23 February 2012

Answering Questions #15- The Kuyperian Roadblock on the Pilgrim Road to Metapolis

Someone emailed me this link and asked for my response.


I responded with the following:
(this is an unedited email)
Interesting article. While I can agree with much he says, the approach he takes is a bit different. I’m afraid I didn’t agree at all with his Cain/Abel contrast in terms of the urban/rural comparison. I know of others who might make much of that argument, but usually Two Kingdom people are not into Christian Agrarianism. I realize that wasn’t his point, but his way of framing the issue reminded me of it! That’s usually found among Dominionist minded folks who have embraced a certain narrative with regard to Western Civilization and the root of its social decline.
He seems to hint at what I might call the Pilgrim Identity and ties that in with the ‘rural’ narrative. There may be something to that, but it also might be a case of hyper-typology.
Another point I would take issue with his identifying the City of Man as satanic. I guess I would probably tend to stand with others within the Redemptive-Historical camp in this regard and view the City of Man as the realm of common grace. We believers live with the unbeliever in the City of Man. Fallen man is constantly trying to turn the City of Man into a satanic Beast, but this doesn’t mean the City of Man is evil per se. It’s the matrix God has provided for the Church to do its work, it is the realm of Providential restraint exhibiting his longsuffering but of course also increasing the condemnation and judgment for those who reject the Gospel of Truth. The Kline quote was interesting, because in other places he essentially argues what I just stated. The City of Man certainly has an evil tendency but civilization, government, culture, all these things are not inherently or intrinsically evil. We view them as Common or non-Holy.
The Transformationalist says we have to make the Common realm into the Holy…we must be involved and permeate every facet of every sphere.
The Separatist says the Common Realm is in fact the Evil Realm and we can’t touch it or else we’ll be polluted.
The Pilgrim (my term) says we live in the Common Realm and we don’t need to retreat or transform. We live as salt and light in the community, contribute what we can with a very limited expectation and also understand that often we can’t participate. In terms of culture, we can take it if we determine it’s good, leave it if it’s bad. We don’t have flee or conquer, we simply tarry, build our houses, raise our children, worship God, and pursue the Gospel imperatives.
I’m not sure Augustine really held to the views many Amillennialists would ascribe to him. I say this an ardent Amillennialist. Or perhaps he was just inconsistent. He was what might be called a flawed giant. His ideas were so massive, so profound, he was so beyond his era, that he was great and good but also in terrible error on some points. Obviously if the author’s understanding of Augustine is correct, then the North African made a terrible mistake and was most inconsistent when he called upon the Emperor to bring down the sword and ‘compel’ the Donatists.
I thought his concluding ‘profound implications’ were excellent. There’s some real meat there to chew on…but then he lost me when he threw in the Neuhaus quote!  An adherent of purgatory, papacy and supererogation hardly grasps the profundity of Kingdom life.
The paragraph following this threw up some alarms. As I said I don’t believe in what he calls the ‘evacuationist’ tendency, but I also don’t agree with interpretation of ‘rendering’ the Caesar nor the call to citizenship. We are to seek the peace of the city and like Jeremiah said live in it, but Daniel’s service was as a prisoner of war, not a willing servant.
We can participate in society as individual Christians. But it’s not the mission of the Church to transform the society. As Christians we also have to be willing to just walk away when the society is calling us to do something we cannot do. If we can’t keep the promise to uphold a law, then we need to say so, not duplicitously affirm the obligation and then work to try and put a Christian spin or promote a Christian agenda on the issue. I’m thinking of things like jury duty. There might be times when we say I can’t judge this case according to the law. The law is wrong. And if that means we can’t serve on the jury or we’re punished for contempt….then praise the Lord.
I also disagree with his interpretation of the Reformation. As helpful as the Reformation was it’s great failure was that it largely re-embraced the entire Constantinian/Christendom model. It set about to use power, political power to aid the Church in building the Kingdom. This was and is a disaster. Calvin’s Geneva, Knox’s Scotland, Huguenot France, and even the Netherlands under the House of Orange all failed in this regard. That said I’m not so na├»ve to pretend the questions of their day were not difficult and often people found themselves in the midst of difficulties beyond their control. I heartily acknowledge that. But that does not excuse them or place them outside the bounds of critique. It simply means we can have some empathy and compassion. However I find many Protestant historians tend to accept the magisterial sword working with the Church and hail it as a good thing and the men who frankly erred in doing this were in fact heroes. The Reformation was meant to focus on religion but in reality it was a very real Cultural Revolution that led to almost two centuries of incessant war. It happened. I’m thankful for it, but it wasn’t glorious and I don’t wish to pretend it was something it wasn’t…but it was far more than the author is willing to acknowledge.

Overall a good article. I largely agreed with him at least in terms of the general thrust. I think he’s a bit off…much in the same way I would think about Michael Horton and some of the folks surrounding him. They still retain a Kuyperian element to their thinking. Their Two Kingdoms theology for the most part overrides it, but as I said in our conversation the other night…that Dutch fellow is always hovering in the background. Kuyper’s ghost is almost omnipresent today. I hear Arminian Dispensationalist radio preachers talking about sphere sovereignty and ‘every inch’ belonging to Christ. As Dennison recently said…Transformation is the new orthodoxy. Because of Francis Schaeffer and Chuck Colson, the ideas of Abraham Kuyper have overtaken the Church even though very few know who he was.
The author doesn’t touch on it, but I would have focused on the concept Kline most aptly brings to the forefront…the distinction between the REIGN and REALM of Christ. Christ reigns over all…he is the creator, the universal Lord, the sustainer of all. The entire universe is in one sense his domain. But on the other hand His REALM is Holy and separate, a meta-realm under the auspices of Spirit-led Redemption.
Kuyperianism and all forms of Dominionism claim the whole universe as being part of the Holy REALM. They believe the mission of the Church is to bring this reality into being. They acknowledge the antithesis but believe it is the task of the Church to eliminate it. We all agree the antithesis and the dynamic between the realms will be eliminated at the Eschaton. I would say only the Parousia of Christ will bring this about. We cannot, nor is it our task. In fact I would go further and say with Kline that when the Church sets out to embark upon that task you don’t end up with Zion, but with pseudo-Zion. You never end up with 777, but with 666. Man trying to build the City of God (as it were) ends up with yet another version of the City of Man. He can dress it up all he likes, but it always ends up not just a failed form, but a perverted form.
In closing here’s one of my favourite quotes from Kline:
 "Latent in the Apocalyptic symbolism is an even more direct contradiction of dominion theology's postmillennial eschatology. The melding of church with the state and its coercive power, the arrangement which theonomic reconstructionism regards as the kingdom ideal to be attained during the millennium, is precisely what is anathematized in the Apocalypse as the harlot-Babylon church, the monstrous perversion of the true church."

Meredith Kline
God Heaven and Har Magedon, pp.186

Thanks for sharing that article. I look forward to your reply.

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