Dr. Zylstra only mentions four bible verses in support of his Transformationalist position and his critique of Dr. Van Drunen's Two Kingdom view. Let's just look at each one.
John 3:17 is one he mentions. I can only assume that Dr. Zylstra is referencing the idea that Jesus came to save the world, and by the world Zylstra is taking it to mean culture or the physical stuff in the world. if this verse means those two things then it would attack VanDrunen's idea of this world ending and the things of this ending. It is a central point of the Two Kingdom argument. However, it is hard to read John 3:17 that way. "World" appears here to mean "the people of the nations" or "gentiles" as in addition to Jews. This is how most of the commentators take it. I checked Calvin and Hendrickson, and both read "world" as "gentiles and people of all nations." Context would seem to support Calvin and Hendrickson and is against Zylstra.
Colossians 1:17 is his next verse. Here Zylstra is clearly pointing to the idea that "all things consist". Other translations might have the idea of "carry on" which is what Zylstra wants us to see. That and in the fact that "all" things continue "in Christ". However, again it seems a bit of stretch. VanDrunen never denies the Providential hand of Christ, and that is how Calvin and Hendrickson took it. Zylstra needs this verse to say that things of this culture will continue on in Christ Jesus not just in this world, but into the next. I am not sure all of that meaning can be forced into that passage. The idea of all things being in Christ might could be used by Zylstra, but VanDrunen was adamant that a Christian must do all things as a Christian, so again, I think that this verse falls short.
I Corinthians 15:58 gets closer to supporting Zylstra. Here Zylstra is pointing out that our labor is not in vain. With the obvious implication that a Two Kingdom idea that sees no eternal value in cultural labor would be definition make cultural labor "vain". But does a Two Kingdom idea does not necessitate that it would be in vain. God is still glorified. So this verse does not argue for a transformationalist perspective. However, I do believe that I can agree with Zylstra here that it might have been nice for VanDrunen to have explained how it fits in a 2K perspective.
Zechariah 14:20-21 really stands as his best verse. Here Zylstra argues that God is calling us to make all things Holy to the Lord even the bells on horses, and not just the things of the priests. This actually argues for a Transformationalist understanding in opposition to a Two Kingdoms view. If Zylstra is correct then all of life must be Holy to the Lord, or distinctively Christian, not just subjectively but objectively. Yet, again differing interpretations can be found here. Zechariah 14 can be taken as a description of what the New Heavens and New Earth will be like. There all things will be Holy to the Lord as the entire place will be temple and distinctively Christian. In this view then Zechariah is giving a prophecy of the Day of the Lord and His victory and not giving a command of what we ourselves are to achieve or strive to bring about here on this earth. Zylstra's reading is possible, but not the one I personally take of Zechariah. Which brings up a bigger question . . .
Does Transformationalism go hand in hand with a Post Millennial view point. Does Two Kingdoms go only with an Amillennial view point? This seems to fit with the differing ways of reading Zechariah 14. A Post Mil reading would be that this Day of the Lord would be the ultimate triumph of the church, and the church then makes all things Holy to the Lord. The Amil reading would tend more to a description of the Final Day of the Lord where Christ himself finally returns with the New heavens and new earth. I believe it is an interesting discussion that requires further discussion.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Dr. Zylstra only mentions four bible verses in support of his Transformationalist position and his critique of Dr. Van Drunen's Two Kingdom view. Let's just look at each one.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
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.
Okay, so part of my trying to read more and stay up to date has involved the Two Kingdoms debate. I am still trying to work through it, and so I thought I would do so here on my blog. Interaction would be appreciated. This will be a series of blogs.
I have to admit that I was a late comer to this Two Kingdoms debate that seems to rage so hot. And I confess, I am not sure why it is so hot. To me both Neo Calvinist Transformationalism and the Two Kingdoms doctrines are both allowable in at least the Three Forms of Unity bounds, so I don't understand the heat. I understand that their are outliers at both ends that probably do fall outside of confessional bounds, but one cannot define the position through the outliers. So, I will start with the couple of articles critiquing Dr. David VanDrunen in the Pro Rege magazine of Dordt College. Both are by Dr. Carl Zylstra, one from one from June and the other from September.
To be fair, I have met both men. And while I am not sure I fit into a Two Kingdoms mold completely, maybe I am closer to that position. Like I said, I am a late comer to this. It should also be noted for fairness sake that the RCUS has recently defunded Dordt College. That vote has come up I believe 7 times since I have been a member at Synod. I have voted 5 times to continue funding and 2 times to defund. So there you go. Now onto the critique.
Dr. Zylstra's first article sets the tone with the title "Serious Education for Serious Christians". Not exactly a friendly title since the implication is that everyone else is a non-serious Christian. The article is motivated by a reference to Dordt in Dr. VanDrunen's book Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms. This reference is about Dordt College's football program and an attempt to justify it as part of a Biblical Transformationalist Worldview. It also comes in a footnote, but Dr. Zylstra leaves that part out. What is sad is that Dr. Zylstra really seems to miss the point of the book so bad it makes one wonder if he read it. Zylstra states on page 40:
"And indeed the burden of the book in which he makes his critique of Dordt College is to defend his contention that those of us who believe that every occupation in life and every social activity in which we engage should be governed by explicity biblical principles are ourselves the oddballs who really shouldn't claim to be Reformed at all."
Now that is not actually correct. The goal of the book is to chart the doctrine of Two Kingdoms through church history and along with it the use of Natural Law. VanDrunen states in many of his writings that Christians are Christians all the times and thus are always governed by biblical principles in every area of life. Zylstra's quote leaves the impression that VanDrunen would think it okay for Christians to cheat at football (since that is what started this whole article). Not so. In fact, that is not the point of the Two Kingdoms doctrine as I understand it. I believe VanDrunen would say that Christians ought to participate in football, but realize that it does not advance Christ's kingdom when they take a knee and pray after a touchdown, or when play without holding the defensive line. In fact, historically, the Transformationalists have been the ones who avoided football, which is why it was so controversial when Dordt added the program. Some activites Transformationalist have always said could not be redeemed and thus were to be avoided. Football was one of them. Dancing another less we forget Abraham Kuyper's own words. Dordt allows both now.
Zylstra next does something that I find just boarderline insulting. He inserts a paragraph on page 40 that tries to imply VanDrunen supports slavery. The paragraph not only really interrupts the flow of Zylstra's own argument, it reeks of poisoning the well. Yes, VanDrunen covers the Southern Presbyterians in his book. Yes, the Southern Presbyterians believed in the Spirituality of the Church and the Two Kingdoms. Lest we forget they separated into their own denomination when the Gardner Spring resolution made a requirement for Church membership a loyalty oath to the United States. But remember the point of this book was a historical overview. No where does VanDrunen endorse slavery. No where. Slavery is not really even the the content of much the Southern Presbyterian chapter. Also, Zylstra is just wrong when he claims that the Southerns held to a Two Kingdoms view so they could hold slaves without feeling guilty. Contrary to Zylstra they did feel it could be biblically justified. Go read R.L. Dabney's Defense of Virginia and the South if you don't believe me. Such actions on Zylstra's part are just plain sophistry and not worthy of real debate.
Zylstra makes his first biblical defense of Dordt on page 41 by quoting Zechariah 14:20. Zylstra uses that to claim that not only priests wear bells inscribed Holy to the Lord, but also the farm horses and the draft horses. Everyday activies he claims are now to be considered holy to the Lord. It is a goal. This is the best part of his article by far, and gets to the heart of the disagreement I believe. So, I will speak more of this in another post dealing with the Bible quotes specifically.
This article did not do a good job of anything. I do not feel he showed VanDrunen wrong anywhere, nor did he lay a foundation of Serious Education. He did not really even provide a defense for Dordt as a Christian institution. It also seems he should have waited for the next book by VanDrunen because a historical overview book is just not a good one to interact with. And if you do it should be limited to disagreements about the history, charges of misrepresentation, or other similar things. The next post will look at Zylstra's second article which does aim at the Living in God's Two Kingdoms book.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Today, November 1, is the 450th Birthday of the Belgic Confession. This is the day recognized as the day Guido De Bres threw copies of the Belgic Confession over the walls of Doornik in the night while he was fleeing for his life. This is important to remember as you read the Belgic Confession. It is De Bres's defense about why he is Reformed. It is his letter to the rulers who were pushing the Spanish Inquisition as to what they were persecuting.
But the Confession is also a call to all who were still in the Roman Catholic Church. Especially Article 29 about the True and False Church. It is a call that persecution is no reason to remain in a church that denies the gospel. Yes, life would have been easier for De Bres if he had just sat in a pew and not believed the bread was turned into the Body of Christ, but it would have been a sin. Read his call to people in the Roman Church:
As for the false Church, it ascribes more power and authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit itself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does it administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in His Word, but adds to and takes from them, as it thinks proper; it relies more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those who live holily according to the Word of God and rebuke it for its errors, covetousness, and idolatry.
These two Churches are easily known and distinguished from each other.
The two churches are easily known. There was no excuse. All godly men knew the Inquisition was wrong. De Bres just made it plain for all the world to see in the Belgic.
Of course in 1567, Guido De Bres was caught and died for his faith. The Belgic Confession is his testament.