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More Vossians and Neo-Calvinists Together?

Hart’s response to Jim Cassidy’s excellent post that addresses the consistency of Vos/Van Til/Kline has fueled some brief thoughts that I hope are helpful in clarifying some of the issues. Hart begins by stating,

I have puzzled often about the lack of support in Vossian circles for two-kingdom theology. Many Vossians I know — and I consider myself to be one — find the spirituality of the church agreeable but balk at 2k. Why 2k is distinguished from the spirituality of the church is anyone’s guess, or why Geerhardus Vos’ distinction between this age and the age to come do not put a kabosh on tranformationalism [sic] is another of those brain-teasers you see in the back pages of World magazine (NOT!).

If we rephrase what is said above, a few things become clear. First, Hart sees no inconsistency between 2K (in the line of himself, Van Drunen, etc.) and Vos. Second, Hart reveals that he has only two categories for “kingdom” thinking: 2K and transformationalism.

It should go without saying that parts of 2K are compatible with Vos and other parts are not, so a bit of nuance is called for when speaking on the matter of consistency/inconsistency. And what if 2K and transformationalism were absolutely not the only two choices in this matter? What if there was an option that didn’t hermetically seal off one kingdom from another, yet didn’t see Christian engagement outside the church as an automatic attempt at transforming culture?

Hart goes on:

Whether Jim believes 2kers disagree with this point is not entirely clear. But he should be aware of how important covenant theology is to both David VanDrunen (see his piece in the Strimple festschrift) and Mike Horton (see his dogmatics) at least in part because they studied with Kline. In other words, 2k is not opposed to Jim’s point about the covenantal context of creation. I suspect that most 2kers affirm it, especially of those who studied with Kline.

Instead of engaging Cassidy’s specific points, Hart opts to emphasize that 2K proponents do understand covenant theology in general (not as it particularly relates to Cassidy’s point) as important, listing a couple examples of their work for support of this point. He also notes that 2K proponents studied under Kline, so the reader is left to assume that studying under Kline means that Kline’s students both understand and apply his teaching correctly. However, that kind of argument doesn’t work on even a mere observational level. There are plenty of students who studied under Kline who see quite a few inconsistencies between Kline and 2K.

Finally, Hart says:

First, where does the Bible require believers when interacting in the public square to engage in apologetics? When Joseph, Daniel, Jesus, and Paul engaged pagan rulers, did they first explain the covenantal context of creation before carrying out orders or answering questions?

Second, the public square may presume a covenantal context, but do we need to go to first principles for everything we do with unbelievers in our neighborhoods and communities? Do we need to explain the covenant or creation before we explain to city council the need for a new stop light at a busy intersection? Do we need to appeal to the creator of the universe before opposing a pay raise for public school teachers? Do we even need to give a covenantal account of the universe before declaring war on Iraq?

The objection is that there is no Scriptural support that requires believers to engage the covenantal antithesis in actual conversation, interaction, and operation. Hart reads Cassidy as if he is claiming that the covenantal antithesis must be stated whenever a believer interacts outside the church context, but this confuses what Cassidy and others are saying. Cassidy’s (and other critics of 2k) point is to state what principles lie behind what may or may not be said in actual conversation. Nowhere does Cassidy (or Van Til) state that we must point out the epistemological principles to the unbeliever in every situation. So who is Hart objecting to in the above two paragraphs? Cassidy never claimed such requirements for believers, nor did he claim we need to explain first principles before doing mundane tasks like requesting a new stop light. No, the straw man Hart portrays exists elsewhere, not in Cassidy’s post. Hart assumes an application from his post that Cassidy does not himself state. The closest one could come to such a claim is in reading the following from his post:

There is no safe territory upon which the unbeliever can stand and do right by one kingdom, but not right by another. In every kingdom he is wrong. Even his own cultural endeavors testify against him. And if we, as Christians, do not (lovingly!) point that out to him, who will?

Cassidy is not, I believe, saying we need to point out the difference in every cultural engagement. What he sought to demonstrate were the principles behind these cultural engagements that will hopefully inform conversations with unbelievers, equipping us with an awareness of the reality of who the unbeliever is and how consistent/inconsistent he or she is with his or her simultaneous drive for autonomy and knowledge of the true God.

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