American Presbyterianism…Who Cares?

Over at Old Life, Dr. Hart offers some valuable thoughts on John Frame’s new book that argues against the recent run of Two Kingdoms theology (2K) coming out of Westminster Seminary California. I will let you read Dr. Hart’s thought for yourself, but I found the following to be particularly lucid regarding all the hubbub surrounding 2K:

I guess if you still think that Christian societies should exist — what to do with Roman Catholics, Jews, and Mormons is never really clear in this nostalgia for the Reformed nation- or city-state — then 2k theology may look bizarre. At the same time, if you have lived in the United States with its religious diversity as long as John Frame has, and if you have been an officer in one of the churches that uses the revised Westminster Confession as Frame does, then you may not be shocked to find that some contemporary Reformed authors actually follow the teaching not of James Jordan or Greg Bahnsen but of the Reformed churches.

The two issues that Dr. Hart raises here, in my view, are really the two issues at the heart of all the rancor surrounding 2K theology. First, should Christian societies (i.e. Christian bodies politic; the church is already a Christian society according to the WLC, but not a political entity) exist? Second, do the Reformed churches, particularly in America, have an established view in regard to this question? As Dr. Hart’s comments indicate, the answer to this second question is an emphatic “Yes!”, and the fact that the Westminster Confession has been revised in American Presbyterianism speaks very clearly about the official teaching of the Reformed churches that have adopted it. The history of American Presbyterianism is such that the “covenanting” aspect of the Confession were struck and subsequently replaced with language much more friendly to notions of religious liberty.

But who cares? Who cares what American Presbyterianism historically teaches? Or more to the heart of the 2K debate, who cares about Roman Catholics or Jews or Mormons or Sikhs or any other religious group that isn’t WASP-ish in character (notice how vague the character of Christian America becomes once you get rid of the “infidels”…are the Reformed churches even Reformed anymore in such a scheme)? Who cares if we return to medieval and renaissance Europe, where Christians were compelled to fight the wars of one “Christian” king against another? For all of the vitriol spewed at the 2Kers of Escondido, they (and those who hold to the teachings of American Presbyterianism with them) seem to be caring all by themselves.

Somehow, such questions always seem to lead critics to the judgment that 2Kers are opposed to the involvement of Christians in politics. Balderdash. I have never encountered anyone (2Ker or otherwise) opposed to bringing the gospel to bear on contemporary social and political life. But such criticism misses the point: the real question is what should be the nature of that influence? Should it be spiritual and moral, or constitutional and legislative? If the latter, how are we to evaluate Christians, for example, in North Korea? Have they been derelict in their religious duties since a totalitarian dynasty successfully transitioned to its new leader last week? But I digress…

After all, who cares?


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