Retractare After Seven Years

My friend Daniel Ritchie has offered his own version of retractare in the past.  I want to do mine.  These are in no particular order.

The Theonomy People

I’ve listed problems with theonomy before.  They are to be commended for influencing Reformed scholars to go back to careful study of the Old Testament (Poythress said he wouldn’t have written his work if it weren’t for Rushdoony).  They are to be commended for their critique of absolute statism, but there are problems.  The post-theonomy (for lack of a better word, this would be the third generation theonomists) are probably guilty of violating the 9th commandment.  Their unceasing attacks on men like Michael Horton and others at Westminster Seminary California are uncalled for.  I disagree with Horton and Co.’s  social ethic, but the man is a minister in Christ’s church and Horton has probably done as much as anybody in spreading the Reformed faith.  I admit; it’s sometimes funny to watch D.G. Hart get riled up, but the falsely so-called “R2K” guys have majored on the majors:  The doctrine of worship and the church.  Modern American Theonomy, by contrast, has largely failed in this area.

  1. As for my own position, I believe the Old Testament law can be used today when necessary.
  2. This does not preclude natural law, but presupposes it (more below)
  3. Theonomy is not the position of the Reformers; natural law is.  Yes, Bucer used the Mosaic judicials, but only because he saw them as part of his natural law heritage.  We should do likewise.
  4. This is where I am different from most natural law amillennarians:  I do not believe common grace is sufficient as an ethical category for government.  It merely describes how unbelievers are not as bad as they could be.  I remain unconvinced that it has ethical content.

Van Til

I’ve gone back and forth on Van Til for some time now.  I think when it comes to Roman Catholicism and explaining what Reformed theology is, Van Til is as fine as anybody.  His lectures on “chain-of-being” theology are quite good.  His apologetic method, though, is completely indefensible.  I think Reformed people are better served by a mix of Reformed scholasticism and Common Sense Realism.

  1. As for my own position, I think the TAG method is an open-door to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.   It explicitly attacks the foundations of knowledge and inadvertently relativises truth-claims.  No longer having a clear revelation from God, one has Tradition (as interpreted by a certain community).
  2. As for a positive apologetic, I don’t really care.  I think Anselm is interesting and his ontological argument has some subordinate value.

Eschatology

This is a difficult one.  I think the Reformers (and quite frankly, the entire church) were wise never to use the “millennial” terms in explaining what they believe.  More often than not, modern Reformed eschatological questions are more political than anything else.  Saying, “I am postmil” or “common grace amil” implies more than the timing of Christ’s return.

  1. As for my own position, I am certainly a Reformed historicist.  This is the Reformed position.
  2. I appreciate a lot of what Kim Riddlebarger has to say on Covenant and New Testament eschatology.  I’ve always liked Vos and Ridderbos.
  3. Historic premillennialism, while having a respectful pedigree, simply entails too many difficulties.  Further, I have found that the deeper I dig into historic premillennialism, the harder it is to be Reformed.
  4. I think it is more important to be clear on eschatological hermeneutics than on identifying a millennial position.

Politics

For around five years I’ve been a fairly staunch defender of limited monarchy.  That’s still the case.  My only difference now is that I do not see the Bible requiring it (or any specific mode of government).  Each style of government has its strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Monarchists (like myself) need to admit that 1 Samuel 8 does place some restrictive parameters on the glory of monarchy.
  2. Republicans (small “r”) need to admit that the Torah did provide (and I think expected) a monarchy.   If that’s not the case, then why is Deuteronomy 17 in the Bible?  Nelson Kloosterman has made a fairly convincing case that there existed a possibility that Israel could have had a king and not sinned in asking so.  Here is how I think it would have worked:  the end of the book of Judges essentially begs for a monarchy.  Deuteronomy 17 had already provided for a shepherd-king (the Christological overtones are deliberate).  Had Israel wanted a shepherd to guide them, I believe God would have praised their request.  Further, biblical eschatology moves in the direction of monarchy, not republicanism.
  3. I am an adherent of an Althusian-style natural law theory.  The problem many theonomists had was that their critics (and the theonomists themselves) had said, “Natural law OR God’s law.”  But this is where theonomists and their critics were wrong.  Natural law is God’s law, provided natural law is defined as creation ordinances.  The problem here is the inferences people drew from that phrase.   I won’t go into that now.  More to the point, Reformed natural law theorists could gladly appeal (and did!) to the Mosaic judicials.   Modern Calvinism’s embarrassment over Moses doesn’t help.   God’s law is morally just and should be consulted.  Theonomists, by contrast, never provided satisfactory accounts of the New Testament’s modification of the Mosaic law.
  4. I have no problem with the two kingdoms doctrine, provided the difference between the two kingdoms is in administration, not ethical norms.
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13 comments on “Retractare After Seven Years

  1. Justin says:

    Bayou Huguenot said: Republicans (small “r”) need to admit that the Torah did provide (and I think expected) a monarchy.

    It most absolutely did; I agree. American republicans especially need to be able to admit that our form of government is not divinely mandated. I am, however, most certain the liberal democracy that we have today is not.

    You said:
    Natural law is God’s law, provided natural law is defined as creation ordinances.

    This is interesting. I have not been involved in many of the various debates, but I do think the natural law vs. God’s law issue is interesting. How could natural law not be God’s law? Any understanding of natural law that contradicts God’s revealed law is, IMO, necessarily false.

    You said:
    I have no problem with the two kingdoms doctrine, provided the difference between the two kingdoms is in administration, not ethical norms.

    I have recently put my toe in the waters of this debate as well. My understanding is that many 2K folks want to make the difference ethical as well as administrative. I agree that the ethical standard must be the same, as we all have but one King. One problem I have when discussing this issue is that often, I ask how one is to define “evil” as mentioned in Romans 13. Civil magistrates are mandated to be God’s minister to terrorize evildoers. I find that I have a hard time accepting any definition of “evil” that is not based on scripture. Is stealing evil? Yes. Murder? Yes, obviously. But what of adultery? Fornication? Public idolatry?

  2. AndrewAndrew says:

    The bloated claims regarding Van Til’s apologetic and Reformed theology are tiresome.

    On positive apologetics I’ve recently benefited from the writings of Paul Moser and C. Stephen Evans.

  3. Andrew says:

    Ah sorry to be unclear – his disciples.

  4. Friend for Life says:

    Well, folks, I’ve done some repentance in the last 24 hours and might as well make it public. Hope Jacob doesn’t mind me using his blog. 🙂 Anyway, I read Joel McDurmon’s article at AV about being called a “jerk” (http://americanvision.org/8742/why-escondido-professor-r-scott-clark-publicly-called-me-a-jerk/) and frankly, many theonomists need an attitude adjustment as they do act obnoxious much of the time – especially on-line – and this includes me. So, I did a little reading at Dr. Clark’s website and found an article he wrote in 2006(?) about reformed folks sometimes acting like jerks (which we do) and then I emailed Dr. Clark a message thanking and telling him I repent of being an obnoxious theonomist. 🙂 Also, I want to thank and praise the LORD for Jacob Aitken, Daniel Ritchie, Steve C. Halbrook and Rev. Benjamin Glaser who are probably young enough to be my sons, but far surpass me in wisdom, and who have helped me sort things out regarding theonomy, CR and God’s Word.
    With Christian love,
    Angela Wittman

  5. Thank you, Angela. I sent a similar email to Dr Clark a few months ago. I’ve found out that I was closer to him on most things than I had thought. His articles have really helped me on theology in the past few weeks. His sermons on covenant and baptism are simply golden.

  6. I sent Dr Clark a similar e-mail some time ago as well. While we may disagree with him on some matters, he takes a lot of good stands on a lot of issues and is one of the best men in the Reformed world today.

    • Friend for Life says:

      Praise the LORD! You have been a great blessing to me; I cherish our Reformed Covenanting connection. 🙂

  7. I just recently listened to his 9 Points against the FV. He really knows his medieval theology and is able to show how FV recapitulates almost every one of those errors, particularly on nature-grace. I used to (sinfully) label him and DG Hart as gnostics on nature-grace, but I never bothered to find out what they were actually saying. I learned more from Clark on nature-grace in Talk 3 or 4 than I did in ally my worldview reading.
    http://heidelblog.net/audiovideo-resources/

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