The Case of the Missing Category

I am grateful to D. G. Hart for providing a concise and precise response to Bill Evans regarding the history of Westminster Theological Seminary and the issue of cultural transformation. I would only add that, if one wants to play the somewhat self-defeating hermeneutic of suspicion game and describe Two Kingdom Theology as providing fig leaf cover for culture war fatigue, then one might just as easily describe Theonomy, neo-Kuyperianism and other forms of transformationalism as fig leafs for right wing conservatism, left wing liberationism or whatever political pinata one wishes to bash.  And I do wonder whether the 'culture war fatigue' is as great in Christian circles as some suggest: perhaps it is left wing evangelical fatigue with the right wing evangelical culture war.  A plague on both their houses.

Now, while we are on the subject of 2k, the fall-out from my original, rather matter-of-fact post Groucho.jpgseems to have seen me placed firmly in the 2k camp.   As a good Marxist (Groucho, as noted before, not Karl) I have an aversion to joining any club which would have me as a member; and so I am rather  hesitant to accept this characterisation.  Not only have I never (as far as I can recall) identified myself with such a position (even while I appreciate much that its various advocates have to say), I have not read widely enough in the literature to commit myself one way or the other.

My own position is one I have drawn from what I understand to be a strong strand of nineteenth/twentieth century American Presbyterian thinking on the church, on Christian freedom and on church-state relations: I believe the church to be a fundamentally spiritual institution, with spiritual weapons and tools (word and sacraments).   I do not believe the church as an institution has a calling to be involved directly in political action.  But I do believe that as Christians hear the word each week and receive it by faith, as they grasp the significance of their baptism, as they take the Lord's Supper, as they worship and fellowship with other believers, their characters are impacted and shaped; and that this will affect how they behave as members of civic society.   In short, they will be those whose faith informs how they think and behave as they go about their daily business in this world.   Christianity makes a difference -- through the lives of the individual Christians pursuing their civic callings as Christians, not through the political posturing and lobbying of the church.

Many readers may disagree with my views on this matter.  That is of little account.   My point here is not to argue for the spirituality of the church so much as to highlight the problem of the rhetoric being used by some transformationalists.  The simplistic bogey-man type polarity behind the kind of 'if you're not a transformationalist like us then you must be one of those 2k chaps' strikes me as useful only for scoring cheap points and playing to the gallery.  It strikes me as next to useless when it comes to understanding the nuancedmolesworth_reasonably_small.jpg and varied ways Presbyterianism has historically thought about the issues (compare, for example, Hodge and Chalmers) and, indeed, completely useless in understanding why people like myself can certainly acknowledge with gratitude the good Christians have done in the public sphere over the centuries while still rejecting the idea that the church as an institution is called to militate for such changes from her pulpits week by week and to see social transformation as part of her institutional mission.