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June 30, 2010
In keeping with my new commitment to keep this review concise, I’m going to try and cover this chapter in just one installment (though it will be a very long one).  This shouldn’t be too difficult, moreover, as it is a shorter chapter, its argument is generally rather clear and straightforward, and where there are difficulties in the argument, they’re at points already discussed in this review.  Also, having officially and publicly lost patience with VanDrunen in the last chapter, I have regained my composure, and don’t expect there to be any more outbursts of that sort, although from here on out the focus of the reviews will be essentially critical, rather than expository.
VanDrunen’s basic point in this chapter is to argue, that even when it comes to Abraham Kuyper, the father of “Kuyperianism” and thus of modern “neo-Calvinism,” neo-Calvinists do not have a firm foundation for their views.  Kuyper, he wants to argue, remains by and large in the two kingdoms, natural law camp, despite--you guessed it--some lingering inconsistencies.  

Taking Off the Gloves

June 26, 2010
In chapter 6, this book turn a turn from the wearisome to the farcical, and I’m afraid I lost my patience.  I no longer have the patience to write 10,000 words slowly and politely deconstructing the argument of each chapter.  Chapter 6, although massive (65 pages) and full of details crying out for attention, does not merit such time.  So, I’m going to whip through it in one rather tempestuous segment.  I’m going to promise to keep this under 2,500 words, though methinks I can dispose of it even quicker than that.  

June 25, 2010
If you're getting tired of VanDrunen, I don't blame you.  I did too, as you'll see in the next installment after this one that I'm going to post.  The new website is still under construction, but should be up soon.  In the meantime, anyone out there who's really into two kingdoms theology in the 17th century can read on.

In the concluding section, VanDrunen endeavours to reconcile this two kingdoms theory with its practical application in seventeenth-century Reformed political thought.  At this point, he finally turns to take note of documents such as the National Covenant, and cites passages in Althusius, Rutherford, and Turretin where they insist upon a relationship of mutual harmony and support between Church and State, each assisting it in its duties, and correcting it if it fails.  VanDrunen is certainly troubled by all this, and regarding the Church’s instruction toward the civil authority, he says, “if there are even different primary standards of authority in the civil and ecclesiastical realms (natural law and Scripture, respectively), then there seems to be reason to doubt that ministers, whose training lies in spiritual things, have the competence to offer useful and even authoritative instruction on political matters” (195).

June 24, 2010
In the section on the doctrine of the two kingdoms in the age of Reformed orthodoxy, my suspicion is immediately aroused by VanDrunen’s invocation of the Scottish Presbyterians as leading proponents of two kingdoms thinking.   These Scottish Presbyterians are often known as “Covenanters” for their signing of the National Covenant in 1638, a document that united both civil rulers and churchmen in the task of protecting the Reformed religion in Scotland.  This document repeatedly blurs together civil and ecclesiastical concerns, going so far as to cite passages such as these from Parliamentary Acts: 

June 21, 2010
(Sorry, I like the word "obfuscation.") 
VanDrunen's extensive discussion of natural law in this chapter sheds little more light on the problem than did his singularly unhelpful discussion in chapter 4.  The opening subsection of the main discussion in this chapter starts out promisingly, as VanDrunen quotes Francis Turretin and John Owen on the nature and origin of natural law.  Turretin says that the natural law arises “from a divine obligation being impressed by God upon the conscience of man in his very creation,” and, moreover, “that so many remains and evidences of this law are still left in our nature (although it has been in different ways corrupeted and obscured by sin) that there is no mortal who cannot feel its force either more or less.” 
Now this last bit is intriguing, because it is here, I have suggested, that a crucial part of the question hangs.  For natural law to be a sufficient guide for life in the civil kingdom, then natural law must be clearly and sufficiently knowable by us even in our fallen state.  It isn’t enough for natural law to exist, it isn’t enough for us to have comprehended it in a pre-fallen state, and it isn’t enough for us to have some remaining notions of it.  What VanDrunen needs to show in these thinkers is that we still have a clear and sufficient knowledge of it to conduct our lives by it.  Is this what Turretin says?  I’m not sure--“there is no mortal who cannot feel its force either more or less.”  That doesn’t sound terribly promising to me.  To feel the force of it (more or less) does not seem the same as having a clear apprehension of all its essential dictates. 

Chapter 5 is easily the longest so far, weighing in at a meaty 62 pages, which attempt to cover the whole seventeenth century.  I have a feeling that it will take quite a while to review properly, though, since its claims and its weaknesses are quite similar to those of Chapter 3, there is much ground that will not need to be covered all over again.  
VanDrunen proposes in this chapter to study the themes of natural law and the two kingdoms in three leading Reformed theologians and political theorists during the seventeenth century: Johannes Althusius, Samuel Rutherford, and Francis Turretin.  Of course, restricting his study to just these three fellows, representative and important though they may be, leaves him open to the criticism that he cannot prove any claims about “Reformed thought in the seventeenth century” by pointing to the views of only three men.  He anticipates this criticism and pleads in response that obviously it is impossible to be comprehensive, so he has chosen the three most representative figures he can find, and has tried to fill in the cracks with some citations from other sources as well.  And he admits that, because of the limited test sample, the conclusions of this chapter will necessarily be tentative.  On the whole, I’m not inclined to press him on this point.  62 pages was long enough for me (at least, since I was on vacation), and a suitably comprehensive study would’ve been impossible; moreover, the three figures he has chosen do seem to be broadly representative of Reformed thought as a whole during this century, a century in which Reformed thought seems to have achieved a remarkable degree of homogeneity despite its geographical dispersal.  My concern here is more methodological, as I shall explain in a moment.  

Moratorium and Teaser

June 4, 2010
If you check in here with any regularity, you have no doubt noticed that activity has fallen off dramatically here since I've been traveling.  Since I will be continuing to visit relatives over the next couple weeks, and have my hands quite completely full with business, dissertation, and other responsibilities, I expect to be putting my posting here pretty much on hold till the middle of the month, though I hope there will still be installments of the VanDrunen review trickling in.  
But I can offer this exciting teaser--by the end of the month, I expect to be migrating this whole blog over to a new site,, that will be not only a much better-looking, better-organized, and better-working blog, but indeed, I hope, much more than a blog.  So stay posted for the big move!

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