Archive Civic Polity Ecclesiastical Polity Peter Escalante The Two Kingdoms

The Consistent and the Confused: Two Kinds of Two-Kingdoms

At last Darryl Hart admits that we’re the consistent Protestants, but with the proviso that in this case consistency is not a virtue. It is nevertheless quite a concession from the redoubtable Dr Hart, first, because it is an admission regarding our position which he’s never before granted, and second, because it’s very odd to find Darryl Hart of all people striking a nearly postmodern note by saying that life is really made up mostly of gray zones and that if you want consistency, you might be after a different religion than the Christian. First he embraces Roger Williams’s politics, and now he embraces Derrida’s hermeneutics? He’s hard to keep up with.

Originally, Dr Hart’s claim was that the political doctrine of David VanDrunen is consistent with the Reformers’ own position. Now he suggests, by his quote from Emerson, that we are caught in a foolish consistency- foolish being the adjective with which Emerson qualified the predicate, and that we should embrace “mystery.” Now Emerson’s famous maxim means simply that a man with a big mind is bound to change it over the course of a reflective lifetime. Appeals to Emerson’s cliched maxim, however, are, very often- to match cliche with cliche- the last refuge of argumentational scoundrels. But Dr Hart is not at all a scoundrel. Since he has apparently changed his mind at least about the truth of our historical claim (if not our normative ones) he certainly cannot be said to be small-minded in this instance; and we think his spirit is honestly on the side of the angels, even if his theories give too much ground to the devil. We have told him in public that he is practically closer to us than he thinks, though he has never managed to see the truth of this.[1]

In his post, though, Dr Hart ignores altogether the question of principles. But foolishly stuck on consistency as we are, we really do think those are important, because you can’t be consistent without them. He simply says that although we might well be right about the Reformers, things have changed, and that we haven’t noticed. He gives no principled justification for the historical development to which he appeals, other than the fact of it, and what he instances as its obvious benefits. The funny thing is that, as he really ought to know by now given how many times we’ve gone over it in public, we like the present arrangement too, for the most part. Our claim is simply that we know that is a built thing, how it got built, and how it gets maintained; whereas he seems to think it just happens, as if cars constructed themselves or highways grew from the earth by nature. That kind of mistake about how highways came to be might not prevent one from driving well enough on them for a while- but only for a while.

The appeal to historical development is simply an appeal to change over time. But many things happen over time, and not all of them good. Surely Dr Hart would not be thrilled with the historical development of late 18th c Genevan theology- but why not? It was very much a historical development, and even though it contradicted the Reformers and the confessions, so what? Doesn’t he say that if we want consistency, we should get another religion than Christianity?

But in truth, time and change alone are not equivalent to logical development, and they cannot reconcile contradictions. Perhaps Dr Hart has been unwittingly absorbing Hegelian historicism through his reading of Nevin; but we doubt it can possibly have gone this far. He cannot seriously mean that historicity alone hallows every change, and even less will he seriously wish to maintain that Christianity is a religion of contradictions, or that we should call contradictions by the smoke and mirrors term of “mystery”.

He will want, I think, to say (though he doesn’t say it, in fact, and I hope he will forgive me for guessing at what he might mean and saying it for him) that the reason why it won’t matter very much to him that we are right in our historical claims is because there are two kinds of consistency: one is shallow, and one is deep. He thinks that the Reformed tradition itself changed its mind over time about the nature of the commonwealth, and that this change, although largely inconsistent with its earlier practice, is nevertheless consistent with its deeper principles- principles he takes to be have been formulated precisely by his friend David VanDrunen. This claim is then that the political changes in early modernity finally allowed the church to cut loose from the commonwealth, and attain full consistency according to the two-kingdoms scheme.

But the trouble is precisely there, because it has been demonstrated several times now- by Pastor Wedgworth here, and by Mr Littlejohn here, here, and here that the original two-kingdoms doctrine of the Refomers is *not* the quasi-Papalist one of Dr Hart’s de jure divino Presbyterianism, where the two kingdoms are a visible secular polity on the one hand, “State,” and visible ministerial one, “Church,” on the other. Rather, the original distinction is between the invisible church and everything visible, and presupposes a corpus christianorum and, supremely, Jesus Christ as the nexus. Dr Hart entirely ignores the force of this critique, and continues to beg the question by using contested definitions of the terms.

There is simply no way to get a political societas perfecta idea of the believers assembled liturgically under ministers out of the original two-kingdoms distinction. Some of the second and third generation Reformed misunderstood that distinction in what was manifestly a regression to Papalist two-swords ideas, though in a republican (presbyterian) rather than monarchical (episcopal) form. But this was a real departure, and insofar as the Westminster West school thinks like this, they are in that degree removed from the doctrine of the Reformers. The difference in principle between what Pastor Wedgeworth and Mr Littlejohn have shown the Reformers to have held and what Dr Hart and his school hold is not reconcilable, not even by “historical development”.

It is not we who are blind to historical development. It is rather Dr Hart who completely ignores that actual path which led finally to the modern order of liberty. Brunner narrates this development as follows:

In any case we must do justice to historical fact. Let us admit that it was the Christian view of life blended with the Stoic which created the European idea of justice, the conception of the equal dignity of all human beings…but Christian or Stoic, one thing is beyond question. The conviction of the equality of the rights man derived and still derives its force from a religious or metaphysical faith…

Modern developments have taught us that what is apparently a self-evident fact is not at all self-evident, but a heritage of history. When the foundations of faith, on which the European idea of justice is based, decay, the idea of equal rights decays with them, to be superseded by a view which can doubtless appeal to facts of perception just as well as Christianity-namely, that what is equal in human beings is inessential, and the essential is unequal; hence that inequality, not equality, of treatment is just. Not only human rights, but the much more comprehensive notion of justice which claims equality for all who bear a human countenance, because equality is due to man as man- that notion is raised on a foundation of faith. The doctrine of the imago dei in particular is the fundamental principle of the Protestant doctrine of justice.[2]

We do think there was a genuine historical development of the logical implications of the Reformers’ political doctrine, and we agree that this culminated in the 18th century- we trace it from the Reformers themselves, on through certain Erastians who first argued for religious freedom consistent with Luther, and then through to the jurists who pioneered the full development of modern civic freedom: Pufendorf, Thomasius, Locke,[3] Boehmer, and others, all of whom, quite unlike Dr Hart, taught that the constitutional foundations of the commonwealth are Christian. Dr Hart’s line, however, begins with marginal-Protestant coercive theocrats who originally wanted to rule the commonwealth as a corporation of ministers over and above the secular power, and then, when the people and the magistrates didn’t go for it, the clerocrats gave up on the commonwealth altogether- a retreat which is formalized in the work of Dr VanDrunen- and there it ends. The line of historical development we trace is indeed consistent with both the Reformers’ principles and the free modern order, and cares for the commonwealth; Dr Hart’s isn’t, and can’t. In fact, the Westminster West view isn’t development at all, either in principle or application: it doggedly clings to a 17th century sectarian political theology and will not let go.

Dr Hart’s other charge is that we allow no change in application. But we do. We simply deny that the circumstances which necessitate a change in prudential application necessitate adopting false principles which were rejected long ago by the mainstream Protestant tradition- including most Presbyterians, in the end. And precisely because we do allow for a vast range of prudential application, as we have said many times in public conversation with Dr Hart, in most practical ways, our position and his wouldn’t look all that different. It is rather that we deny that the position which he and VanDrunen hold is the original two-kingdoms doctrine at all. It might or might not be true, but it is not, in any case, even a logical development of the original position. Further, we say that their principles tend, in the long run, to the destruction of the modern order of freedom which they find so comfortable.

So to recapitulate and clarify. Dr Hart’s Newmanesque appeal to historical development doesn’t work; the Westminster 2K is not a logical development of the original two kingdoms doctrine, it is in fact a radical departure from it. Neither does the attempt at a tu quoque work, not against us at least, although it might well find a target in NAPARC- which would simply mean that he has company in confusion and self-contradiction, and that the number of the Reformed who can’t tell the difference between “mystery” and a muddle is sadly larger than we would like. But his “everybody’s doing it” excuse doesn’t touch us, because, as we have made very clear, we do not identify the two kingdoms with visible church on one the one hand and State on the other, and thus seminaries pose no dilemma. We rather identify the spiritual kingdom, as Luther and Calvin and Hooker did, with the mystical body of Christ, the invisible church; and we identify the temporal kingdom with the commonwealth, which includes both State and visible liturgical assembly.

And thus we have no trouble at all figuring out in which mode of the Kingdom seminaries are to be found. They are in the visible kingdom, but, since we acknowledge the development and differentiation of the social order, we would say they are associations in civil society, not State organs, although there wouldn’t be anything wrong with State seminaries in arrangements such as Protestant Europe’s.


We say that our position is in fact the logical development of the Reformers’ principles, and so it’s time to specify in general outline what that position is. The first thing to say is that it is primarily not a program of specific policies, but rather a conversational and studious inquiry into principles.

To borrow a distinction from architecture, we do acknowledge, and always have done, that the particular models proposed in the works of Calvin and Hooker are not coherently applicable to our time- we are opposed not only to clerocracy, but also, and just as strongly, to any paternalistic authoritarian magistracy mistaking itself for a guide of souls. We are not in the least interested in any repristination of 16th c political models- which wouldn’t be a real political possibility anyway, and thus could only serve as a mental stage set for utopian fantasizing, the prevention of which is one of our basic goals.

But the rule given in the doctrine of the Reformers, that is, the principles, are in fact coherently applicable to our time. Constantinian politics in the old style is just one particular mode of Christian politics, and it was an imperfect one. The Reformers clarified principles in a definitive form, and these were and are capable of logical development, a development which was attained in the 17th and 18th centuries- and, pace Dr Hart, the modern order of freedom was pioneered by Christian jurists in the service of Christian States, not by atheist revolutionaries whose tendencies were far more totalitarian than liberal- and it is really only the French Revolution to which Dr Hart can consistently appeal. Neither the Republican Revolution of Cromwell in the 17th c, nor the American Revolution in the 18th, was politically atheist.[4] And the German jurists weren’t revolutionaries at all.

Christian political principles admit of very different prudential applications to different situations. Although we aren’t Neocalvinists in the technical sense, we would agree with Kuyper that free congregations in a free state, with maximum personal freedom for all, even unbelievers, within the bounds of constitutional order and reason, is the ideal. Although we wouldn’t endorse all its peculiar Dooyeweerdian principles, we would largely agree with David Koyzis’ discussion of how an explicitly Christian polity can manage a highly differentiated population with a strong market in his Political Visions and Illusions.

Revelation and direction

Mankind is essentially religious. Although we reject irrationalistic Cambridge or Amsterdam versions of this proposition, correctly understood it is inescapably true. And the closer one gets to man’s central relation to God, the question of man’s orientation, the more this reveals itself. And though the Reformers held that the spiritual kingdom is the invisible body of Christ, they did not think that faith only affected some inner spiritual double of man, they thought it affected all of man. The political meaning of the spirituality of Christ’s direct reign in hearts is not the end of politics, nor that Christ is not king of all creation. It is rather that that’s man relation to God has no mediator other than Christ, so that magistrates and ministers alike are both servant offices, not mediators. What follows from the original two kingdoms distinction is not a gnostic withdrawal from the commonwealth, but rather a radical relativization of offices. To use an old political term, they become mediatized under Christ.

The nexus of spiritual and temporal is the risen Christ above, and the corpus christianorum below. Christians live in both modes at once, and harmoniously, not schizophrenically.

Since man is inescapably religious, revelation plays an architectonic role in the ordering of his affairs. Brunner says with his usual acuity:

Thus the fact of the Creation, and the divine revelation therein, constitutes the basis of an independent, rational knowledge; sin, however, sets up a peculiar, irrational barrier. Where, then, is the line drawn?

No Christian theologian known to me has maintained that our mathematical knowledge or our formal logic is affected by sin; on the other hand, all theologians are agreed that our knowledge of God- as an integrating factor of our relation with God- is most deeply affected by sin; for this lies in the nature of sin itself. Sin and faith, a wrong and right relation with God, both presuppose formal reason, that is, the power to think at all. Here, therefore, we should find the basis of that fact which is established purely empirically; that there is, it is true, no “Christian mathematics” but that there is a Christian theology and Christian anthropology. We cannot indicate the state of affairs by drawing a line of demarcation between them, but only by a proportional statement: The nearer anything lies to that center of existence where were are concerned with the whole, that is, with man’s relation to God and the being of the person, the greater is the disturbance of rational knowledge by sin; the farther anything lies from the this center, the less is the disturbance felt, and the less difference there is between knowing as a believer or as an unbeliever. The disturbance reaches its maximum in theology and its minimum in the exact sciences, and zero in the sphere of the formal. Hence it is meaningless to speak of “Christian mathematics”; on the other hand, it is significant and necessary to distinguish the Christian conceptions of freedom, the good, community, and still more the Christian conception of God, from all other conceptions.[5]

And politics is the art of orchestrating the whole community toward the good. There is therefore, necessarily, a Christian politics. Our claim is that this is not a program of positive law, but rather, a wisdom involving certain principles, applied prudentially.

Hart and VanDrunen, despite themselves, have a Christian politics, because there is no irreligious state of nature which simply exists as given, and which can be counted on if one simply removes the shackles of revealed religion- their view seems to be, to echo Rousseau, that man is born atheist, but we find him everywhere in religion. But this is wholly untrue, for the reasons Brunner gives; and although born sinful, he is, even in sin, still born religious, which is his very raison d’etre. One cannot have the Lewisian apologetic based on the inescapable religiosity of man, and then say that man is naturally atheist so far as the temporal sphere goes, without splitting man right in two. That really is an inconsistency we cannot live with.

If Hart and VanDrunen weren’t speaking to Protestants who have the pattern of the evangelical political settlement almost as second nature, something which by now we find widespread even among unreformed Christians too, they would have to argue for what is in fact an historically and politically unusual proposal, and it would strike classical Hindus, classical Confucians, and others as a very odd proposal indeed- not at all as the self-evident order of human affairs. A natural law polity with no civic theology is a pure abstraction and cannot exist. The modern order of freedom which Hart and VanDrunen presume as simply given is an artifact- in its integrity, it is an artifact of Protestantism, but is partly now also of the atheistic revolts which were the judgments on unreformed hierarchies which had violently suppressed the Reformation in France, and partly now too of the power of modern corporations who have sought to reduce the city to a set of indirectly commandeered infrastructures, and thus support a kind of anarchy in the bad sense in order to reduce any possible resistance to the process.

Although man’s reason by common grace can attain a great deal, it will always be prone, without revelation, to institutionalize inequities, as the passages from Brunner above made clear. Dr Hart is right that Christians and non-Christians share a knowledge of creation, at the directive apex of wisdom, the divergences will be profound. Brunner once again, since he is so clear:

Since they freely and gratefully accepted the teaching of the masters of classical philosophy in matters of rational science, mathematics, physics, astronomy; since they did not imagine that there must be a specifically Christian mathematics or physics because Christians derived from Holy Scripture a special knowledge of the divine design of salvation, in questions of law and the State they accepted with gratitude teaching of Plato, and Aristotle, and the Roman jurists, and in particular esteemed the “Politics” of Aristotle as a masterpiece of wisdom in social ethics. Even the Reformers did not act otherwise, in spite of the their doctrine of the sinful state of man, and Calvin in especial never concealed his admiration for Roman Law, on which he was an authority, and for the Aristotelian doctrine of justice and the State. In spite of all the modifications brought about by Christian concept of creation, the Platonic and Aristotelian basis of the Christian theory of the State, including that of the Reformers, must be plain to every thinker.

What was said by Aristotle, the master of the ancient doctrine of justice, is widely valid and forms for all time the basis of the theory of justice. Yet…the Aristotelian doctrine is quite inadequate to a clear and fundamental grasp of the nature of justice. It is only from the Scriptural doctrine of creation that we obtain access to the solution of the problems Aristotle perforce had to leave unsovled, and which which were solved in an erroneous and one-sided fashion in later times, on the basis of purely rationalistic thought. How right the Reformers were in their sober, critical estimate of man’s capacity for rational knowledge in matters of secular justice can be seen most clearly in the history of the later, rationalistic conception of the law of nature.[6]

It is precisely this “later, rationalistic conception of the law of nature” which Hart and VanDrunen presuppose. It is the older one, openly informed by Scriptural revelation, which we presuppose.

Public truth claims really are unavoidable, and civic theology is unavoidable. Protestants restrict the direct role of the magistrate to fostering temporal welfare and ruling for justice, but this “secularity,” this realm of “nature,” is in fact invented- that is, it is the result of a deliberate dispositive act inspired by religious principle. Because human nature only actualizes itself by art, it decides its own corporate self-articulation. But it is inescapably religious, and foundationally so, and thus the bearings of its political art will always have some sort of religious orientation. Unlike the irrationalisms of Radical Orthodoxy or Neocalvinism, which begin with mythic and rationally incommensurable Bilder or Groundmotives, we say that evangelical political rationality begins with rationality- a rationality freed from mythic deviations by the peace of the Kingdom of God, which shuts down the fear and doubt which drive the unregenerate imagination and distort reason. In other words, both Radical Orthodox and Neocalvinism, while making unbelievable amounts of noise about the exceptionality of the Christian faith, actually don’t see its exceptionality well enough; in fact, they don’t really see it all. They just assert their preference for its “myth” or “groundmotive” over other ones on offer. Likewise, the Westminster West doctrine seems to assume confessionalism, without explaining how or why anyone would have arrived at it, and thus accommodates quite nicely with the secularist idea of religion as lifestyle choice. But we think that Christian political rationality can explain itself quite intelligibly to everyone, and not only recognizes its notional and dialogical comparability to other views of the world, but in fact can show what is good and true in all, what is not true and good in them, and why.[7]

Religious vision is inseparable from the vision of the common good. The modern arrangement, which in some measure “privatizes” religion, follows from the founding public acts, religious in inspiration, of the old Protestant sovereigns, whose substance was perpetuated, however forgetfully, by the American Constitution. It does not and cannot follow from any other principle. Our claim is that the evangelical form of public religion logically leads to a liberal order, since it unties the confusion of the two kingdoms to which non-Christian and unreformed Christian mentalities inevitably tend, though not of course in the same degree, nor in the same way.

The new Westminster doctrine cannot stand the test of Christian preponderance. If Christians are the main constituents of a commonwealth, ipso facto the principles of the political order are Christian. Even if they choose, perversely, to enshrine the principles of VanDrunen, they have carried out a religiously foundational act of constitution. It is all well and good to speak of the Christian citizen quietly going his way and making the world a better place by his charity and personal peace, but let’s say his example actually converts all those previously non-Christian neighbors, and, what’s more, they nominate him for public office. What then? Does he, and do they, pretend they are not Christians in all that? And are they doing so from what they take to be Christian principle, so that you’ve got Christians being non-Christians for Christian reasons? Being consistent is starting to look a lot less foolish than the alternative.

Christendom, Church, and State

The corpus christianorum, which Kuyper called “the organic church,”[8] is the visibility of the mystical body, the invisible church, that it is a multitude, and it underlies, in a Christian commonwealth, all callings and offices alike. Since the essence of this temporal multitude is revealed most eminently in the act of assembled worship, that act is especially called “church,” but really the multitude is already the church wherever it is and whatever it’s doing, and thus “church” in this sense, the corpus christianorum, underlies both State and ministerium, and all the callings and forms of civil society too. Therefore there is one church-commonwealth, whose two directive and preeminently representative offices are Magistracy and Ministerium. There is thus no way whatever to separate “church” from commonwealth without schizophrenia, though one can and ideally should separate congregation from State, placing the former in the realm of free civil association, which is mostly what we mean when we say “separation of church and state”.[9] The church in the most basic sense, the believers, when they form families in any given region must institute legal order, just as all men must- and this establishes the commonwealth.[10] But since evangelicals know, given the doctrine of atonement and justification by faith alone, that law does not sanctify, and also know from revelation that magistrates are God’s servants and not gods, the legal order of the commonwealth must reflect these truths, and here we see the foundations of the modern order of liberty.

It might set Dr Hart at ease to know that we oppose any attempt to legally consolidate the corpus christianorum as such, which is irreducibly an uninstitutionalizable multitude, as a majority political body or class with coercive power over others or unearned civic privilege. It is divinely committed to fellowship and neighborliness, not separation and domination. We are inclined to think that the doctrine of the Christian magistrate will become increasingly important as the idea of the adjudicator within highly differentiated democracies, and as Christ-lieutenant protector of the dignity, freedom and rights of all, including those who do not recognize Christ within those polities. Christian faith need not be a prerequisite of citizenship in an architectonically Christian legal order.

The question of whether “magistrates are representative of the people” and “magistrates are representative of God and divine law” are both true propositions is a deep and old one, and our answer to it would be affirmative, but this is a topic requiring further exploration in the renewal of Christian jurisprudence. What we will say is that while we acknowledge and bless the distinction of State and civil society after the 18th century,[11] a fact which nullifies almost all the charges usually Dr Hart usually makes against us, we do not see any good reason to think this renders false or moot the second proposition, though of course it inflects our understanding of it.

Role of decalogue and law

We deny, just as the Reformers did, that the Mosaic model norms Christian polity,[12] except in the general equity of the law, and where its principles or forms are politically exemplary and thus prudentially ideal.[13] We are thus completely opposed to neonomianisms such as those attempted by Dr Hart’s spiritual ancestors the English Disciplinarians, or the militant Anabaptists, or the Taiping rebels.

But even though, following the Reformers, we don’t think the positive laws of the Bible are bindingly normative, we definitely do think its doctrine is constitutionally formative, and that the Decalogue understood in the evangelical sense has both historical and doctrinal preeminence among the principles of law. Our sense of what that means in practice is not far from the considerations of Brunner or Jonathan Burnside, for instance, but has almost nothing in common with the neonomian ideology of Rushdoony. Nevertheless, here we are still in marked disagreement with Dr Hart’s school.

Freedom of religion

Given what has been said so far, it follows that freedom of conscience, and with appropriate qualifications, freedom of religion, is one of the the most basic right a Christian polity can recognize. From freedom of conscience, and the principle of equality, follow all the freedoms usually tabulated as gains of the modern order. But again, the legal recognition of these is inescapably religious in origin.

Freedom of religion in the modern sense is by all accounts a Protestant invention, following from the principle of the uncoerceable conscience, and the distinction between essentials and adiaphora. It was further developed by magistrates and jurists who saw the great advantages of demarcating a open civic forum of temporal neighborliness and cooperation regardless of belief, within certain basic parameters which reflected common human nature and the basic moral law. But again, this division of things only follows from evangelical principles. Obviously, if a religion is in powerless minority, then its believers have no say about anybody else, but this cannot be called an affirmation of religious freedom-it is rather recognition of their own constraint, and this, we argue, is the driving motive behind the religious freedom affirmations of the passive mode of Reformed clerocratic sectarianism, revived lately in the form of the Westminster West pseudo-2K. But if when in power they affirm it, they must be either be doing so from their religious principles, or against them. If against their religious principles, they can claim no credit as a religion for it; if from them, then they acknowledge that religious freedom is itself a religious act of the representatives of a particular religion. There is really no way around this.

With regard to the question of freedom of religion and its limits, the crisis of modern secularism shows that we are not above the wisdom of Locke in his Letter on Toleration; no State cannot allow for organized, principled, acting opposition to basic constitutional order. One need not assent to all the principles of it in order to give it practical allegiance, but principled and operative commitment to negate the order itself places one outside the bounds of citizenship.[14] This is not authoritarianism; this is political common sense.[15] Our claim is that modern order of freedom is foundationally evangelical and cannot be otherwise, and, with the necessary qualifications to make that clearer that Locke does, would say that in general his rule still applies.


Our political project is to inquire into the roots, historical and creational, of law and justice. To cite Brunner again:

It is high time that theologians, philosophers and jurists should unite in order to comprehend and clarify the meaning of this great idea, the idea of justice, of what is just, so that devastation may be checked and a reconstruction of just institutions begun on the ruins.[16]

In both respects, we find religion is the seed of those roots, even though the irreligious too can find peaceful shade under the developed branches and greenery. We are finding that the principles and in some measure the precedents of the Reformers and the Protestant juridical tradition really are the summit of wisdom in the matter, and regarding present application, we look to explore their corollaries and possible prudential applications.

Dr Hart’s false dichotomy has it that one must either adhere to the Westminster West repristination of Disciplinarian presbyterianism, or else one must be a coercive theocrat aiming to impose a grim police state ruled by consistories. But the only consistories which ever tried such a disciplinarian state shared his principles, not ours; he is simply talking about the passive and active historical modes of his own doctrine. Dr VanDrunen’s “two-kingdoms” doctrine is consistent with the old sectarian clericalism in a way which allows no historical development, only historical surrender; it clings to the 16th century, but only on Sunday, the window when such time travel is apparently possible for it.

It is rather the mainstream Magisterial line of Protestantism which led, through logical and prudential development, to the tradition of liberal order we still in large measure enjoy even now- though its existence is increasingly imperiled- and which still has a great deal to offer us and the newer Christian populations of East Asia and Africa. And we are indeed doing our very best to be consistent with it. Were Dr Hart to join us in this consistency, he would still be able to be a trenchant critic of illiberal fanaticisms, and would still be able to affirm the modern order of liberty- he’d just be able to do all that in a way which makes sense, and, perhaps, a future.

[1]He also continues to label Pastor Wedgeworth a “Federal Visionist,” a term which has no clear definition, and whose nearest approximation to a definition doesn’t fit Pr Wedgeworth, who in fact has written a critical overview of the movement; see here.

[2]Justice and the Social Order, Lutterworth Press, London, 1945: pp 38-39.

[3]Following the readings of Jeremy Waldron and Joshua Mitchell, we think that Locke, and a number of other early modern writers whom secularists have desperately wanted to regard as basically atheist, were in fact, as they themselves quite credibly claimed to be, fairly consistent Protestant thinkers.

[4]Dr Hart is mistaken in claiming that all the Reformed dropped the teachings about the role of the magistrate. The Kingdom of Prussia, which led a fully industrial and highly differentiated Germany before the First World War, was officially Reformed, and yet had a very developed official policy of religious freedom practically quite close to that of the American Constitutional settlement. The British Crown is technically still Reformed to this day, and the last coronation oath swore the sovereign to defend the Reformed faith.

[5]Revelation and Reason, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1946: pp 382-383. Unlike so many of our worldview ideologues who employ buzzwords whose only meaning seems to be “I’m special”, Brunner actually specifies precisely what is meant by the Christian notion of the common good, justice, and so on.

[6]Justice and the Social Order, pp 85-86.

[7]A power which is impotently parodied by Van Tilianism, which substitutes for generally intelligible data of Biblical revelation a modernist idea of Trinity as trancendental a priori principle of knowing, and then faults not just other religions, but even traditional Reformed Christianity, for not holding it. But not holding Van Tilian principles on this point is not actually where other religions go wrong, and it might actually be to their credit, or rather, to the credit of common grace, that they do not. This ability to compare and judge applies also to Christians’ own past and present expressions and practice, insofar as the church is semper reformanda.

[8]“Organic church”- and this was long before coffee became the new Supper and the soulpatch the outward sign of the inward grace of authenticity.

[9]Since so many quietists like to give the example of the present sorry condition of European State churches as a refutation of establishment, let’s play for a moment with what a little bit of hopeful imagination might come up with by way of a plan for renewal rather than retreat. One way forward might be this: where royal establishments exist, (such as the UK and Norway) making cathedral churches a kind of franchise of royal chapels meant to be exemplary in form and service within a context where all other congregations are simply civic associations, as in the US, with the indirect support of arrangements such as tax exemption, and connected to the royal chapels through freestanding synods. One can easily imagine any number of ways to have a national Christianity without a national church in the presently insupportable sense.

[10]Milbank is right against Hart’s secularism; and Hart is right against Milbank’s totalism. But deep down they are alike in that both are anti-Enlightenment in a way which makes them rather more anti-reason than simply anti-Rationalist. Both exalt a communitarianism founded on tradition and belonging, and thus cannot imagine a secular rationality at all, let alone one which is Christian- it’s just that one is totalizing, and the other is retreatist. Our claim however is that secular rationality is coherent, and coherent precisely as evangelical rationality. Contra Hart, we agree with Milbank that public order always has a religious foundation. But contra Milbank, we think that foundation is not irrational- both original reception of revelation, and return to it by reformation, shake the receiver profoundly, but they actually clarify and intensify reason, they do not subvert it- that is, mature rationality is a constitutive aspect of foundational reception of revelation.

[11]We also think that a wise recovery of evangelical political doctrine will give us bearings to get above the oscillations and bickerings of dichotomous understandings of person/family and state, state and civil associations, libertarianism and communitarianism.

[12]For the fake-2K school, especially given its Klinean intensification of the original Disciplinarian schism-rule, it would seem that religion in the public sense is a pure curse from which we have been saved , pending being saved from the world altogether. But while the curse was certainly an aspect of the Mosaic ordinance, it was not the essence of it, let alone of the Abrahamic and Noahide covenants, with which covenants the Mosaic was continuous as a hieratical specification. See O Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants. The Messiah is not simply the curse-lifter, he is the Renewer of creation.

[13]Here, we think that renewed attention to the catholic-evangelical versions of “political Hebraism”- Althusius, Selden, Locke- is a very welcome development. See for instance, Eric Nelson, The Hebrew Republic (Harvard University Press, 2010).

[14]Though not outside the pale of jus gentium and the norms of human rights.

[15]It is a point of common sense however which secularist liberalism is incapable of arriving at it due to its confusion; it often compensates for its incapacity in this regard by covert and sometimes overt lapses into fascist emergency-rule operations and other violations of the rule of law.

[16]Justice and the Social Order, p 19.

By Peter Escalante

Peter Escalante is a founder and editor of The Calvinist International. He holds a MA in Philosophy.

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