Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Goodnight, and Have a Pleasant Tomorrow....

Well, after four years and change, De Regnis Duobus as you’ve known it is coming to an end.

Yes, I will still be blogging, just not here. I have started a new blog called Creed Code Cult where I will be posting from now on. DRD will still exist and its archives will remain available for those who wish to peruse them, but the comments will be switched off. In addition, the entire DRD archive has been exported to Creed Code Cult, so all past posts will be available there as well.

Why the change? A few reasons. First, “Creed-Code-Cult-dot-com” is a lot easier to say than “De-Regnis-Duobus-dot-blogspot-dot-com” (especially if, like me, you’re really into the whole brevity thing). Secondly (and I’m going out on a limb here), having a blog that doesn’t, like, have Hitler on it... that’ll be pretty cool, too. I stand by the image and my reason for employing it, but well, let’s just say I won’t miss seeing ol’ Adolf on a daily basis.

There is another reason for the change, but suffice it to say that that will become known in the near future.

So anyway, I’d like to cordially invite you all over to my new digs. If anyone of you links to me on your own sites, you may want to update your blogroll (and should you feel inclined to dedicate a post to CCC’s launch, I’d surely appreciate it!).



Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Mysterious Caller and a Vatican Pronouncement

I plan to begin a series considering the warning passages in Hebrews, but that will have to wait a few days. For now, though, there are a couple things I’d like to bring to your attention.

First off, listen to this clip of a radio call-in show with guest Scott Hahn. In particular, listen to the voice of the caller asking the question, and take note of where he’s calling from. Is it just me, or does that voice sound eerily familiar? Could it be? And what does it mean?

Secondly, in a brilliant display of wisdom and insight, the Vatican made a pronouncement last Saturday that is so unquestionably correct, so unequivocally right, and so unarguably true that it should shake even the most ardently Calvinistic among us to our very core. Even a staunch two-kingdoms guy like me will give the Catholic Church a pass on this one.

Stay tuned, big news coming in the next few days.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Short Exerpt from The Destiny of the Species

Contrary to what one might think after perusing the “Christian Fiction” section of the local Barnes and Noble, it is not just evangelicals or fundamentalists who are preoccupied with better days ahead. Theologians and sociologists alike have often pondered the influence that man’s end has upon his life in the here and now, the sway that tomorrow holds over today. As I stated earlier, secular cultural commentator David Brooks insists that man has always lived in the future tense, and a mere flip through the pages of progressive and left-wing writers such as Naomi Klein, Matt Taibbi, and David Sirota will be more than enough to convince us that it is not just religious people who bet their bottom dollar that the sun’ll come out tomorrow. In a word, all people constantly look ahead, and future-focused man shall not live by Left Behind novels alone.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Christ, Kingdom, and Culture, Part 4: Horton

The last lecture that we will be discussing from Westminster Seminary California’s annual conference, Christ, Kingdom, and Culture, will be Michael Horton’s, titled “Christ and the Workplace.”

What stood out most was his insistence (which he also highlighted last year, and which doesn’t have much to do with his actual topic) that “God doesn’t need your good works, your neighbor does” (which is a quote from Luther). Horton’s point is that, ironically, it is the believer whose church is a “full-service community” replete with ministries for every niche demographic under the sun who will be least equipped to love her neighbor. The reason for this is that when churches adopt an “every-member ministry” model, the result is that the people who come spend all their time ministering to other religious consumers—not just on Sunday but throughout the week—to the point of exhaustion. When you’re up to here in ministry to other church-goers, who has time to help a neighbor with a leaky roof?

On the other hand, when we have a proper understanding of the way a church’s ministry works—namely, that Jesus serves the people through his ministers (you know, the guys who wear the black gowns), and the people get ministered to—then the congregation will actually be empowered on the Lord’s Day rather than sapped of all strength. Then, lo and behold, they can go out and do their good works for those who actually need them, like their neighbors.

This is why at Exile Presbyterian Church the top line of our liturgy says, “The Divine Service.” Yes, there is service going on, but it’s Jesus serving his people, and not so much the other way around. After all, it is the righteousness based on law that is characterized by desperate and frenetic attempts to get God to notice us (think: prophets of Baal cutting themselves with stones), while the righteousness based on faith is content to receive first, so that it can give afterwards.

So the next time someone says something like, “Church isn’t supposed to be about getting from God, but giving to him,” you can respectfully demur, and say that Horton told you otherwise....

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Calvin Versus Aquinas on Nature and Grace

Speaking of David VanDrunen, I am reading his new book Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in Reformed Social Thought (and really enjoying it). In his chapter on Calvin and his contemporaries, VanDrunen seeks to situate Calvin’s thinking relative to his medieval predecessors on the two loci under consideration. This passage really struck me this afternoon:

For purposes of comparing [Aquinas] to Calvin, the relative absence of the topic of sin in Thomas’s discussions [on nature and grace] is noteworthy. For Thomas, the fundamental reason why grace is needed in addition to nature is not corruption of nature due to the fall into sin, but the inherent limits of nature itself. While sin aggravates the need for grace in the post-fall world, Thomas’s nature-grace structure remains in all essential aspects the same before and after the fall.
So many questions and avenues for possible discussion, so little time....

I’ll kick us off, though: (1) Does VanDrunen accurately reflect Thomas’s thought here? (2) Does Thomas necessarily cast aspersion on creatureliness as such? In other words, if man before the fall was crippled in some ontological way, does this militate against God’s pronouncement that everything he made was “very good”? (3) If my Reformed readers answer “yes,” then what about Vos’s dictum that eschatology precedes soteriology? To rephrase, if pre-fall Adam longed for eternal life, are we committing the same fallacy we accuse Thomas’s advocates of committing? (4) Are those who insist that grace was operative before the fall in danger of falling into the error of which VanDrunen accuses Thomas, an error which essentially collapses law and gospel? (5) Does anyone else believe that people who write “methinks” should be shot?


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Christ, Kingdom, and Culture, Part 3: VanDrunen

Continuing our reflections on Westminster Seminary’s annual conference on the topic of Christ, Kingdom, and Culture, the third lecture, titled “Christ and the State,” was given by David VanDrunen.

VanDrunen made a great point about how that we must be careful not to equate the civil kingdom with the state and thereby collapse into the state all other civil endeavors or concerns. States can be oppressive and tyrannical, he argued, and there needs to be a sufficient decentralization of power in order to guarantee some sovereignty to things like education and the arts.

One point that VanDrunen was careful to make was that the state, though a post-fall phenomenon, is nonetheless a legitimate institution and sword-wielder. Quoting Calvin, he insisted that “tyranny is better than anarchy.” (Just a quibble, but I am not convinced of how helpful this point is, since the term “anarchism,” when used today, inevitably evokes the idea of chaos while ignoring its political and economic definition, which is basically synonymous with “libertarianism” or “socialism,” properly understood.)

The issue of civil disobedience also came up. VanDrunen argues that it is never proper for a believer to seek to fight against religious persecution by means of the carnal weaponry of the state or its courts. If memory serves, he believes the same rules apply in the civil realm as well, meaning that it any form of civil disobedience to lawfully ordained magistrates is wrong, unless they compel us to disobey God’s law.

To tip my hat to the just-deceased Howard Zinn, I would respectfully disagree here. While I do think a Christian should never resist religious persecution but rather endure it as an example of Christ-like cross-bearing, I do think it’s legitimate for the believer to fight against injustices that arise for non-religious reasons (such as during the civil rights movement), as long as such resistance (1) is non-violent, and (2) doesn’t violate the Westminster Confession and invoke our spiritual liberty as a reason to resist civil oppression (I wrote about this topic here, here, and here).

OK, discuss away....

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Theology of the Cross, Salinger Style

Finally, though, I got undressed and got in bed. I felt like praying or something, when I was in bed, but I couldn’t do it. I can’t always pray when I feel like it. In the first place, I’m sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, that poor bastard.

I used to get in quite a few arguments about it with this boy who lived down the corridor, Arthur Childs. Old Childs was a Quaker and all, and he read the Bible all the time. He was a nice kid, and I liked him, but I could never see eye to eye with him on a lot of stuff in the Bible, especially the Disciples. He kept telling me if I didn’t like the Disciples, then I didn’t like Jesus and all. He said that because Jesus picked the Disciples, you were supposed to like them. I said I knew He picked them, but that He picked them at random. I said He didn’t have time to go around analyzing everybody. I said I wasn’t blaming Jesus or anything. It wasn’t His fault He didn’t have any time.

Anyway, when I was in bed I couldn’t pray worth a damn....

Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye
RIP, J.D. Salinger