Talking About Talking About 2K

Darrell Todd Maurina, publisher of the Pulaski County Daily, doesn’t have a blog but he regularly drops into the OPC Forum and the Warfield List, both Yahoo Groups.  Mr.  Maurina is wary of Two Kingdom thought (to put it mildly) and his arguments against 2k typically come down to contrasting 2k with his call for full engagement in the culture war against homosexual rights. 

No one is shocked that there is pushback on 2k but one does hope for principled argumentation.  We know Mr. Maurina publishes but does he deliver? He has recently offered a sound guideline for profitable discussion about 2k in saying “we need to try to understand each other. …we need to be clear about our differences. …  Clarity is not helped by slandering each other’s positions.” (August 9, 2012 OPC Forum)  But, wait, does this mean he has changed his mind?  Because last summer he said

For those who haven’t been following this issue, by a margin of just one vote, the Holland City Council rejected an ordinance which would have made it illegal to discriminate against homosexuals. [and later…] Get rid of this wicked two-kingdoms theology before it’s too late, or suffer the well-deserved consequences. (June 2011, B.B. Warfield List)

Huh? Linking 2k to a vote by the Holland, Michigan City Council seemed like a stretch and describing 2k as “wicked” doesn’t seem to help understanding and clarity. Then,  in a similar tone:

 I do not see how this can be regarded as anything other than an abdication of responsibility by the church…. Not only is the civil magistrate under the Escondido version of the two kingdoms doctrine free to be latitudinarian, he is also free to be wildly extreme in his punishments… But the culture wars are real, they’re deadly serious, and if we’re not going to fight back we can’t assume the devil is going to stop fighting just because we try to raise the white flag.  (March 2012, OPC Forum)

That’s really a trumpet call to fight the enemies at the gates, not an argument. Then, if he thinks Escondido promotes extreme punishment, I wonder what he thinks of theonomy?

Now we’ll again give Mr. Maurina credit for articulating a second praiseworthy principle for discussion: “I know we need to judge a movement by the theology of its leaders, not its radicals…” (August 9, 2012 OPC Forum).  So one would then expect Mr. Maurina to engage someone like David Van Drunen, yes?  No.  Instead, how about someone who emotionally resonates a little more?

I just found this video of a speech by Misty Irons at the 2012 Gay Christian Network… I think this needs to get widespread attention by those who think the “Radical Two Kingdoms” theology does not have consequences. (August 10. 2012 OPC Forum)

Maybe Mr. Maurina thinks Ms. Irons is a mainstream theological leader, but not many others would describe her that way, including Ms. Irons.  Continuing to use Ms. Iron’s name, Mr. Maurina again departs from his second principle of discussion:

If the Escondido 2K people don’t want to be accused of holding positions such as those of Misty Irons, they need to explain why their core principles will not logically lead to positions such as hers. (August 14, 2012, B.B. Warfield List)

Given his line of work, Mr. Maurina should have heightened sensitivity to the difference between discussion on the one hand and then trumpet blowing and button-pushing on the other.  It would be nice to see that when he talks about 2k.

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “Talking About Talking About 2K

  1. “Wicked”? Maybe he’s switched to decaf since then…

  2. Thanks for keeping tabs on the discussion lists.

    • Now he’s urging people to write to Escondido to complain about Michael Horton.

      • Richard

        Seriously? I missed that. I thought we was complaining about Ms. Irons. Jeepers.

      • Here it is, in part:

        Dr, Horton treats legalization of homosexual domestic partnerships as being an open question with legitimate arguments on both sides. While he opposes gay marriages, he says this: “Although a contractual relationship denies God’s will for human dignity, I could affirm domestic partnerships as a way of protecting people’s legal and economic security.”

        I’m not a Calvin Seminary professor, obviously, but if I were one, I’d be saying some of the people who seceded from the Christian Reformed Church need to apologize to Calvin Seminary if they don’t complain about this happening at Westminster-West.

        Here’s the address:

      • Clearly a reference to the CRC’s ordination of weemens. And a reference to the “once you ordain girls, nothing keeps you from ordaining gays” point. But does DTM know the difference between ecclesiastical ordination and civil contracts? Does he really think Horton’s next step will be egalitarianism? Can you say scare tactics?

      • Good points. I’ve tried to elaborate a bit more in the next post.

  3. Odd how even some theonomists don’t blow as hard as this fellow.

    • Well, he’s originally from Grand Rapids. You supply the punch line.

    • darrelltoddmaurina

      Greetings, ZRim.

      Since you cited me in the same sentence as theonomists, I probably ought to say that I think the Westminster Standards clearly rule out theonomy. On that point I agree with Dr. R. Scott Clark. I can’t quickly find the quote, but unless my memory is wrong, Rushdoony attacked the WCF’s view of the civil law, and the more moderate theonomists have a hard time distancing themselves from Rushdoony’s logic. As a practical matter, I rarely deal with theonomists anymore — I don’t think I’ve had a face-to-face conversation with a self-described theonomist in years — and their movement is both ecclesiastically and politically irrelevant.

      Now on the issue of Two Kingdoms theology being “wicked,” I don’t think I drink less caffeine today, but I have changed my views of the movement. I do believe we need to distinguish between a more radical 2K view and a more nuanced 2K view.

      While I believe both are wrong, it’s become increasingly clear that some of the 2K advocates are 1) trying to make a credible claim to be part of the old Southern Presbyterian “spirituality of the church” tradition, or 2) are taking a view of natural law which has a long history in the Roman Catholic legal tradition.

      I don’t agree, but I can live with the moderate 2K position. My problem is with the radicals. The movement is still working out the details and I’m not sure anyone — even the 2Kers — know where things are going to end up.

  4. DTM, yes, I understand you reject theonomy. My point was how odd it is for one who rejects it to blow so hard against those who do as well, indeed harder than some who affirm it.

    I’ve yet to see those who employ the “radical” term demonstrate to any satisfaction what is so radical about what is being said. That there is a distinction to be made between the moral and political? That it is preferable to adopt the older conservative views of preserving culture than the progressively minded category of transforming it? That Christian liberty extends to political views and practices? That the revisions to Belgic 36 and WCF 23 should be championed? How is any of this rrrrradical? Still, you admit having a problem even with “moderate” 2k. That Christ is one Lord over all creation but rules them in different ways? That general revelation is to norm civil life and special revelation ecclesiastical? Not only do I not see the problem in any of this, I don’t see how rankling at moderation doesn’t move one’s sympathies closer to the fringe for something like, say, theonomy. Where exactly are you in this whole thing, DTM?

  5. darrelltoddmaurina

    ZRim, you ask a legitimate question of “where exactly are you in this whole thing.”

    I don’t know if I can give an “exact” answer because I myself don’t yet know precisely what I think of the 2K theology in its more moderate and more radical versions, but I’ll try.

    Here’s my basic viewpoint.

    In my world, I never — and I mean never, ever, at any time — have to deal with professed Christians who advocate anything remotely resembling “Two Kingdoms” views. It simply isn’t on my current radar screen living in the Bible Belt, and it was utterly foreign to my experience of what it meant to be a conservative Calvinist in Grand Rapids, or really anyplace else I’ve ever lived.

    That means my primary acquaintance with Two Kingdoms people is via the internet. I think we can all affirm that internet debates are not necessarily the best way to do theology, though they’re quite valuable in popularizing and discussing important theological issues.

    I read but avoided joining those 2K debates for a long time because I believed the 2Kers were a minor group with only a few leaders and a small number of supporters who could be ignored as irrelevant.

    I no longer believe that.

    For better or for worse, ZRim, your movement has grown to the point that it is forcing a response from those of us who believe there is such a thing as a distinctively Christian view of politics. There are a lot of side issues, but that’s the core of my concern.

    I’m still learning what 2Kers believe and trying to understand why they believe it. It has become clear to me that not everybody in the movement is the same, and I’m not convinced they all mean the same thing by the same words. For example, I’ve spent considerable time defending Dr. Horton from charges of heresy. For someone to say that Dr. Horton is a heretic makes no sense at all unless someone has redefined the word.

    ZRim, I’ve can’t give you an “exact” answer because I don’t have one. I have tried to give you a fair and full accounting of my views, which are still in flux at this point. It is entirely possible to be right about the gospel and wrong about politics, and I think that’s probably going to be my ultimate evaluation of the more moderate versions of Two Kingdoms theology.

    As for the more radical versions of 2K theology — I believe quoting people is the best way to refute them. The overwhelming majority of people in the PCA, OPC, URC, and the rest of the conservative Reformed world oppose homosexual marriage, abortion, and all the other points on the social conservative agenda. They may not have thought out the details and fine points, but these are not issues on which there is any significant dissent in conservative Reformed circles.

    I’ve been wrong many times but I don’t think I’m wrong on this point. You may say that’s because American Calvinists are more fundamentalist than Reformed, and you may have a point, especially with regard to the PCA. However, it will take a great deal of work on your part to change the overwhelming majority position in conservative Reformed circles.

    • DTM, sometimes the process is more revealing than the conclusion. Take, for example, your conclusions about what is acceptable, “moderate” 2k and then unacceptable r2k. On this and other points you seem to argue back from a point of contact in the culture wars. In other words, if someone shares with you the same political conviction, he gets to be an acceptable moderate, but, otherwise he is radical and must be denounced. If this is indeed your process of reasoning is it not uncommon. But this approach really fails to grapple with whether 2k is itself the correct or acceptable approach, and really does elevate political conclusions to be the basis for separating the sheep from the goats.

      • darrelltoddmaurina

        Mikelmann, based on what I’ve said here, that is a reasonable though wrong conclusion about how I’m defining the difference between moderate and radical 2K views. While I haven’t yet decided what I think about many issues in this “Two Kingdoms” debate, you may be assured that I understand why ends do not justify the means.

        It is entirely possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. That happens all the time in politics, both secular and ecclesiastical.

        For example, if there is a person out there who is pro-life but basing his pro-life position on wrong motives, that’s still wrong. One obvious example would be a person who has no strong pro-life convictions but votes pro-life because he doesn’t want to get thrown out of office. He may not be purely selfish and power-hungry; he may rationalize his vote by saying he’s just doing what his constituents want. Let’s up the ante a little more by giving him credit for having the “courage” to go against what his national party wants because he values the views of his local constituents more.

        If so, my next question to him is going to be something like this: “You’re a southern conservative Democrat. I realize you’re willing to buck your national party on this issue because it’s what your constituents want, and I’m grateful. But not that many years ago, many of your constituents in your district would have advocated Jim Crow legislation and bans on interracial marriage. Are you saying that if your constituents wanted you to return to the pre-1967 laws in Missouri barring interracial marriage, I am not allowed to be married to my wife because I’m white and she’s not, you would be okay with that?”

        Pure democracy doesn’t work; the Greeks found that out thousands of years ago. We have a republic or a representative democracy for good reasons, and those reasons include electing representatives who have time to think their votes through. Ideally, they research issues and make tough decisions based on core principles.

        We need to make our political decisions based on principles, not pure pragmatism. I’m sometimes blamed for being an “incrementalist,” and I’m well aware that how we apply the principles may not always be obvious, and because it takes time to shift public opinion to get things done, we may need to be satisfied with small steps toward implementing a principle.

        Not all principles are good, and some principles are just flat-out bad. The bottom line is that in a free republic like ours, we need to follow biblical principles in our voting. If someone wants to argue that mass murder of defenseless babies is somehow compatible with a Christian worldview, I simply don’t know how they can get that our of their Bibles.

      • DTM, I see that you wonder where 2k might lead us. I’ll ask a simpler question of your perspective. I won’t request that you forecast the future, but, rather, to tell me where your vision is supposed to lead us. I hear that it’s really important to engage the culture wars and to argue about them from the Bible. I hear it’s antinomian and censurable to think otherwise. (This is the noise I hear, not what you have stated here per se.) Dr. Milton wants to talk about specific culture battles from the pulpit, so he must be crystal clear about those battles and feel confident about binding people to engage in them. If all that is true, you really have to give us the specifics of these culture war imperatives. If I tell my child to be good, it doesn’t seem right to punish him for not cleaning the garage unless we told him to clean the garage, right? So, is the best case scenario an enforcement of both tables of the law? By criminal law? Do we support federal or state enforcement? And is the ideal enforcement of biblical morals even consistent with the Constituion we live under? Here a coherent answer(s) is necessary, but it’s elusive. If you do have an answer here please staple it to our confessions so we all know what we’re bound by.

  6. darrelltoddmaurina

    Perhaps this article by Dr. Michael Milton, the chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary will be of some benefit to Reformed brothers involved in politics:

    http://michaelmilton.org/2012/08/17/being-a-pastor-and-speaking-out-in-todays-culture/

    Dr. Milton is much more important than me. If 2Kers want to argue that his views are not Reformed, that would make for an interesting debate.

  7. DTM, thanks. I guess I am still unclear on what makes some 2k radical and some moderate. But I get the sense that one way some are coming at this is that radical (i.e. to be suspect and marginalized) is to not walk lock step with the certain social and political agendas, to question certain assumptions about them. Frankly, I find this bizarre. Is it really so suspect to want to see more sobriety and less sentimentality and to not want our communions held captive by particular social and political agendas, left or right?

  8. darrelltoddmaurina

    ZRim, neither churches nor individual Christians are free to do whatever they want. Ecclesiastical communions will either be held captive by the Word of God or will be seduced by something that is not from God.

    If you think there is liberty for Christians to question the sinfulness of abortion and homosexual activity, then you and I have very different views.

    If you think it’s fine for Christians to say “abortion and homosexuality are bad but we can’t tell other people what to do with their bodies,” then again, you and I have very different views.

    I’m not saying you think either of those two things. In fact, I am not sure what you believe. I hope we actually agree rather than disagree on both of those two points.

  9. DTM, I do not think there is liberty on the sinfulness of abortion or homosexual activity, and I do not affirm the myopic dichotomizing of sinful beliefs and behavior. So we agree.

    But I do think there is also a lot to be said for the dangers of self-righteousness and the mistake of assuming that it cannot be manifest in politics; I worry more over the ways in which Christians don’t see this and end up doing great harm to the gospel witness than I do about the moral condition of the nation. That’s not to undermine the latter concern at all, rather it’s to prioritize the former because that is actually what the Bible teaches. And so for all the blustering about bringing biblical virtue to bear on the public square, it may be that to do so is to push it back a step and highlight the limits of worldly and provisional power against the moralizing of politics and the politicizing of faith. Or the virtues of living quiet and peaceable lives over against becoming yet another yammering and glorified PAC, or extolling the virtues of civil obedience over the vice of disobedience. But maybe this is where one earns his “radical” label?

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