I see that my good friend Bill Chellis at DRC has reacted to the post above. He asks if I think the Synod Dort was Judaizing.
A word of clarification.
I understand that the word “Judaizing” is strong and provocative. By it I am not characterizing all of Christendom exactly. The immediate referent was “transformationalism,” especially the “take back (fill in the blank) _______ sort.” I used the word “Judaizing” to capture the spirit of Calvin’s repeated criticism of those who seek to create a golden age on this earth. I read him saying this again, in preparation for a sermon on Mark 13:1-8, in his commentary on the parallel passage in Matthew. I’m thinking also of Bullinger’s strictures on “Jewish golden ages” in the Second Helvetic Confession.
Am I throwing out the baby with the bath water? Well, what baby do we want to save? The baby of Christendom? Well, I don’t mind if that metaphorical baby slips out of the tub and into the ether. Common life is just that. The church is not common, but the folk who profess faith live in the church and in the common world at the same time.
Was the Synod of Dort Judaizing? Well, so far as I know, most of the delegates accepted, in theory anyway, some distinction between the two kingdoms, which distinction the theonomists and contemporary theocrats reject. Were the delegates to Dort theocrats? Did they assume the propriety of the civil enforcement of the first table? Sure. They were wrong about that and one of the few really positive developements in Reformed theology since the 17th century is that we recovered from the theocratic hangover.
I agree with those critics of transformationalism who suggest that the language of “taking back” has more to do with middle-class evangelicals feeling dispossed from their previous positions of influence and authority and looking for a way back “in.”
What’s more to the point here, in re the FV, is that their agenda seems to be powered by a social vision that, whatever its errors, has fueled a serious change in the doctrines of covenant, baptism, election, and justification.
Any social program that has such effects should give us pause.”
I respond: fair enough. Maybe we are speaking of Christendom in a way that is equivocal? I agree that post-millenial golden age dreams are judiazing, uptopian, and ultimately gnostic. Further, any vision of “Christendom” that does not recognize the two kingdom distinction is both flawed and ahistorical (especially for Protestants but even for “C”atholics… was Augustine not the father of medieval Christendom?).
I have no grand metaphysical theory for what I call Christendom. I recognize that the Kingdom of grace is the visible Church (as affirmed by the Westminster Confession of Faith). Further, I recognize that the kingdoms of men are always a mix of light and darkness, justice and injustice (whether a pagan order or a “Christian” one). The job of civil rulers is to preserve order. It is our noble hope that in establishing order the nations will preserve enough justice to make life in this age tolerable.
For 1800 years, Western nations have recognized that civil magistrates are not “gods” but serve under God. Much that is noble, beautiful, and humane has been the result. Of course, much that was embarrasing, shocking, and sinful was also a result. Such is the age in which we dwell. Such is the nature of the secular kingdom. The sword establishes order. I prefer an order that, at the very least, pays lips service to a trancendent order over the godless order of modernist liberalism. I much prefer the abuses of Christendom to the horrors of Revolutionary France, and the great totalist systems of the twentieth century.
How sad is the nation whose god is the Directory, the Chairman, or the Fuhrer. There is enough injustice among the magistrates who have professed to “Kiss the Son.”