Thursday, November 03, 2011

Two Kingdoms - Zylstra Second Article Review

Zylstra's second article in September was worse. This time Zylstra was reviewing Living In God's Two Kingdoms. Zylstra starts off by pointing that VanDrunen believes it is the Two Kingdoms way or the highway (pg.43). While I think that this is overstating it a bit, especially since he works along side transformationalists at Westminster Seminary, he is correct that VanDrunen believe the Two Kingdoms part of a broader frame work. Yet, Zylstra chose to pick on the line about Transformationlism being "not true to Scripture" (pg.13 of Two Kingdoms), and not the more serious claim of NeoCalivinism/Transformationalism not being consistent with justification by faith (made twice pg. 21 and 58). The first I see as simply saying the Bible does not speak the way the Neo Calvinists say it does, and the second I see as a claim of leading to heresy.
Zylstra again attacks VanDrunen for the football thing in the previous book, but then goes on to claim that VanDrunen supports a wing of the Reformed who think Christian schools as "optional quirkiness at best and un-American separatims at worst" (pg.43). He then immediately admits VanDrunen does no such thing by stating openly VanDrunen does not believe it to be anti-patriotic, and then state on pg.44 that VanDrunen would disagree with this characterization and goes on to admit that VanDrunen has no problem with Christian schooling at all, just a problem with requiring it as the only Christian way to educate. So what is the point of making such odd claims in a paragraph earlier? The only options seem to be incompetence or an attempt to poison the well. I do not believe Dr. Zylstra to be incompetent. The next sentences however are vital and I will quote them in full.

"However, Dr. VanDrunen misses (or dismisses) the point that has driven generations of parents to establish and maintain Christian day schools. The point of these dedicated Christian communities is their conviction that Christian perspective on all of life simply is never optional. Educating a child to look at the world through anything less than scripturally shaped lenses is considered a violation of the parents' responsibility to their child, to the Christian community to whom the child belongds, and to the Kingdom of the Christ in whose name the child was baptized. They have always believed that any pedagogical deficiencies in the school should be corrected and any academic lapses should be made up as the child continues to grow. But to disobey the biblical command to train up a child in the way he or she should go simply never entered their Reformed minds. (44)"

Zylstra here claims that anything less than sending your child to a Christian school is a violation of Ephesians 6 and Proverbs. This means that all people who go to public school are sinning. It means that all people who homeschool, like myself, are sinning. He has to be saying that. VanDrunen never states that it would be okay for a Christian parent to raise their child as a pagan or anything less than the fear and admonition of the Lord. Again he says over and over Christians must always act Christianly, including in parenting. The disagreement comes in how that is practically played out. Can a child raise their child up in the way he should go and still send the child to public school? VanDrunen says plainly on page 183 it is a matter of "Christian liberty". I believe that Zylstra has said here that it is not. This is the disagreement. One that I will come back to along with the three scriptures referenced by Zylstra in this article in a later post.
I find this requirement to send ones kids to Christian schools a little ironic since the problem Dort College had in getting started as a Junior College from the CRC. The CRC wished to require people to come to Calvin and would not allow for even a Junior College to be founded. No monetary relief was allowed and people required to contribute to Calvin. This went on for decades before Dordt was able to get established. Now it is Dordt making the requirement argument. Ironic.
One thing left needs to be said about this second article. Zylstra claims that VanDrunen is poisoning the well by using as his examples for Neo-Calvinism NT Wright and the Emergent church, two "bogeymen" as Zylstra calls them (44). While I can share Zylstra's frustration as it would have been nice and easier for me if he interacted more with orthodox Reformed men, the book is intended for a wider audience than the Reformed world. Andy Crouch has written on Transformationalism, but has any one ever heard of Andy Crouch? Not many. When NT Wright and Scot McKnight, and Brian McLaren write books they are on CNN and the Morning Shows and they get articles about them in Christianity Today. That is why those two groups were chosen. I also could not help but wonder at Zylstra's choice of words "bogeyman". Traditionally "bogeymen" were make-believe bad guys, not actual bad guys. NT Wright and the Emergent Church are actual heretics. I wonder if Zylstra agrees. After all he had a man on staff who was a big fan of Wright. Currently that professor is on sabbatical, but he is not being fired for such beliefs.
This is a debate that is important and needs to be had. However, this is not having a debate. This is pure rhetorical punching with no real substance. Perhaps a magazine is just not the format for such thing. But I believe a better attempt at interaction could easily be made. VanDrunen's books are very well argued, even if you disagree with him. And for the most part, fairly neutral in tone. I do wish VanDrunen would write another book where he fleshes out the connection between Transformationalism and denial of Justification by faith alone. But even those claims are so small that most critics miss them. Zylstra did. They are indeed bombshells, but they are not often quoted.