Dualism is a dirty word for many on this blog. Several recent comments suggest that to distinguish redemption and creation leads to Hobbes, Rousseau, and Manicheanism. So perhaps a few basic points are again in order.
The Westminster Divines in chapters 20 and 31, for starters, talk about the differences between civil and ecclesiastical power, and also say that the church is not to meddle in matters civil. This is dualism in my view. It suggests that the state has authority over the physical sphere of human existence and the church over the spiritual. Yes, there are overlapping areas, such as that the state’s laws imply morality and churches own property. But the basic point is that the church uses a two-edged spiritual sword for her discipline, the state uses a real one.
If such dualism is disallowed and if you blur these spheres you get crusades and religious warfare. The state not only executes civil justice but also ecclesiastical law. I wish I heard more for the critics of W2K and of dualism that would say, “yes, dualism is bad but we can’t return to the fusion of religion and politics that we saw in the early 17th century.” (By the way, Locke and Hobbes may have had poor accounts of virtue and the good society, but they were addressing the very real problem of religious warfare.)
I don’t see how it helps when the philosophically tedious Kuyperians or Dooyerweerdians get involved. They hold that people either believe in God or they substitute such belief with an idol. Folks may be inconsistent on the ground. But ultimately, they are either believers or disbelievers and all of their perceptions and knowledge flow from there. If I thought this was in any way an accurate account of civil society, I’d move to Northern Manitoba because I don’t know how I could trust governors, police, justices or legislators who were not Christian. Wouldn’t their god-hating ways inevitably catch up with this god-lover?
This is why the example of language was somewhat important, at least to my non-philosophical brain. We exist all the time in a world where we trust the speech of people who aren’t Christians. What is more, they seem to possess this linguistic ability naturally. In which case, if we can trust the goodness (WHICH COMES FROM GOD ALREADY!) of non-Christians language skills, why can’t we trust their abilities to execute justice and run a state agency?
For the life of me, I don’t know why this sort of distinction, between people’s natural abilities and their spiritual gifts, requires me to think creation is evil, as Baus insinuates. I thought that the language example showed that I believe the natural world has all sorts of good. I’m not the one crying for the redemption of everything, including language.
But while I’m at it, I’ll take a stab at defending religious neutrality, in ways comparable to linguistic neutrality. I do think Kuyperians are good Calvinists when they describe the situation of every person — either he or she is a God-fearer, a covenant-keeper (imperfect) or not. So no one is neutral in this sense. But when I go before a judge, and I am identified as a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, I am pretty confident that a non-Christian can still hear my case impartially without condemning me for the creed I confess. (I’m actually worried more about his politics than his theology or lack thereof.)
The same goes for a host of affairs, from car mechanics to baking, from chemistry to history. A Christian is able to bracket his faith and look at the data with a measure of impartiality. A Protestant car mechanic can fix a car made by Roman Catholics without fear of compromising his convictions. A Jewish historian can interpret the history of Calvinism in manner that is full of wisdom and insight. If such impartiality is impossible, then we are in a heap of trouble because no one out there can be trusted.
(If someone thinks this is a caricature of neo-Calvinism, please defend Kuyper and his followers — 50 words or less — in ways that avoid these obvious difficulties. Please also do not use the words “common” or “grace.” As one seminary faculty put it, citing common grace is like dealing from the bottom of the deck.)