Antiestablismentarianism and the Establishment Principle's Relationship to Two-Kingdom Theology

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JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Friends,

As I continue to familiarize myself with the growing body of work on Two Kingdom Theology, tangentially I began to think of the American Revision to the Westminster Confession of Faith regarding the establishment of religion. Etymologically, there may be some overlap or non at all, but to satisfy my curiosity, are there any scholarly resources that you know of that clearly outline or define the reason for the American Revision? To date, all I can find are references to our beloved Declaration of Independence and Constitution and making the WCF conform.
Is there more to it than that? Are/were there any apologists for the antiestablishmentarian position that I could read or listen to?

Thank you in advance.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Friends,

As I continue to familiarize myself with the growing body of work on Two Kingdom Theology, tangentially I began to think of the American Revision to the Westminster Confession of Faith regarding the establishment of religion. Etymologically, there may be some overlap or non at all, but to satisfy my curiosity, are there any scholarly resources that you know of that clearly outline or define the reason for the American Revision? To date, all I can find are references to our beloved Declaration of Independence and Constitution and making the WCF conform.
Is there more to it than that? Are/were there any apologists for the antiestablishmentarian position that I could read or listen to?

Thank you in advance.
Doesn’t directly answer your question....

But it appears this article touches on the culmination of a growing sentiment against Calvinism.... sounds like there was pressure from the outside to be more accommodating to the changing/shifting liberal cultural. Classic liberalism is not without its consequences - which can be argued every which way....


“Tacoma is mostly correct. Hall does an admirable job of dispelling the contrived notion that the American Revolution was a sort of largely deistic enterprise. But is the reconciliation of Jefferson’s Declaration and what Straussians identify as the “Founding” all there is to the story?
Increasingly there is a cartoonish rendering of Protestant political thought that associates Protestantism with a liberal historical trajectory, and Roman Catholicism—or at least “liturgy”—with conservatism. The truth is far more complicated. In the Early Republic, Calvinism, not Anglicanism or Roman Catholicism, appeared to Jefferson to be the religious persuasion most at odds with liberalism.[1]
Since his election in 1800, Jefferson believed that Calvinists represented a return to European conservatism. The prospect of Calvinists—Congregationalists in New England, Presbyterians in the Middle Atlantic and South, and a smattering of evangelical Anglicans—exercising civil, political, or social influence in federal politics horrified the Deistic Virginian.”

“...Jefferson scoffed at Calvinist intransigence. He hated Calvin for many reasons, but he held an especially impassioned loathing for the French Reformer’s throaty trinitarianism and the doctrine of election. Calvin, in Jefferson’s reading of history, represented the clearest intellectual successor to the medieval Christian order he despised. He compared what he called the “simple” doctrines of Jesus—his phrase for Unitarianism—with “the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.” Jefferson objected to the mysticism and anti-rationalism of Calvinism. He believed that Calvin was an enemy to reason.
Jefferson despised the Calvinist obsession with the incomprehensible nature of the divine. He called Athanasius and Calvin “impious dogmatists” and “false shepherds.” Athanasius’ and Calvin’s “blasphemies” drove “thinking men into infidelity, who have too hastily rejected the supposed author himself, with the horrors so falsely imputed to him.”



“Jefferson need not have worried about Virginia. The changes made to the Westminster Confession in 1789 took the last serious teeth out of Calvinist political theology, and most serious Protestants in the Commonwealth saw disestablishment as prudential, if not good. New Englanders and the occasional Carolinian remained more circumspect.
Ultimately, however, all forms of western Christianity struggled to define their relationship to liberalism. There were and are Calvinist conservatives and Calvinist liberals, Anglican conservatives and Anglican liberals, as well as Roman Catholic conservatives and Roman Catholic liberals.
But in a time such as our own when Protestantism is seen as being inherently liberal and Catholicism as the only refuge for Christians who see catastrophic problems with the classical liberal order, it is worth remembering this history. History is far more complicated than we realize, and we might avoid contrived and ultimately ahistorical insinuations about other faith traditions by taking the time to read them in charity and sobriety.”


Footnotes

  1. Jefferson, of course, was hardly the only Enlightenment philosopher to feel this way: Recall that Rousseau, tired of the conservative Calvinistic Geneva traveled to progressive Paris to interact with enlightenment luminaries, which in the 1770s consisted mostly of heterodox or apostate Roman Catholics.

 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
It‘s interesting how this article claims Jefferson “objected to the mysticism and anti-rationalism of Calvinism.” “He believed that Calvin was an enemy to reason.
Jefferson despised the Calvinist obsession with the incomprehensible nature of the divine. He called Athanasius and Calvin “impious dogmatists” and “false shepherds.”


Ouch!
 
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JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Thank you, Jacob and Anthony. Both stimulating, especially Jefferson's hatred for Calvin!
Philip Schaff makes this important observation, "It is worthy of note that the Scripture passages quoted by the old Confession in favor of state-churchism and the ecclesiastical power of the civil magistrate are all taken from the Old Testament." This is my own observation too. It is the workings by way of exegesis and argument that I would like to go over. He even asserts, "But some Protestant confessions of faith, framed in the Reformation period, when church and state were closely interwoven, ascribe to the civil magistrate ecclesiastical powers and duties which are Erastian or cæsaro-papal in principle and entirely inconsistent with the freedom and self-government of the church." Wow! That is quite a claim that I would like to see fleshed out.
My own thoughts are still being, either reestablished or reformulated, I can't tell which. I am to this point, an establishmentarian.
I do find it interesting, however, that when Constantine converted to Christianity, the Church-State model continued with mild Roman adjustment. This idea went unchallenged for 1300 years. But here is where I have some questions. Does it not seem that Calvin and the Magisterial Reformers simply de facto defaulted to this position? Upon what grounds? Calvin and Beza seem to simply assume the old position without engaging in NT ideas beyond submission to the power. Another question I have is, if the church-state of Israel died with the coming of Christ, the destruction of 70 A.D., and the diffusion of Christianity among the nations, doesn't that warrant at least an examination of the"church in the world" under the New Covenant/Testament considering its wide cultural, geographical and political climates? Also, we read nothing of the religious-political doctrine of establishmentism in the writings of Jesus or Paul, or any of the NT as far as I know. This is an argument from silence. I understand. But is there such a thing as the Regulative Principle of Establismentatianism that is to be assumed?
Just taking out loud. I'd appreciate some insight from those who can inform.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Might try contacting Gavin Beers to see what he has found. He has been doing research in the area of the establishment principle and its loss in America.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
Re: NT thought on church establishment: Doesn’t it appear that establishmentarianism is the only workable answer to the prayers urged in 1 Timothy 2:1-6? Kings and those in authority, in order to rule so that the church enjoys true quiet and peace (to grow and flourish) must of necessity favor the true visible church by establishing her as the religion of the land. Anything else is mere tolerance and pluralism, which as we’ve experienced is the opposite of providing for the quiet and peace conducive to “all godliness and honesty.”
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
That's a good point to ponder. My first reaction is that this text does not reaffirm establishmentarianism so much as the directive to pray for an environment where the church and its members may flourish. I can envision a society where it is secular in ethos but allows for freedom to worship unhindered. Strangely enough, the Netherlands comes to mind where the largest of Reformed churches still flourish (even with massive private Reformed schools, reformed newspapers, publishing companies, and guilds). But then again, they have a State Church. So that may not fit my line of thinking.
My establishmentarian mind excuses our Lord and Paul for not mentioning a single fragment on the subject because the church was always in thepersecuted minority. That is what I have been taught from my Covenanter roots and readings (Renwick, Gillespie, Steele, Cameron. etc), but there is not a clearly laid-out ethos in the NT for the "Christian" nation under a diffused Christianity among the nations. Therein lies my conundrum. :)
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
That's a good point to ponder. My first reaction is that this text does not reaffirm establishmentarianism so much as the directive to pray for an environment where the church and its members may flourish. I can envision a society where it is secular in ethos but allows for freedom to worship unhindered. Strangely enough, the Netherlands comes to mind where the largest of Reformed churches still flourish (even with massive private Reformed schools, reformed newspapers, publishing companies, and guilds). But then again, they have a State Church. So that may not fit my line of thinking.
My establishmentarian mind excuses our Lord and Paul for not mentioning a single fragment on the subject because the church was always in thepersecuted minority. That is what I have been taught from my Covenanter roots and readings (Renwick, Gillespie, Steele, Cameron. etc), but there is not a clearly laid-out ethos in the NT for the "Christian" nation under a diffused Christianity among the nations. Therein lies my conundrum. :)
I agree that the text doesn’t affirm establishmentarianism directly, but like other doctrines like infant baptism for instance, shouldn’t we assume continuity in such an important thing? For instance the relationship of covenant children to the church isn’t diminished under the New Covenant, but enhanced.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Thank you, Jacob and Anthony. Both stimulating, especially Jefferson's hatred for Calvin!
Philip Schaff makes this important observation, "It is worthy of note that the Scripture passages quoted by the old Confession in favor of state-churchism and the ecclesiastical power of the civil magistrate are all taken from the Old Testament." This is my own observation too. It is the workings by way of exegesis and argument that I would like to go over. He even asserts, "But some Protestant confessions of faith, framed in the Reformation period, when church and state were closely interwoven, ascribe to the civil magistrate ecclesiastical powers and duties which are Erastian or cæsaro-papal in principle and entirely inconsistent with the freedom and self-government of the church." Wow! That is quite a claim that I would like to see fleshed out.
My own thoughts are still being, either reestablished or reformulated, I can't tell which. I am to this point, an establishmentarian.
I do find it interesting, however, that when Constantine converted to Christianity, the Church-State model continued with mild Roman adjustment. This idea went unchallenged for 1300 years. But here is where I have some questions. Does it not seem that Calvin and the Magisterial Reformers simply de facto defaulted to this position? Upon what grounds? Calvin and Beza seem to simply assume the old position without engaging in NT ideas beyond submission to the power. Another question I have is, if the church-state of Israel died with the coming of Christ, the destruction of 70 A.D., and the diffusion of Christianity among the nations, doesn't that warrant at least an examination of the"church in the world" under the New Covenant/Testament considering its wide cultural, geographical and political climates? Also, we read nothing of the religious-political doctrine of establishmentism in the writings of Jesus or Paul, or any of the NT as far as I know. This is an argument from silence. I understand. But is there such a thing as the Regulative Principle of Establismentatianism that is to be assumed?
Just taking out loud. I'd appreciate some insight from those who can inform.
I think we could contrast the establishmentarianism worldview of the sincere believer(+) and the secularist/practical atheist(-). The Christian tends to see everything in God’s domain. The secularist defaults to moral relativism-golden rule which is ever expanding onto self-destruction with the freedom to do what thou wilt. There’s a grey area in between in which opinions vary whether you ask DG Hart or a number of other religious scholars and academics. The civil use of the law application can get dicey and there are a wide range of interpretations on how it may coexist as a ruling standard within a classical liberal context (2nd table divorced from 1st?). The establishment of regulative principle may have risen and fallen with Calvin’s Geneva but I’m not sure if he ever made a biblical case and laid it out in written (interpretive) form.
 
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JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Yes, that's one of my questions, "Is continuity presumed"? If it is, I'd like to know why, and what arguments support it. I say this because in my mind infant baptism is covenantal and something like the RPW is logically is manifest, whereas the Established Church Principle (ECP) is not. If it is, then I would like to know both how, and where it is established. Here we enter into arguments such as the Divine Right of Kings, parliament, democracy, and everything else that pertains to "the power" Paul says we must be subject to (Roman or otherwise). At least as far as I can tell, no one has argued such in a blow-by-blow way. If you know of something that addresses this, I'd be very thankful to know about it.
In my reading of the greats, Calvin, Beza, Rutherford, Bannerman, Gillespie, I see a default position or presupposition that, in my mind, is not self-evident (unlike infant baptism and the RPW). For someone removed by 400 years, but wanting to know, it begs the question. But then again, I probably would not be asking such a question if indeed the USA were predominantly both Christian and Reformed. I am very aware that my question is a product of the times.
Nevertheless, I will continue my quest.
Thank you for your thoughts and interaction, Jeri.
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
I think we could contrast the establishmentarianism worldview of the sincere believer(+) and the secularist/practical atheist(-). The Christian tends to see everything in God’s domain. The secularist defaults to moral relativism-golden rule which is ever expanding onto self-destruction with the freedom to do what thou wilt. There’s a grey area in between in which opinions vary whether you ask DG Hart or a number of other religious scholars and academics. The civil use of the law application can get dicey and there are a wide range of interpretations on how it may coexist as a ruling standard within a classical liberal context (2nd table divorced from 1st?). The establishment of regulative principle may have risen and fallen with Calvin’s Geneva but I’m not sure if he ever made a biblical case and laid it out in written (interpretive) form.
Yes, I agree with your overview exactly. In my reading of Calvin, his Institutes, and select commentary on applicable passages, It is not so clearly laid out as to his rationale. In other words, he presumes that I and all readers agree with the inherited principle of the establishment. Now, this was long before a democratic republic of any sort and still some time away from the Long Parlament of Cromwell (an inventive Protector of the kingdom to be sure!).
Do you think that an imperative form is necessary today given the current state of the exiled Church in the USA? To me, this is no tempest in a teapot.
Do we live as Christians in a world belonging to the prince of it, and are "strangers and pilgrims" passing through? Or are we to view the nation as missing her primary calling of making it truly Christian? Are we strangers and pilgrims, or are we to convert all of society to the Lordship of Christ?
Thanks, Anthony.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Yes, that's one of my questions, "Is continuity presumed"? If it is, I'd like to know why, and what arguments support it. I say this because in my mind infant baptism is covenantal and something like the RPW is logically is manifest, whereas the Established Church Principle (ECP) is not. If it is, then I would like to know both how, and where it is established. Here we enter into arguments such as the Divine Right of Kings, parliament, democracy, and everything else that pertains to "the power" Paul says we must be subject to (Roman or otherwise). At least as far as I can tell, no one has argued such in a blow-by-blow way. If you know of something that addresses this, I'd be very thankful to know about it.
In my reading of the greats, Calvin, Beza, Rutherford, Bannerman, Gillespie, I see a default position or presupposition that, in my mind, is not self-evident (unlike infant baptism and the RPW). For someone removed by 400 years, but wanting to know, it begs the question. But then again, I probably would not be asking such a question if indeed the USA were predominantly both Christian and Reformed. I am very aware that my question is a product of the times.
Nevertheless, I will continue my quest.
Thank you for your thoughts and interaction, Jeri.
Good points. ECP, especially from a Reformed Christian foundation, probably requires a form of neo-theocracy. Paul’s epistles demonstrate he was having a hard enough time keeping the churches on point, let alone making a case for theocracy.

Geneva was strictly a reformation response to RC provinces and using their model against them.

I think you understand what I’m trying to say. Obviously different times/different place. But God has used different models/circumstances to preserve a remnant of the Church and His people.

The Church and State were more closely aligned in many ways, so there was a spill over of power and influence between the two.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Yes, I agree with your overview exactly. In my reading of Calvin, his Institutes, and select commentary on applicable passages, It is not so clearly laid out as to his rationale. In other words, he presumes that I and all readers agree with the inherited principle of the establishment. Now, this was long before a democratic republic of any sort and still some time away from the Long Parlament of Cromwell (an inventive Protector of the kingdom to be sure!).
Do you think that an imperative form is necessary today given the current state of the exiled Church in the USA? To me, this is no tempest in a teapot.
Do we live as Christians in a world belonging to the prince of it, and are "strangers and pilgrims" passing through? Or are we to view the nation as missing her primary calling of making it truly Christian? Are we strangers and pilgrims, or are we to convert all of society to the Lordship of Christ?
Thanks, Anthony.
Pilgrims for sure.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Sorry, Geneva wasnt a theocracy per say, but Calvin definitely had theocratic tendencies. Cant say for certain though, it’s hard to get accurate unbiased info. I think he tried to stabilize and bring Godly piety and practice to the region - those are good things.

“One of the most persistent thorns in Calvin's side were the Libertines in Geneva. But, here too, his perseverance was triumphant in a remarkable way. In every city in Europe men kept mistresses. When Calvin began his ministry in Geneva in 1536 at the age of 27, there was a law that said a man could keep only one mistress (see note 37). Even after Calvin had been preaching as pastor in St. Peter's church for over fifteen years, the immorality was a plague, even in the church. The Libertines boasted in their license. For them the "communion of saints" meant the common possession of goods, houses, bodies and wives. So they practiced adultery and indulged in sexual promiscuity in the name of Christian freedom. And at the same time they claimed the right to sit at the Lord's table (see note 38). The crisis of the communion came to a head in 1553. A well-to-do Libertine named Berthelier was forbidden by the Consistory of the church to eat the Lord's Supper, but appealed the decision to the Council of the City, which overturned the ruling. This created a crisis for Calvin who would not think of yielding to the state the rights of excommunication, nor of admitting a Libertine to the Lord's table. The issue, as always, was the glory of Christ. He wrote to Viret, "I . . . took an oath that I had resolved rather to meet death than profane so shamefully the Holy Supper of the Lord. . . . My ministry is abandoned if I suffer the authority of the Consistory to be trampled upon, and extend the Supper of Christ to open scoffers. . . . I should rather die a hundred times than subject Christ to such foul mockery" (see note 39). The Lord's day of testing arrived. The Libertines were present to eat the Lord's supper. It was a critical moment for the Reformed faith in Geneva. The sermon had been preached, the prayers had been offered, and Calvin descended from the pulpit to take his place beside the elements at the communion table. The bread and wine were duly consecrated by him, and he was now ready to distribute them to the communicants. Then on a sudden a rush was begun by the troublers in Israel in the direction of the communion table. . . . Calvin flung his arms around the sacramental vessels as if to protect them from sacrilege, while his voice rang through the building: "These hands you may crush, these arms you may lop off, my life you may take, my blood is yours, you may shed it; but you shall never force me to give holy things to the profaned, and dishonor the table of my God." "After this," says, Beza, Calvin's first biographer, "the sacred ordinance was celebrated with a profound silence, and under solemn awe in all present, as if the Deity Himself had been visible among them" (see note 40).

To learn more about this controversy, you might consider reading Calvin's Treatise against the Anabaptists and against the Libertines. There are numerous used copies available on Amazon.com”
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Remember Pastors had a huge influence in Calvins day and during the Great Awakening, etc., at least locally..... but it often spread. That must also be kept in consideration. It wasn’t a designed plan or established form of rule per say as much as it was organic, Word driven movements with great impact. Cultures were changed.

Sorry I’m complicating things.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I think it comes to practical ideas, does it actually work out? If not than why? If what some people (me included) think estashmintarian ideas led to secularization than what is the response?
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
I think you understand what I’m trying to say. Obviously different times/different place. But God has used different models/circumstances to preserve a remnant of the Church and His people.
In a sense, I'd be satisfied with that statement. From a personal vantage point, I feel that this alone is the biblical approach until further light is given. I am struck however at the adamant stance I have had in the past on the ECP void of an evident holistic Biblical position. I wonder if I have held to something for the sake of being "old paths", which has made me less effective as a present pastor. Not overtly, but in reference to our time and place, and how my church ought to see herself in this world presently. I am a little bit irked and somewhat challenged in reading VanDrunen and listening to Kim Riddlebarger. It's no that I'm in full agreement. No, I still have reservations. But without question, they've just made me think in ways I have not before about the church in this present darkness. Do you know a middle ground between R2K and the historic Reformed understanding of the civil magistrate and the church?
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
In a sense, I'd be satisfied with that statement. From a personal vantage point, I feel that this alone is the biblical approach until further light is given. I am struck however at the adamant stance I have had in the past on the ECP void of an evident holistic Biblical position. I wonder if I have held to something for the sake of being "old paths", which has made me less effective as a present pastor. Not overtly, but in reference to our time and place, and how my church ought to see herself in this world presently. I am a little bit irked and somewhat challenged in reading VanDrunen and listening to Kim Riddlebarger. It's no that I'm in full agreement. No, I still have reservations. But without question, they've just made me think in ways I have not before about the church in this present darkness. Do you know a middle ground between R2K and the historic Reformed understanding of the civil magistrate and the church?
I think I’m out of my depth at this point.


I was gravitating toward VanDrunen myself (at this point)....
 
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Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I do find it interesting, however, that when Constantine converted to Christianity, the Church-State model continued with mild Roman adjustment. This idea went unchallenged for 1300 years. But here is where I have some questions. Does it not seem that Calvin and the Magisterial Reformers simply de facto defaulted to this position? Upon what grounds? Calvin and Beza seem to simply assume the old position without engaging in NT ideas beyond submission to the power. Another question I have is, if the church-state of Israel died with the coming of Christ, the destruction of 70 A.D., and the diffusion of Christianity among the nations, doesn't that warrant at least an examination of the"church in the world" under the New Covenant/Testament considering its wide cultural, geographical and political climates? Also, we read nothing of the religious-political doctrine of establishmentism in the writings of Jesus or Paul, or any of the NT as far as I know. This is an argument from silence. I understand. But is there such a thing as the Regulative Principle of Establismentatianism that is to be assumed?
Just taking out loud. I'd appreciate some insight from those who can inform.
I think there is some truth to there being a default to a harmonious church-state relationship amongst the Reformers, just as there is today with respect to voluntarism. However, I do not think that tells the whole story. The Reformation was a time of upheaval of established doctrine and established norms in many respects. For example, when we examine the sacrament of baptism we see that there was continuity as well as discontinuity. The Reformers purified the rite of its superstitious elements but retained the essence of the sacrament, including the children of believers being the proper recipients.

So, on the one hand, the Anabaptists protested that they did not go far enough. On the other hand, the Romanist pushback at Trent gave them another opportunity to reexamine the power or act the sacraments. But they retained their essential stance with lengthy replies to and defence of their arguments.

Something similar happened with respect to church-state relationships. The papist view was different than the Reformed view, just as the Anabaptist view. The Reformed neither embracing totalitarian ecclesiastical control or tyrannical self-government because of their assertion of the two kingdoms. Thus, they separated themselves from the world with respect to their influence on politics and worldly affairs, but expected that both tables of the law be upheld by earthly governments because the sword had been entrusted to them (see, for example, the Second Book of Discipline, Chapter 1 for a healthy and robust discussion of these distinctions). They expected that the government would respect as well as uphold ecclesiastical establishments precisely because they were an extension of God's kingdom, without at the same time interfering in the business that was unique to each kingdom. This was not totally unique in terms of church history but it was not a wholesale revision of previous developments either.

Furthermore, the Reformed churches were full of learned men. They were well read on the pagans and ancients, many of whom were sceptical of the gods and public religion. They were also aware of developments in their day towards tolerance as well as outright atheism.

Calvin, for example, was quite aware of counter arguments to his position and yet insisted on the magistrate's role in promoting and upholding true religion: “I know indeed the arguments that several bring forward to prove that princes ought not to compel their subjects to live in a Christian manner. But it is a dispensation far too profane that which permits the man who will give up nothing that belongs to himself to defraud his superior of his rights. If God's command does not move us, this threat should cause us to tremble; every kingdom that will not be subservient to that of Jesus Christ shall come to nought. For that refers properly to the state of the Christian Church.” Letter of John Calvin to the Queen of Navarre

And so this doctrine prevailed for well over one hundred and fifty years. When Turretin writes his dedication of his Institutes to the magistrates of Geneva he may as well have written it in Calvin's day, calling upon them to do their duty to the support and defense of public religion. Our confessions enshrined this doctrine under conditions of government overreach (persecution) e.g. Belgic Confession, support under Frederick III for the composition of the Heidelberg Catechism and public approbation and covenanting of the Reformed religion on the heels of the Solemn League & Covenant which preceded the Westminster Assembly. Note too that in some circumstances these were initiated by church and in others by the state.

Their theological descendants later battled amongst themselves as to the extent of the state's control of religion in Scotland with regard to the Erastian controversies and imposition of ceremonies. At no point did they give ground to extremists who wanted to overthrow earthly government nor to those who wished to impose these innovations. They maintained the independence of the church under the authority of earthly governments right and responsibility to uphold true religion and morality.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Do we live as Christians in a world belonging to the prince of it, and are "strangers and pilgrims" passing through? Or are we to view the nation as missing her primary calling of making it truly Christian? Are we strangers and pilgrims, or are we to convert all of society to the Lordship of Christ?
I do not see how Christians living as strangers and pilgrims is integral to this question. To be a stranger and pilgrim may, at times, curb our expectations of what can or will be done but surely it does not change the requirements of what government is required to do. As a believer, David too was a stranger (Psalm 39:12) but as magistrate he publicly supported and upheld true religion.

So in Hebrews 11:13 we have an assertion that the patriarchs looked for a heavenly country but this does not exclude the reform of an earthly by those appointed to it (which seems to be implied in vs. 33), otherwise how could the magistrate punish evildoers (Romans 13:3-4) as a minister of God? 1 Peter 2:11 simply tells Christians to abstain from sin but would this not be helped if our government took care for the seventh commandment and the imposition of civil decency?

Furthermore as you know, the church's call is to convert the nations or peoples by the preaching of the gospel. The lordship of Christ is naturally implemented in their lives by his headship over the church by believers and their families. This may or may not result in governmental reform, though we pray and work towards that wherever we can be an influence.

With respect to the nations, yes if they are given to idolatry and ignoring or persecuting God's people, then they are "missing [their] primary calling" by expressing their rebellion against their Creator. Any attempt to enshrine that "freedom" in the constitution is tantamount to a denial of God's rights and sovereignty over the nations. Witness Isaiah's and Jeremiah's denouncing of the sins of heathen nations. We may not be able to make them Christian, but neither should we be so lax to gloss over public sin which brings the wrath of God upon us.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I think if we look at the state of the Church in today’s society/America/world, our concentration should be fixed on the Church. The political realm does not offer much outside a defensive vote against the greater evil (at best). So for now pilgrims... and outside God blessing our organic influence, it is there we will probably remain.

I endorse the pre-revised WCF and 2K theology if it were not abused. But that is not where we are today. Today’s slippery slope hasn't much to do with any type of establishment religious principles. So I think there was room for an organic connectivity between Church belief and civil order - how would there not be? Just like the numbers may result in a faithful Church among a secular wilderness, but only with God’s preservation.

This is a matter which may not be wholly resolved, short of an acknowledgement that a pure theocracy does not have Biblical standing/merit and would probably rob true religion of its purity and eventually it’s piety. I don’t think establishmentarianism ever went that far (nor really sought to go that far) and was more local in sphere and influence. When I think of theocracy I think of some of the crazy Anabaptist cults that rose up in Luthers time that caused much suffering for those oppressed by it. That type of theocracy thankfully usually never gets off the ground.

Theocracy is defined as
  1. a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.
    "his ambition is to lead a worldwide theocracy"
    • the commonwealth of Israel from the time of Moses until the election of Saul as king.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I’m not sure establishtarianism could ever be strictly biblical cause to my knowledge the form/s of government that existed in that day were too distinct. Weren‘t Biblical times more theocratic or a monarchy?
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
The Calvinist International had a two-part essay on Cavlin and the Two Kingdoms. Part one is here: https://calvinistinternational.com/2012/05/29/calvin-2k-1/

I found the articles to be very interesting as I found myself thinking through some of the problems the Church faces as it tries to be the Church in the world and sees injustice in its locality.

The temptation today is that the Church tries to be the State and do the things that "God's minister" ought to be doing for the people.

In part, there is something to be said when things were much clearer in Geneva. We may bristle at the idea that the Magistrate was considered a form of a Christian shepherd for the people but we can also appreciate a Magistrate that is not trying to establish a pure theocracy as much as seeing himself as Christ's minister for the good of the people governed. It's possible, in other words, for a locale where the people are Christian for Magistrates to rule in a way where they self-consciously think of themselves as answerable to Christ.

I do think, however, if one is not self-consciously noting how much different the circumstances of a pluralistic society then you end up falling off of a cliff in different directions.

Current forms of transformational neo-Kuyperianism blended with the thought of Newbigin, see the Church as involved in God's mission to redeem Creation and that includes economics, culture, etc. What's missing in these things is the role that the magistrate would play in a society. As they look around and see that there is no Christian magistrate to fulfill what they see as injustice, they engage in "mission creep" and take on for the Church the role that the magistrate is to play. They try to put into place the things that will establish just rule. The are literally trying to redeem the city and not focusing upon the clearly defined mission of the Church.

That's not to say that the Church is to have no interest in the fact that the magistrate serves under Christ. As the articles note, the Reformers thought of Christ's visible Kingdom as having two estates. The Church was one estate but the magistrate was another. It's almost foreign to us to think that the visible Kingdom includes what the magistrate is to do for the people but I'm sympathetic to the idea that the magistrate has responsibilities to Christ that they will be judged for. Thus, it is appropriate for the Church to continue to be the Church and prophetically decry unjust rule. In a sense, it might be just as historically anachronistic to lose track of what the worldview of the Reformation Churches was and simply appeal to their use of natural law and forget that they expected much more of the magistrate than certain neutral concepts.

I guess there are no easy answers. I'm persuaded that mission creep is not the answer. Yes, there are injustices and the Christian ought to address them as he can but it is not the mission of the Church to redeem the city. I'm also persuaded that the Church must not be persuaded that it's only recourse is to think of the Two Kingdoms in a way that places the Magistrate outside of Christ's reign. That doesn't mean Theonomy, per se, because it does respect the idea that there are distinct estates under Christ's rule.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
Is there more to it than that? Are/were there any apologists for the antiestablishmentarian position that I could read or listen to?
From @BayouHuguenot 's link to Schaff on the American system, he adds the following warnings near the end after speaking very positively about the American System.

Republican institutions in the hands of a virtuous and God-fearing nation are the very best in the world, but in the hands of a corrupt and irreligious people, they are the very worst, and the most effective weapons of destruction. An indignant people may rise in rebellion against a cruel tyrant; but who will rise against the tyranny of the people in possession of the ballot-box and the whole machinery of government? Here lies our great danger, and it is increasing every year.​
Destroy our churches, close our Sunday-schools, abolish the Lord's Day, and our republic would become an empty shell, and our people would tend to heathenism and barbarism. Christianity is the most powerful factor in our society and the pillar of our institutions. It regulates the family; it enjoins private and public virtue; it builds up moral character; it teaches us to love God supremely, and our neighbor as ourselves; it makes good men and useful citizens; it denounces every vice; it encourages every virtue; it promotes and serves the public welfare; it upholds peace and order. Christianity is the only possible religion for the American people, and with Christianity are bound up all our hopes for the future.​
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
From @BayouHuguenot 's link to Schaff on the American system, he adds the following warnings near the end after speaking very positively about the Amriacan System.

Republican institutions in the hands of a virtuous and God-fearing nation are the very best in the world, but in the hands of a corrupt and irreligious people, they are the very worst, and the most effective weapons of destruction. An indignant people may rise in rebellion against a cruel tyrant; but who will rise against the tyranny of the people in possession of the ballot-box and the whole machinery of government? Here lies our great danger, and it is increasing every year.​
Destroy our churches, close our Sunday-schools, abolish the Lord's Day, and our republic would become an empty shell, and our people would tend to heathenism and barbarism. Christianity is the most powerful factor in our society and the pillar of our institutions. It regulates the family; it enjoins private and public virtue; it builds up moral character; it teaches us to love God supremely, and our neighbor as ourselves; it makes good men and useful citizens; it denounces every vice; it encourages every virtue; it promotes and serves the public welfare; it upholds peace and order. Christianity is the only possible religion for the American people, and with Christianity are bound up all our hopes for the future.​

And none of that is the Establishmentarian position, since it isn't calling for a denomination to take control.
 
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