Saturday, February 25, 2012

Escondido Theology Chapter 4

This chapter Frame examines David VanDrunen's A Biblical Defense of Natural Law. This chapter does not quite contain as many clearly choppy responses, and I think it reflects the fact that Frame does not quite have the problem with VanDrunen he has with some of the others. In fact, Frame admits up front that he agrees with VanDrunen's view that Natural Law exists. He also seems to agree with the traditional interpretation of Romans 2, and thus agrees with VanDrunen on that point as well. Frame has some quibbles about VanDrunen's discussion of the image of God in Adam, but nothing really major. Primarily the disagreement lies in the application of Natural Law, namely in the Two Kingdoms and how Scripture fits into Natural Law.

VanDrunen seems to argue that Natural Law is governing of the civil or secular kingdom, and the Special Revelation is the governing of the spiritual kingdom or the church in particular. At least that is how Frame sees it and Frame disagrees with this point. I am not quite sure that is a fair representation of VanDrunen, but it is the representation he gets in the book. In the end, Frame just does not see a biblical distinction of Two Kingdoms. Dividing the religious and the civil (or secular) is rejected by Frame. He argues that even political matters have spiritual aspects. He gives an example of a political ruler who is evil and tyrannical. That ruler idolizes the state and is out for his own gain and pride. Thus, he is committing spiritual sins. Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom are listed and their false worship a reason for their evil. Thus, Frame believes that there are not two realms, but rather only one. Although I think it is debatable whether VanDrunen is speaking of realms or rather rule. VanDrunen never denies that unbelievers are guilty for rejecting Christ and asserting themselves. In my understanding VanDrunen argues rather for things that are common or simply human, which includes then a natural law from the image of God, and by the way from God, and then another set that is distinctively Christian. And in world that includes both believers and unbelievers the distinctively Christian cannot be imposed on activities that are simply human. One can expect your plumber to live by Natural Law, but not fix your sink to the glory of God. I am over simplifying but that seems to me to be part of the argument.

Frame runs into problems on page 135 in my opinion. He states, "It either comes from the wisdom of God or the wisdom of the world, and these are antagonistic to one another (I Cor. 1:20-21)." This is the sharp distinction that Transformationalists posit in their rejection of Two Kingdoms. The wisdom of the world is wrong and must be replaced by the wisdom of God. But Frame on the same page backtracks when he examines the line of Cain. "That is not to say that everything in Cainite culture was bad. . . . Music and Metalworking are certainly good activities. But these activities should have been done to the glory of God, within the family of God." Here is part of the problem I think Two Kingdoms avoids. If it is of the wisdom of the world it is bad. Cain's line includes many things that then should be rejected as bad. Metalwork and music among them. In VanDrunen's model metalwork and music are simply human activities and so can be learned even from unbelievers.

Frame briefly touches on the main exegetical debate, in my opinion, the covenant with Noah. VanDrunen argues here is a covenant with all mankind. Noah's covenant is not religious or for the church only such as the covenant with Abraham. Rather this one includes a sign common to all man (the rainbow), blessings for all mankind (no more flood), and rules for social behavior and justice (capital punishment for murder). Frame counters that the only family alive was Noah's and thus it is not with humans in general, but with the church. He points out the sacrifice made by Noah and how that was a specifically religious act. And while the blessings are for the world in general, Frame argues this is true with all the covenants of the Bible. Thus, it is of the same nature as Abraham's covenant. Although Frame does not account for the presence of at least one clear unbeliever in Ham. One's understanding of Genesis 9 seems rather foundational for the difference between the Transformationalist and the Two Kingdom-ist (if I can make up a word).

Frame's problem is not with Natural Law, but with two kingdoms. Frame admits a distinction between Church and State, but not one between Christ and Culture (pg.146). Frame does point out that VanDrunen should have dealt more with the suppression of truth in unrighteousness of Romans 1, which is a fair point. VanDrunen did mention it, but never really goes into detail. In light of Frame's main objection being to the Two Kingdoms it would have been more helpful if Frame and critiqued Living in God's Two Kingdoms rather than the defense of Natural Law. But the publication date of both books made that impossible. Still this chapter made the debate appear to be one of application of an agreed upon Biblical principle of Natural Law. Hardly the cause of such division as we see across the Reformed world today.