“A Review of a Review”
I haven’t had the chance to read John Frame’s The Escondido Theology yet. If it is anything like what Dr. Frame has written before, it will be a very good book, I am sure.
In fact, I already know it is a very good book, even without reading it. How do I know?
Michael Horton told me about it. Or, rather, his reaction to Dr. Frame’s book told me how good the book is. I have never seen Michael Horton give such a chaotic response to anything. John Frame’s book must have caused a stir, and may be even panic in Escondido, and it certainly produced a strong reaction in Horton. I wish I was so eloquent as Dr. Frame. Alas, my articles against the Two Kingdoms Theology so far haven’t produced a response. That’s OK; Dr. Frame is older, wiser, and anyway, I learned – and I am still learning – from him and his peers. I am only an ambitious amateur compared to him. I am not jealous. (And I also have the suspicion Dr. Frame’s name makes for much easier spelling; which may be the reason my articles have been and will be spared from similar responses from the Two-Kingdoms crowd. I hope.)
Horton’s response didn’t tell me any new things about the Two Kingdoms Theology – in fact, he uses the same old arguments, most of them irrelevant. But it did confirm a suspicion I had about it, that in its essence it’s very close to what R.J. Rushdoony eloquently expressed as “intellectual schizophrenia.” It means that those who are not theonomists and who believe in a version of the Two Kingdoms Theology, eventually end up having a divided mind about many things. They hold to mutually contradictory ideas at the same time, and very often they are not even able to realize that the ideas are mutually contradictory. R.J. Rushdoony first used the words “intellectual schizophrenia” about the philosophy of modern education but later he applied it to the modern Christian theology as well.
And the words fit perfectly Michael Horton’s response.
It is a textbook example of intellectual schizophrenia, from beginning to end. It is full of contradictions and fallacies in every paragraph; sometimes two sentences back to back are contradictory without any explanation how they can be reconciled. Other contradictions are more strategic, they go across paragraphs. Then there are contradictions between what Horton says and what history really tells us. And indeed, there are also contradictions between what Horton says and what the Bible says – while claiming that that’s what the Bible says, of course.
Okay, okay, the reader will say, but where is the proof? Can you make an analysis of the whole response, Bojidar, and show us where the contradictions are?
Well, they are so many that if I needed to show them all, I would have to write a book; and writing a book about a short article is not advisable. But what I can do is pick a paragraph in Michael Horton’s response and show how in the same paragraph he intertwined multiple self-contradictions and fallacies, to the point of where nothing is clear and no logical conclusion can be drawn about what Michael Horton actually believes. I will show it about one paragraph only. The reader can do it with the other paragraphs as well.
Here is the paragraph I pick to demonstrate the intellectual schizophrenia of the Two Kingdoms Theology, straight from Michael Horton’s response:
Calvin embraced the “two kingdoms” doctrine explicitly—in those terms. Of course, it was the era of “Christendom,” where Luther no less than Calvin expected the civil magistrate to defend the true faith. Nevertheless, at least in theory, he made precisely the same arguments as Luther. I wonder if those sympathetic to theonomy or making America a “Christian nation” are really serious. Do they really want the White House or the legislative or judicial branches to enforce the first table of the law? Will orthodox Protestants be the only ones allowed to rule, or will a few Roman Catholics, Jews, and perhaps a conservative mainliner or two pass the Senate confirmation hearings? This is not to say that God’s moral law is no longer in force, that it no longer expresses God’s eternal measure of righteousness. Rather, it is to recognize that the New Testament teaches us to live as “strangers and aliens” in this present age, loving and serving our neighbors through our callings, witnessing God’s Word to them, and contributing toward the common good of a city that is important but never ultimate.
Let’s get started. Let’s take a look at the first sentence of this paragraph:
Calvin embraced the “two kingdoms” doctrine explicitly—in those terms.
Hmmm. One doesn’t have to be a specialist on Calvin or the history of Geneva to know that there is something fishy in that statement. For example, that the cart goes before the horse, or, the conclusion before the proofs. If Calvin and Horton believed in the same doctrine, aren’t they also supposed to have the same practice? Calvin – not as an individual simply but as a church leader – participated in the building of Geneva as a society, with its legal, social, political etc. codes. Most of his time was not spent teaching a few students in a seminary but in giving expert advice – again, as a church leader – to the City Council. Is that what Michael Horton is doing? Is he giving political, legal, economic, social advice to rulers? Not at all. He actually encourages the church and the Christians to stay away from those issues. If the doctrine is the same, as Horton claims, why is the practice so different?
Even if Calvin used “those terms,” is it possible that he meant a completely different thing, and not the half-baked theology that Horton and the rest of the Escondido faculty have been using as a rhetorical device after 1995? May be we should go to Calvin himself and see what he meant by his “two kingdoms,” and whether it is the same thing as Horton would have us believe?
Strangely enough, we don’t even have to go to Calvin. Michael Horton himself provides us with the proof that Calvin never even meant what Horton means by “those terms.” And even stranger, Horton gives us the answer in the next sentence!
Luther no less than Calvin expected the civil magistrate to defend the true faith.
There goes Horton’s Two Kingdoms Theology.
Let’s see. Horton’s greatest bone of contention with the theonomists is that we believe that the civil government is supposed to obey the Biblical Law, and especially that there is such a thing as a Christian government which should protect the true faith. We will see later here, but one can also see it all throughout Horton’s writings that he opposes this particular tenet of theonomy: the obligations of the civil government to enforce the revealed Biblical Law. Horton has no problem with the moral law; he has a problem with it enforced by the civil government. That’s when theonomists are preaching it. But then he himself admits Calvin and Luther were teaching and preaching the same thing, and Horton says they had the same theology as him! Divided personality, anyone? Why is the same thing bad when modern theonomists teach it but good and acceptable when Calvin preaches it? Horton doesn’t say.
But he has an explanation:
Of course, it was the era of “Christendom,” . . .
What does that mean and why should it be relevant to the issue? Is Horton saying that Calvin and Luther were blinded by the historical stage they were in and therefore weren’t as enlightened as he is? Is he saying that our theology about civil government depends on historical stages and forces, and therefore what was good and acceptable for them is not good and acceptable for us? Horton shows his condescending attitude towards Calvin and Luther; “of course,” they couldn’t know better, living in the era of “Christendom.”
But why can’t the argument be reversed? For example: “Of course, the 20th and 21st centuries are the era of paganism, socialism, atheism, liberal theology, and general apostasy, and Michael Horton, influenced and blinded by all these evils, rejects the Biblical idea that the civil government must obey the revealed Law of God.” This would be a much better argument, rather than vice versa.
Horton’s condescension to Calvin is based on some vague argument about historical eras: well, yeah, y’know, their historical era made them believe those things. But how did they come to that historical era in the first place? Was it an inevitable development, independent of the beliefs and the practices of the Christians in previous generations? Or do ideas have consequences, and the “era of Christendom” was the product of the self-conscious beliefs and work of Christians who believed in Christendom? Could it be that the causation is the other way around: Not that Calvin’s expectations were caused by the era, but that the era was caused by the expectations of many generations of Christians?
Horton doesn’t even want to go there – and he never even touches that issue in any of his articles. Why? Because if he admits that the era of Christendom came about because of the work and beliefs of those who believed in Christendom he will have to come to another conclusions too: that the present era of paganism came about because of the beliefs of people like Horton.
So, in one sentence Horton says that Calvin believed the same things as him, then in the next sentence provides the proof to the contrary. Then again, suddenly, after the next period, he goes back again to his first thesis, denying completely what he said in his second statement:
Nevertheless, at least in theory, he made precisely the same arguments as Luther.
In what theory? And what arguments? Didn’t Horton just say that the two men believed things completely opposite to what Horton believes? And then, is he trying to say that, “at least in theory” they agreed with Horton? So, when they “expected the civil magistrate to defend the true faith,” that wasn’t “in theory”? What was it? Why did Calvin work to build Geneva into a City on Hill if “in theory” he believed the opposite? Is Horton saying that Calvin’s theory was just as opposed to his practice as Horton is opposed to theonomy?
Actually, what exactly is Horton saying? The three sentences so far make no sense whatsoever, when combined together. But this is not all. He has more in store for us.
I wonder if those sympathetic to theonomy or making America a “Christian nation” are really serious. Do they really want the White House or the legislative or judicial branches to enforce the first table of the law?
Oh, boy. These two sentences are just loaded with fallacies and self-contradictions. Be patient, we’ll go over the main ones only.
First of all, what kind of an argument is that? What is it based on? Does it appeal to the Bible, or to logic, or to history? What rule of logic, debate, or discussion allows for the use of such vague and nonsensical question, “are you really serious”? Is this what passes for an argument at Westminster West these days? And what exactly does Horton expect to achieve with it? Let’s suppose Horton faces a theonomic opponent in a debate (which may never happen since Horton has turned down multiple invitations by theonomists to debate; he is afraid of facing us), and uses this argument:
Horton: Are you really serious?
Theonomist: As a matter of fact, I am. I am really serious.
H.: Really really serious?
T.: Yes, really really serious.
H.: I mean, really really really serious?…
And so on. What does that tell us about Horton and his ability to debate?
If this is how the Westminster West professors debate, I can imagine a debate between two Westminster West professors who use it on each other:
First Professor: Do you really want that?
Second Professor: Yes, I do. Do you really not want that?
First Professor: No, I don’t. Do you really want that?…
Once a person stops laughing at the comedy such argument presents and decides to give a serious diagnosis of Horton’s “really-really” argument, he will have to conclude that it is an argument that is based on vague emotions, or on an attempt to arouse vague emotions. It says, “I have nothing of value to say so I will try to cause doubts in you by asking a vague question that makes no sense whatsoever.”
But this is not the only problem with it.
Remember, Michael Horton just admitted that Calvin expected the ruler to protect the true religion. But that’s the same as having a Christian nation – which Geneva was, by law – and enforcing the first table of the Law. So why isn’t Horton asking Calvin the same question? Whether Horton admits it or not, his “really-really” argument must be first applied to Calvin: “Calvin, do you really want the judges and the City Council of Geneva to enforce the first table of the Law?”
And Calvin, if he cared to reply to Horton, will say: “Yes, I really want that.” Horton admits as much himself, in the previous sentence. So why is Horton only asking the theonomists, and not Calvin?
But there’s more. The first table of the Law, that moral law that Horton is horrified that we as theonomists want to be enforced by the civil government, is actually the natural law. I believe it, and Horton believes it too because he says in another paragraph:
As Calvin reminds us, “The moral law is nothing other than the natural law that is written on the conscience of all.”
Fair enough. I agree, Calvin does say it. Moral law equals natural law written on our conscience.
But Horton has a problem here. He asks us if we “really-really” want to see the civil government enforce that moral law; he wonders if we are serious about that. But the moral law and the natural law are one. Therefore Horton is asking us if we really-really want to see the natural law enforced by the civil government!
But wait. Van Drunnen, Horton’s friend and co-ideologist, says that the civil government is ruled by the natural law; which according to Horton is the moral law; which according to Horton shouldn’t be the rule for the civil government. Let me try it the other way around, may be it will make sense this way. Horton says that the civil government shouldn’t enforce the moral law; which according to Horton is the natural law; which according to Van Drunnen should be the rule for the civil government.
Intellectual schizophrenia. The Two Kingdoms Theology is indeed a Divided Personalities Psychology.
And if not the moral/natural law for the civil government, then what law? Horton doesn’t say. Or, to ask a different question: If the civil government is to be ruled by the natural law which is also the moral law, then how is this different from what the theonomists want? Horton doesn’t say that either. He doesn’t even notice how deep a hole he has dug for himself.
There are many more fallacies and self-contradictions in that statement alone. But I will move on.
Two really-really questions are not enough, apparently. Horton is determined to show that really-really is the mainstay of Westminster West’s apologetics these days. So he adds a third one:
Will orthodox Protestants be the only ones allowed to rule, or will a few Roman Catholics, Jews, and perhaps a conservative mainliner or two pass the Senate confirmation hearings?
OK, the really-really is in a different form now but it’s still there: Are you really not going to let Roman Catholics, Jews, and conservative mainliners rule? Really-really?
What does that have to do with anything? Of course, political systems – or any government systems whatsoever – have rules for exclusion of certain persons. It has to do with the nature of the system itself. We have exclusion from rule in the United States today for certain people. I, for one, can not become a President because I wasn’t born in the US. And I can not run for certain political offices for several years. I am excluded. So what? Do I feel bad about it?
Keep in mind, my being excluded from political rule is not based on something I have self-consciously done. If I had the choice, I would have chosen to be born in Texas. But I was never given that choice. And I am now excluded from being a civil ruler because of something I had no control over.
Horton is not outraged by the fact that I am excluded from ruling because of something I never had control over but he is outraged that in a Christian government people will be excluded from ruling based on their self-conscious choice of religion? Can I change my birthplace if I wanted to become a President of the USA? No. In a Christian nation, can a Jew change his religion if he wanted to be a civil ruler? Yes, of course. So what is Horton’s problem, and why isn’t he much more outraged about the present system which seems much less fair in its exclusion than a Christian theonomic system of government? Schizophrenia, anyone?
And why would exclusion from rule be an argument in the first place? Is political rule a right that everyone deserves? Or even wants? Immigrants – legal and illegal – come to this country by millions. They could have stayed back in their countries where theoretically, they could participate in the civil government. If the right to rule was so important, why aren’t they staying there, why are they coming here where they will have no political rights?
Horton doesn’t go that far. All he needs is another really-really argument. That’s what Westminster West can offer.
Then, of course, the Bible comes to help; or rather, Horton’s loose quoting of the Bible:
This is not to say that God’s moral law is no longer in force, that it no longer expresses God’s eternal measure of righteousness. Rather, it is to recognize that the New Testament teaches us to live as “strangers and aliens” in this present age. . . .
The New Testament teaches us to live as strangers and aliens in this present age, you see. This is one of those beautiful myths of amillennialism that is meant to discourage Christians from being victorious. There are more like it: “royal exiles,” “constantly mourning by the rivers of Babylon,” etc.
There is only one problem: The New Testament doesn’t say, and doesn’t teach such a thing.
There are about a dozen instructions about living in the “present age” in the New Testament. Not a single one of them mentions anything about “strangers and aliens.”
There are a few instances of strangers and aliens. Not a single one of them is given as an instruction of “living in the present age.” The closest one is 1 Peter 2:11, “I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” But does that mean Christians shouldn’t participate in civil government, or shouldn’t work to have a Christian civil government? Only if Horton believes that Christian civil government is a “fleshly lust which wages war against the soul.” But if he believes such a thing, then he must have a very strong indictment against Calvin and Luther too. Remember, he admitted that these two wanted the ruler to protect the true faith.
The Bible doesn’t say such a thing. What Horton has done is to arbitrarily take phrases that sound good, from different parts of the New Testament, and combine them in one sentence, give it the interpretation he wants, which fits his specific theology, and then claim that that’s what the Bible teaches. Take “present age” from one place, then take “strangers and aliens” from another, combine them, and then claim it means that we shouldn’t work toward a Christian civil government.
But he has a problem there. There is an example in the New Testament of “strangers and aliens,” and the text specifically says what these faithful “strangers and aliens” did. Hebrews 11.
The heroes in Hebrews 11 are presented as being “strangers and aliens” (v. 13). These people confessed they were “strangers and exiles on the earth.” They should be Horton’s perfect example, right? Well, not exactly, because the end of the chapter actually tells us that there is a sharp discontinuity between us and them – we are not strangers and exiles anymore, as the next chapters clearly shows. But let’s suppose – only suppose – that they are the example for “strangers and aliens” we have in the New Testament.
And let’s see some of the works of faith they did, in verses 33-34:
. . . who by faith conquered kingdoms, dispensed justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
Conquered kingdoms? Dispensed justice? Became mighty in war? Put armies to flight? I can see Michael Horton employing his really-really argument to these “strangers and aliens” in Hebrews 11: “Are they serious? Do they really want to conquer kingdoms? To dispense justice? To become mighty in war and put armies to flight? Really-really?” But that’s the example the New Testament gives us of “strangers and aliens.” If Michael Horton tells us that we are taught to live as such, why doesn’t he teach what works of faith those real “strangers and aliens” performed? Why is his version of “strangers and aliens” lacking those important works of faith, that faith by which “the men of old gained approval”?
Does Horton actually know what the New Testament really teaches?
I will stop here. I took one paragraph of Michael Horton’s response to Dr. Frame’s book, and showed the main fallacies and self-contradictions in it. Only the main ones; I left out many more. One paragraph took me a whole article. If I had to go through the whole piece, a book wouldn’t be enough. And there are also many other fallacies and self-contradictions that Michael Horton has written, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. The Two Kingdoms Theology fits perfectly [with] Rushdoony’s description: intellectual schizophrenia. It can not run for more than a paragraph without entangling itself in at least a dozen self-contradictions and fallacies.
Article from Americanvision.org