Category Archives: Neo-Calvinism
As I’ve said before on this blog, one of the oddities of contemporary discussions about the two kingdoms doctrine is the assumption that it entails the radical separation of church and state, with the latter rendered autonomous before God’s law. Even more odd is the sometimes stated claim that this radical two kingdoms doctrine is characteristic of Lutheranism and a supposed Lutheran political passivity (in contrast to an allegedly culturally transformative Calvinism).
In part this confusion goes back to early 20th Century works by prominent theologians like Ernst Troeltsch and H. Richard Niebuhr, whose caricatures of Lutheran and Calvinist social teachings have been authoritatively rehashed in a myriad of scholarly and popular works. In part it stems from confusion about why so many Lutherans supported Hitler’s regime in Nazi Germany. Calvinists like to ignore their own record of theologically justified complicity with racism and oppression in places like South Africa and the United States. They also seem oblivious to early Lutheran teachings about justified resistance to tyrants, teachings that helped spark the first great religious war after the Reformation and that by no means rendered Lutheranism politically passive during those early centuries.
In his Law and Protestantism John Witte describes at length how Lutheran jurists and theologians built on the two kingdoms theology of Martin Luther to lay the foundations for the Christian state. According to these Lutheran scholars, magistrates were to ensure material provision for the church, overseeing its care for the poor, education, teaching, discipline and ministry. Princes were to govern as Christian princes, and where they went against God’s law they were not to expect the cooperation or obedience of Christians. They were to govern society according to the Ten Commandments and the guidance of Scripture, under the careful influence of the clergy.
“For the Ten Commandments,” as Witte puts it, “were best interpreted by the Church and its theologians, not by the state and the Obrigkeit. The magistrate was thus obligated to draw on theologians and clergy in order to understand the moral and religious dimensions of the law.” As he summarizes his conclusions, “the jurists emphasized the need to establish an overtly Evangelical order of law, society, and politics in the earthly kingdom.”
Of course, many contemporary two kingdoms advocates, like their neo-Calvinist or neo-Anabaptist cousins, reject old assumptions about the obligation of civil governments to enforce true religion by punishing idolatry, false teaching, and blasphemy. As a result, they reformulate old doctrines, seeking to draw upon the wisdom of the past while avoiding its mistakes. Darryl Hart and David VanDrunen are no more interested in slavishly aping the reformers than were Abraham Kuyper or Herman Bavinck (or is Stanley Hauerwas in imitating Menno Simons).
Some have taken to describing contemporary Reformed two kingdoms advocates according to the epithet “Radical Two Kingdoms (R2K).” Perhaps a better (and more respectful) descriptive term for such efforts would be “neo-two kingdoms.” Of course, the prefix ‘neo’ should by no means be seen as denigrating. All of us are trying to work out the implications of the Christian faith for our public life and witness, drawing on the theological insights of men who held very different assumptions and lived in very different times. We should be careful not to reduce the giants on whose shoulders we stand to mere proxies for our own cultural, political, and theological debates. We need to learn from them, not simply to use them; to build on their work in faithfulness to the demands of our own times, not nostalgically to yearn for some “golden age” of the past.
At Ordained Servant David VanDrunen has written a helpful response to Ryan McIlhenny’s multi-authored Kingdoms Apart. You should definitely go and read the whole thing, but I want to draw your attention to a few points here.
First, like me (here and here), VanDrunen is disappointed with Venema’s chapter on Calvin and the two kingdoms, going so far as to call it “very polemical and tendentious.” This is in contrast to Gene Haas’s chapter on Calvin, which is much more measured and which largely agrees with VanDrunen’s work on Calvin. VanDrunen responds in particular to Venema’s charge (made by others as well) that he has turned the two kingdoms into two “hermetically separated domains or realms” and that he has identified the kingdom of God with the church “simpliciter.” He notes his own statement “that for Calvin ‘no area of life can be completely slotted as civil and not at all as spiritual’” and rightly denies that he identifies the church with Christ’s kingdom in this way, but he also reaffirms a crucial point affirmed by Haas and readily evident from much of the Genevan reformer’s work: Calvin does closely tie the two kingdoms to the institutional work of church and state.
Second, after mentioning that Kingdoms Apart focuses almost exclusively on Calvin and a few modern Dutch theologians, VanDrunen notes that McIlhenny and his co-authors (strategically? unintentionally?) sidestep the issue of the place of the two kingdoms doctrine in Reformed history.
Kingdoms Apart does not resolve a question that would seem to be absolutely crucial to its purposes: is the two kingdoms doctrine part of our Reformed heritage? Since Kingdoms Apart aims to engage the “two kingdoms perspective” critically, one might think that the book would answer no. One of the endorsers (Charles Dunahoo) indeed states that Kingdoms Apart “compares and contrasts the one-kingdom view and the Two Kingdoms view.” But who actually holds a “one-kingdom view?” Venema and Haas clearly affirm that Calvin taught a two kingdoms doctrine, Wood explicitly presents Kuyper as a two kingdoms theologian (confirmed by Parler in a later chapter), and even Kloosterman admits that Bavinck “recognized the twofold kingship of Christ” and “the so-called two kingdoms” (72). For all of the negative comments against me in these chapters (Wood’s excluded), it seems as though all of these contributors to Kingdoms Apart agree with my basic thesis that the earlier Reformed tradition—including Kuyper and Bavinck—affirmed the two kingdoms.
It seems so, but unfortunately the authors fail to make this point. VanDrunen may be justified if he feels that the authors avoided affirming the extent to which they actually agree with his work. If the purpose of Kingdoms Apart is to promote cordial conversation and theological consensus, why the reticence?
VanDrunen goes on,
But what then of neo-Calvinism? My historical claim is that contemporary neo-Calvinism (post Kuyper and Bavinck) is different from the earlier Reformed tradition in ignoring and even denying the two kingdoms doctrine in favor of a one-kingdom perspective. If the contributors to Kingdoms Apart believe this is wrong (yet agree that Calvin, Kuyper and Bavinck affirmed two kingdoms categories), then presumably they believe that neo-Calvinism itself adheres to a two kingdoms doctrine. This would be quite a remarkable claim. But even McIlhenny’s Introduction (which seeks to define neo-Calvinism) doesn’t make this claim or clarify the issue.
As I suggested in my review of Kingdoms Apart (at Mere Orthodoxy, here and here), this is a major weakness of the book, one that obscures the extent to which most of the authors are actually in agreement with VanDrunen’s arguments about the two kingdoms doctrine. In my view, this is a classic example of the extent to which polemics and controversy can obscure truth.
Third, VanDrunen observes that McIlhenny, who once sought a third way between the two kingdoms and neo-Calvinism, now characterizes his own perspective as more firmly entrenched in neo-Calvinism. Yet it’s unclear just how McIlhenny’s position has changed. Indeed, VanDrunen writes,
I find his discussion here helpful, especially in its emphasis upon culture not simply as a thing that humans create but as at root language, which involves community practices and interpretations. And though he makes some critical comments directed toward advocates of the two kingdoms in the second part of the chapter, it is still not clear whether his broad proposal is really so at odds with the two kingdoms idea, at least how I understand it.
After describing one of McIlhenny’s arguments VanDrunen then writes,
At this point he states: “Interestingly, VanDrunen seems to agree with this” (270). Indeed, but why does he find this surprising? Does McIlhenny believe, deep down, that no two kingdoms proponent really thinks that no aspect of life is religiously/morally neutral or that the antithesis rears its head in all human activity, no matter how often some of us affirm such things? At the end of the day, McIlhenny’s interest in a redeemed cultural ethos seems to approach the subject at a different angle from me, but I hold out hope that our approaches may not be ultimately incompatible.
As I argued in my review, the disagreements here are really not as substantive as they sometimes seem. We need to keep working hard to tone down the rhetoric.
Finally, VanDrunen legitimately complains that Kingdoms Apart makes little effort to engage his own constructive exegetical work relative to the two kingdoms. In particular, the authors almost entirely ignore the significance of VanDrunen’s arguments regarding the Noahic Covenant, a fact which contributes to the book’s incorrect suggestion that he rejects the cultural mandate. VanDrunen explains,
A key aspect of my biblical-theological case for the two kingdoms is my interpretation of the continuing applicability of the cultural mandate in light of Paul’s Two Adams paradigm and the Noahic covenant…. It is not as if Christians have no cultural mandate (as Kingdoms Apart suggests I claim), but that the cultural mandate comes to the human race only as refracted through the covenant with Noah after the flood. It comes thereby to the human race as a whole (not to Christians uniquely) and is geared for life in a fallen world and holds out no eschatological hope of reward.
This is a helpful point. Recognizing that God has given the cultural mandate to believers in common with unbelievers would go a long way in helping Christians to avoid the sense of entitlement and even arrogance that nonbelievers often detect in our political and cultural engagement.
I do think VanDrunen could say more about the significance of the fact that “all things” are now tied up with Christ, and therefore about the relation of the Noahic Covenant to the witness of Christians to Christ’s lordship in all of life. What much of this conversation revolves around is the relationship between four theological realities:
1) the definitive reconciliation of the world that has taken place in Christ’s death and resurrection (the neo-Calvinist emphasis)
2) the full transformation of the world that will take place at Christ’s return, but not before (the orthodox Christian belief, undermined by the social gospel and certain forms of theological liberalism)
3) the in-breaking of the kingdom in the ministry of the church and in the sanctification of believers (the key affirmation for the discovery of common ground?)
4) the “already-but-not-yet” tension of a Christian life of sanctification and witness in an untransformed world (the two kingdoms emphasis)
More work needs to be done clarifying the relation between these points. I hope VanDrunen’s response to Kingdoms Apart can help to move the discussion forward.
A classroom full of kindergarten students is busily working on their art projects. One student glances over at the work of the student sitting next to him. “What’s that?” he asks. “It’s a cat,” the second child answers. The other looks skeptical. “No, that can’t be. We have a cat at home, and that’s not what it looks like.” The second child stops drawing, stiffens, fixes his eyes straight ahead of himself, and repeats, “it’s a cat.” The first child insists again, absolutely sure of himself, “no it’s not.” The conversation gradually escalates, with each student offering reasons as to whether or not the object in view is or is not a cat. The first stresses the lack of fur, whiskers, and movement. The second points to the shape of the head, the ears, and the body.
Finally a teacher is forced to mediate, and quietly explains to the second student that what his critic means is that it’s not a real cat; it’s simply a picture of a cat. She then explains to the first student that what the other means is that it’s a picture of a cat, not a real cat. The same word can mean different – though similar – things, in different contexts. This is not something we are supposed to argue about.
Something similar to this often happens, I think, when Christians get to arguing about the meaning of words like ‘Christian’ or ‘culture’ or ‘redemption’ or ‘transformation.’ We act as if any of these terms has one, authoritative meaning that everyone is supposed to accept, and then criticize everyone who, using the word differently, makes statements that seem contrary to our own.
Consider the word ‘Christian.’ The word appears in the New Testament three times. In Acts 11:26 we are told that in Antioch the disciples of Jesus were first called ‘Christians.’ There is no hint that there is anything normative about this. It’s simply a passing reference to the historical origin of a descriptive term. In Acts 26:28 we come across the word again, this time in the mouth of a pagan ruler. After listening to the Apostle Paul proclaim the gospel King Agrippa asks, “In a short time, would you persuade me to be a Christian?” Here again it is obvious that the term refers to a follower of Jesus. Finally, in 1 Peter 4:16 the Apostle Peter reminds believers that whether or not suffering has a redemptive quality to it depends on whether or not a person is suffering “as a Christian,” as opposed to as a “murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler.” Here the term seems to refer to someone who is actually following Christ in his or her conduct, rather than simply to someone who professes faith in Christ.
Of course, there are many other examples in the New Testament of the apostles declaring one thing or another to be “in Christ.” It would seem that these instances are also occasions in which the adjective ‘Christian’ might fairly be used. So for instance, when Romans 8:1 says that there is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, it would be a fair paraphrase to say that there is no condemnation for those who are Christians. Or when Paul says in Romans 9:1 that he is speaking the truth in Christ, it would be appropriate to say that he is declaring the “Christian truth.” Finally, when Paul says in Romans 12:5 that believers are “one body in Christ” we could paraphrase him as saying that we are “one Christian body.”
Fair enough? What then about those occasions in which Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” in breathtakingly expansive ways, ways indicative of the radical claims of the gospel over all of life. For instance, what about a passage like Colossians 1:15-20, in which Paul says that all things were created in Christ, all things are reconciled in Christ, and all things exist in Christ. Could we say that from this perspective there is a sense in which all things are definitively Christian (in origin, destiny, and existence)? It would seem so. At the very least it would seem very silly or petty of a person to say that we can say that something is “in Christ” and yet we cannot say that it is in any sense “Christian.”
From these examples you can readily see that the word ‘Christian’ can have a wide range of meanings. It can be a purely descriptive, historical term, referring to someone who outwardly professes to be a Christian. It can refer to someone who is actually living as a Christian, or to someone who is actually united to Christ. More broadly it could refer to the truth of Christianity, or even to the truth seen from the perspective of Christianity. Indeed, it could even refer to material objects insofar as they are seen in relation to Christ.
What then, about the word culture? Here we are on much more difficult ground, because the word culture is not a Scriptural word. There is a wide range of meanings and uses of the word culture, and all of them are correct. For instance, culture can refer to human products, such as a hammer, or an article of clothing. It can also refer to a set of beliefs or understood meaning about those products, such as a religious perspective or philosophical worldview. Ryan McIlhenny suggests in Kingdoms Apart that Christians should think of the redemption of culture (and remember, redemption is another tough word, with both concrete theological meanings and general secular meanings that predate Christianity) not in terms of the redemption of material things but as the expression of a Christian perspective on those things, i.e., about an understanding of how those things relate to Christ.
Darryl Hart has trouble with this. As he writes in a comment to Friday’s post on this blog, “I don’t think the Bible has much to say about cultural life.” What does he mean by that? Is he referring to the meaning of life, suggesting that the Bible doesn’t have much to say about the meaning of life? Or is he talking about the structure and nature of material things, as if to say, I don’t think the Bible has much scientific or technical information in it? The first understanding of Darryl’s sentiment would be absurd; the second makes a whole lot of sense. Darryl gives an indication of how he is thinking:
It seems to me that when Christians make culture they end up making things informed as much by non-biblical teaching as by Scripture itself… The issue in my mind is the sufficiency of Scripture. I do not deny that the Bible has much to say about a Christian’s obedience. I don’t think it has much to say [of the] odd notion of ‘cultural obedience.’
Clearly Darryl is not saying that the Bible doesn’t have much to say about the meaning of life, or about the necessity of obedience in all of life. He is talking about epistemology – or how we know things. He is concerned that Christians arrogantly claim for themselves superiority over unbelievers regarding matters about which Scripture does not speak. He is using the word culture in a narrow way (i.e., material culture rather than culture as meaning) and he is implying a narrow use of the word Christian (i.e., something found in Scripture but not anywhere else). And for the point he is trying to make, a point I think most Reformed Christians would affirm, that makes sense. The question is, is that the only way Christians can speak?
In another comment Darryl sheds more light on his concern: He notes five definitions of culture found in a particular dictionary, the fifth and most significant of which is “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture.” Darryl then writes, “The closest that we get to a Christian culture in there is perhaps a church culture … But for Christians to claim anything distinct in this list of definitions is beyond me.”
Darryl gives the example of language. Language is basic to culture, but Christians clearly don’t use their own distinctive vocabulary or grammar. And of course, if we are understanding language as a bare symbolic fact, he is right. On the other hand, if we understand language as a set of tools that presuppose a structure of meaning (people do sometimes talk about the ‘language of Scripture’ or of Christianity, referring to its ordinary use of terms and concepts to refer to certain truths), much more needs to be said.
Darryl also gives Kuyper’s example of a civilization such as Rome, the Muslim world, or other ancient cultures. He writes, “To my mind, that is a conceit of neo-Calvinism, the thought of a Christian culture. It applies the antithesis where it does not belong, at least in this age.” Again, it seems that Darryl’s words could be parsed out here in ways with which most of us would agree. Christians do often use these words loosely and in ways that confuse and mislead unbelievers at best, while utterly alienating them as sheer arrogance at worst. On the one hand, if by Christian culture we are talking about a material society becoming the kingdom of God itself, then Christians should spurn all such talk. If we are saying that a particular society does everything justly and in accord with the truth (i.e., Peter’s use of the term) we should also reject its application to a whole group of people, believers and non-believers alike. If we are saying that everything good in a civilization comes from Christian people or from exclusively biblical ideas, we have become guilty of breathtaking (and ignorant) arrogance.
On the other hand, historians and sociologists routinely refer to particular societies with the descriptive term Christian, often in contrast to other societies that are Buddhist, Muslim, or pagan. And what they mean when they write this way is that various societies have been shaped to a certain extent by truths of the Christian religion, or by beliefs unique to a body of Christians. Does Hart reject this? I doubt it.
I could go on and on, applying the same analysis to words like redemption and transformation, but this post is already long. Consider it a testimony to my frustration with the sound-bite quality that the Reformed debate over questions of Christianity and culture often takes, a quality no better than those two kindergarteners arguing over whether or not a picture of a cat should be referred to as a cat. I’m not saying there are no real disagreements or important issues at stake. I am an ethicist, after all, having devoted the last four years of my life to studying Christianity and culture. And no, I’m not simply picking on Darryl Hart here, any more than I’m picking on neo-Calvinists or reconstructionists.
Far too often our debates devolve into simplistic sloganeering against paper caricatures that obscures the real points of agreement and disagreement. We abandon all charity of interpretation as we insist that others use their terms precisely as we do. Well aware of the extremes to which those in the other camp have gone, we are entirely blind to the extremes of those in our own. Knowing our own faults and inconsistencies, we readily forgive them based on our good intentions and correct thinking on the ‘main points’, while holding others ruthlessly accountable for the logical outworking of their own mistakes. A good test here: do you find yourself stubbornly unwilling to talk about something with the language or perspective found in Scripture, simply because someone somewhere has abused it?
I’m not above criticism here either. At one point or another, I’ve done every one of the things I’m saying we shouldn’t do. We all need to do better.
My lone quibble with Matt is the sign of lingering neo-Calvinism (which I attribute to his Covenant College education, in part, and which he denies). For instance, he still believes that Christians will look or be different and noticeable when they apply the Bible to their daily lives …
But I also know and I am sure Matt knows, plenty of non-Christians who believe government officials should serve the public, that businessmen should not ruthlessly pursue profits, that husbands should be considerate and loving toward their wives, and that those with resources will share them with those in need. In other words, I see nothing inherently distinctive or biblical in the Christian pursuit of these social and cultural goods. Do different motives exist for Christian businessmen compared to their unbelieving peers? Sure. Can I see those motives? No. And that is the point. The best stuff that Christians produce in public or cultural life is hardly distinct from non-Christian products. Where you do literally see Christianity at work is on Sunday.
Darryl describes my project as an “effort to find a middle way between 2k and neo-Calvinism. This is not how I perceive my own work. Although I do not view myself as a neo-Calvinist any more than I view myself as a representative of some sort of “two kingdoms movement” (I don’t find such flag-waving helpful), I, like David VanDrunen, wholeheartedly affirm neo-Calvinism’s teaching concerning the sovereignty of God over all of life, along with its emphasis on the cultural mandate, the antithesis, sphere sovereignty, and common grace (you will recall that in Natural Law and Two Kingdoms VanDrunen, with qualifications, claims Kuyper and Bavinck for the two kingdoms tradition, distinguishing it from neo-Calvinism’s subsequent evolution). Rightly understood, as David VanDrunen argues in his Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, every one of these principles is fundamentally compatible with, and to a significant extent even presupposes, a two kingdoms perspective.
To be sure, a prominent strand of neo-Calvinism has evolved in a highly problematic, radical direction, in part due to its abandonment of biblical two kingdoms distinctions, and it therefore easily devolves into the worst forms of the social gospel and liberation theology. In between Kuyper, Bavinck, and this radical form of neo-Calvinism there are a plethora of variants and distinctions among self-conscious and unconscious neo-Calvinists, all of which suggest that we should not dismiss the movement as if it is some sort of monolithic beast.
But let me get to the precise quibble about which Darryl is concerned. Yes, I believe that Christians should look different from the world when they work out Christ’s lordship in their daily lives. At the same time, yes, I believe that the same moral law that binds Christians is written on the hearts of nonbelievers as natural law. As Calvin clarified time and again, outwardly nonbelievers often keep the moral law just as well as, if not better, than those who profess the Christian faith. (Once we get into the realm of the “products” of “public and cultural life,” by which I assume Darryl means things like civil laws, party platforms, scientific discoveries, works of art, or manufactured products like homes, clothing, or tools, there is no question that for the most part, the best that Christians do is hardly different from the best work of nonbelievers. But let me focus on the moral question in this essay.)
There are various reasons for this. On the one hand, many who profess the Christian faith are insincere or hypocritical. None attain to the moral standards that they themselves profess. On the other hand, many nonbelievers readily perceive the advantages of maintaining the natural moral order, whether as a result of their own religious convictions or of the influence of the very Christianity which they reject. But as C. S. Lewis points out in Mere Christianity, the relevant question is not whether every Christian is morally superior to every non-Christian. The relevant question is whether a Christian is more sanctified than he or she would be apart from the work of Christ. That’s why when professing Christians act like the worst unbelievers, the church excommunicates them.
But of course, that sanctification may be outwardly imperceptible in some cases, as Darryl rightly insists. This is particularly true when Christians are compared to those nonbelievers or practitioners of other religions who outwardly live moral lives worthy of the highest human praise, for whatever reason. In fact, there are myriad instances in which even the most sanctified Christians have much to learn – even morally - from individuals who deny the Christian faith. We need humility. Here again Darryl and I are agreed.
But Darryl overemphasizes the degree to which either Christians or nonbelievers actually live according to the best moral standards. I would suggest that the main reason why Christians often look no better morally than the world is that Christians are plagued by so much vice rather than that nonbelievers are marked by so much virtue. If Christians actually followed the teaching of Christ they would look profoundly different from the world, just as would nonbelievers if they actually obeyed the natural law. I understand Darryl’s desire to reject the “They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts” variety of Christianity, but that does not mean our Lord was wrong when he told us that they will know we are his disciples by our love for one another.
The fact remains that even in the works that Christians do that look just like the best works of the most morally admirable nonbelievers, the context for the former distinguishes them from the latter. The Apostle Peter gets at this when he calls Christians to act in ways that the world will respect and admire (which would be impossible if the world did not share the same moral awareness to some extent), but then insists that they always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them. Taken as isolated, individual actions, therefore, what Christians do often looks identical to what is done by nonbelievers, but viewed in the context of a life of Christian witness (expressed most directly in worship, as Darryl emphasizes, but also present in the readiness of Christians to testify to the gospel), the same actions look different. As Ryan McIlhenny helpfully explains in Kingdoms Apart,
The good works done by Christians, although common in the abstract, nonetheless can effectively win over people to the kingdom, as Lord’s Day #32 … of the Heidelberg Catechism tells us (265)
In the particulars, Christian activity is similar to that of unbelievers and therefore part of the common, secular realm, but the picture changes when the pieces form a whole (269).
Christianity makes a difference in the life of anyone who is regenerate. When Christians rightly apply the Bible to their lives, following Christ, their actions will look different than they would have if they had not become Christians, a reality the New Testament explicitly associates with the calling of Christian witness. Does Darryl really disagree with this, understood rightly (rather than facilely)? I doubt it.
Note: Part 1 of this review can be found here.
The first and last chapters of the book, however, by Ryan McIlhenny, articulate a much better model of Christian cultural engagement, a model in substantive continuity with a basic two kingdoms paradigm if perhaps not with that of “the Two Kingdoms perspective” engaged in this book. While I do not agree with McIlhenny on every point, I do find his overall perspective to be a helpful step forward.
In the opening chapter McIlhenny, who is quite sympathetic with criticisms of certain versions of neo-Calvinism, explains why he nevertheless believes it should not be abandoned. But what is the neo-Calvinism that he is defending? The core assertion, he notes, is that Christ’s sovereignty extends to every square inch of the cosmos. He then develops this assertion in terms of four basic tenets: the cultural mandate, sphere sovereignty, the antithesis, and common grace. What is striking about this core assertion and its four tenets is that they are equally affirmed, if with some qualifications, by the leading Two Kingdoms advocate David VanDrunen. Is it possible that VanDrunen’s own project presupposes a basic neo-Calvinist theological framework?
The main difference to McIlhenny, it seems, is that while VanDrunen emphasizes the commonness of cultural activities by virtue of the Noahic Covenant, neo-Calvinists affirm that creation always had a Christological telos and that those who are redeemed in Christ are to witness to that telos in everything that they do. “Thus, for the neo-Calvinist, understanding the continued relevance of the cultural mandate, a changed life through the gracious work of Christ, opens one’s eyes to attend to the wounds of a broken world, spreading the gospel and demonstrating the love of Christ to the whole earth. Christians necessarily act on their transformed lives. Whatever Christians do, even the most quotidian of things such as eating and drinking, they must do for the honor and glory of God” (xxi).
But does VanDrunen really disagree with this point? I cannot speak for him but I am certainly not aware of anything in a two kingdoms paradigm that would lead one to say anything differently. The real question, then, is what does McIlhenny think this acting on the basis of transformed lives look like? And for that we need to turn to the last chapter of the book.
In the last chapter of the book McIlhenny articulates his model of cultural engagement: Christian Witness As Redeemed Culture. Although the chapter is a revision of an essay in which McIlhenny tried to articulate a middle way between neo-Calvinism and the Two Kingdoms perspective, even here McIlhenny is clearly seeking a position that embraces the best insights of both perspectives. Indeed, invoking H. Richard Niebuhr’s five models of Christ and culture he reminds his readers that the models “are not isolated categories to choose from. Each one overlaps, and they are better understood as corresponding moods that every Christian feels when engaging culture” (252). Stating his desire to “bridge the aisle by highlighting a feature of Christian cultural activity that both Two Kingdoms and neo-Calvinist thinkers can agree on” he stresses the character of Christian cultural engagement as a matter of witness and service in expression of Christ’s kingdom, a “setting apart” of Christian activity as “redeemed culture” in place of the transformational activism that seeks to be “externally sacralizing” by “redeeming culture, as if it were a thing to which redemption needs to come” (253). In short, McIlhenny favors transformed witness over transforming conquest.
Key to McIlhenny’s argument is his careful and scholarly definition of culture. He distinguishes between a view of culture as a thing or object that is given to us without meaning, a view he suggests VanDrunen implicitly espouses in his Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, and culture as a language of meaning, or to take the phrase of Clifford Geertz, which McIlhenny appropriates, a “transmitted pattern of meetings” (260). “Failing to recognize culture as language puts us in the habit of confusing culture with nature. It is crucial to understand this point. Presupposing culture as a thing, I believe, is a problem common to both neo-Calvinists and Two Kingdom proponents. Culture is born from human interaction with nature, as stated above, but is distinct from it” (261).
In other words, McIlhenny is suggesting that when VanDrunen emphasizes commonality between what believers and unbelievers do he is talking about nature itself, the objective stuff of life. And McIlhenny does not disagree that when it comes to this the activity of Christians is often no different from that of unbelievers. But he suggests that to properly understand what is going on in cultural engagement we need to recognize that human beings constantly and inevitably use the stuff of nature in ways that communicate meaning. In the context of the antithesis that both he and VanDrunen affirm, therefore, the ways in which Christians understand and communicate the meaning of what they do has to be fundamentally different from the way in which unbelievers do.
To be sure, the project of Christians should not be to seek to transform the culture of unbelievers – an impossible task. Rather, Christians witness by ensuring that their own culture, the meaning that they seek to communicate through their actions, is in service to Christ, or to put it as McIlhenny does, “redeemed.” McIlhenny rightly chastises VanDrunen, I believe, for being too stingy in his use of the adjective ‘Christian’, invoking Kuyper to argue that what the adjective denotes is Christianity’s influence on culture. He rightly invokes Luther and Calvin, “who understood that even the most mundane tasks such as washing dishes and tending a field were given new meaning because of the Christian’s worshipful attitude” (265).
The work that Christians do and the moral standard to which that work conforms is therefore common with that of unbelievers, as VanDrunen argues, but the way in which believers perform those works constitutes a witness to Christ. “The good works done by Christians, although common in the abstract, nonetheless can effectively win over people to the kingdom, as Lord’s Day #32 (Q&A 82) of the Heidelberg Catechism tells us” (265). The effect of this point is that it becomes impossible to make “facile” distinctions between the sacred and the secular. Affirming Darryl Hart’s definition of the secular in A Secular Faith as describing what is of this age, or what is passing, McIlhenny nevertheless points out that while Christians constantly interact with the secular, they always direct their use of secular things to the glory of God. Here he insists that “Two Kingdoms scholars ignore this neo-Calvinist distinction between structure and direction” (268). It seems to me that VanDrunen maintains this distinction in his own work, but I believe McIlhenny is correct that the distinction permits a broader use of the adjective Christian than VanDrunen or Hart acknowledge. As Ephesians 5-6 clearly indicates, Christians do all things “in Christ” even as they fulfill their very secular tasks and vocations. There can therefore be a Christian marriage or a Christian college insofar as through these institutions Christians communicate the meaning of the gospel. McIlhenny even sounds like VanDrunen (and he goes on to admit that substantively on this point “VanDrunen seems to agree with this”) when he writes, “In the particulars, Christian activity is similar to that of unbelievers and therefore part of the common, secular realm, but the picture changes when the pieces form a whole” (270, 269).
Neo-Calvinists have therefore struggled to explain what it means to redeem culture because they have focused on transforming things in themselves, “the ding an sich of material things.” Yet culture is about meaning, not material. And when it comes to meaning, “Everything we do as Christians should have a missionary and eschatological focus. Even our cultural involvement such as it is, should take place from the perspective of Christ’s coming kingdom” (271). Indeed, the preaching of the gospel, itself an inherently cultural activity according to McIlhenny’s definition, calls believers to live precisely this kind of life, presenting an identity to the world that leads unbelievers to ask for a reason for the hope that is in them. Through preaching and witness Christians therefore bring unbelievers into contact with the gospel of Jesus through which they are transformed by the power of God. Thus “It is through common or natural-law deeds – ‘our godly walk of life’ – that, as the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us, ‘we may win our neighbors for Christ’ (Q 86)” (273). Christians’ good works “are the same works [as are the good deeds] of non-Christians, but only in mere common appearance…. Christians serve in culture exactly because they have been redeemed; their redemption now surrounds everything they do and consequently communicates that redeemed identity to the world” (274-275).
McIlhenny’s model of Christian cultural engagement as the witness of redeemed culture is very different from the triumphalist and external transformationalism so often associated with neo-Calvinism and criticized by so many of the authors of this book. It amounts to a defense of the fundamental Christian idea that Christians are to witness to their allegiance to Christ and his kingdom in every single thing that they do, in every area of life. No theology of culture, it seems to me, can be faithfully Christian and yet consistently deny this point. Insofar as Kingdoms Apart highlights and critiques elements of the Two Kingdoms perspective that are in tension with this basic point it performs an excellent service.
But despite some of its own claims, Kingdoms Apart should not be read as a critique of two kingdoms thinking generally any more than it should be read as a categorical endorsement of neo-Calvinism, both of which are far too diverse for such judgments of identity. On the contrary, (most of) the authors do much to show (perhaps unwittingly) that a biblical neo-Calvinism and a biblical two kingdoms perspective are not only compatible with one another, but actually need each other. I wish that McIlhenny had done more to tie the various arguments of the book together, relating his own thought to Calvin’s two kingdoms doctrine as well as to the more radical neo-Calvinism of authors like Jason Lief. Indeed, I suspect that, rhetoric aside, many of the book’s authors are closer in substance to VanDrunen than they are to Lief, one of the important points that the book’s problematic self-presentation on the dust jacket obscures. But there is no question that in bringing these essays together McIlhenny and his co-authors have helpfully illuminated some of the complex issues of culture and politics that need to be more clearly addressed by Reformed theologians. If it is interpreted through the lens of McIlhenny’s closing chapter, this book is a beneficial step forward.
The dust jacket of Ryan McIlhenny’s new book Kingdoms Apart declares that the book “focuses on the two competing positions rooted in the Reformed tradition: neo-Calvinism, a nineteenth-century school of thought associated with the Calvinist polymath Abraham Kuyper, and the Two Kingdoms perspective.” I’m not sure who wrote this description but in many ways it is misleading, if for no other reason than that one of the main things I take away from the book is that there are not “two competing positions” rooted in the Reformed tradition. Not only do the perspectives of the authors range from a moderate Kuyperianism to a more radical form of neo-Calvinism, and not only does the book clearly argue that John Calvin’s two kingdoms perspective should be distinguished from the proponents of “the” Two Kingdoms perspective being disputed in the book, but many of the book’s authors either acknowledge or implicitly demonstrate their own reliance on a version of the two kingdoms paradigm. In that sense the book’s subtitle on the front, “Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective,” is more accurate than the description on the back.
(Note: Throughout this essay I capitalize Two Kingdoms when referring to the particular perspective the authors are engaging, which they associate with David VanDrunen, Darryl Hart, Michael Horton, and Jason Stellman. When referring to broader two kingdoms thought such as that of John Calvin, I leave the term uncapitalized.)
The book begins with a forward by James Skillen and an introduction by Ryan McIlhenny, both of which defend a neo-Calvinist account of creation redeemed in response to the Two Kingdoms perspective. But McIlhenny’s defense is of a chastened and moderated neo-Calvinism, informed by McIlhenny’s own sympathies with two kingdoms logic. In the last chapter of the book, which he also writes, he defends not so much a model of Christian engagement transforming culture as he does a model of Christian witness as redeemed culture. I’ll return to McIlhenny’s argument below because I think it is probably the most helpful contribution of this book.
The second and third chapters of Kingdoms Apart are parallel accounts of the degree to which the most prominent Two Kingdoms advocate, David VanDrunen, accurately describes the two kingdoms doctrine of John Calvin. I am particularly interested in these chapters because John Calvin’s two kingdoms doctrine is the subject of my dissertation at Emory University. The first, by Cornel Venema, is the more polemical and critical of the two. Venema helpfully illuminates some of the different emphases between Calvin’s theology and that of VanDrunen, but his description of VanDrunen’s project appears in language VanDrunen never uses (i.e., an “ecclesiastical kingdom”; “two hermetically-sealed realms”) and that obscures the ambiguity and depth of VanDrunen’s project. Venema’s own reading of Calvin is somewhat thin at points (he portrays Calvin’s two kingdoms doctrine as largely an explanation in lieu of the Anabaptists of why Christians should submit to civil government) and perhaps a little too colored by Venema’s neo-Calvinist commitments, although Venema does make the helpful point that “Calvin suffered no illusions regarding the renovation of human life and the restoration of all things to proper order prior to the consummation of all things at Christ’s second advent” (31).
Gene Haas is also critical of VanDrunen’s account of Calvin on natural law and the two kingdoms, but Haas’s criticism is more about VanDrunen’s emphasis (i.e., he exaggerates the distinction between the two kingdoms as well as Calvin’s optimism about human knowledge of the natural law in civil matters) than it is about the substance of his argument. Haas’s own account of Calvin’s two kingdoms perspective is excellent, highlighting the close connections Calvin drew between the two kingdoms and the doctrine of the church, especially pertaining to the unique character of church discipline. Haas rightly portrays Calvin’s two kingdoms doctrine as an eschatological distinction between Christ’s spiritual kingdom, which appears fully only at Christ’s return, and the concerns of the present life (the political or civil kingdom); even as the institutional structures of this age (such as the civil jurisdiction) are to submit to Christ and his word, they should nevertheless not be confused with Christ’s spiritual kingdom. “Believers have the tension of living both for the eschatological realities of Christ’s return and for the social realities of a sinful world” (55).
I describe these chapters on Calvin at length because in some ways the greatest weakness of the book is that the authors largely avoid clarifying the relation of their theologies of creation and redemption to the broader two kingdoms theology articulated by figures like Calvin. This obscures the degree to which many of them maintain the reformer’s basic two kingdoms commitments, despite their criticism of the contemporary Two Kingdoms perspective.
There is no need for me to summarize every chapter of the book but I do want to highlight some significant arguments in a few chapters. Scott A. Swanson provides an illuminating discussion of the significance of the kingdom in the book of Revelation. Swanson stresses the “already but not yet” character of the kingdom’s coming and the Lord’s reign in Revelation, distancing himself from theologies that suggest that the church or Christians bring the kingdom, while at the same time emphasizing that the call on Christians is to testify to the reign of Christ in every area of life. “Revelation’s message should also warn us against any triumphalistic overconfidence in Christian cultural transformation in this world. Nor does it encourage us to see our cultural engagements as in themselves advancing Christ’s kingdom. They can and must aim to be expressions of our faithful witness to that kingdom… This must have its outworking in our cultural lives” (225). Revelation is clear that the new heavens and the new earth will only appear with Christ’s second coming. “It is thus significant that Revelation begins and ends not with calls to transform culture, but with warnings to heed the message of the book by being overcomers,” which Christians do through “faithful testimony and keeping God’s commandments” (226).
Nelson Kloosterman likewise stresses his sympathies with certain two kingdoms concerns, though he calls for a version of the doctrine that integrates creation and redemption in Christ. Kloosterman criticizes the triumphalism of some neo-Calvinists, thinking in particular of “rhetoric about Christians’ ‘extending’ the lordship of Jesus Christ; about Christians’ ‘redeeming’ or ‘renewing’ culture; about Christians’ ‘transforming’ culture for Christ; and the like,” rhetoric that “forms the substance of vision statements and advertising slogans for a number of Reformed, Presbyterian, and evangelical colleges in North America” (66). He offers Herman Bavinck and S. G. de Graaf as examples of the sort of integration for which he is looking. His translation of two lectures by de Graaf are particularly interesting, particularly in light of the context of the church’s resistance to Dutch Nazism as described by Kloosterman. But while de Graaf’s defense of Christ’s lordship over the nations and the authority of Scripture (properly understood) over politics is persuasive, his suggestion that Christ’s temporal kingdom includes both the state and the church’s ministry of word and Spirit, alongside his insistence that the eternal kingdom is manifested in the state as well as the church, hardly seems to be an improvement upon Calvin’s clearer two kingdoms distinction as articulated by Gene Haas.
If readers are expecting a monolithic defense of a simple neo-Calvinism the contributions of Branson Parler and Jason Lief should dispel this assumption. Parler appeals to Augustine’s two cities model and the Dutch theologian Klaas Schilder to offer a critique of the Two Kingdoms perspective that he identifies with David VanDrunen and Abraham Kuyper! His main critique of the latter is that they not only distinguish special and common grace, ultimate and penultimate ends, but that they separate them entirely, as if common grace and the penultimate could attain to their God-intended ends without reference to the ultimate. Parler helpfully defends an Augustinian account of creation and culture as oriented to the service of God, rightly pointing out that for Augustine using penultimate things without reference to the ultimate is the definition of idolatry. Yet he seems to exaggerate the extent to which the Two Kingdoms perspective is inherently incompatible with Augustine’s two cities framework. VanDrunen himself stresses that the antithesis runs through the common kingdom and that when not properly related towards God human beings cannot please him, even in their common kingdom activities.
The most radical version of neo-Calvinism advocated in the book is that of Jason Lief. Indeed, Lief’s account of the relation between creation, natural law, redemption, and eschatology hardly seems compatible with the positions taken by most of the other authors in the book. Grounding his argument in the work of Herman Dooyeweerd as well as Abraham Kuyper, Lief argues that while natural law and the moral order of creation does play a role in the Christian life, Christians should not understand these moral authorities in static terms. In sharp contrast to Calvin’s view (and that of the Reformed confessions) of the natural and moral law as timeless, Lief suggests that they need to be interpreted developmentally in terms of their telos and direction in Christ. Christians should not seek to live according to the order of a creation past (creation restored), but according to the destiny of that creation in the future (eschatological transformation).
Like Parler, Lief turns his sights on mainstream neo-Calvinism itself, complaining not only that the two kingdoms tension is built into standard neo-Calvinism, but that the two kingdoms insistence on the enduring authority of the created natural order plays a “conservative role” in Christian theology, functioning as a “a tool for maintaining a specific interpretation of anthropology and the social and cultural norms that humanity should fulfill” (244). Lief maintains, “As long as neo-Calvinism continues to insist on a doctrine of creation separate from Christology, the tension between common grace and antithesis, and thus the Two Kingdoms dilemma, remains” (239). Instead Christians should “seek to make moral sense of our lives by engaging the narratives and practices that inform our identity” (245). Through practical reasoning we seek not moral absolutes but to determine the relative superiority of one action over another, articulating our conception of the good through our understanding of “becoming,” “authenticity,” and “identity” in “the context of the lived world” (246).
There is no question that Lief’s version of neo-Calvinism is precisely the kind that most two kingdoms advocates (and indeed, many neo-Calvinists, as Lief admits) fear most. If classic Christian ethics appealed to nature and God’s moral law to condemn postlapsarian institutions of oppression like racial slavery, the eschatological ethics Lief describes are frequently used to seek transcendence over even created norms like gender and marriage. If there was ever a case for the two kingdoms distinction between creation and redemption as being vital to fidelity to Scripture Lief’s chapter is that case.
The first and last chapters of the book, however, by Ryan McIlhenny, articulate a much better model of Christian cultural engagement, a model in substantive continuity with a basic two kingdoms paradigm if perhaps not with that of “the Two Kingdoms perspective” engaged in this book. While I do not agree with McIlhenny on every point, I do find his overall perspective to be a helpful step forward.
To Be Continued Tomorrow
When it comes to the two kingdoms doctrine and Christian liberal arts institutions like Covenant College (the college of the Presbyterian Church in America) in Lookout Mountain, Georgia there may not be that much conflict after all. That, at least, is the conclusion to which one might come in response to a panel discussion on the topic yesterday between Michael Horton, a professor at Westminster Seminary California, and several Covenant College faculty.
Horton began the panel discussion by reminding the audience that there is no such thing as an “Escondido theology” or Escondido two kingdoms doctrine. The faculty of Westminster Seminary California is not monolithic in its views of cultural engagement, the institution’s president Robert Godfrey himself being a staunch Kuyperian. Suggesting that it makes little sense to describe Kuyperian neo-Calvinism and the two kingdoms perspective as contrary positions, Horton pointed out (as did Godfrey in a presentation several years ago) that on most important points these perspectives are agreed. Among the commonalities he described:
1) Both clearly distinguish the form of cultural and political engagement obligatory on Christians from the model of Old Testament Israel.
2) Both maintain a sharp critique of the militancy and culture war mindset that marks much of the Christian Right, which has its own version of the social gospel.
3) Each perspective affirms basic neo-Calvinist concepts concerning common grace, the antithesis, and sphere sovereignty.
4) Both seek to distinguish the work proper to the institutional church (church as organization) and the way in which believers serve Christ and witness to his kingdom in every area of life (church as organism).
5) Both agree that Christians cannot bring the kingdom of God to earth through their cultural work.
6) Each perspective insists that Scripture has much to say about how Christians should be involved in culture through their vocations.
7) Both agree that the church must proclaim what the word of God says about God’s law to the state, while avoiding false claims to expertise in matters of economics or policy.
8) Both affirm that while the actual objective work of Christians often looks similar to that of unbelievers, in terms of motivation, worldview, and sometimes objective results such work is profoundly different.
9) Both affirm the value of Christian parachurch organizations like colleges and seminaries, while at the same time preserving the liberty of Christians to participate in non-Christian organizations as well.
In their responses to Horton the various Covenant faculty affirmed their basic agreement on these points, expressing in particular their appreciation for the emphasis the two kingdoms doctrine places on the importance of the institutional church.
Of course, they had questions too. Jeff Dryden, a professor of New Testament, affirmed David VanDrunen’s critique of certain over-optimistic versions of redemptive transformationalism, but he rightly noted that more moderate accounts of transformation are by no means incompatible with the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith. He worried that certain expressions of the two kingdoms doctrine misinterpret the New Testament call to believers to seek things that are above, where Christ is, rightly pointing out that the New Testament describes such seeking in terms of concrete, this-worldly virtues (as I argued here).
Bill Davis, a professor of philosophy, suggested that while the the rhetoric of two kingdoms advocates and moderate transformationalists often makes the two perspectives sound radically opposed to one another, in actual point of practice there is virtually no difference between the two positions. To be sure, Davis rightly questioned the notion that natural knowledge of God’s moral law is a sufficient standard or point of commonality for Christian cultural and political engagement. He also worried that passivity rather than militancy is the greater temptation of young Christians today, and he legitimately criticized the tendency of some two kingdoms advocates to speak as if there is no spiritual element to the ordinary vocational work that Christians do. But Davis again reminded the audience that while adherents to the two perspectives often describe their approaches to culture quite differently, in actual practice they are doing the same things.
Brian Fikkert, a professor of economics and author of the highly acclaimed book When Helping Hurts, likewise affirmed the two kingdoms emphasis on the work of the institutional church and on Christ as the one who alone brings his kingdom. He also lauded the humble approach to cultural engagement inherent to the two kingdoms perspective. But he worried about the idea that Christians bring little that is objectively different from unbelievers to their work, pointing out that while in principle Christians share the standard of natural law with unbelievers, in practice unbelievers constantly suppress that law. He gave excellent examples of instances in which the Christian faith helps Christians bring something to their work that does indeed look objectively different from the work of unbelievers.
Horton responded to these concerns by affirming many of them. He did suggest that in the New Testament redemption is always described as something that God does for us, not something that we do in our vocations or cultural activity. Why not choose a better word to describe what we are doing? We all agree, he pointed out, that we should seek to bring a Christian influence to our culture. But there are varying ways to talk about how we do that, some of which are more faithful to biblical language than are others.
Horton agreed that Scripture is necessary not just to the Christian doctrine of salvation but to the proper interpretation of natural law for the purposes of cultural and political engagement. He agreed that Christians need to be careful not to articulate theologies of culture that pander to passivity, highlighting the important legacy of the Reformation doctrine of vocation. He clarified that the two kingdoms doctrine does not amount to a distinction between material and immaterial things but between the present age and the age to come. For that reason he rejected versions of the doctrine of the spirituality of the church that have been used to argue that the church should not speak out against patent evils like the racial slavery of the Antebellum South.
Horton concluded in a spirit that seemed to be echoed by many of the faculty present (at least those with whom I spoke afterwards). He noted that while the two kingdoms perspective is often portrayed as a position in conflict with moderate neo-Calvinism, in reality the perspectives are less polar opposites than points on a common spectrum. Once one looks past prominent rhetorical and linguistic differences it can often be difficult to determine what in practice is actually being disputed. And indeed, when it came to the greatest dangers threatening Reformed believers in their cultural and political engagement the members of the panel were in significant agreement. That is a point worth thinking about as this conversation moves forward.
A person who recently listened to my lecture on the two kingdoms doctrine communicated the concern to me that in the question and answer session I was insufficiently clear that not all neo-Calvinists find the two kingdoms doctrine problematic. If you have listened to the lecture, a member of the audience asked me why some people find the two kingdoms doctrine so worrisome. I responded (in part) by suggesting that some neo-Calvinists, particularly the more radical types, are influenced by liberal Protestant and even Hegelian notions of the way in which all of life is transformed into the kingdom of God, to the point that they abandon the Christian notion of secularity, or of the distinction between the present age and the age to come.
To be sure, I should have been more clear. There are many people who consider themselves neo-Calvinists who do not share the radical critique of the two kingdoms doctrine, and who themselves are committed to it in its basic points. In fact, depending on how you define the term, many two kingdoms advocates are themselves neo-Calvinists, in the sense that they share Abraham Kuyper’s emphasis on Christ’s lordship over all of life, they embrace his understanding of common grace, and they wholeheartedly appreciate his understanding of sphere sovereignty. I would include myself in this group.
From my perspective the two kingdoms doctrine offers a clarification to the best of neo-Calvinism (or of Kuyper) rather than a rejection. This clarification is necessary precisely to avoid some of the missteps made by various neo-Calvinists over the years, particularly those I referred to in my lecture as the more radical types. It helps to remind people that although Christians are to serve Christ as their king in every area of life, that does not make every area of that life “kingdom activity,” nor does it make every area of life equally eternal. There are some things that do pass away (Luke 20; 1 Corinthians 7) even though Christians are to do everything that they do as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5-6) because all things exist and are reconciled in Christ (Colossians 1). Many neo-Calvinists get this, and in that sense they themselves hold to the basic two kingdoms doctrine.
Unfortunately, however, much of this debate is really a matter of arguing over application of shared doctrine at best (a form of argument that is necessary but that often obscures a more basic unity regarding foundational issues among the disputants), and posturing at worst. But it is important to be clear. And so for my part I want to clarify that the two kingdoms doctrine is not at odds with the best versions of neo-Calvinism; indeed, as David VanDrunen demonstrated in his Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, in fundamental respects Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck themselves endorsed the essential features of the doctrine.
Hopefully clarity on this question will help many people to get past their fears of the two kingdoms doctrine as something radically new and innovative, while helping them to see at the same time that the neo-Calvinist legacy has not been unmitigated good. We must testify to the lordship of Christ over all of life while at the same time distinguishing between the secular affairs of this age and the kingdom of God itself. Surely we can all agree on that, right?