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A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology – John the Baptist

By William F. Leonhart III

Read the first eight posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

It’s been a long road to get here, but now we move into the section of our discussion of Public Theology where we observe pertinent biblical texts. There are several places in Scripture where one might start but, for our purposes, an examination of the life of John the Baptist will help us to understand some of the more important questions to ask as we proceed. The first glimpse that we see of John’s approach to Public Theology can be found in his interactions with those who came to him for baptism.

“So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. ‘Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’ And the crowds were questioning him, saying, ‘Then what shall we do?’ And he would answer and say to them, ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.’ And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.’ Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, ‘Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.’” (Luke 3:7-14; NASB).

 

 

 

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A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology – Redemption and Creation in Kuyper

December 31, 2015 Leave a comment

theroadofgrace

Read the first seven posts here, here, here, here, here, here,and here.

In our last blog post, we presented some of the core beliefs regarding Abraham Kuyper’s public theology, which can be summed up in one sentence: Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and because of that fact, our allegiance to Him should shape not only the private but also the public aspects of our lives. In Kuyper’s vision, Christ is not just the Lord over ecclesiastical matters, but He is also Lord over public matters like art, science, business, politics, economics, and education. Based on this core conviction, Kuyper served as prime minister of the Netherlands, founded a Christian university, started a newspaper, and wrote influential books on theology, politics, and other topics. In recent years a new generation of Calvinists has further developed Kuyper’s original vision of Christ’s lordship over all matters. To understand these recent developments, we must understand neo-Kuyperian theology concerning the relationship between redemptive grace and creation.

Creation and Redemption

In the neo-Kuyperian theological vision, redemptive grace both renews and restores nature. In this vision, God covenanted creation (“nature”) into existence and ordered it by means of His word. At creation, God instructed his image bearers to be fruitful and multiply (interpreted as a social command), till the soil (interpreted as a cultural command), and have dominion (interpreted as a regal command). His image bearers would glorify him by multiplying worshipers, bringing out the hidden potentials of creation, and lovingly managing his world. However, Adam and Eve were seduced by the word that the serpent spoke against God’s……

 

 

 

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A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology – Sphere Sovereignty in Kuyper

theroadofgrace

Read the first six posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.

In our discussion of a Reformed Baptist perspective on public theology, we have recently been examining the Reformed confessions. In today’s article, we will begin our discussion of some more recent developments regarding Reformed perspectives of public theology. In our view, no modern discussion on Reformed public theology can be presented without discussing the contributions of Abraham Kuyper. By becoming familiar with Kuyper’s approach to public theology, readers should be in a position to evaluate the politics of writers like Francis Schaeffer, Tim LaHaye (and many of the members of the Christian Right movement), and Tim Keller – all of whom owe an intellectual debt to Kuyper.

As a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and a leader in the first modern Dutch political party, the Anti-Revolutionary Party, Kuyper sought to re-create a Christian perspective on politics and society that would form the basis for Christian social action. He envisaged this as an integral part of a comprehensive Christian worldview based upon the Scriptures and their interpretation within the Augustinian-Calvinist tradition. Although he wrote copiously in Dutch on theology, art, politics, education, and a host of other topics, only a few of his writings are available in English translations. The most comprehensive statement of his position in English is to be found in the Stone Lectures, which were delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898 and are published under the title Lectures on Calvinism. This article will consist of a brief exposition of Kuyper’s views as set out in these lectures.

 

 

 

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A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology – The Reformed Confessions (Part III)

Read the first five posts here, here, here, here, and here.

 

By William F. Leonhart III and Gabriel Williams

In our discussion of a Reformed Baptist perspective on public theology, we have recently been examining the Reformed confessions. In the last two posts, we examined two Reformed confessions’ assertions regarding the relationship of the civil government to the church: The Belgic Confession and The Baptist Confession (1644 / 1646). In today’s article, we will conclude our discussion of public theology in the Reformed confessions by examining two more confessions: The Westminster Confession and The Baptist Confession (1677 / 1689).

The Westminster Confession (1647)

In 1647, a year after the 1646 revision of The Baptist Confession, the Westminster Assembly published the second Reformed confession to be adopted in England: The Westminster Confession. In this Confession, they too addressed the topic of the civil magistrate. However, they returned to the language of the earlier Belgic Confession on the matter.

“The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God” (WCF 23.3).

 

 

 

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A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology – The Reformed Confessions (Part II)

Read the first four posts here, here, here, and here.

 

By William F. Leonhart III and Gabriel Williams

In the last post, we examined the approach of the framers of The Belgic Confession to public theology, specifically as it regards civil government. In this article and the next, we will shift our attention from the Continental Reformation to the English Reformation. Without further introduction, let us begin with the earliest of the English confessions we will consider: The Baptist Confession (1644 / 1646).

Not Anabaptists

The considerations that would lead to further development of the public theology laid out in The Belgic Confession came sooner for the early English Baptists than for others. In 1644, a group of Baptists came together in London to publish a new confession of faith. This Confession was meant to be a source of unity for the churches in question, but it also had a secondary purpose. On the European continent, Anabaptism had spread since the time of Zwingli. The early Anabaptists, especially those who were initially among Zwingli’s disciples, were very thoughtful, orthodox, and studious in their approach to theological systematization. However, as the years passed and persecution ensured that Anabaptists had less and less ecclesiastical resources at their disposal, they began to become more extreme in their stances against government and to develop heretical and heterodox views on key doctrines.

As persecution arose for Reformed pastors and theologians at different points of British history, the Reformed would often flee to the continent. Continental Europe, especially in Switzerland and the Dutch provinces, was understood to be more favorable toward the Reformation. In their sojourn on the continent, many Reformed pastors…..

 

 

 

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A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology – The Reformed Confessions (Part I)

October 8, 2015 2 comments

Read the first three posts here, here, and here.

by William F. Leonhart III

When discussing the idea of the Two Cities and Two Kingdoms paradigms for understanding public theology, many leave a tremendous gap between Luther and modern scholarship. We would be negligent to do so here, though. For a uniquely Reformed Baptist perspective on these issues to be well informed, one must be aware of the fact that there is more than just a Lutheran perspective of public theology to draw upon. There is also a Reformed tradition, which just so happens to be the tradition from which Baptists sprung.

Luther’s further development of Augustine’s paradigm certainly plays a large role in the development of Calvinistic, Reformed, and Reformed Baptist approaches to public theology. However, Calvin and his predecessors did not adopt Luther’s theology without some contributions of their own. Luther’s views on the subject evolved throughout the course of his life and the life of Saxony. The same could be said of Zwingli in Zurich, Calvin in Geneva, and the Dutch, British, French, German, and American Reformers that would follow in their footsteps.

 

 

 

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A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology: Two Kingdoms in Luther

September 3, 2015 Leave a comment

theroadofgrace / 1 week ago

Read the first two posts here and here.

In the previous article, we discussed Augustine’s classic work City of God as a means of demonstrating how the Church interacts with the culture in the public sphere. Now, we will examine Martin Luther’s development of Augustine’s ideas.

Much of Luther’s public theology can be examined by interacting with Luther’s 1523 essay Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed. In this essay, Luther taught that the temporal authority (i.e. the civil state) exists by divine ordinance (cf. Genesis 4:14-15; 9:6), having existed since creation and having been confirmed by Moses, John the Baptist, and Christ Himself. Luther divided the human race into two groups, one belonging to the kingdom of God and the other belonging to the kingdom of the world. Luther argued that the citizens of the kingdom of God need neither law nor sword, whereas the citizens of the kingdom of this world need both. In light of this need, God has established two governments (one spiritual and one temporal). The spiritual government is for the Holy Spirit to produce righteous Christians under Christ’s rule, and the purpose of the temporal government is for restraining the wicked and non-believers by the sword.

Kingdom vs. Government

It’s important to note here that Luther introduces an important distinction between kingdom and government. The two kingdoms are mutually exclusive (reminiscent of Augustine’s Two Cities), but the two governments are not mutually exclusive. As Luther articulates the idea of the two governments that rule these two kingdoms, Luther makes clear that the temporal authority, which executes the legal and coercive government of the earthly kingdom, brings Christians and non-Christians under its sway. In Luther’s thought, we have a supplement to Augustine’s doctrine of the Two Cities, which David VanDrunen describes this way:

 

 

 

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