2K or not-2K?

In a previous post I posed some questions about David VanDrunen’s defense of Two-Kingdom (2K) doctrine and raised a general objection to his position (and to similar 2K views). In response to a comment on that thread, I tried to boil down the objection as follows. On my reading, VanDrunen seems to be committed to all of the following claims:

(K1) When living as citizens of the common kingdom, people should observe the moral standard of that kingdom.

(K2) The moral standard for the common kingdom is natural law (and only natural law).

(K3) When living as citizens of the common kingdom, Christians should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms.

(K4) It is not a deliverance of natural law that Christians should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms.

In a nutshell, my objection is that these claims form an inconsistent set: they can’t all be true. So the question is whether 2K advocates really are committed to all four claims, and if not, which do they reject.

(K1) appears to be a conceptual truth, given the 2K understandings of ‘citizen’ and ‘kingdom’. (K2) is stated explicitly by VanDrunen in A Biblical Case for Natural Law (see the quotes in my earlier post). (K3) seems to be an obvious entailment of the 2K doctrine expressed in VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms; it’s hard to see how any 2K-er could reject it. (K4) follows from the fact that the case for 2K doctrine (and its ethical directives) depends on theological categories (e.g., common/special grace, Noahic/Abrahamic covenants) that come from the Bible and not from natural revelation.

Dr. VanDrunen recently posted a clarification of his views on the moral standards for the two kingdoms. I don’t know what prompted that post, but since it’s relevant to my argument I’ll offer two observations: first, his clarification doesn’t really clarify the key issue; and second, it doesn’t resolve the apparent contradiction between the four claims above.

His post doesn’t clarify the key issue because it doesn’t state unambiguously whether or not Scripture serves as a moral standard for Christians when living as citizens of the common kingdom. VanDrunen says that Scripture is “authoritative for the common kingdom” in the sense that it speaks about the common kingdom and it does so authoritatively. He adds that his most recent book “explores Scripture extensively to identify many features of the common kingdom and their implications for how we should conduct ourselves within it.” This seems to confirm that he is committed to claim (K3).

Yet his next paragraph seems to take away with the left hand what he gave with the right:

But there are also certain senses in which Scripture cannot be taken in a simplistic manner as the moral standard of the common kingdom. For one thing, Scripture has always been delivered to God’s special covenant people, the Old Testament to Israel and the New Testament to the church. When Scripture gives its moral commands, it speaks to God’s covenant people and does not give them bare commands, but instructs them how to live as his redeemed covenant people.

I’m not sure what the phrase “in a simplistic manner” is meant to imply. (Is it that Scripture is the moral standard of the common kingdom after all, but only in a complicated manner? What would that mean?) The notion of “bare commands” also begs for elucidation. But leaving aside these points of detail, VanDrunen appears only to be reaffirming his earlier statements that Scripture “cannot be taken simply as the moral standard for the world at large” and “is not given as a common moral standard” (A Biblical Case for Natural Law, pp. 39, 53). In other words, he’s implicitly reaffirming his commitment to claim (K2).

VanDrunen goes on to say:

Unbelievers in the public square shouldn’t kill, commit adultery, or steal, but it’s because these things are prohibited in the natural law which binds all people as human beings, not because they’re in the 10 commandments which come to God’s special people he redeemed out of Egypt.

This is understood, but not relevant (at least to my concerns). The question at hand is whether believers in the public square (i.e., when living as citizens of the common kingdom) should observe natural law alone as their moral standard. If so, then (K3) and (K4) cannot both be true. If not, then (K1) and (K2) cannot both be true. Either way, one of the tenets of 2K theory has to give way in order to save the others. All this to say, VanDrunen’s clarification, insofar as it clarifies anything, only serves to reinforce the problem.

17 Responses to 2K or not-2K?

  1. Pingback: 2K or not-2K « Aporetic Christianity

  2. Pingback: 2K or not 2K (from James Anderson) « thereformedmind

  3. Yes, this is a serious inconsistency for VanDrunen’s (neo)TwoKingdoms view. I look forward to his (and others’) answers.

  4. James,

    Is the primary objection here that Van Drunen’s synthesis creates an ‘ethical dualism’ (for lack of a better phrase) within the Christian as to which ‘law’ he should follow in the so-called common kingdom? i.e. a sort of schizophrenia where the believer is bound to God’s Word (of the redemptive kingdom) but then can’t really live according to it (in the common kingdom)?

    I’ve asked a couple of guys in my Presby who are among the more even-keeled guys on this issue, and none of us are *precisely* sure what you are objecting to in K1-4. I realize that you said you don’t know how to make it any clearer, so you may have to indulge a few ‘dumb’ PCA pastors until we get the objection. But as it stands, I’m still not sure what to make of the objection….because I am still not entirely sure I understand it.

    I say this because IF there is a strong argument against Van Drunen’s 2K position, then the argument has to be understood…or else you are preaching to the choir. Preaching to the choir, of course, can be good, but it won’t ultimately help many of us in the PCA who are trying to deal with this issue pastorally.

    And from the looks of it, it’s not going to go away any time soon:
    http://christpresnb.org/wordpress/?p=1331

    Thanks for taking the time to help us try and sort this all out.

    Peace,
    Matt

    • Matt,

      Thanks again for the comments. Baus has it right in his reply below. It isn’t merely the ethical dualism, but rather a contradiction that arises from the specific details of that ethical dualism. Here’s one further way to approach it. Consider the following line of questioning put to someone who claims to hold a 2K position:

      Q1: “Does natural law alone supply the moral standard for the civil kingdom?”

      (In other words, do the moral principles governing activities within the civil kingdom come from natural law alone?)

      If he answers No, then he isn’t really a 2K-er after all.

      If he answers Yes, then follow up with this question:

      Q2: “Do you hold that a Christian when acting as a citizen of the civil kingdom should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms?”

      (In other words, is it a moral principle that a Christian should observe the distinction when acting as a citizen of the common kingdom?)

      If he answers No, then he isn’t really a 2K-er after all (or else he is an inconsistent one).

      If he answers Yes, then follow up with this question:

      Q3: “Does natural law inform us that we should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms?”

      If he answers Yes, then I (for one) would be very interested to know how that moral principle can be derived from natural law. On the face of it, this is a very implausible claim; certainly the burden of proof is on the 2K-er who takes this position. Every 2K-er I know has argued for 2K principles from Scripture (and for obvious reasons).

      If he answers No, then it seems to me that he has fallen into a contradiction, for his affirmative answers to Q1 and Q2 require that natural law does inform us that we should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms.

      Does that make things any clearer? If not, I’m all out of ideas. :)

      • Thanks. I think I follow you….but I think the problem is that it just doesn’t connect with what I remember reading in ‘A Biblical Case for Natural Law’ some 4 years ago. But that could say more about my own lack of understanding of what Van Drunen is really saying! But then that is always the rub — not what someone actually says, but what the position necessarily entails.

        I still have too many other questions about definitions and terms that go way beyond the blogosphere, so we’ll have to call it day for the time being. Admittedly, DVD’s short little post the other day was far too brief to really offer any subsequent qualifications.

        I’ll try to keep these objections in mind (assuming I understand them) when I finally get around to reading his latest book. If you get a chance to read any of Paul Helm’s generally “positive” review of DVD’s books, I’d be curious to get your thoughts on where you disagree.

        http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/search?q=Van+Drunen

        Thanks again.

        • No problem, Matt.

          If you get the chance, re-read BCNL and let me know if you think I’ve misread it or missed any relevant nuances. To be fair to DVD, BCNL was written 5 years ago and his position may have become more nuanced since then. However, I didn’t find anything to that effect in LG2K (relevant to the objection) and I’m not sure how 2K could be qualified in such a way as to avoid the problem while preserving its core claims.

  5. DVD (as quoted by James): But there are also certain senses in which Scripture cannot be taken in a simplistic manner as the moral standard of the common kingdom.

    James: I’m not sure what the phrase “in a simplistic manner” is meant to imply. (Is it that Scripture is the moral standard of the common kingdom after all, but only in a complicated manner? What would that mean?)endquote

    I don’t think ‘in a simplistic manner’ syntactically attaches to ‘the moral standard of the common kingdom’ (as your parenthetical suggests), but rather to ‘taken’. The claim is that one cannot simplistically take Scripture etc., not that Scripture is not the moral standard in a simplistic way.

    James: In a nutshell, my objection is that these claims form an inconsistent set: they can’t all be true. So the question is whether 2K advocates really are committed to all four claims, and if not, which do they reject.endquote

    First, the locution ‘when living as citizens of the common kingdom’ in K1 and K3 is unclear and confusing (at least to me). It suggests that the way we live in the two kingdoms is that we switch back and forth across time, such that at some times we are living in the common one and at other times in the redemptive one. Do you mean for the locution to imply this? If not, can you clarify? Later you say: “The question at hand is whether believers in the public square (i.e., when living as citizens of the common kingdom)…” If you take a believer’s being in the public square as something that occurs only at certain times (and I don’t know whether you do), then this would seem to confirm my interpretation of the locution.

    Further, I don’t see the (alleged) inconsistency between K1 – K4. The closest thing I see to an explanation is this:

    James: The question at hand is whether believers in the public square (i.e., when living as citizens of the common kingdom) should observe natural law alone as their moral standard. If so, then (K3) and (K4) cannot both be true. If not, then (K1) and (K2) cannot both be true.endquote

    Here are K1 – K4:
    (K1) When living as citizens of the common kingdom, people should observe the moral standard of that kingdom.
    (K2) The moral standard for the common kingdom is natural law (and only natural law).
    (K3) When living as citizens of the common kingdom, Christians should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms.
    (K4) It is not a deliverance of natural law that Christians should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms.

    In the context in which you infer K2 from DVD, natural law (NL) is contrasted with inscripturated special revelation (SR). The contrast here is not one of content per se but of mode of communication. For there is overlap in content (e.g., murder is condemned both by NL and SR). So, when you ask whether believers in the public square should observe NL alone as their moral standard, I take the answer to be “no.” No, first, in the sense that there is overlap between NL and SR, such that in observing NL one inevitably also observes SR to an extent. No, second, in the sense that, even with respect to ethical imperatives that are given only in SR and not in NL, the believer ought to abide by these imperatives “in the public square” (though I don’t know exactly what being “in the public square” is); unless SR implies that these imperatives aren’t normative for the believer in the public square. (And observing SR in the public square is not the same as enjoining, in the public square, others to observe SR.)

    You say that if the answer is “no,” then K1 and K2 can’t both be true. But I don’t think this is the case. Even if we grant that the standard of the common kingdom is “only” NL (however we are to understand that), and that, when living in the common kingdom (however we are to understand that), one should observe that kingdom’s standard, it doesn’t follow (as far as I see) that, when one is living in the common kingdom, one should observe NL alone. This would follow if K1 were modified to

    (K1*) When living as citizens of the common kingdom, people should only observe the moral standard of that kingdom.

    Alternatively, it would follow if K2 were modified to

    (K2*) The moral standard for the common kingdom is natural-law-only.

    The difference between K2 and K2* is that the latter inserts the “aloneness” into the standard itself, such that the normativity of this standard is inconsistent with the simultaneous normativity of any standard that includes imperatives over and above NL. Contrast:

    (A) The only thing Tom commanded Bill was to go to the store.
    (B) Tom commanded Bill to only go to the store.

    K2 is like (A), and K2* like (B), with respect to the role of “alone”/”only.” By the lights of (A), Bill is not necessarily doing anything immoral if he does something more than go to the store, and he might even be ethically obligated to do something more than go to the store.

    So I don’t see the inconsistency between K1 through K4.

    As far as K2, and the quotes you produce from van Drunen in a prior post (to which you link), I’m wondering if van Drunen’s point is this: SR is not “the moral standard” for those who are not redeemed in the sense that SR is not given to or directed to or addressed to such people per se; which is consistent with its being “the moral standard” for such people in the sense that certain ethical requirements placed on the people to whom it is addressed (the redeemed) are, incidentally (‘incidentally’ is infelicitous, but it emphasizes the logic of the thought), also binding on those to whom it is not addressed.

    Dan

  6. @Matt, not to speak for James, but if I may… I’ll give answering your question a shot:

    James’ objection is not per se that two-kingdoms is dualistic or schizophrenic. Rather, there is a contradiction involved in the position. Let me try to make that contradiction more apparent.

    Consider ‘K3′. This particular claim of two-kingdoms is saying that Christians should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms when living as citizens of the common kingdom. This results in a contradiction when you additionally consider that part of what “observing the distinction” means is to live in the common kingdom only according to the standard of the common kingdom, which is only the natural law. This is a contradiction because the natural law does not show or tell us about any distinction between the two kingdoms. Only Scripture tells us that.

    So, if in the common kingdom you live only according to the standard of the common kingdom, you have no basis for “observing the distinction”. Get it?

    To “observe the distinction” requires you to live solely by the natural standard, but that natural standard does not provide for observing any distinction… so “observing the distinction” gets canceled out.
    See the problem?

    In order for the two kingdoms view to resolve this contradiction they will have to show that on the basis of the natural law alone, one can know that there is a distinction established and that one is required to observe it.

    If the requirement of observing of the distinction rests on Scripture alone, then that distinction only applies to believers when they are acting in the church… which would mean something like: “natural law does not apply in the church”.

    According to the two kingdoms view, if Scripture is not any kind of standard in the common kingdom, then one must consistently say that the distinction between the kingdoms also does not apply to the common kingdom.

    Hope that helps.

  7. Baus: Consider ‘K3′. This particular claim of two-kingdoms is saying that Christians should observe the distinction between the two kingdoms when living as citizens of the common kingdom. This results in a contradiction when you additionally consider that part of what “observing the distinction” means is to live in the common kingdom only according to the standard of the common kingdom, which is only the natural law.

    Where do you find “that part of what ‘observing the distinction’ means is to live in the common kingdom only according to the standard of the common kingdom” (natural law) in K1 – K4? K2?

    (K2) The moral standard for the common kingdom is natural law (and only natural law).

    It’s not clear what exactly this means, but the point is that it can only be used to support your claim that “part of what ‘observing the distinction’ means is to live in the common kingdom only according to [its] standard” on an interpretation which is not supported by van Drunen’s comments from which James allegedly draws K2. Those comments were to the effect that special revelation is addressed to God’s people, not the world at large; not to the effect that believers are supposed to check the imperatives addressed to them at the door of the common kingdom.

    I think the problem with the argument lies in an equivocation between the nature of the contrast between the the “spiritual” and “common” kingdom in the post to which James refers in ascribing K2 to van Drunen, on the one hand, and the contrast as it is used in the argument of the present thread. In the prior thread, at least in van Drunen’s comments, the contrast is one of people (the redeemed and the non-). In this thread, the contrast pertains to domains of activity (which is implied by the fact that believers, i.e., spiritual-kingdom people, can occupy the other kingdom).

    Dan

    • Dan:

      I think the problem with the argument lies in an equivocation between the nature of the contrast between the the “spiritual” and “common” kingdom in the post to which James refers in ascribing K2 to van Drunen, on the one hand, and the contrast as it is used in the argument of the present thread. In the prior thread, at least in van Drunen’s comments, the contrast is one of people (the redeemed and the non-). In this thread, the contrast pertains to domains of activity (which is implied by the fact that believers, i.e., spiritual-kingdom people, can occupy the other kingdom).

      You have this exactly wrong, I’m afraid. Indeed, I addressed this point directly in my original post. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

      The problem with this response is that it simply isn’t a consistent 2K response. As expounded by VanDrunen, the central thesis of 2K doctrine is not that the world is divided into two groups — Christians and non-Christians — with a different moral standard for each group. Rather, it is that the world is divided into two kingdoms — the common and the spiritual — with a different moral standard for each kingdom. Moreover, Christians are dual citizens.

      I recommend you review the original argument again. It may be that I have misunderstood 2K-ers on this point, but I don’t think so. And if I haven’t, the objection seems sound.

  8. James,

    You claim in this thread that K1-4 are inconsistent. And you claim that

    (K2) The moral standard for the common kingdom is natural law (and only natural law).

    is endorsed (explicitly) by van Drunen in the quotations you provide in a prior post to which you link:

    (K2) is stated explicitly by VanDrunen in A Biblical Case for Natural Law (see the quotes in my earlier post).

    In that post, after producing the quotes, you say:

    Commentary VanDrunen’s position couldn’t be clearer: Scripture serves as a moral standard only for the spiritual kingdom and not for the common kingdom.

    What VD said in those quotes was that the moral instruction as it is given in Scripture is directed to the redeemed, not the world at large. Hence, if Commentary is to be accurate, it seems you must mean, by “the spiritual kingdom” and “the common kingdom,” two groups of people (those to whom Scripture’s moral instruction is directed, and those to whom it is not). I’m not claiming that this is what you meant, but what you must have meant for Commentary to be transparently true.

    If Commentary was meant in such a way that the spiritual/common kingdom contrast was one of groups, then, presuming K2 deals with the kingdoms in another sense (namely, one of spheres of activity or something), it seems you haven’t justified the claim that VD accepts K2.

    If, however, you meant the kingdom-contrast in Commentary in the same way as in K2 and the current thread more generally, then it isn’t clear how Commentary is accurate. In the quotes, VD is contrasting kinds of people: Scripture’s moral instruction is given to the covenant people, to govern them. He doesn’t draw a line between contexts in which the imperatives apply per se, but between audiences to whom the imperatives are directed.

    Either way, I don’t see the rationale for thinking VD affirms K1-4.

    Dan

    • Dan:

      In the quotes, VD is contrasting kinds of people: Scripture’s moral instruction is given to the covenant people, to govern them. He doesn’t draw a line between contexts in which the imperatives apply per se, but between audiences to whom the imperatives are directed.

      Let’s remind ourselves of the baseline. That VD asserts there are two kingdoms, the common and the spiritual, which are ruled by God in different ways, is beyond dispute. That VD asserts all humans are citizens of the common kingdom but only God’s covenant people are citizens of the spiritual kingdom is also beyond dispute.

      Now consider the quotes I gave from BCNL. The first states that “Scripture is not the appropriate moral standard for the civil kingdom.” This statement alone supports K2 (given VD’s other statements about natural law being established in the creation). The second and third quotes state that Scripture is not “given to the world at large” and is not “the moral standard for the world at large”. Clearly, in context, “the world at large” refers to the common kingdom. The fourth quote states that “Scripture is not given as a common moral standard that provides ethical imperatives to all people regardless of their religious standing” (my emphasis). The point here, obviously, is that Scripture does not provide the moral standard for the common kingdom; which is precisely what VD had stated earlier.

      Yes, VD is referring to “the covenant people” in three of the quotes, but according to 2K doctrine those people are by definition coextensive with the spiritual kingdom. Why is it that Scripture is only for those people? Because they alone are citizens of the spiritual kingdom. If Scripture addressed them as citizens of the common kingdom then it would also address everyone else in the world — and that is precisely what VD denies.

      All this to say, I’m somewhat baffled by your suggestion that those quotes don’t justify the claim that VD is committed to K2.

      Can I ask which of VD’s books you have read? It would help to know how much I can take for granted in our exchange.

      • Hi James,

        Can I ask which of VD’s books you have read? It would help to know how much I can take for granted in our exchange.

        A Biblical Case for Natural Law

        The first states that “Scripture is not the appropriate moral standard for the civil kingdom.” This statement alone supports K2 (given VD’s other statements about natural law being established in the creation).

        This is a partial quotation. The actual sentence reads:

        VD: “The appropriateness of natural law as the moral standard for the civil kingdom becomes all the more important in light of the fact that, in a certain sense, Scripture is not the appropriate moral standard for the civil kingdom.”

        The claim is that Scripture is not the appropriate moral standard for the civil kingdom in a certain sense. What is that sense? I think that some of the subsequent quotes you provided flesh this out; and it seems to me that they don’t support K2, at least on the interpretation that I take your argument in this thread to turn on. Before addressing your comments on these quotes, I’ll address how I take you to understand K2.

        Baus said (in a post which you endorsed):

        This results in a contradiction when you additionally consider that part of what “observing the distinction” means is to live in the common kingdom only according to the standard of the common kingdom [a reference to K1, I take it, though he modifies it with his ‘only’], which is only the natural law [a reference to K2, I take it].

        The nature of the moral standard for the common kingdom, here, is that of a standard for living in the common kingdom. That K2 concerns “the moral standard for the common kingdom” in the sense of the moral standard binding one’s behavior in the common kingdom is further suggested by your statement in a post to Matt:

        Q1: “Does natural law alone supply the moral standard for the civil kingdom?” [a reference to K2, apparently]

        (In other words, do the moral principles governing activities within the civil kingdom come from natural law alone?) [my bold]

        So, let’s precisify
        (K2) The moral standard for the common kingdom is natural law (and only natural law).

        as

        (K2*) The moral standard for activity in the common kingdom is natural law alone.

        K2* might imply or include within itself K1.

        The second and third quotes state that Scripture is not “given to the world at large” and is not “the moral standard for the world at large”. Clearly, in context, “the world at large” refers to the common kingdom.

        Supposing that it is clear that “the world at large” refers to the common kingdom, it is only clear that it refers to the common kingdom in the sense of its members (i.e., all of humanity).

        The fourth quote states that “Scripture is not given as a common moral standard that provides ethical imperatives to all people regardless of their religious standing” (my emphasis). The point here, obviously, is that Scripture does not provide the moral standard for the common kingdom; which is precisely what VD had stated earlier. [I’ve bolded what was in italics.]

        Supposing it is obvious that (according to the quotations) Scripture does not provide the moral standard for the common kingdom, it is only obvious that it does not do so in the sense that it is not given to all people regardless of their religious standing.

        So, I don’t see how these quotations show VD endorsing K2* (and recall that the first quotation stood in need of supplementation, from the other quotations perhaps, since VD hedged with “in a sense”). K2* deals with a moral standard for a certain kind of activity (activity in the common kingdom, or alternatively, common-kingdom activity); whereas VD’s emphasis in these passages seems to be, not on “the moral standard for the common kingdom” in the sense of the moral standard for its sphere of activity per se, but on “the moral standard for the common kingdom” in the sense of the moral standard that is actually communicated to everyone (i.e., to all the members of the common kingdom).

        Now, I am not denying that VD thinks that natural law norms common-kingdom activity, nor am I denying that VD might refer to “the moral standard for the common kingdom” in some context where he explicitly is discussing that standard qua its normative role for common-kingdom activities. The fact that natural law is unique in being given to everyone makes it suitable for norming common-kingdom activity, after all. Further, inasmuch as a non-believer does all his activities in the common kingdom, natural law as it addresses him is ipso facto a moral standard for his common-kingdom activity. But K2* implies that only natural law so norms common-kingdom activities, even for members of the spiritual kingdom. And I don’t see VD affirming this in these passages from which you try to draw K2(*). VD is clear in these passages that Scripture is given, for the purpose of moral instruction, to some people in the common kingdom, namely, the redeemed, and so, however one is to understand the idea that Scripture is not “the moral standard for the common kingdom,” it must be consistent with the idea that Scripture is in fact a moral standard for some people who are in the common kingdom.

        Now, one might think that VD thinks that even for these people, when it comes to their activity in the common kingdom, Scripture’s moral instruction no longer applies. But I don’t see VD affirming that. Further, this idea (which is implied by K2*), seems to have absurd consequences. For example, surely VD doesn’t think the believer’s moral obligation to believe that Christ is Lord is set aside on Monday morning at work, despite the fact that such an obligation is not given through natural law. This isn’t a consequence on my interpretation of VD, because on this interpretation the moral instruction given to believers is normative for them in their common-kingdom activity.

        In short, it seems consistent with what VD says about natural law being “the moral standard for the common kingdom” that the redeemed, those to whom Scripture has been given, are perfectly entitled (if not obligated) to bring that moral instruction to bear on their behavior in the common kingdom; which is not the same thing as holding others accountable to that standard in common kingdom activities.

        Why is it that Scripture is only for those people? Because they alone are citizens of the spiritual kingdom. If Scripture addressed them as citizens of the common kingdom then it would also address everyone else in the world — and that is precisely what VD denies.

        I agree with the conditional, provided that addressing some people “as citizens of the common kingdom” means addressing them in a way that is indifferent to whether or not they are citizens of the spiritual kingdom (i.e., addressing them simply in their capacity as members of the common kingdom, which subsumes all people, redeemed and non-). But this is consistent with Scripture’s peculiarly addressing the redeemed “as citizens of the common kingdom,” in the sense that it addresses them with a view to governing their behavior in the common kingdom (e.g., let one work quietly with his hands, eat his own bread, etc.). I don’t think that Scripture’s addressing someone with a view to guiding their behavior in the common kingdom implies that the message is also addressed to “the common kingdom” in the sense of being addressed to every member of that kingdom.

        Dan

      • (second attempt, after fixing an html marker for italics)
        James,

        Can I ask which of VD’s books you have read? It would help to know how much I can take for granted in our exchange.

        A Biblical Case for Natural Law

        The first states that “Scripture is not the appropriate moral standard for the civil kingdom.” This statement alone supports K2 (given VD’s other statements about natural law being established in the creation).

        This is a partial quotation. The actual sentence reads:

        VD: “The appropriateness of natural law as the moral standard for the civil kingdom becomes all the more important in light of the fact that, in a certain sense, Scripture is not the appropriate moral standard for the civil kingdom.”

        The claim is that Scripture is not the appropriate moral standard for the civil kingdom in a certain sense. What is that sense? I think that some of the subsequent quotes you provided flesh this out; and it seems to me that they don’t support K2, at least on the interpretation that I take your argument in this thread to turn on. Before addressing your comments on these quotes, I’ll address how I take you to understand K2.

        Baus said (in a post which you endorsed):

        This results in a contradiction when you additionally consider that part of what “observing the distinction” means is to live in the common kingdom only according to the standard of the common kingdom [a reference to K1, I take it, though he modifies it with his ‘only’], which is only the natural law [a reference to K2, I take it].

        The nature of the moral standard for the common kingdom, here, is that of a standard for living in the common kingdom. That K2 concerns “the moral standard for the common kingdom” in the sense of the moral standard binding one’s behavior in the common kingdom is further suggested by your statement in a post to Matt:

        Q1: “Does natural law alone supply the moral standard for the civil kingdom?” [a reference to K2, apparently]

        (In other words, do the moral principles governing activities within the civil kingdom come from natural law alone?) [my bold]

        So, let’s precisify

        (K2) The moral standard for the common kingdom is natural law (and only natural law).

        as

        (K2*) The moral standard for activity in the common kingdom is natural law alone.

        K2* might imply or include within itself K1.

        The second and third quotes state that Scripture is not “given to the world at large” and is not “the moral standard for the world at large”. Clearly, in context, “the world at large” refers to the common kingdom.

        Supposing that it is clear that “the world at large” refers to the common kingdom, it is only clear that it refers to the common kingdom in the sense of its members (i.e., all of humanity).

        The fourth quote states that “Scripture is not given as a common moral standard that provides ethical imperatives to all people regardless of their religious standing” (my emphasis). The point here, obviously, is that Scripture does not provide the moral standard for the common kingdom; which is precisely what VD had stated earlier. [I’ve bolded what was in italics.]

        Supposing it is obvious that (according to the quotations) Scripture does not provide the moral standard for the common kingdom, it is only obvious that it does not do so in the sense that it is not given to all people regardless of their religious standing.

        So, I don’t see how these quotations show VD endorsing K2* (and recall that the first quotation stood in need of supplementation, from the other quotations perhaps, since VD hedged with “in a sense”). K2* deals with a moral standard for a certain kind of activity (activity in the common kingdom, or alternatively, common-kingdom activity); whereas VD’s emphasis in these passages seems to be, not on “the moral standard for the common kingdom” in the sense of the moral standard for its sphere of activity per se, but on “the moral standard for the common kingdom” in the sense of the moral standard that is actually communicated to everyone (i.e., to all the members of the common kingdom).

        Now, I am not denying that VD thinks that natural law norms common-kingdom activity, nor am I denying that VD might refer to “the moral standard for the common kingdom” in some context where he explicitly is discussing that standard qua its normative role for common-kingdom activities. The fact that natural law is unique in being given to everyone makes it suitable for norming common-kingdom activity, after all. Further, inasmuch as a non-believer does all his activities in the common kingdom, natural law as it addresses him is ipso facto a moral standard for his common-kingdom activity. But K2* implies that only natural law so norms common-kingdom activities, even for members of the spiritual kingdom. And I don’t see VD affirming this in these passages from which you try to draw K2(*). VD is clear in these passages that Scripture is given, for the purpose of moral instruction, to some people in the common kingdom, namely, the redeemed, and so, however one is to understand the idea that Scripture is not “the moral standard for the common kingdom,” it must be consistent with the idea that Scripture is in fact a moral standard for some people who are in the common kingdom.

        One might think that VD thinks that even for these people, when it comes to their activity in the common kingdom, Scripture’s moral instruction no longer applies. But I don’t see VD affirming that. Further, this idea (which is implied by K2*), seems to have absurd consequences. For example, surely VD doesn’t think the believer’s moral obligation to believe that Christ is Lord is set aside on Monday morning at work, despite the fact that such an obligation is not given through natural law. This isn’t a consequence on my interpretation of VD, because on this interpretation the moral instruction given to believers is normative for them in their common-kingdom activity.

        In short, it seems consistent with what VD says about natural law being “the moral standard for the common kingdom” that the redeemed, those to whom Scripture has been given, are perfectly entitled (if not obligated) to bring that moral instruction to bear on their behavior in the common kingdom; which is not the same thing as holding others accountable to that standard in common kingdom activities.

        Why is it that Scripture is only for those people? Because they alone are citizens of the spiritual kingdom. If Scripture addressed them as citizens of the common kingdom then it would also address everyone else in the world — and that is precisely what VD denies.

        I agree with the conditional, provided that addressing some people “as citizens of the common kingdom” means addressing them in a way that is indifferent to whether or not they are citizens of the spiritual kingdom (i.e., addressing them simply in their capacity as members of the common kingdom, which subsumes all people, redeemed and non-). But this is consistent with Scripture’s peculiarly addressing the redeemed “as citizens of the common kingdom,” in the sense that it addresses them with a view to governing their behavior in the common kingdom (e.g., let one work quietly with his hands, eat his own bread, etc.). I don’t think that Scripture’s addressing someone with a view to guiding their behavior in the common kingdom implies that the message is also addressed to “the common kingdom” in the sense of being addressed to every member of that kingdom.

        Dan

  9. I should have put parentheses around ‘Commentary'; I meant ‘Commentary’ to be a label for the rest of the quoted sentence, not as part of the quote itself.

  10. “Unbelievers in the public square shouldn’t kill, commit adultery, or steal, but it’s because these things are prohibited in the natural law which binds all people as human beings, not because they’re in the 10 commandments which come to God’s special people he redeemed out of Egypt.”

    Does anyone else see such statements as problematic? Why the radical disjunction between “the natural law” and “the 10 commandments?” Why speak of them as “the 10 commandments which come to God’s special people he redeemed out of Egypt?”

    From the Larger Catechism:

    Q. 91. What is the duty which God requireth of man?
    A. The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.

    Q. 92. What did God first reveal unto man as the rule of his obedience?
    A. The rule of obedience revealed to Adam in the estate of innocence, and to all mankind in him, besides a special command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was the moral law.

    Q. 93. What is the moral law?
    A. The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul, and body, and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he oweth to God and man: promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it.

    Q. 98. Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
    A. The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments, which were delivered by the voice of God upon mount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone; and are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus; the four first commandments containing our duty to God, and the other six our duty to man.

    Is not the moral law “the declaration of the will of God to MANKIND, directing and binding EVERY ONE to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto,” etc.? Is not the moral law “summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments?” Does not “natural law” therefore touch upon our love to and worship of the Triune Jehovah? The blindness to God and His truth inherent in mankind since the fall cannot be an excuse here, any more than it could excuse failure to uphold the second table of the law.

    If “natural law” embraces the first table (and how can any that claim to adhere to the Larger Catechism argue that it does not?), R2K loses any footing it might ever have had — in order properly to observe the first table, special revelation is absolutely necessary (at least for the first, second, and fourth commandments).