Alastair Roberts has posted some very helpful reflections on The Future of Protestantism conversation here. In particular, he has some very helpful reflections in relation to Leithart’s seeming collapse of redemptive and ecclesiastical history. If we do not reckon with the uniquely redemptive-historical nature of the Bible and its contents, consequently blurring the lines between the historically unique/irregular and the historically common, we will inevitably misconstrue either redemptive history or common history. The former distortion tends to reduce the Bible to a storage-unit of moral and metaphysical facts. The latter distortion inevitably results in apocalyptic speculation and a false sense of “knowing the mind of God” in history.
That said, I have to admit I was surprisingly moved by Leithart’s presentation. While I had concerns along the lines just indicated, his talk did serve as a reminder that for all the difference between redemptive-history and common history, the God of the former is the God of the latter. The same reality (including God’s character and ways) underlies each. Though perhaps representing what I take to be the more “apocalyptic speculation” error, it struck me in the same way that Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (which might represent the “moralistic” error) struck me when I read it several years ago. To wit, while I might disagree with the hermeneutic of Dr. King and Dr. Leithart, they both remind me (in different ways) that the same reality, the same world, and the same God underlie both redemptive and common history.
The God of the Bible is the God who lives and acts today. He is the God who raises the dead and unites those who are divided, who brings order out of chaos. This is the living God of the Christian church. Our God intrudes in and moves around in the world. He punishes the wicked and vindicates the just. He cares about our problems and listens to our prayers. He weaves the tapestry of history. And while I might want to see more caution with respect to interpreting divine providence, to the extent that Dr. Leithart shoves the Bible’s God down our throats and insists that we think through our ecclesiological questions in light of His reality, we should be grateful for his insistence.
For many, especially in environments where Scripture is not actively engaged, Leithart is a breath of fresh air. And while I have concerns about some of his thought, there is no question that Leithart is attempting to allow Scripture to shape our perception of reality – and to relate that Biblical vision to modern questions, concerns, and situations. And agree or disagree with all of his conclusions (on natural law, etc), we certainly better not find ourselves doing anything less than this. And to that extent, we have a common project and a basis for substantive mutual engagement.