Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Escondido Theology Chapter 10 - Christian Activism

The title of this chapter is called  "A Defense of Christian Activism" and is really the most important chapter in the book.  This is not Frame reviewing a book, but rather putting forth his defense of Transformationalism.

He begins by simply trying to point out some of the important ways Christianity has influenced the world.  And while there is no denying that Christianity changed the world that is not what is really at issue in the Transformationalism and Two Kingdoms debate.  Rather it is how that influence and change is brought about that is debated.  However, I did have a slight problem with one of Frame's examples.  He claimed Christianity brought about democracy.  I don't think that is right.  He cited Lex Rex but the pagan Athenians had something akin to Democracy, and Parliament existed long before the Reformation got to England.  This one I think is stretching it quite a bit.  Christianity existed quite well under rulers such as Charlamagne without a hint of Democracy.  To prove that Christianity produced Democracy is a large task that Frame does not try, and in fact, I think it impossible.

Frame does get around to discussing the question of how God changes a society when he begins to interact with Horton's article in Christianity Today.  Frame holds that Horton misunderstands changing a society with a sword and influencing it with politics.  Horton holds that there is no such thing as Christian politics, and Frame seems to disagree.  The two men really talk past each other as  Horton states things such as Christians should not seek to transform their workplace, nation, or neighborhood into the Kingdom of Christ.  Frame agrees if what Horton means is transform the workplace into the church, but disagrees if what Horton means is make it a better workplace through taking every thought captive to Christ.  But Horton does mean transform it into the church!  I think the two men fundamentally disagree on what "the Kingdom of God" is in reality.  Horton and the Two Kingdom men seem to equate this with the church or at least link it so close that the difference is hard to find.  Frame and most Transformationalists separate the Kingdom of God into something different from the church that involves the Kingship of Christ in society at large.  Horton and the other Two Kingdom men would never ever advocate not living by Christian standards in the workplace, but they would argue that is not the same as bringing in the Kingdom of Christ.

Frame does point out that Horton and other Two Kingdom men do criticize culture, and he finds that at odds with their theology.  I think it is again a case of not understanding the Two Kingdoms fully.  As I read men like VanDrunen and Horton I think they very well can criticize the culture even in a Two Kingdoms way especially on things that go against the Noahic Covenant such as sodomy and sodomite marriage, and even abortion.  I think what Two Kingdom men are trying to do is twofold, not bind the conscious of people on questions that are not violations of the Word such as Democracy.  One does not have to believe Democracy is the best in the world or even a Christian product!  One does not have to vote Republican.  But the main thing they are doing is trying to return the emphasis of the church to the gospel and saving souls.  Transformationalism puts emphasis on changing the culture, and it either clouds or distorts the gospel, in their opinion.

The main question between these two camps remains to be is the culture changed by a church proclaiming the gospel and lives being changed by conversion to Christ, or is it changed by a Church being salt and light in the political and cultural sphere keeping and even upgrading the lives of everyone through the wisdom of God.


Protoprotestant said...

I would also argue with Frame over Lex Rex. I don't believe Lex Rex or anything Rutherford held to would lead to democracy!

In fact Lex Rex I think is a repudiation of democratic principles. That doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong...though I think Rutherford was wrong....

But as you said, that's not really the point.