed bad lesser magistrates. If we now have no divinely ordained sovereign ruling as did David and Solomon, may not a godly lesser magistrate punish evil acts by another magistrate, such as a magistrate who is abusing and harming his subjects? President Bill Clinton saw a need to stop the massacre on the former Yugoslavia. Was he wrong, as a civil magistrate, in putting a stop to mass murder of civilians? If President Clinton could do so in a sovereign state not under his authority, can a lesser magistrate not put an end to a massacre or other evil acts by a higher magistrate over him?

You wrote this: “You ask why would we not want to work hard to preserve our rights in the United States? What is our objective here, as a Church, as the people of God? Why are we here? Are we here to build nations or build the Kingdom of God? I’m guessing that’s not an either/or question for you. Okay. How do we do it? Are our weapons for this warfare…the tools of the gospel……..magistrates and lesser magistrates, voting, culture war, and nationalism? I hope that’s a rhetorical question, but I’m guessing it won’t be.”

Our primary goal is always to build the Kingdom of God, which typically means Christian families and Christian churches. Those are built via the preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments and exercise of church discipline. If we forget that, we have become politicians first and Christians second. The order for citizens as well as elected or appointed officials must always be Christ first, politics second.

Now let’s say I live in a city run by organized crime with a corrupt mayor, aldermen, and police force, with strip clubs and gambling rackets generating so much money for their owners that they can basically buy the elections. Things have gotten so bad that businessmen who want to get zoning permits or building permits need to give thousands of dollars in kickbacks to the local political bosses, the schools are falling apart, and people won’t open new businesses because they’re finding used needles in the parking lots each morning from the previous night’s “shooting galleries” — and sometimes real bullets from a different type of shooting.

I know quite well what my obligation is as a Christian reporter in such as community — and it’s going to make a lot of people really mad, and may get me on someone’s hit list for more than a cancelled advertisement. You’re obviously a newshound and I’m sure you’ll agree on the role of a Christian in the media.

What, JohnA, do you suggest is the role of a Christian pastor in such a city? Must he only preach the gospel and tell people the church has nothing to say on how the members should behave as citizens in the community?

That is by no means an unrealistic scenario, and it’s not one found only in Mexican border cities.

You write a number of things which are politically left of center. The “good government leagues” of the late 1800s and early 1900s, which were instrumental in putting an end to many of the corrupt big-city political machines, were often run by socially conscious Christians who were members of churches that tended toward the political left — and put bluntly, they did a lot of good work that evangelicals refused to do out of a world-flight attitude. I’m assuming you think the Good Government Leagues were a good thing. Why can conservative evangelicals today not use those same tools to bring reform in a corrupt political culture?

Pilgrimsarbour said,

December 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm

John A.,

Thank you very much for a very lively, informative and pleasant discussion. I think I’ve said pretty much my piece at this point so I’ll bring my participation here to an close.

I will leave you, though, with a parting observation which is not intended to be a parting shot, though I mean to be firm:

I am a bit saddened and unconvinced that you’ve spent any real, serious time watching the FOX News channel. This is based on your assertions that they are a terrible, awful lot, though you have been unable to satisfy me with concrete examples of their nefarious practices other than that they create a “climate of fear” and some of the hosts are rude. You seem to be parroting popular leftist talking points, so it’s difficult to take them seriously. And I can only hope you’ll be as scrupulous in dissecting George Soros’ character as you have Rupert Murdoch’s, not that I would come to the defence of either, mind you.

Having said that, I wish to offer a parting gift to you because I think you’re a good guy :-) I will reiterate what I repeated to Carl just this past Sunday, having told him this previously:

I can’t, in good conscience, ever see myself voting for Sarah Palin if she should run for President. Beyond the obvious obnoxious cliches, adages and homespun ‘atta boys, I really don’t think she’s a very deep thinker and would not make a good President.

I felt, and still feel the same way about President Obama, even more so.

And I don’t think I would make a good President either.

May God richly bless you and your family as you seek to serve him daily.


John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm


I thought we were done. I would appreciate the email I requested.

Lots of history, still no Scriptural arguments, no answers to the fundamental questions I’ve asked.

Why is New England the standard? Geneva? These were Protestant versions of the Holy Roman Empire. You’re assuming they’re good examples, because you’re assuming the points that I can’t seem to get you to prove to me. I don’t look to them as standards….in fact they, like Habsburg Austria, or Carolingian Frank-land or good examples of what we ought to try and avoid.

As far as news….what sells has nothing to do with truth or what is good. It just says something about the audience. The popularity of Fox speaks volumes about the Church and the society in which we live. Our society has little interest in truth. People don’t like to self-examine.

Where have I advocated Communism? Socialism? Good government leagues? I most certainly do not. But again, your paradigm demands that just because I reject the Christian Right, I therefore must be advocating these other camps. I’m not operating in that circle of argument, something you seem to keep missing. You think it means I’m left of center. No, I’m a Christian and my Pilgrim theology and ethic doesn’t sign on to the pro-America agenda…..or that of any other nation. If that makes me left…..then I guess you just can’t grasp it.

I’m not going to let Marx, Lloyd-George, Ida Tarbell, Hayek, Rothbard, or Ron Paul determine how I ought to view the world. Learn something from them all?…sure. I can learn something from anyone. But I don’t need to slavishly devote myself to any fallen-world based system.

Do you believe in Total Depravity? I often wonder with Dominionists. The two doctrines seem incompatible. How do you transform fallen people with….law? culture?

I don’t have to prove anything from Romans 13. It’s not saying anything remotely resembling your argument. There’s no discussion of lesser magistrates and the Christian concern with them anywhere in the Scripture.

What do David and Solomon, types of Christ reigning over the Holy covenanted nation have to do with modern American politics and geo-strategies in post Cold War Europe? So I can participate in a NATO mission that’s killing Serbs because of David and Solomon? Did you read anything I wrote about that? I don’t accept the American narrative on what was happening in Eastern Europe in the 1990′s. But that’s not the issue….we keep straying from it.

Politics second you say. Then I say, you obviously don’t understand politics. Total Depravity teaches me something about power and its effects on the flesh. Yeah, there’s lots of Christian politicians that have kept that straight. Are you arguing that?

Again….evading the issue.

Yes the media should tell the truth…..that’s something we’ve been talking about all along. An American-ist media puts America over the truth.

You want to transform that society? The gospel does that. Why is it that if someone says, I don’t care about politics…then you must think the gospel doesn’t effect the Christian life? Every time I step out my door I’m being a witness for Christ. Providence governs all spheres, but the Spirit works through the Church. The Spirit doesn’t need Republicans to accomplish His goals. Are you trying to insinuate the mission of the Spirit has failed in the United States because the government hasn’t promoted a specific agenda? I sure hope not.

Or do you just want it to be stable and orderly so that the gospel can work? That’s what I want….and Rome, Egypt, any pagan government can do that. What’s happening in Mexico is a complicated hemispherical mess that’s not being reportedly honestly in our media.

David Gray,

Since I just put forward childish arguments, I won’t bother to respond. That’s clearly what I’ve been doing here.

Very helpful.

I’m glad to hear you are a pacifist, because I know of no where in which children are not slaughtered.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm


Thanks for ending it on a peaceable note. That speaks volumes.

God bless.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 6:36 pm


Okay, I made it to the URC page. You don’t need to email me.

I was pleasantly surprised. You were very fair. We don’t agree of course, but I thought you did a great job critiquing my views.

Yes, I’m not trying to call myself Reformed. I’ve made that clear, you made it clear.

Just because Daryl Hart agrees with me on some things doesn’t mean he agrees with me on everything. I’m 100% certain he does not. Just because he liked what I wrote hardly means he endorses what I’m saying.

Even you expressed some appreciation for some of my insights. That doesn’t incriminate you or strip you of credibility. It’s called a discussion. I’m trying to challenge and provoke….not to be a stinker, but to get some discussions going that I can’t ever seem to find…sure didn’t in seminary.

I hope some people have benefitted from this one. I’ve posted these types of threads on my site and people read them and learn a lot. They’re getting to sit in on a conversation.

You needn’t worry that I’m going to try an infiltrate the URC or any other Reformed denomination. You needn’t worry that people with ideas such as mine will infiltrate. I would never sign on to any of the Reformed confessions, nor would any one who agrees with me.

Thanks for being fair. I think you’re wrong, but as far as the Yahoo bit goes….I respect what you wrote.

Darrell Todd Maurina said,

December 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Thank you, JohnA… I think our notes crossed in cyberspace.

The full text of what I posted on CO-URC has now been posted here as well … I owe you no less. I’ve seen your note requesting an email and then saying it’s not needed since you’ve read it already — please be assured that when I critique someone, I believe they have a right to know and to interact with what they write.

For whatever it’s worth, I’m impressed with your line of thought, though not with your conclusions. You’re asking the right questions and you’re probing long and hard and in the right places. As for the answers to those questions … well… let’s just say I’m less pleased with your answers than with the process you’ve gone through to get there.

You’ve asked several times for Scriptural interaction. I’m hesitating to move into extensive Scriptural exegesis not because I don’t want to do it or can’t do it but rather because I do not want to hijack a discussion of appropriate methods of Christian discourse and turn it into a Two Kingdoms discussion. I am more than willing to cite and exegete Scripture, and do it in detail

Based on what you’ve written, I think you will appreciate the reasons I bought a copy of the Ante-Nicene Fathers many years ago. If one is ever going to find a “Christ against Culture” model in the history of the main body of the Christian church before the modern collapse of orthodox doctrine, one will find it there, and I frankly don’t find it. What I do find is an aggressive effort to create what we today might call a “Christian subculture,” and to plead to the Romans that rather than being evildoers, Christians are actually the best of all subjects of Rome because they hold themselves to higher standards than the pagans, and that the Emperor should stop persecuting Christians who could be and should be among his most loyal subjects.

In closing, let me say this clearly: politics **IS** secondary and must always remain so.

If a traditional old-school Southern Baptist pastor wants to dedicate his life to soulwinning and totally ignore whatever social corruption exists around him and spend his time preaching the Gospel, teaching parents how to raise their children, and disciplining Christians of all ages to live the Christian life, he has committed no sin. I think he’s omitted an important part of the Christian calling, but it is not an indispensible part of the Christian message. I know some Southern Baptists who carefully avoid anything remotely political, and say that when members of their congregation experience changed hearts through conversion and discipleship, they’ll live their lives in ways that will no longer be harming society. In that, they are following the practice of the early church.

That works perfectly fine until a member of the church decides he wants to run for office and needs some guidance of how to be a Christian magistrate. That could not have happened in Rome. An Anabaptist would seriously question if a Christian can serve as a civil magistrate at all. The old school Southern Baptist won’t say that (or at least shouldn’t) but he also won’t have a whole lot of answers.

John A. said,

December 27, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Ante-nicene fathers are fantastic.

I’m glad you say politics are always secondary.

You may associate me with Anabaptists, but please don’t think for a moment that I’m a credobaptist. Far from it I assure you. I’m not sure if you were implying that, but I just wanted to clarify.

I’m the guy that’s trying to arguing Two Kingdoms and Federal Vision are both right….in some ways, and both very mistaken on other fronts.

As a rabidly Amil Two Kingdom Paedocommunionist who doesn’t care much for Kuyper, Van Til, Clark, Reformed Scholasticism or the Christian Right….I’m not exactly kicking down the door of any Reformed denominations am I?

Let’s just say I’m not exactly making friends out there, but I hope someone will at least pause and consider a point or two that I’m trying to raise.

Thanks for the exchange and good night.

And here's a copy of DTM's critique of me on the Yahoo discussion. I'll probably interact with this later.----proto

My own (very preliminary) response to Two Kingdoms stuff and its Anabaptist root

Thank you for your post, Rev. McAtee.

Several people on this board have asked me to do some writing on the Two
Kingdoms movement. Some of what follows may satisfy that desire. I'm far from
ready to send something to Outlook or Christian Renewal or a scholarly journal
for print -- men like Dr. Hart and Dr. Clark deserve better from my pen in those
forums -- but I'm becoming angrier and angrier with the people who claim to be
Reformed but are advocating this "two kingdoms" stuff and I'm prepared to post
this on the internet as a preliminary warning to inquiring people, like Nancy,
that all is not well in this category of professedly Reformed thought.

I read much more than I write when it comes to the Two Kingdoms theology. The
more I read of their own blogs, the more I'm coming to see that while this stuff
may sometimes claim a Southern "spirituality of the church" heritage, it appears
to have a totally wrongheaded root which is not in any way connected to any
conservative Reformed theological category and in fact is openly attacking the
Westminster Standards.

Look, for instance, at this discussion over on Rev. Lane Kiester's "Green
Baggins" site which began as a quite legitimate question of how to be militant
for truth without being obnoxious, but has recently turned into a Two Kingdoms


A number of the "usual suspects" show up -- Dr. Daryl Hart, Zrim, etc. -- some
of the people who started advocating wild views over on Dr. R. Scott Clark's
"Heidelblog" up to and including saying Christians shouldn't be fighting against
gay marriage in California because it supposedly "confuses the kingdoms."

There's also a writer I hadn't studied before -- JohnA, who runs a blog known as
"ProtoProtestantism" which says it is dedicated to studying the Reformers before
the Reformation. That seemed interesting at first; Wycliffe, Hus, the
Waldensians and a number of the other groups which advocated Bible teaching
before the Reformation can quite legitimately be respected as people who, even
if they had problematic theology, might well have become fully Protestant if
they hadn't had their efforts cut short by death or severe persecution.

His blog is here: http://www.proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/

I probably should have expected problems when I saw his first posts declaring
that he's not proud of being a veteran and arguing not only that he doesn't like
FOX News but also that CNN and NPR are unabashed and uncritical suppporters of
American power.(Huh?) But people have every right in the world to hold
politically liberal or anti-American positions; America is not God's chosen
nation and the Republican Party is not "God's Own Party."

JohnA is a homeschooler. He's got a lot of insightful commentary on the problems
of the late Roman Constantinian consensus that led to the development of
Christendom and the secular power of the Roman Catholic Church. He's clearly
done his homework. He's also got some really useful stuff pointing out how
fundamentalists of various sorts often re-invent an imagined golden age in forms
of dress and worship, and then insist upon them rather than following the twin
Reformed doctrines of Christian freedom and the regulative principle. Examples
of that are here:



So far so good. I actually like a lot of what he says about the importance of
following Scripture and not just being traditional conservatives, and his
emphasis on learning lessons from Christian history is from which **MANY** broad
evangelicals could learn a great deal.

But then he attacks Rick Warren of Saddleback Church -- far from being a
conservative Reformed man -- for asking this question to then-candidates Barack
Obama and John McCain: "WARREN: OK, we've got one last time -- I've got a bunch
more, but let me ask you one about evil. Does evil exist? And if it does, do we
ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?"

JohnA then asks this: "Why is a supposed Christian asking a politician of a
common grace nation something like that? Why is he asking the Common Grace state
to define a metaphysical concept?"

JohnA goes into a lot of detail here ...

... on what's wrong with that question in his view. I won't try to summarize his
explanation -- go read it in his own words, I want to be fair to him -- but
re-read JohnA again. According to him, it is wrong to ask a candidate for
President of the United States -- at present, the most powerful public official
in the entire secular world -- whether evil exists and how to deal with it.

That points out the core of the problem with the Two Kingdoms theology. These
people, or at least some of them, really **DON'T** believe that the civil
magistrate, in accordance with Romans 13, is a minister of God to punish evil --
or if they do, they define evil in purely secular terms with which many or most
non-Christians can agree. The civil magistrate doesn't have a duty to do good as
defined by Christianity or to punish evil as defined by Christianity, or to
promote the Gospel, or even to help maintain conditions favorable to the spread
of the Gospel.

Given that view, I suppose it should not surprise me that JohnA has read deeply
from Verduin's book on the Reformers and their Stepchildren, in which that
liberal CRC chaplain at the University of Michigan who defended draft dodgers
during Vietnam argued that the Anabaptists were good people.

JohnA goes much father: "Obama is not a fascist or a Marxist, but Bush was the
closest we've come to a Hitler-type figure in this nation's history. To me, the
years 2001-2003 were like Germany in the 1930's. It was unreal, my head was
spinning. And just like I always thought…the Christians were the first ones to
cheer it all on .... The Tea Party Putsch is at work. We don't have just one
Mein Kampf…we've got teams of writers putting out new editions. Some are going
rogue, some are arguing with idiots, some are looking out for you while they let
freedom ring."


I suppose it's not necessarily unacceptable for a Reformed man to say that the
Anabaptists were right about a lot of things, that in a post-Christian era we
should look to them as models, or even that the modern conservative movement
risks co-opting evangelical Christians into a fascist form of nationalism. The
sad example of the Gereformeerde Gemeenten under Kersten and their capitualation
to the agenda of the Dutch Nazi Party during World War II shows us that such
things can happen -- and there are elements in the modern secular conservative
movement which are totally hostile to biblical Christianity.

But what do we do with a statement like this: "I have no hope of Reforming
institutions like the PCA or OPC. It's impossible ... and one level I don't
care…they're man-made constructs anyway. A General Assembly, offices with
computers and file cabinets a 501c, and a Book of Church Order doth not a church
make. The church is not a form…I have found so many of the people in those ranks
seem to think they can hold their dominations together with forms. The
Confessions are used as restraning chains rather than guides and like it or not,
the theology of these bodies is not exactly the same as the 17th century men and
I'll say it, the confessions are wrong in some places. But when we've committed
to a form like that....there's not much you can do. By using the confession as a
boundary instead of a help, you've bound the Bible."


Again: "Rather than super explicit detailed documents like the Westminster or
Belgic Confessions, we need simple statements of the faith and then we need to
trust in the Holy Spirit to hold the church together. The Westminster Confession
is not the Bible, and the more you try to bind people to an extra-scriptural
document as the basis for holding a faction together, the more they will slip
through your fingers."


That is ecclesiastical Anabaptism and certainly contrary to both Presbyterian
and Dutch Reformed church polity, but more importantly, it is explicitly

If there's any question about how deeply JohnA has drunk from Verduin's well of
appreciation for Anabaptism, read this about why he hesitates to use the label
Reformed: "I remember being rather proud of my Reformed heritage and talking
with a couple of ex-Amish guys outside of a supermarket. We were talking a
little theology and history. They know very well how their forebears were
treated by the Protestants. And they know that they are excoriated within the
Reformed Creeds. I remember feeling not so proud of my faction when I considered
they murdered and waged war in the name of the Kingdom of Christ and sought to
destroy the ancestors of these men."


There's a lot more to read in JohnA's writings, but I trust these examples will
make my point. This simply is not Reformed and cannot be called Reformed in any
meaningful sense of the word, and JohnA actually realizes that to some extent.
You don't need to advocate civil penalties against Amish and Mennonites -- I
don't -- to realize that Anabaptism and Calvinism are inherently incompatible.

JohnA is one man, and some may say that just like ZRim and others who are
prolific posters on the "Two Kingdoms" theology, he's just one man with a

So who cares?

Well, JohnA may be irrelevant, but former Westminster Seminary professor Dr.
Daryl Hart, a prolific writer and a scholar of J. Gresham Machen and the history
of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church who is a major Two Kingdoms advocate, is not

What does Dr. Hart think?

Quoting from something Dr. Hart put up today:

"59.dgh said,
December 27, 2010 at 9:25 am
John A., as a Rush listener might say, 'mega dittos.'"


That's a nice comment from Dr. Hart. As a prominent advocate of a theological
position who has an earned doctoral degree, he knows full well that whatever he
writes will be **AND SHOULD BE** carefully scrutinized.

When I publicly agree with someone on a specific area where I have major
underlying differences, I'm careful to qualify my agreement, and when
questioned, I freely explain my differences. (An example is here where I attack
the underlying anti-Christian principles of FOX News while supporting their
secular conservative position:
-children/#comment-82464 )

It is totally unfair to accuse an Orthodox Presbyterian minister like Dr. Hart
of being an Anabaptist or of beleiving that "the Confessions are used as
restraning chains rather than guides."

What is clear, however, is that there are more than a few shades of Anabaptist
thinking in the Two Kingdoms movement, and despite the presence of some sincere
Old School Calvinists in its leadership, people are being attracted to the Two
Kingdoms theology who are Reformed in name and not much else.

Why is that? Is it because the tree, when fully grown, bears bad fruit?

I think we need to take a long, hard look at whether it's time to repudiate the
Two Kingdoms theology not just as a wrong view but as one which is inherently
Anabaptist and is falsely laying claim to the name Reformed.

I close with this quote from JohnA, which ends a section attacking not only
theonomists (who deserve attacks) but also Abraham Kuyper: "Even institutions
that don't specifically advocate the extremes Judaizing positions of Theonomy,
still strongly advocate Dominionistic and Sacralist Theology. Only the small
Escondido school seems to be standing for the truth on this issue. And even
among them, many advocate Cultural Doctrine that is rooted in Sacralist
presuppositions. We are in the dark ages once again as far as the church goes."


With "friends" like this, Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido,
California, most assuredly does not need enemies.

Darrell Todd Maurina
Gospel of Grace Church, Springfield, Mo. (transfer in process)

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