Yesterday I tweeted a request to Reformed bloggers in the know to post on the Reformed side of American medical icon, the late Dr. C. Everett Koop, who died Monday at the age of 96. Dr. Koop’s medical and public service bonafides are a matter of public record. One quick and easy summary may of course be accessed, where else? Wikipedia! Here also is a press release from HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sabelius, detailing his legacy from the point of view of the federal government. But in addition to his service to the City of Man, Dr. C. Everett Koop was an accomplished lay leader in the City of God, serving as a Presbyterian church elder, and until the day of his death, a board member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE), the para-church organization which was so instrumental in introducing me to and cultivating in me the Reformed faith and theology.
Incidentally, tomorrow afternoon, my pastor and I depart for ACE’s Texas Hill Country Bible Conference in Boerne, Texas. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of tribute they put together for him there. For now, though, the ACE website offers a “Koop Classic”: Life, Bioethics and Christianity (2010, ACE).
But in answer to my (“all about me”–apologies to Dr. D.G. Hart request, two of my favorite Reformed bloggers has indeed posted remembrances of Dr. C. Everett Koop: Drs. Michael Horton and Kim Riddlebarger. You may read Dr. Horton’s at the White Horse Inn blog, and Dr. Riddlebarger’s post at the Riddleblog. Horton gives a nice summary of meeting Dr. Koop and his service to his church, Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, featuring the audio of a 2001 interview and a link to Dr. Koop’s contribution (“Faith-Healing and the Sovereignty of God”) to Horton’s out of print 1990 expose of televangelism, The Agony of Deceit–download it as soon as possible! Riddlebarger adds an amusing anecdote of Dr. Koop’s sobering reaction to his sense of humor. Both posts are great reads.
Be sure to peruse the other links I tweeted yesterday regarding the late Dr. C. Everett Koop from Christianity Today and Banner of Truth magazines and the Gospel Coalition blog featuring both compliment and criticism. Finally, in search of an image of Dr. Koop inside the building of Tenth Pres, I ran across a video of his 2010 marriage to Cora Hogue (pray comfort for her in her loss), officiated by former pastor, Phil Ryken, who is now the President of Wheaton College, whose sermons are still featured on ACE’s broadcast, Every Last Word. For those who are interested in viewing this heartwarming moment, the service begins about 30 minutes into the video, after the beautiful music of Westminster Brass.
As one who was first introduced to Reformed theology by Dr. Michael Horton in a televised interview promoting his first book, I have a great affection and appreciation for the work of those who are, in Reformed circles, associated with what Dr. John Frame (RTS, Orlando) calls “The Escondido Theology.” Frame and others seem to think that for Reformed folks to interact with Lutheran theology on the things with which they agree is some sort of compromise of the integrity of Reformed theology. As a layman who hasn’t read it all on this controversy, that’s the impression I get. Frame’s book is promoted as a discussion primarily of the Two Kingdom approach to Christ and culture, but I’ve just learned that there is more to Dr. Frame and the Escondido Theology that this one issue.
In terms of coming to a greater understanding of the broader controversy myself, I was pleased to find that Scott Oakland interviewed Dr. Frame on a recent episode of ReformedCast. Agree or disagree, it is important to understand Frame’s point of view on the matter. Looking back to the days in which he helped found Westminster Seminary California, Dr. Frame portrays himself as not fitting in with any of the “parties” that formed among the faculty there. I also found it helpful to hear him express his concerns with how closely many among the faculty wanted to stick to the Reformed confessions, while he, in my opinion, thought the Reformed principle of sola scriptura was better honored by not “turning biblical and systematic theology into historical theology” (or something like that–it’s been a few days since I heard the interview). This helped me understand why Dr. Frame was willing to be a little more “progressive” in his approach to worship, and became a veritable whipping boy among many in the so-called “worship wars” (see, for example, how Frame’s writing is treated in Hart and Muether’s With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship.) While I do not doubt Dr. Frame’s commitment to the Reformed interpretation of Scripture, it does seem to me that he has a more moderate approach. Neither side of this Escondido debate deny that the Reformed Confessions are subject to the authority of Scripture, but I perceive that in some ways Dr. Frame seems so much more openly self-conscious of highlighting the authority of Scripture over the Confessions that he runs the risk of coming off more broadly evangelical than Reformed on the issue of worship. I could be wrong, but this is my initial impression.
Many of you have read more Frame than I have, and have a more informed opinion of his approach to Reformed theology. Feel free to enlighten and correct my impressions in the comments. I simply wanted to share my thoughts on the interview as I recommend it to you. If any of you have wondered about the back and forth that sometimes takes place online about the so-called “Escondido Theology,” this interview is an important resource for gaining some insight into both sides of the debate.
Don’t miss the latest episode of Westminster Seminary California’s Office Hours podcast, featuring an interview with Rev. Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan. Rev. DeYoung is the co-author of What is the Mission of the Church? and writes from his unique perspective as one who “ought to be Emergent, but isn’t.” Office Hours host, Dr. R. Scott Clark discusses with him how the biblical mission of the church compares to some of the many trendier ways of being “missional.” One of the key issues they discuss is the fact that the promises of God for the individual and the cosmos, both of which are contained in the gospel which it is the church’s mission to proclaim, are positive blessings which God will bring about in his time and in his way, and for which it is not always intended that we are to draw up a missional strategy of social outreach in order to participate in the fulfillment of these promises.
Apparently, I’m unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting lately. For your information, I’ve been obsessing about the Republican presidential primaries, and Tweeting my support for Rick Santorum.
Over the past few years, I’ve been reading and thinking about competing approaches to the relationship between church and state, or more broadly, Christ and culture. Turning 18 during the 1988 presidential race, my political formation took place at the hands of what is now popularly looked down on as “The Religious Right.” Believing as I do that capitalism does more good for the most people (including those in poverty) than does redistribution of wealth and that abortion is nothing less than a twentieth-century “Massacre of the Innocents,” I have always found that the Republican party was more consistent with these views than the alternative, and I have voted accordingly.
Having more recently become a proponent of Reformed theology, I have been intrigued and challenged by Reformed and Presbyterian teachers discussing things like “Kuyperianism,” “Two-Kingdom theology” (2K) and “the Spirituality of the Church” and even things like “Theonomy” (or it’s more politically charged name “Dominionism“). While I find much to commend in the first three views, I have no use for the fourth. But unlike other Reformed bloggers, I have not become a strident advocate of either Abraham Kuyper’s view of sphere sovereignty, the modern Reformed appropriation of Luther’s modification of Augustine’s “Two Cities” (as expressed in City of God) view, or the Presbyterian view of the spirituality of the church. The committee is still out on which of these views will win the battle for my mind. All I can say is that I am still working on which I find to be most consistent with Scripture. In the meantime, I’m culling the candidates as I always have. This election season, my sympathies lie mostly with Rick Santorum as holding the best conservative candidate to run against our esteemed incumbent President Barack Obama.
Before I settled on which candidate was for me, I began to notice that many of the Reformed proponents of the Two Kingdom approach to Christ and culture seemed to favor the libertarian phenomenon, Ron Paul. Before this, I followed a certain prominent 2K blogger who is probably the chief scholar on the life, thought and ministry of J. Gresham Machen, the founder of both Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Yes, I mean Dr. Darryl G. Hart. I thoroughly enjoyed his series on the life of Machen provided by the Reformed Forum, and I listen to it again and again (You can listen to part 1 here). I did find Hart’s portrayal of Machen as a 1920′s libertarian charming, especially regarding his civil disobedience against the tyrannical anti-jaywalking laws of his day. How can you not grin at the notion of the author of Christianity and Liberalism defiantly charging across a busy street at will? But the more I listened to Hart expound on his 2K view, it began to sound more like a promotion of libertarianism in the name of 2K than it did a defense of the right of a believer before God to determine what he thinks is most in his nation’s best interests. Likewise, many others in the Reformed blogosphere who are big fans of Hart’s and strident 2K proponents themselves, seem to be following suit in promoting Ron Paul for president as enthusiastically as I am Rick Santorum. This is their right, of course, but I can’t help coming away with the feeling that to be 2K is to be self-consciously anti-1980′s Religious Right Republican and thus necessarily Libertarian. I’m sure they don’t see it this way, but this is the way it appears from my perspective.
So, staying true to my theological and political instincts, I remain very distracted from my blogging, and continue to daily follow the exploits of Rick Santorum’s “Game On!” surge to virtual, if not actual, front-runner status. My wife and I even attended his rally in Plano, Texas last week! (or was it the week before?) In my online searching about the former Senator from Pennsylvania, I came upon the text of a 2010 speech he delivered in Houston which analyzes and criticizes his Catholic president predecessor, John F. Kennedy’s historic 1960 Houston speech, in which he famously assuaged the fears of Protestant America that the Vatican would not exercise undue influence on his administration and declared “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Santorum says that the implications of Kennedy’s position has harmed the freedom of conscience and the freedom of religious expression, and has given us the modern Left-wing war on religion in America. You can begin reading it here:
“Three pictures hung in the home of my devoutly Catholic immigrant grandparents when I was a boy and I remember them well — Jesus, Pope Paul VI and John F. Kennedy. The president was a source of great pride and a symbol to Catholics that all barriers had finally been broken. What my family and maybe even candidate Kennedy at the time didn’t realize was that in a key moment in that election of 1960 right here in Houston, Kennedy began the construction of another, even more threatening wall for our society — one that sealed off informed moral wisdom into a realm of non-rational beliefs that have no legitimate role in political discourse.
“Fifty years ago this Sunday JFK delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to dispel suspicions about the role the papacy might play in the government of this country under his administration. Let’s make no mistake about it — Kennedy was addressing a real issue at the time. Prejudice against Catholics threatened to cost him the election. But on that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith. Let me quote from the beginning of Kennedy’s speech: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
“The idea of strict or absolute separation of church and state is not and never was the American model. It was a model used in countries like France and until recently Turkey, but it found little support in America until it was introduced into the public discourse by Justice Hugo Black in the case of Everson v. The Board of Education in 1947. (Black, by the way, was a Catholic-hating former member of the KKK who ironically enough advocated this strict separation doctrine to keep public funds from Catholic schools.)
“While the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the Constitution, the concept of keeping the government apart from religion does. The first part of the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from establishing a state church, such as existed in England and in some of the states in 1791, and from discriminating for or against particular faiths. The founders were determined to ensure that the new national government had no jurisdiction over matters of religion, in large part to insure that each American would be free to pursue the religion of their choice without state interference. Far from reflecting hostility toward religion, our founders, rooted in their own faith convictions, knew that faith was not just an essential element, but the essence of civilization and the inspiration of culture.
“The second reference to religion in the First Amendment guaranteed the free exercise of religion and in conjunction with the prohibition of established churches, these two concepts were to work together to ensure that religion and people of faith had powerful constitutional protections of their right to not only worship as their conscience dictated, but to be free to bring their religiously informed moral convictions into the public discourse.”
Keep reading… and feel free to sound off with your reactions to any of mine or Rick’s comments!
Evangelicalism is so desparate to be liked by the world, they will seemingly latch onto anything or anyone of any notoriety whatsoever with whom (or which) they find some sort of commonality. Especially if it involves movies or television. A few years ago, evangelical Protestants proclaimed Roman Catholic Mel Gibson’s movie version of a mystic nun’s vision of The Passion of the Christ as the greatest evangelistic tool since Billy Graham. Nowadays, they are opening wide their church doors and their pulpits and plexiglass lecterns to the Mormon with a compelling “testimony” of deliverance from alcoholism who found near-Oprah-like success on FOXNews Channel as one of the leaders of the Tea Party Movement, Glenn Beck.
With the purchase of the old campus of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, I’m sad to admit that Glenn Beck is now a neighbor of mine. One of the down sides of this is that Beck will be, and indeed, has already been, welcomed into the evangelical churches of my community to blur the lines between biblical Protestant Christianity and the false religion of Mormonism. A recent episode of the Lutheran radio show, Issues, Etc., features the recording of Glenn Beck’s recent “sermon” delivered at High Point Church in Arlington, Texas where he not only confuses the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man by speaking on America’s need to stand by the nation of Israel in their ongoing conflicts in the Middle East (a position with which I generally agree), but he confuses the Kingdom of God with the kingdom of Satan as a local evangelical church applauds a Mormon as he ”testifies” that “the Lord Jesus Christ is [his] Savior and Redeemer.”
I’m glad I turned off Glenn Beck long before he ever started preaching American civil religion to his politically conservative viewers. What 60 years ago was called New Evangelicalism, fundamentalists of various denominations who sought the lowest common denominator for a semblence of “unity,” has become the New Liberalism, as they allow members of non-Christian religions to preach in their ostensibly “Christian” megachurch pulpits to seek the lowest common denominator with heresy.
Pray for repentance and Reformation for any and all churches that call themselves Christian. While you’re at it, read Arlington, Texas-based Watchman Fellowship’s “Fast Facts on Mormonism,” and do not attend if Glenn Beck appears at your church some Sunday morning in the not-to0-distant future.