Sunday, June 9, 2013

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

     I have been watching with some interest concerning the debate that has been becoming very charged within the URC about the (R)2K doctrine.

    Matthew Tuininga (PhD student at Emory) has posted about this issue, here, and here. This was started in part by some posts by Mark Van Der Molen (elder in the URC), here, PDF version here and there are some additional articles by Dr Kloosterman (former prof at Mid America Seminary), here and here.

   And of course, other folks have jumped in. Bayly bros, here. And Pastor McAtee (CRC pastor) here.

   And, if there is any doubt on where WSCAL lies in this debate, you can find it here.

    Both in Matt Tuininga's blog and in the advertisement of that particular blog post on the WSCAL site, the main point behind this is about properly representing your "opponent", you must be responsible in presenting him accurately: "It is time for serious Reformed people to step up and demand that whatever concerns people may have about two kingdoms theology, they raise them in a responsible way." (Tuininga blog)
     On the WSCAL site, it says "(1) when we critique another position, how accurate is our representation? And, (2) how accurate is our theological engagement of the issues?'

     In and of themselves, I appreciate the statements that both Mr. Tuininga and WSCAL are making regarding the need to be academically and intellecually honest when looking at another's position.

     I simply wish that they actually realized that they not only need to be preaching this to others who do not agree with them, but they need to apply it to themselves as well.

     To say that WSCAL is anti-theonomic is probably an understatement, but part of the problem that the school has is that they are not understanding theonomy correctly, and so what they are attempting to refute has nothing to do with the actual theonomic position.

     For instance, Dr Clark has recently wrote a blog series on "We Are Not Polishing Brass On A Sinking Ship" in several parts. In part 2, here, he goes on to talk about the so-called errors associated with the theonomic movement. It seems that Dr Clark is not listening to his employer's own advice when attempting accurately represent opposing views:

     -RSC: "Supported by their postmillennialism, theonomy/reconstructionism looked forward to a future Christian “dominion“ through the gradual leavening of the culture by Christian cultural and political influence"
     -CSL: This particular quote is very subtle and most people will miss the fallacy of association here. It is no secret that WSCAL is militantly amillenial. The problem comes about because Dr Clark as well as Dr Gaffin (former prof at WTS PA) have both associated theonomy with postmilleniliasm in a fallacious manner. One of their many anti-theonomic contentions is that since postmillenialism is wrong (and amil is correct), and since theonomy means postmillenialism or theonomy is associated with postmillenialism, therefore, theonomy is wrong.
     This is fallacious reasoning. While certainly many theonomists are postmillenial, theonomy itself does not **automatically equate** to postmillenilaism. Theonomy is what should be. Postmillenialism states what will be. People can agree on what should be without actually agreeing on what will be. And by intentionally and subtly (and fallaciously) associating postmil with theonomy, Dr Clark seeks to discredit theonomy in this sentence on that fallacious basis.

You can't prove your conclusion true by using a fallacious argument, which he attempts to do here.

     Dr Clark assumes that his readers will see the connection between post mil and theonomy and make the fallacious association as he does that therefore theonomy is wrong (since his premise is that amil is true).

     -RSC: "Even the true believers, the theonomists/reconstructionists seem to have given up their original program of cultural transformation through direct political action (Rushdoony’s followers). Instead, they’ve turned to a program of cultural transformation through sacerdotalism, via their theology of baptismal election-union-justification etc ostentatiously self-glossed as “The Federal Vision.”
     -CSL: It is amazing to me how uninformed, misleading and/or misinformed, and not clear Dr Clark is being when he writes statements like these. Again notice the fallacy of association and now also the fallacy of misrepresentation that he brings to bear when attempting to connect theonomy with federal vision. Any person who is not extremely familiar with this on-going debate will then conclude from Dr Clark's post that theonomy now (by definition) equals federal vision.
     To be fair, there are many well known theonomists who have gone the federal vision route such as Doug Wilson and James Jordan. However, I could also easily conclude that (R)2K leads to Roman Catholicism due to Jason Stellman's defection to Rome after having prosecuted the cases against Peter Leithart (FV advocate in the PCA). And Mr Stellman was a hard core (R)2K advocate, even writing a book about it, Dual Citizens. Even the church that he planted has a (R)2K name: Exile Presbysterian Church. I have read enough of the (R)2K position to know that while there are blatant and gross inconsistencies in this doctrine, if it is faithfully followed in accordance to how Dr Van Drunen espouses it in such books as Living in God's Two Kingdoms, (R)2K will NOT lead to Roman Catholicism.
     Dr Clark's statements commit the fallacy of association by linking theonomy with FV in such a way that is similar to theonomy and postmil.
     He commits the fallacy of misrepresentation also because he is representing theonomy as if it logically means FV, which a faithful adherence to theonomy will not. The RPCUS, which is a proudly theonomic presbysterian denomination, recently generated an open letter to those who are FV to publicly repent here. And the website Theonomy Resources is a theonomic webiste that calls FV a heresy. Both the RPCUS and Theonomy Resources logically and faithfully adhere to theonomy. For Dr Clark to say that theonomy automatically logically equals FV or that all theonomists (as he seems to suggest in his post) are FV is wrong and goes against reality. If he doesn't mean that all theonomists are FV, he certainly didn't make that very clear in his blog post.
     In other blog posts of his, Dr Clark has claimed to read theonomic literature such as Bahnsen's Theonomy in Christian Ethics, and has claimed to think very deeply about theonomy in years past, but either he read it such a long time ago that he forgot what Bahnsen's book says, or he didn't read it carefully enough because even a cursory glance at any theonomic literature by Bahsnen will clearly reveal that he understood that law and gospel are clearly separate in that the law can never save.

From these two points above, it should be obvious that WSCAL needs to be very careful to follow its own advice on properly representing those who disagree with them. 

It really concerns me that legions of students and laymen are so heavily influenced by WSCAL, and while a good portion of what WSCAL does is godly (focusing on Christ centered preaching etc..), it is also mixed in with flat out wrong and grossly misrepresented views on what exactly theonomy is. And since many people are so influenced by WSCAL, they will take anything that the school says as "gospel"... even gross misreprentations of theonomy because other things that WSCAL espouses is godly.  

I remember my friend having a discussion with a WSCAL student about 10 years ago about theonomy, and the WSCAL student said that theonomy was bad and wrong. When my friend pressed him, the student couldn't come up with any real reason other than saying "Well, because Dr Van Drunen said so in class." (a wonderfully fallacious appeal to authority).

Everyone has disagreements, and that is simply a fact of life. But, to simply disagree based on a gross caricature of theonomy or simply because WSCAL says so, or because a certain professor says so is the height of theological, academic and intelletcual dishonesty. It is deeply concerning to me that this kind of thing is coming out of a seminary that is highly regarded and very influential in the reformed world. 

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