Archive for the ‘Social Issues’ Category

Here it is:

Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture

Copyright © 2010 by David VanDrunen

Published by Crossway Books

PRELIMS: This book was provided by Crossway for my personal review.

First off, Dr. VanDrunen is a credible author on the points in which he engages. He is a studied scholar in the realm of divinity and law. Such background is necessary for the topic in which he engages. Secondly, this book is much needed in the “Evangelical” world today as the church struggles and flounders through the murky issues of Christian engagement of culture, politics, etc. Lastly, VanDrunen approaches this work from the rich heritage of the “Two-Kingdom” theory you will find in Augustine, Luther, Calvin (although open to debate), and many contemporary Reformed thinkers.


VanDrunen establishes a historical understanding of the issues of how God rules in the world generally and in the Church specifically. He is well aware of Niebuhr’s work on “Christ and Culture” and establishes the framework of the debate judiciously. Before making an inductive thesis in support of the “Two-Kingdom” perspective, he engages critically in modern distortions of the Christians obligation to the world: N.T. Wright and the Emergent Church. His criticisms are insightful and helpful. Read the book for the nitty gritty.

I commend VanDrunen’s covenantal redemptive-historical framework throughout the book. He deals specifically with the covenant with Adam and how it consisted of his tending the garden (priestly duties), as well as governing the land (kingly duties). If Adam and his righteous progeny had succeeded, eternal bliss and rest would have followed, meaning that the “Creation Mandate” had a goal in view. Adam and Eve weren’t to perpetually bear children and work the land forever and ever as the last climatic act in their God-given charge. The priestly duties would have brought about consummated holiness in destroying the serpent and partaking of the tree of life, while the kingly duties would have brought earth under perfect subjection and thus a perfect consummate rest from labor. VanDrunen dedicates an entire chapter in elaborating upon these themes because the rest of the book makes no sense apart from this framework.  VanDruned then dedicates an entire chapter to exactly how Jesus has and will fulfill these charges given to Adam. VanDrunen states the following:

Before the second Adam no one accomplished the task of the first Adam, and after the second Adam no one needs to accomplish it. The last Adam has completed it once and for all. Christians will attain the original destiny of life in the world-to-come, but we do so not by picking up the task where Adam left off but by resting entirely on the work of Jesus Christ, the last Adam who accomplished the task perfectly.

 How did Christ accomplish Adam’s original task perfectly? Jesus did not personally fill the earth with his descendants or exercise dominion over all creatures in his human nature during his earthly ministry. But as considered in chapter 2, Adam was to have his entire obedience in the entire world determined through a particular test in a particular location. So it was for the last Adam. Like the first Adam, the Lord Jesus was confronted by the devil who tried to entice Christ to obey him, and King Jesus resisted the devil and conquered him (Matt. 4:1–11; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14). Like the first Adam, the Lord Jesus was called to priestly service, and Christ the Great High Priest purified God’s holy dwelling and opened the way for human beings back into his presence (Heb. 9:11–28; 10:19–22). Like the first Adam, the Lord Jesus was to enter God’s royal rest in the world-to- come upon finishing his work perfectly, and this is precisely what Christ did, entering into heaven itself, taking his seat at God’s right hand, ministering in the heavenly tabernacle, and securing our place in the world-to-come (Heb. 1:3; 4:14–16; 7:23–28).

This is absolutely essential for issues of Christianity and culture! If Christ is the last Adam, then we are not new Adams. To under- stand our own cultural work as picking up and finishing Adam’s original task is, however unwittingly, to compromise the sufficiency of Christ’s work. Christ perfectly atoned for all our sins, and hence we have no sins left to atone personally. Likewise, Christ perfectly sustained a time of testing similar to Adam’s: he achieved the new creation through his flawless obedience in this world. He has left nothing yet to be accomplished. God indeed calls Christians to suf fer and to pursue cultural tasks obediently through our lives. But to think that our sufferings contribute to atoning for sin or that our cultural obedience contributes to building the new creation is to compromise the all-sufficient work of Christ.

VanDrunen even pulls out the exclamation mark in reference to how important understanding the work of Christ is for determining our own obligations as a Christian.  We are now heavenly citizens who taste the world to come, but do not in any way bring it about. He states: (more…)

Kevin DeYoung posted his friend Jason Carter’s thoughts about the Lausanne Congress here.  Here’s one part that grabbed my attention:

Perhaps the strongest prophetic voice issuing from Cape Town came from Dr. Joseph D’Souza from India when he spoke out against the Indian Caste System as (a form of modern) slavery in its subjugation of 250 million Dalit peoples.  D’Souza made the point that if apartheid was wrong, then so too the Caste System:  “25% of India’s population —  250 million people — has no rights, dehumanized, segregated, and silently enduring an apartheid system in India. We, of course, in India hang our heads in shame…”  D’Souza stated that there are more slaves in our world today than when William Wilberforce fought the Transatlantic slave trade and closed his rousing and prophetic message by calling forth the involvement of the global church:   “I am here to say to you here at Cape Town that nothing but the concerted opinion and involvement of the global church will bring down human civilization’s longest lasting slave system.”

I think that D’Souza’s eight minutes on the Lausanne platform, 20 years from now, might be one of the defining hallmarks of Lausanne III if the global church – working with Dalit Christians – manages to prophetically speak out and live out Christ’s transforming power in the midst of this (unbelievably) large-scale injustice, reconstituting Indian society from the bottom-up for the glory of Christ.

The link in the quote goes to D’Souza’s speech.

He says that the Dalits (Untouchables) have four pleas for the church:

  1. Free our children from socialization into inferiority and vulnerable to abuse and discrimination.
  2. Free our women from sexual predation.
  3. Be a voice.
  4. Bring the alternative community that Jesus promised, the church in which there is no discrimination.

Notice that in the first two points he gives examples of Dalits who saw redemption in their lives.

The BBC story that he referred to, about the Catholic graveyard with a wall between Dalit and non-Dalit graves, is here.  That’s the kind of stark image that can really symbolize injustice, like the separate Bibles for swearing in witnesses in the Jim Crow South.  Wikipedia’s article on caste and Christianity has more information.

Lord, move in the hearts and lives of your people everywhere to build your church into the community that you desire.

Rick Hogaboam pointed out a series of posts by Thabiti Anyabwile that reacted Brian Kemper’s defense of comparing abortion to slavery and the Holocaust.  Kemper believes that we must make the comparison because of the horrible reality of abortion that parallels slavery and the Holocaust and the denial of personhood that has taken place in defense of all three.  He believes that people take offense to these comparisons because “we have elevated what they consider to be a blob of tissue to personhood status.”

Rick posted a good quote from the first three posts.  Anyabwile’s consideration of this issue spanned four posts:

I wanted to focus on his first post, and you can read his others for his opinions on those topics.  Here are Anyabwile’s central objections to Kemper’s article:

Okay, the argument is basically fine.  But read Mr. Kemper’s opinion piece and tell me how many times he seems to deeply affirm the human pain and suffering African Americans endured in slavery.  He seems quite aware of the Jewish holocaust, referring to monuments and observances dedicated to never forgetting that human tragedy.  But how many such monuments and museums exist in honor of African people treated as chattel?  How many institutions work to ensure there is a deep, abiding recollection of those centuries of torture?  Not many.  Kemper certainly doesn’t mention many.  Now, here’s why some of us say “how dare you?”  Without demonstrating any genuine empathy, any continuing affirmation of the humanity of African people, the comparison simply seems to lack authenticity, familiarity, and empathy.  It merely sounds expedient.  Those who use the argument don’t really sound like they care about black people as such, but only about exploiting the pain of black people as a political expedient….

There’s one more element to this I’d like to highlight.  When I say, “How dare you make this comparison?” I’m also identifying someone who hasn’t shown up to support a lot of other causes I care about.  Not only have you not shown up to support, you really haven’t shown up to dialogue, understand, or persuade.  Most of your political and social positions lie across the river from my own, and though you own a boat you’ve never tried to row across.  Now you show up saying how much I ought to support your cause.  And you tell me how much this cause ought to mean to me, how I ought to care about the death of black babies.  You tell me this as if I don’t already care about the death of black babies.  But when I talk about the death of black babies due to crime, or poverty, or drugs, or slow death from a sub-par education, you tell me that’s my problem.  When you do that, you seem to care more about your political issue than you care about my black life.  You need to know that’s how we see you.  Your comparison reminds us of all of this.

So, yes, how dare you compare abortion to slavery?!  I love you.  But I’m afraid you don’t love me… at least not long enough to hear how your comparison affects me.  I’m in the trenches with you–at least I want to be–but the shrapnel from your rapid fire makes it hard for me to fire with you.

I think that these two objections both deserve attention.  From everything that I know, Anyabwile is first and foremost an evangelical Christian who doesn’t have a vested interest in racial politics and doesn’t subscribe to Afrocentric theology.  He wants to proclaim the gospel to all people, and knows that God is creating a new, multiracial people in Christ.  If he is right about how many black Christians will react to Kemper’s defense, then what he is pointing to is a fundamental mistrust and disconnect between white and black Christians.  I think that’s largely the case in American Christianity today; white and black Christians have such separate institutions and cultures that we often don’t register on each other’s radar.  Anyabwile’s thoughts here highlight the perils of white tonedeafness, but I think that both circles share some of the blame.

I also want to note something in Anyabwile’s article that I’m not so sure about.  We may not have monuments and museums about slavery, but I think that our educational system and the public presentation of history do pretty well with making people aware of slavery and the civil rights movement.  I think that it’s necessary sometimes to point out that America didn’t invent slavery, but that societies across history have had different forms of it.  This is not, of course, meant as a justification, but context is important.  We’ve got a long way to go in having a really just society or even agreeing exactly what that would look like here.  But to me this criticism, while it is surely sincere, does not describe the cultural reality. (more…)

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile offers a 3 post series on abortion, slavery, race relations, and more. I am providing links to each part with some quotes that I found insightful:

Part One “How Dare Compare Abortion to Slavery?!”

Thabiti offers a stinging analysis of Toby Mac’s “Blues” music:

Yesterday I went to a restaurant with a brother in the Lord.  While there a Toby Mac song began playing on the restaurant speakers.  There was something oddly familiar, yet clearly distant.  The particular song seemed to be an effort at playing the blues by someone who grew up pretty affluent and problem free.  There was the basic form and melody of the blues, but won’t no blues in it.  The way, the how, of this comparison lacks blues for slaves and descendants of slaves.  It lacks familiarity with the suffering, pays passing tribute to the humanity of slaves, and moves too quickly to the rhetorical and political comparison.  It’s all too expedient and neat for an experience whose icon is a lacerated, bleeding, whipped back.

Part Two  “How I Would Talk About Abortion and Slavery to an African American Audience Were I a White Man”

Because the reality is this: There is among us another form of willful ignorance destroying life by the thousands every day.  There is another “looking the other way” by Americans who know better and should be better. There are significant numbers of people professing to be Christians either participating in, supporting, or playing blind bystander to untold human suffering.  These are the people living in our day who remain uninvolved in ending abortion the way some remained uninvolved in ending slavery.

Were a black man to remain uninvolved in ending slavery he would be called a “sell out.”  Were a white man to be uninvolved in ending slavery he would be worst than the slaveowner.  And my brothers and sisters, if a black man or woman remains uninvolved in the ending of abortion when abortion destroys more black babies than any other thing since slavery… that black man or woman is a “sell out” to his children before they see the light of life!  And if a white man or woman remains uninvolved in ending abortion… that white man or woman takes their place on the side of slave owners and slave merchants who were destroyers of life!

Ignoring suffering wasn’t right in 1830, and it’s not right in 2010.  Black life should have been valued and protected in 1830 and 1950, and it should be valued and protected now!

Part Three  “Now I’m African American and I’m Talking to African Americans about Abortion and Slavery”

In our short time tonight, we have not come to talk about slavery.  We’ve come to talk about its modern day step-child: abortion.  And I’ve come to tell you, beloved, my mama and daddy had a lot of things right.  But they were wrong when they told me that “abortion was a white person’s problem.”  It may have seemed that way to them watching the images on the TV in the 1970s.  It may seem that way to you and me when we see the images and protests on our TVs today.  But, beloved, you might be horrified to know the truth.

Since abortion became legal in 1973, over 13 million African American babies have been killed in the womb! Thirteen million!  That’s more than heart disease, cancer, accidents, violent crimes, and AIDS combined!  That’s more than some estimates of lives lost in 200 years of slavery!  In the 1980s, we labeled black males an “endangered species” because of the life-threatening effects of drugs, violence, and imprisonment.  But next to abortion, drugs, violent crime, and prison look like Spring break at Virginia Beach.  Write it down.  Make it plain.  The new slavery, the new force devastating black life, is abortion.

Anthony Bradley, a writer for World magazine, as well as the author of “Liberating Black Theology“, posted an article “Practicing True Diversity“, in which he advocates more cultural diversity within Evangelicalism to reflect the global Christian faith, but insinuates that Voddie Baucham, Tony Evans, and Thabiti Anyabwile are invited to mostly “White” Evangelical conferences as a token effort to show diversity. Here are my issues with Bradley:

  1. While I wholeheartedly agree with his plea for more diversity, and would even amen his observation of the lack of Latinos and Asians in many of the Evangelical conferences across America, I would be bit more tempered, lest we advocate some form of Affirmative Action for every Evangelical conference or gathering in the country. Now I think that we should pay attention to racial diversity; we are not to be color-blind, for God is not color-blind, which means that we should positively affirm the global Church and show appreciation for the diversity that God has given us. This however should not equate to some form of Affirmative Action scale where we make so much of race to call to attention the fact that a certain conference only had one “token” black guy and whites. Bradley should apologize to Evans, Baucham, and Anyabwile.
  2. I hate to state the obvious, but many of these conferences are hosted by churches that are predominantly white. I’m not suggesting that you should only invite your own kind, but is it really reasonable to expect a local church to reflect global diversity when their local demographic is predominantly white? I commend Bethlehem Baptist church and the leadership of John Piper, who dealt with the reality that there was a sizable black demographic in the Twin Cities and therefore wouldn’t be content with an all-white church. They have sought diversity in their pastoral staff and have targeted blacks in the community, targeting African immigrants, which are a growing population in the Twin Cities. I bring up Piper, because he has invited people of various ethnic backgrounds to his conferences throughout the years. Does Bradley have issue with Piper? I certainly hope not, considering his call for global missions and adoption of a black daughter. I’m sure that Bradley would offer more qualifications to sooth some of my angst. I realize that a brief post can’t die the death of a thousand qualifications, but I caution Bradley to be careful with what he says and insinuates. I have read some comments on Voddie Bauchamn’s Facebook wall, that includes a peaved individual who actually invited Voddie to speak at a homeschool conference. I will leave the details of the comment private to Facebook, however this person made it absolutely clear that Voddie was invited because of his passion and convictions relating to the topic of discussion and race played no equation at all. I don’t think Bradley gave enough forethought to how his comments would seem to insinuate that people who have invited black speakers were simply trying to appease their own conscience for diversity sake. Power hungry politicians prostitute racial tensions for the sake of gain in the polls, but I would certainly hope that the Body of Christ would not play the race card in such a fashion. If anything, Bradley should be celebrating the prominence of blacks on the Evangelical consciousness…including his own.    
  3. I still like Anthony Bradley and don’t think he should be crucified for his post. Many followers of the quoted black invitees have show disgust with Bradley and have written World Magazine to complain. I acknowledge the tension of racial relations and am in fact going public with this post, but I still stand by Bradley as a thoughtful Christian who longs for more diversity in American Evangelicalism and has been willing to call out the black church to abandon liberation theology and other harmful theologies. For that, I give him praise. This is not some Blood-Crip thing where blacks are shooting each other in the Evangelical ranks, but I do wish Bradley would have been more careful about the grief he has caused to many by his post. His post has not brought more reconciliation and healing to whatever racial strife exists, but reinforces a stereoptypical bitter prophetic voice that I think no longer applies the way it once did. Bradley presupposes that the motives of the conference was to invite a token black; he even calls into question the competence of his brothers as he suggests that they are mostly invited because of their color and less to do with their competence to address the matters they are called upon to address, and Bradley is perilously close to suggesting that his fellow brothers are accomplices in a purely racially motivated, conscience appeasing effort from the white Evangelicals. This is a lose-lose-lose from Bradley’s end and I wish he would now offer the necessary qualifications to the subscribers and readers of World (I have been a subscriber of World and am not renewing my subscription, but due to other reasons that Bradley’s post). I would hope he would demand the same if I carelessly suggested that he is a “token black” for WORLD Magazine and for his publishers because they are aiming at some minimal level of diversity for conscience sake. I find it ironic that he will offer blanket criticism for the Evangelical conferences that invite certain black speakers, but not criticize Crossway publishers because they happen to publish a disproportiante number of white to black authors, ironically including  both Bradley and Bauchamn. Should we throw Crossway under the bus as well? I hope not. Just to be clear, I am employing “inductio ad absurdum” (arguing against Bradley because of the absurd consistency it would demand).  I speak in love and hope that Bradley will offer us a better vision and more responsible criticism in his future appeals for diversity. I trust he knows better and look forward to what he has to say.

I continue my review of Andrew Napolitano’s, “Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America” with this second installment on his 2nd chapter, “American Slavery”.

Napolitano shares what the typical life of the slave was like, involving being broken in, strict codes of discipline, teaching that livelihood was dependent on the good of the owner (thus creating sense of inferiority and dependency), and Bible Studies from selective Scripture to reinforce that slavery was their lot in life and needed to be accepted as from the hand of God.

A sad but revealing quote, “In general, even the most humane slaveholder, as paradoxical as the phrase is, could not afford to be too nice if he hoped to perpetuate his enterprise” (p. 16). This pretty much sums up the relationship of master and slave.

The Domestic slave trade was prompted by the outlawing of the African slave trade in 1808. The powers that be realized that a constant influx of slaves would perhaps lead to future revolt. Now that slaves weren’t being imported, the domestic slave trade got uglier. Masters were trying to breed more slaves to perpetuate their estate. Marriages were dissolved if there was infertility and it was plain ugly. The Northeners tried to abolish the slave trade, but they weren’t as lily white as some might think. Mills in the North processed Southern cotton, exported cotton overseas, and manufactured goods for the Southern market. Slavery was alive and well in the North prior to the Revolution and many slaves gained their freedom during the Revolution, only because it was offered in exchange for their fighting in the war. One can hardly call that emancipation based on conviction, but rather a leveraging of power over the slave to exploit their dependence on the State.

In spite of the heroic efforts of the Underground Railroad, which was based on conviction and noble intent, running away was simply not an option as the Federal Government enforced strict laws to bring fugitives back to their owners and money rewards were also offered to those who would capture slaves. Ahhhhh, how the smell of money always works its way into most every story and conflict in human history. I actually just picked up the book, “From Midnight to Dawn” based on the Underground Railroad that I hope to review sometime in the future.

The good old dollar also shows up for yet another reason why slavery was eradicated in the North (sorry to crash the party). White labor was considered more valuable than blacks, so many emancipation laws were designed to bolster the economic conditions of the whites. I guess it was, “Here’s your freedom…over there on the curb with gutter water and crumbs”. Makes slavery under a humane owner not look so bad. Reminds me of the Prodigal son who realized that servanthood in his father’s house sure did beat poverty in the distant land that allowed him to party with money, but kicked him to the curb when he was out of money. Not trying to justify slavery, nor say the Prodigal Son parable justifies slavery, but only noting that being a servant under a good master is better than being “free”, but poor and desperate to do anything for money to buy food and shelter.

Napolitano wraps up the chapter with a very interesting discussion of Natural Law, quoting from the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas, Justice Clarence Thomas, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King Jr. Aquinas argued that the government did not have the right to enact unjust laws. This raises the question of epistemology and how we can know anything, let alone whether something is right or wrong. How much can be known by “Natural Law”? Must one quote Scripture when self-evident “Natural Law” is no longer self-evident (yeah, I caught the logical fallacy as well). I am tempted to turn this post into a discussion of Theonomy, Natural Law, and more, but will refrain.

Aquinas echoed what many folks in the Reformed branch of Christianity would assert, that a government is only legitimate when it is enacted some assumed aspects of morality based on the Decalogue (10 Commandments). You can read Romans 13, where it is assumed that the Civil magistrate is punishing evil behavior…behavior called to be evil like murder, stealing, and the like. So far as the government is operating within this minimal guidelines, can they be considered as remotely legitimate. Now what about a government that is not just on a lot of things, while being just on many other things? Therein lies the dilemma that all people live under. Aquinas suggested that only “just” laws were to be obeyed. This presumes that the citizen is defining justice by some standard in which the government itself is subject to. What is that standard you might ask? Is it the Bible? Part of the Bible? Natural Revelation? This is tough. Laying that debate aside, Judge Clarence Thomas said the following about his notions of a higher, binding natural law:

Without such a notion of natural law, the entire American political tradition from Washington to Lincoln, from Jefferson to Martin Luther King, would be unintelligible.

Napolitan adds:

He (Clarence Thomas) said that he subscribes to this principle because it guarantees equality, even if the words of the Constitution do not.

Back to Thomas:

Natural rights and higher law arguments are the best defense of liberty and of limited government.

Thomas Jefferson also appealed to a higher law that he understood the magistrate to be bound by, almost as if it were a trust that needed to be guarded and protected. Jefferson was hardly an  Evangelical by modern definition, but he was a Deist and rooted inalienable rights as something, “endowed by our Creator”. I have heard that some scientists and atheists are most tempted to Theism because of the Moral argument for the existence of God. One becomes a tyrannical dictator when they enforce laws that they must admit originate in their own minds. Even utilitarianism subjects a dissenting minority to the rule of the majority and doesn’t resolve whether something is true, beautiful, and good. If the majority wish to cleanse their land of a race of people, whose to tell them that they’re wrong, irregardless if 99% think the same say for that matter?

Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous letter from the Birmingham jail, said:

…an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law

So my question to those reading this: Is there such a thing as “Natural law”? Can it be know for certain? What is it? Was Aquinas, Justice Clarence Thomas, Thomas Jefferson, and MLK Jr. right in appealing to “natural” law?  What exact “natural” law were they appealing to?