Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Cherry-picking the Confession

There is a hierarchy of values within the confession.

Does the confession itself say some confessional positions are dispensable?

There's an overwhelming consensus on baptism. The Reformed confessions from 1523 on repeatedly confess infant baptism and reject the denial of the same.

i) So mere consensus is the way you rank confessional positions? But consensus is a sociological phenomenon, not a principled criterion. And consensus is variable in time and place. What about consensus in the CRC or PCUSA?

ii) To say “Reformed” confessions confess infant baptism begs the question. Is the London Baptist Confession of Faith not a “Reformed” confession?

You may deny it, but to appeal to the “consensus” of “Reformed” confessions to disqualify the LBCF is viciously circular. You need a separate argument.

Kline was a paedobaptist.

Which glosses over the fact that he had a rather idiosyncratic way of grounding infant baptism (By Oath Consigned).

He practice the Reformed hermeneutic.

I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Kline worked out his own hermeneutical principles. He had a highly original hermeneutic.

He taught the essentials of covenant theology.

That’s disputable, to say the least.

Infant baptism and the covenant theology and hermeneutic that produced it is essential to Reformed theology. Baptists deny the same. They aren't Reformed. That's not selective either.

Of course it’s selective. You’re appealing to something over and above the confessions to sift the confessions.

The OPC had 50 years to charge MGK and they never did it.

Well, for one thing, Kline deliberately subverted the accountability system by holding nominal membership in one Presbytery while residing in a state outside the jurisdiction of that presbytery.

Moreover, it’s not as if WSC ever took him to task.

It also seems a little unfair to use Lee Irons' posts to get at MGK. If the concern is with his theology, shouldn't you be dealing directly with him?

No, I’m not using Irons to get at Kline. I’m using Irons to get at 2k. And Irons is operating with Klinean methods and assumptions. And Hart has admitted that 2k is underwritten by Klinean hermenetics. 

Look, this is silly,. Yes, Reformed theology has developed. It did so by rejecting theocracy, which was not essential to the Reformed confession. What was essential was (and remains) that the civil magistrate is God's minister for justice in the civil sphere. What is essential is the basic distinction between the civil and spiritual spheres or kingdoms under God's sovereign providence. The same is true of creation. Most Reformed theologians have matured beyond the views held in the 17th century but we still confess that God sovereignly spoke into nothing. The essence of the confession hasn't changed. Baptism is essential to the Reformed confession. Theocracy isn't.

i) Traditional Reformed statecraft is predicated on traditional Reformed covenant theology. How OT promises are fulfilled in the new covenant. That’s central to traditional Reformed identity.

ii) I can easily imagine Karl Barth or Thomas Torrance or Donald McKim or Donald Bloesch explaining how their revisions and innovations represent the “maturing” of Reformed theology while preserving what’s “essential” to the Reformed confession.

Why don't you read RRC? I tried to make the case there that not everything is equally important but that there is a core. Seems to me that if we never revised any of our views, then you would attack as unreflective traditionalists. But, when the churches get together and revise the confession, as in the case of BC 36, which is amenable to the 2K (see Danny Hyde's commentary on the Belgic Confession) then you accuse us of being unstable. You miss the point.

i) I fault you for willful, arbitrary inconsistency.

ii) If you wish to debate merits of the case for what you deem be at the “core,” fine. But in that event you’re arguing for the confessions rather than from the confessions. In that case you’re winnowing the confessions on the basis of some extraconfessional standard.

iii) Sure, churches can revise confessions. In that case, Reformed identity is defined (or redefined) by churches, not confessions.

The point is that the churches are reading God's Word together, using a common hermeneutic and reaching substantially the same conclusions now that we did in the 16th and 17th centuries but we do see a few, non-essential things, differently.

When I read A. A. Hodge’s classic commentary on the WCF, and compare his exposition of Reformed statecraft with, say, Darryl Hart’s position on statecraft, it’s hard to see how both men are using a “common hermeneutic” and/or “reaching substantially the same conclusions.”

If I didn't know better I'd say that some fellows on this blog are just looking for things to criticize.

Well, that’s amusing from someone as trigger-happy as you are.


  1. Clark's also glossing over the fact that several Reformed baptists have argued for their view *from covenant theology*. They believe that covenant theology leads to credo baptism.

    I'd also like to see if Clark will come clean on whether a denail of libertarian free will is "essential" to Reformed theology. His positive citing of Muller's lecture on the topic would seem to indicate that Clark approaves of what Muller says on the matter. So, will Scott Clark come forward and tell us wether LFW is inconsistent with Reformed theology or not?

  2. Superb rebuttal of Professor Clark.

    Two small typos:

    (1) "I can easily imagine Karl Bart or Thomas Torrance or Donald McKim or Donald Bloesch"

    Should be Karl Barth, yes?

    (2) "When I read A. A. Hodge’s classic commentary on the WCF, and compare his exposition of Reformed statecraft with, say, Darryl Hart’s position on statecraft, it’s how to see how both men are using a “common hermeneutic”

    I think you meant to say, "... it's hard to see how..." instead.

  3. stupid question of the day: What is 2k theology? I've heard it referenced by the reformed before, but I have no idea what it is short for. Thanks!

  4. Unfortunately, 2k is a moving target. The answer varies according to which 2k proponent you ask.

  5. Ok, how about this: What does 2k stand for? This way i could at least google it (with a better chance of getting decent results).

  6. 2k=2 kingdoms, a la Scott Clark, Darryl Hart, David vanDrunen, Kim Riddlebarger.

  7. Zack,

    You'd probably be better served by Googling "R2K (Radical 2 Kingdom) theory" for information on the topic and authors cited by Steve.

    You should also peruse the inimitable Turretinfan's blog for fodder.

    In Christ,

  8. Zack,

    Just type in "Two Kingdoms" at TurretinFan's blog. You'll see a post titled "Varieties of "Two Kingdoms" Positions".

    I prefer to call the version of Darryl Hart's 2K doctrine as R2K for Radical 2-Kingdom theology.

  9. According to 2k eschatology, the world should have come to an end at 12 AM 2000 when all the legacy COBOL computer applications would have thought that year was 1900 instead. As such it should be placed on a level with Jehovah's Witnesses, SDA's, Campingites and other groups that have been proven bogus by their failed eschatologies.