Thursday, March 24, 2011

R. Scott Clark Misunderstands... I think...

R. Scott Clark has responded, sorta-of, to my previous post. I again am thankful for the chance to interact with him and what's being said.

Let me correct a few things right off the bat. I'm not anonymous, I'm Micah Burke, a member of Zion United Reformed Church, and a paedobaptist (though formerly a "Reformed" Baptist) and my Facebook profile link is included on the side of the page notes. Professor Clark didn't see that, and I can understand the misunderstanding, especially given the fact I have gone as Lockheed elsewhere.

I am not well read on the issue of two-kingdoms but from my understanding there must be an inconsistency between claiming that the Reformed Confessions call for a two-kingdoms view and acknowledging that many of the Reformers had theocratic views.

The 16th and 17th-century Reformed theologians held several views that most of us would not want to hold today (e.g., theocracy, perpetual virginity of the BVM, geocentrism). We’re not bound to the mistakes of the past but to the degree the tradition helps us to understand what we confess, we should learn from them.- R. Scott Clark, Heidelblog

That said, I think Professor Clark is missing the forest for the trees in this post. My point is that Clark is inconsistent on what is definitional of Reformed. Clark seems to acknowledge this...

He’s unhappy that I want to exclude theocrats and Baptists from “Reformed” and he argues, in effect, that I’m being selective.

But then goes on to posit:

I revised neither the Westminster Confession nor the Belgic Confession. The American Presbyterian church revised the WCF and the Dutch and American Reformed churches revised the Belgic on theocracy. Those were ecclesiastical acts not the expression of mere private opinion.

But the WCF specifically defines creation (for example) as occurring in 6 days. As Dr. Kenneth Gentry notes:
Some Reformed Christians deny that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days. This denial brings them into clear contradiction with the Westminster Standards, which teach that the Lord God created the heavens and the earth "in the space of six days" (WCF 4:1; LC #15, SC #9). - Reformed Theology and Six Day Creation, Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

But in Recovering the Reformed Confession, Clark argues that the WCF's language can be interpreted otherwise, as another blogger notes here.

So here's my point, it really seems like Clark, and Clark alone is the final arbiter of what is "Reformed". Others seek to define it more loosely (Baptists) and some want to define it more strictly (RCUS/6-day creationist types).

That said, it's is difficult to understand how Clark wants to recover that which he is unable to consistently define. If the theology, piety and practice of the Reformed is defined what the Reformers taught and believed, yet what they taught and believed differently than Clark (theocracy for example) then Clark's understanding of what is definitional of "Reformed" must be questioned.

Clark writes in his most recent post:

RRC is not a plea to backward but to be Reformed in our time.

Clark seems to simultaneously argue for both a static meaning to the term Reformed (contra Baptists) and a changing meaning of Reformed (contra 6-day creationists). This if "Reformed" can only be accurately defined by a fellow in the 21st century who admittedly holds to positions he are contra the Reformers, it is difficult to understand why others (Baptists for example) are excluded from defining it for themselves.

Now, granted I'm not interested in post-modern redefinitions, and I certainly believe that "Reformed" has a meaning founded in the historic Protestant Confessions, but it is simply inconsistent to define something as central to Reformed theology, piety and practice that is opposed to the teachings of the Reformers while holding something that was central to a Reformed Confession as otherwise.

Finally, and this has come up in discussions elsewhere recently, Clark writes:
We cannot speak the good news of a suffering Savior with one hand an a (rhetorical) Constantinian sword in the other.
This seems a strange thing to say from this layman's viewpoint. Are we not provided both the Law and the Gospel in Scripture itself? Was the God-ordained theocracy of Israel somehow completely opposed to the Gospel?

I'm not arguing for a theocracy, and I guess this is where the two-kingdoms issues comes into play. I figure there's a lot more reading in my future.

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