Monday, January 17, 2011

David VanDrunen: Machen and Ethics

Audio—here

Dr. David VanDrunen continues with his lecture on Machen and Ethics. He starts off with the question: What is the relation of theology to ethics?

According to Machen, Christian living is based upon a message, fact and doctrines. From the sermon on the mount, we can see Jesus is the new legislator. Therefore, there is an intricate relation between theology and ethics.

The link between theology and ethic can perhaps be seen clearly in the reality between theological conservatives and theological liberals. During Machen's times, it was conceivable that theological conservatives and theological liberals unite together over social issues. Yet 75 years later, the liberals have drifted so far away from biblical moorings that uniting theological conservatives and liberals over social issues have become next to impossible. The Liberals have no biblical foundation for biblical ethics, and therefore the erosion in their principles has been nearly absolute. Now we have liberals promoting homosexual "marriage" and other such abominations, issues which the older liberals long since dead would probably be appalled at.

The fact of the matter is that any talk about ethics and especially biblical ethics is impossible without agreement on the fact of sin. Sin is perhaps the largest elephant in the room in discussions on ethics, yet it is routinely ignored to our detriment.

The ethics of the Christian life is faith working through love.

VanDrunen continued with pointing two issues in ethics which the Liberals fail at. The first one is honesty, and the second liberty.

Theological liberals especially in Machen's day were dishonest. In fact, they can only survive by dishonesty and lying. On their ordination, they have pledged to uphold the confessional standards of the Church, yet by their preaching against and believing contrary to the confessions, they lie. Although the standards of the Church states that those who do not believe the confessional standards of the Church are to resign and let their views be examined by the Presbytery and larger church bodies, these liberals do not do so but instead continue in the ministry and attack the standard they have promised in their ordination vows to uphold.

On the issue of liberty, Liberalism in politics is bound up with a certain form of utilitarianism and socially it moves towards socialism. Civil liberty however is a by-product of true Christianity.

The last form is ecclesiastical liberty, which is the liberty of church members not to be bound by the church on issues not pertaining to faith and practice. Here VanDrunen brings in the two-kingdom theory. The Church has no right to bind her members to support any specific social and political agenda. This does not of course mean that the church should not take a position on certain social issues (i.e. abortion is wrong etc), but specific policies are matters of wisdom not of revelation, something which VanDrunen clarified in the question and answer session, and therefore the church cannot bind members to support any one agenda but rather leave it to the members who should decide based upon the wisdom God has given them.

26 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Here VanDrunen brings in the two-kingdom theory. The Church has no right to bind her members to support any specific social and political agenda. This does not of course mean that the church should not take a position on certain social issues (i.e. abortion is wrong etc), but specific policies are matters of wisdom not of revelation, something which VanDrunen clarified in the question and answer session, and therefore the church cannot bind members to support any one agenda but rather leave it to the members who should decide based upon the wisdom God has given them."

So Van Drunen is okay with German Lutheran Christians who either supported or who were silently complicit by their silence of the Nazi party in Germany?

Further, he is okay with Church members who vote and support pro-abortion politicians?

Is that right, Daniel? Because after all he said (quoting you): "The Church has no right to bind her members to support any specific social and political agenda."

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

I cannot speak for Dr. VanDrunen. I guess you can email him to seek further clarification.

What I understand from his talk and his clarification during the Q&A session is that he wouldn't be ok with German Lutherans during the Nazi period. Nor whatever social ills you may want to describe.

But this is not something the Church should be concerned with. The Church should be preaching against racism and genocide without having the need to name the Nazis, and disciplining those who are involved in racism and genocide without mention of the Nazis either.

As for American politics, he said in the Q&A that the issues are complicated and not that clear cut and that, as long as the person is against X which is a moral evil (e.g. abortion), one does not bind him on political issues and voting.

As for me, I am not an American and while I have my own views, you Americans can slug it out while I deal with more pressing concerns.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Puritan Reformed,

Here's a thoughtful review of Professor David Van Drunen's book by Professor James Anderson:

Two Kingdoms, Ten Commandments, One Objection.

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

interesting thoughts. At least for me, I will say that Special Revelation is the only basis for all true ethics.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

@PuritanReformed

I think the following posts will also provide a more rounded perspective on what you've been lectured on by your Westminster-Escondido professors about 2K:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/search/label/2k

Pax.

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

thanks for your concern. I do know of the triabloggers. Whether what they presented is "well-rounded" is an open question.

No one at WSC has to necessarily embrace everything that Dr. VanDrunen teaches. And we are not robots and have our own minds to decide for ourselves whether the 2K position is biblical or not biblical.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Daniel,

I'm saying that reading those Triablogue posts will round out your perspective on R2K by providing counter-arguments.

Here's a post where Steve Hays comments on a portion of Westminster Seminary's policy and how it works out with WSC's 2K doctrine:

Testimony to our time.

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

whatever the merits or demerits of the 2K position may be, the Tribalogue post reveal a basic ignorance of it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Daniel,

Can you tell me what the basic ignorance of the Westminster 2K position was/is in Steve Hays's post?

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

the 2K position from the little that I know of it does not prohibit ministers from taking positions on moral issues. What it prohibits is bringing politics, and anything that is not explicitly dealt with in Scripture by good and necessary consequence, into the pulpit.

Abortion is a moral issue which the Bible deductively teaches us as being wrong. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with making ministers accountable to uphold biblical morality.

Believing and teaching that abortion is wrong is not the same as asking the congregation to vote for a particular pro-life candidate, or to picket a certain abortion clinic, or any of such political actions.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Daniel,

What are your thoughts of Kim Riddlebarger's 2K primer and Steve Hays's questions about Kim Riddlebarger's 2K Primer in the Triablogue post:

A 2K Primer.

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

I think that Steve Hays totally misunderstands the 2K position.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I think that Steve Hays totally misunderstands the 2K position."

How so?

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

Simple. Hays does not differentiate between the church officials speaking and acting as officials of the church, and them speaking and acting as normal Christians.

The Church is not (equative) the members, nor the members the church.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Daniel,

Kim Riddlebarger wrote: "...the church (and its officers and members) must speak to the pressing moral issues of the day in terms of law and gospel, not in terms of the political activism found in the civil kingdom."

Suppose a church (and its officers and members) does happen to speak to the pressing moral issues of the day in terms of the political activism found in the civil kingdom.

What penalties do the R2K proponents levy for violations of their strictures? Do they issue condemnations and criticisms of those churches, pastors, and laymen who did participate in the Public Square on the pressing moral issues of the day?

What exactly will R2K proponents do if folks do what the R2K proponents say not to do?

I'm unclear as to the penalties, if any. What are your thoughts, Daniel?

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

I am not aware that there are penalties involved.

I think it will be better for you to take this up with Dr. VanDrunen. I do not pretend to be a 2K expert.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Daniel,

Do you have Dr. Van Drunen's e-mail address? If so, can you provide it to me so that I may e-mail him for further clarification?

PuritanReformed said...

I think you should be able to get it as the WSCal website. If not, just email the seminary.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Simple. Hays does not differentiate between the church officials speaking and acting as officials of the church, and them speaking and acting as normal Christians."

#1. Do people, when they hear church officials speaking and acting, consciously differentiate between when and how those church officials are speaking as officials of the church and when and how those church officials are speaking as "normal Christians"?

#2. Do church officials (and should church officials) always make the effort to offer preliminary statements saying that in this instance they are speaking and acting as church officials and yet in this instance they are acting as "normal Christians"?

If they don't do that, don't they bear responsibility for any confusion that may result because folks aren't clear what role these church officials are adopting when they're speaking and acting?

"The Church is not (equative) the members, nor the members the church."

What is the definition of the Church that Westminster Seminary California's 2K doctrine uses?

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

my understanding of 2K doctrine does not enable me to answer these questions. I have my own answers to them, but I will not presume to offer my answers as THE 2K response.

The definition of the church that we believe is that the church is a spiritual institution of Word and Sacrament that is not of this world.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"The Church is not (equative) the members, nor the members the church.

The definition of the church that we believe is that the church is a spiritual institution of Word and Sacrament that is not of this world."


Given this definition, how do the members of a local, visible church (and the church officers are presumbably also members) fit within the schema of "a spiritual institution of Word and Sacrament that is not of this world"?

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

when the members come together as a body to worship God, then they are for that moment considered to be engaging in a spiritual task as a spiritual institution as the Church. When they disperse after the benefiction, they scatter back into the world.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Daniel,

Read this sermon by a Reformed Pastor:

A Sermon for the President and for the People of God.

Is this sermon okay by the strictures that Professor Van Drunen and his Westminster 2K colleagues have set forth?

(Your opinion is welcome. I realize that you're not speaking as a representative for them. I just would like to know based on what you know of their teaching what you surmise their reactions woud be given their W2K doctrine.)

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

that is a good question. I have glanced at it and it seems fine, although I must say that prophetic proclamation to Obama does not seem to be edifying to the flock. One can do it in a "pastor's voice" in the bulletin or something like that.

The sermon after all is meant to feed the flock, not to judge the nations.

PuritanReformed said...

In other words, the contention probably is that this is not sermon material.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"that is a good question."

Thank you.

"I have glanced at it and it seems fine"

Good.

"although I must say that prophetic proclamation to Obama does not seem to be edifying to the flock."

I don't know about that. I leave the discernment of what's spiritually nourishing and edifying to the flock to the local undershepherd, in this case, a Reformed pastor named David Bayly.

I was also looking back at Riddlebarger's contention where he writes: "Yes, the church must address moral issues as they are found and framed in Scripture (through the preaching and catechetical function of the church), but the church is not to engage in partisan politics, nor endorse any political party or candidate." And since pastor David Bayly's sermon does not endorse any political party or candidate, nor engage in partisan politics (given that abortion is a moral issue by the murder of unborn life) then he should be under no criticism or condemnation by W2K proponents.