Monday, January 18, 2010

Christ, Kingdom, and Culture, Part 1: Godfrey

I just returned Saturday night from attending Westminster Seminary CA’s annual conference, the topic of which was Christ, Kingdom, and Culture. I always enjoy these events, but this year’s was particularly good (the best since the first one back in ’04 or ’05, I think). Over the next several posts I would like to reflect on some of the faculty’s addresses.

Professor Robert Godfrey opened and closed the conference. In his opening address he pointed out the difficulty of trying to fit any of the various Reformed views on Christ and culture into a nice, tidy slogan. If one insisted on a bumper sticker, however, the only phrase he would suggest would be “Every Square Inch,” for regardless of whether one identifies himself as a Two-Kingdoms advocate or a Kuyperian (or some other option), we can surely agree that Christ rules all of the created order.

In his closing address Godfrey drew our attention to Kuyper’s idea of sphere sovereignty, which says that God rules his church, but he also rules various other institutions such as the state, the school, the family, and so on. With this emphasis, Godfrey said, we don’t need to speak of two kingdoms only, but we can speak of many.

This issue came up again in the Q&A session, at which time Dr. VanDrunen insisted that as Reformed believers we should be able to have our cake and eat it too, holding to both a two-kingdoms model as well as retaining sphere sovereignty. If we adopt the former only, we can end up collapsing the entire cultural kingdom into a one all-embracing category like the state (with its tendency toward tyranny). On the other hand, if we propound a sphere-sovereignty approach only, we can fall into the error of seeing the church as simply one of many institutions through which Christ exercises kingship, thus trivializing the sacred order. But if we embrace each concept we can have the best of both worlds, with the civil kingdom being understood to be much broader than merely the state, but also including the arts and sciences, sports, and education.

There was an interesting moment during the Q&A in which Horton challenged Godfrey’s prior statement about how quote-unquote progressive Kuyper’s cultural agenda was (he pointed out that Kuyper not only sowed the seeds of apartheid, but also opposed women’s suffrage and the rights of workers to strike). Apparently, whether one’s politics are progressive pretty much depends on whether they stand to your left, or to your right.

All in all, two great lectures from Godfrey. The man can work a room.