Wednesday, March 23, 2011

R. Scott Clark vs. T-Fan - 2 Kingdoms and more...

Prof. R. Scott Clark writes in response to TurretinFan:

I understand that the two-kingdoms distinction is new to a lot of people. That does not mean that the two-kingdoms distinction is new. We are neither kittens nor babies. When we cover our eyes, that doesn’t make the world go away. It means our eyes are covered. Our (collective) ignorance of traditional Reformed distinctions (e.g., Creator/creature, law/gospel, covenant of works/covenant of grace) doesn’t make them novel: it makes us ignorant. What we must do, what I’ve been trying to do, is to overcome (my own) ignorance of our tradition and to put to that tradition to use in our own setting.

As I argued in RRC, one of the real problems here is Reformed Narcissism. It is quite common for folk to reason thus:

I am Reformed
I think x
Therefore x is Reformed

Given my recent reading of RRC, I would believe that his syllogism would equally apply to his own views especially regarding Framework vs. 6-day-creationism, a capella vs instrumental worship and a couple other issues.

That doesn't mean RSC is wrong on these issues, his writing has certainly caused me to think through the issues, but in a book specifically titled Recovering the Reformed Confessions one would expect arguments for recovering and adopting the Reformed Confessions. While I feel there is much in RRC to appreciate, the few times where Clark steps out and identifies his own views seem to distract from the main argument and thrust of the book.

But this is my concern with Professor Clark, he wishes to identify "Reformed' per the confessions, he draws the line at 1646 with the WCF (even though it has had many edits since then even in the version accepted by the OPC) and denies that the 1677 and 1689 London Baptist Confessions are "Reformed".

Thus cannot one likewise take his argument against TFan and apply it to him?

I am Reformed
I think only the WCF and 3 Forms of Unity are Reformed Confessions
Therefore only those confessions are Reformed

Now, I might be simplifying things too much, he might accept Anglicans as Reformed even though they later denied the WCF, but I think this is where the issue needs clarifying.

RSC continues:

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.

This is quite true... but if those things were codified in a Reformed Confession and yet are now denied by RSC, couldn't it be argued that he isn't Reformed given his own argument?

Finally, Professor Clark writes:

The distinction between the two kingdoms is one of those valuable resources we need to recover but before folk start commenting on these questions they do need to do some basic reading.

He seems to be saying here that Two-Kingdoms is part-and-parcel of Reformed theology that needs recovering (aka part of a confession) and yet just acknowledged that many of the Reformers held to theocratic views.

That said, I certainly agree that more reading is needed on all sides. I think Professor Clark should read more of TurretinFan's work, regardless of his anonymity.


  1. One must remember the historical context of the word "Reformed". If someone says "I'm taking the redeye to the West Coast", and says that the person making the statement is incorrect because the train he is riding on is not red, that's a problem - because the historical meaning of the term "redeye" means something (a train that runs in the wee hours of the morning). Terms have meanings. If someone wants to redefine a historical term, then object when someone calls him on it, I for one think that's a problem. Ask a Particular Baptist in 1616 if he's reformed, and he'd say no. We ought not read today's usage of a term back into history.

  2. Actually according to Dr. Clark, if you don't baptize infants you not only are not "Reformed" but actually not a real church at all. He and I went around over this issue some time ago.

  3. Keep in mind RSC stated:

    "The reader should be aware that the view I’m advocating here is not widely accepted, even within my own NAPARC circles. Doubtless it will seem radical to many..."

    NAPARC generally recognizes Reformed Baptist congregations as 'churches' in the sense Clark intends here. Westminster Seminary is in fact the home of the institute for Reformed Baptist studies... That said, the Heidelberg specifically states that the "sacraments" (and properly administered) are part of a sign of a 'true church'. I wouldn't doubt you'd find many a Reformer agreeing with Clark's viewpoint here.

    As far as it being "hyper" confessionalism... one has to wonder what good a confession is if you don't uphold it. I guess the the question is... do the Reformed confessions demand the same viewpoint.