RE: Community and Normativity
I want to thank Greg Baus for his interaction with my article on the Foundations of the National Confessional position. Obviously, there is much that Greg and I agree on. I found his interaction helpful and spent a great deal of time reading through the linked articles on neutrality, sphere sovereignty, and neo-Calvinism.
Thus far, I would commend Edmund Burke’s distrust of “sophistry, calculators, and economists.” When I read the neo-Calvinists, I get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach when that I get reading libertarians abstractors like von Mises or Ayn Rand as well as socialists like Marx and Engles. Although I greatly prefer the ideas (sometimes… Although sometimes I have to admit a limited preference to von Mises as many defenders of neo-Calvinism tend toward Marx) of Neo-Calvinism, I still find it a metaphysical abstraction unworthy of a party that calls itself “anti-revolutionary”.
Rather, the beauty of the National Confessional position is not its radicalism but its inherent conservatism. It stands within the great tradition of Western Christendom. It’s stand it not uncritical, but even its criticism places it within the stream of the revealed will of God and our shared historical experience.
Criticism aside, I do believe there is a great deal within neo-Calvinism that stands within the great tradition. After all, Kuyper was a conservative who stood upon the foundation of the tradition. It was his sons that turned the position into an abstraction. I would suggest that the sons of Kuyper return to their father. I trust that Greg Baus will do much to help the situation.
In Kuyper, it seems to me, we find the greatest hope of agreement between our respective positions. Did Kuyper believe in “sphere soverignty”, indeed he did, but I question whether his view of sphere soverignty was closer to the historic Christian ideal of subsidiarity or the modern neo-Calvinist conception. I would prefer to re-root Kupyer in the tradition of classical subsidiarity as expressed in Calvin, Althusius, and the Puritans. This is where I am most confortable. A confessional pluralism within the context of a Christ’s confessing (and honoring unity). Thus my attempt to suggest a form of local confessionalism within the context of a Christ confessing nation.
I have three points to make against neo-Calvinism,
First, the problem with neo-Calvinistic interpretation of sphere soverignty is that areas of exception swallow the rule. Is the family a distinct sphere from the community? Is it a seperate sphere from the Church? What rights does a father have over against the city elders, over the church elders? What are the bounderies. Since all admit the bounderies are not black and white, the point it so fluid as to lose all ability to provide normative answers.
The second problem is this: Christ has given to the Church authority over the Bible. If God’s Word is normative within the family, the state, or the market, it is a problem to say that these spheres have an independent right to interpret God’s Word over against the Church. God has given the good gifts of Pastors and Teachers to interpret and expound His Word to the Church and not to the magistrate, the family, or the acadamy (at least not independently from the Church).
Finally, the neo-Calvinist view of sphere soverignty blurs what is best about subsidiarity. The ability to have diversity exist in unity within a traditional and hierarchical context.