A Constantinian Showdown

 Yes, believe it or not, I am still alive.  But I am on vacation, and my brain has completely shut down and refused to produce blog-worthy ideas.  

However, I can point you to where some real blogging action is–or was–I’m a week or two behind. 

Ben Witherington recently produced a lengthy series of posts reviewing Peter Leithart’s groundbreaking recent book, Defending Constantine–while broadly appreciative and complementary, he was sharply critical on several points, as one might expect, given that he is a pacifist.  Leithart’s responses to his objections are particularly fascinating, and very relevant to the recent discussion about retributive justice here.  Leithart’s final post, “Loving Enemies” offers a frank confession of the difficulties of a Christian just war position, which he nonetheless feels compelled to cling to.  My own thoughts on this subject are very similar to what Leithart voices in this fantastic post.

Here are the links:

Witherington Intro
Witherington 1
Witherington 2
Witherington 3
Witherington 4
Witherington 5
Witherington 6
Witherington 7
Witherington 8 

Leithart 1: “Guarding the Garden”
Leithart 2: “Crushing Heads”
Leithart 3: “Protoeuangelium”
Leithart 4: “Warrior Messiah”
Leithart 5: “Marcion”
Leithart 6: “Loving Enemies” 

If you’re eager for more action, this just in–the AAR conference this fall in San Francisco will host a dialogue/debate between Leithart and Stanley Hauerwas over Defending Constantine.  If I weren’t already going, I might buy a plane ticket just to see that!

Being Fussy Citizens

Byron Smith was kind enough to point me toward an excellent little article by Oliver O’Donovan on the whole bin Laden business.  O’Donovan voices quite lucidly and judiciously some of the inchoate concerns that I tried to articulate in the wake of the killing and subsequent storm of reactions, concluding with this fine paragraph:

Christian citizens need not expect, and should not pretend to, total certainty about the rights and wrongs of this or any other public act. It is no part of God’s plan for their holiness or for their service of the neighbor that they must be all-knowing about the morality of what others have done, even when it is done in the name of the political community. Christians can be useful citizens, though, by being rather fussy about the justifications and explanations offered by political actors for their consumption and approval. Faced with extraordinary actions, they may demand thorough and coherent explanations on morally serious and law-regarding grounds. For myself, I am left thinking that whatever good account there is to be given of why bin Laden was killed, it has yet to be fully made public.


You can also find, on the same site, a fine reflection by Deonna Neal on the other bundle of concerns I had been talking about–the problems with taking pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Taxation and Christian Ethics, Pt. 3: What is Christian Protest?

So, I’ve expended a great deal of metaphorical ink on attacking the idea that having a somewhat irresponsible government gives us license to avoid paying taxes.  Many people may say, “So what?  Who is this aimed at?”  Don’t most people, even most Tea Party conservatives, pay their taxes, fully and on time?  No one wants to go to jail, after all.  Perhaps some do try and get creative to minimize their tax burden through loopholes, but honestly, the average working-man doesn’t have time for such shenanigans.  So how is this relevant?  

Well, my parents always used to have a good principle: Obedience while grumbling and complaining is as good as disobedience.  Can we really claim to be upright citizens if we pay our taxes, but get out in the streets on April 15th to yell and carry angry signs?  If we mouth off on talk radio stations about how “oppressed” we are?  If we’re supposed to pay our taxes, then aren’t we supposed to pay without grumbling or complaining, without angrily protesting, without making it clear that we’re paying only because we have to?   

And yet, are we supposed to be meek sheep, silently obeying whatever we are told, no matter how unjust?  Jesus may have been led like a lamb to the slaughter, but he had no qualms about calling oppressors to account in no uncertain terms.  Complete silence and passivity in the face of injustice is not a manifestation of Christian charity, because it lets ones neighbors continue to suffer.  So what is the balance here?  This is the question not merely of taxation, but of all Christian political action.

Regular readers may recall a similar discussion that emerged in the course of my posts on coercion last summer.  There I argued against seeing the government as a coercive imposition, which we only obeyed so as to avoid going to prison.  Coercion, I argued, is in a very important sense in the eye of the beholder.  If you obey willingly, then you’re not coerced.  If you thinks that you’re obeying simply to avoid going to prison, then voila! you’re being coerced.  If Christians are to be above fear, then their obedience should never be coerced, but always be free.  And yet, the question arose, does this imply complete willing, uncomplaining, non-resistant obedience?  And if so, doesn’t that mean that oppression is simply allowed to continue?  If we willingly and fearlessly accept the oppression, then it is never called to account–and that is not love.  

So clearly, this is just the tip of the iceberg of some rather big issues.  But I will try to offer a just a few thoughts specific to the issue at hand, though they will have implications for other issues.


In view of the considerations offered in the first two posts, there are two targets we must keep in our sights to guide us in this issue: greed and love.  The former we must always be on guard against, the latter we must always be guided by.  If we are protesting taxation because we think that we’re entitled to more of our own income and we don’t want anyone else to get their grubby hands on it, then we should probably reconsider our protest–it is probably not a godly one.  If we are protesting taxation because we convinced that others who can ill afford it are suffering, or because the taxes are being used to fund abortion, for instance, then we may be on to something.  There is still a right and wrong way to protest, but at least there is a good cause.  But what about something more abstract?  What if we are convinced that the current tax regime is inefficient and unhelpful, that in the long run it will hurt the economy and hurt needy people, etc.  Well, this too can be justified, though such protests, it seems, must be correspondingly more patient, muted, and willing to compromise. 

But when we say “protest,” what do we mean?  There are, of course, violent forms of protest, but thankfully, I don’t think that’s what anyone has in mind the current atmosphere of Tea Party America, so I will not here try to pursue the vexed question of whether violent resistance to government is ever justified.  However, the question of violence cannot be quite so hastily laid to rest, for there are ways of being violent without engaging in actual violence.  You may recall that a few months ago, when the Arizona congresswoman was shot, there was a great deal of discussion about all this, and I weighed in with some thoughts criticizing the violent attitudes and rhetoric that had come to dominate the political scene.  


If political action for Christians is supposed to be an exercise in love of neighbor, and not an angry insistence on one’s own “rights,” then it goes without saying that violent rhetoric, which does not show love for one’s adversaries and rarely does any good for one’s friends, is inappropriate.  There is of course no clear line on what constitutes “violent rhetoric,” but certainly much of what we hear on talk radio and occasionally in political protests falls under this heading.  

The most appropriate forms of protest are those that have been built in to our political system.  For while Romans 13 may appear to endorse a kind of political quietism, we should remember that there weren’t really any legal channels for protest and remonstrance in Neronian Rome.  We, on the other hand, do have elected representatives, however skeptical we may be that they will actually do their jobs.  Through them, we are invited to give our input regarding perceived injustices, we are given an opportunity to protest without taking matters into our own hands.  So if we are honestly concerned about the effects of a policy, and what it might do to our communities, there is nothing wrong with seeking to make this concern known through established channels.  This goes for either of the causes of protest I mentioned above (i.e., downright oppressive or wicked vs. long-term harmful).

Unfortunately, we have witnessed in recent decades the progressive erosion of the established channels.  Political policy is progressively shaped only by plebiscite, a perpetual referendum on the unreflective sentiments of the whole populace, carefully manipulated by incessant marketing and media spin.  The “established channels” for making our concerns known are increasingly those of the opinion poll, the street march, talk radio, and social media.  Sheer quantity, rather than quality, of opinion expression is the barometer that guides our politicians.  It’s like those talent shows where they vote for a winner by seeing which part of the crowd can yell the loudest.  

Such a climate poses great temptations for Christians–the temptation simply to add our voices to the shouting match, and thus lose the ability to communicate anything coherent or uniquely Christian.  If we gather together to celebrate a “Tea Party” with a bunch of angry people fighting for their “rights” or preaching resistance to “tyranny,” people who decry any taxation used for things they don’t personally approve of as “theft,” then however godly our own motives, our voice is subsumed into theirs.  If we have the most loving motives in the world, and want to make a Christ-like witness in the public square, this is almost impossible if our voice is simply drowned in the cacophony of dissent.  Not only that, but I think we deceive ourselves if we imagine we are immune to losing the clarity of our own convictions.  How many Christians, I wonder, start out with a recognizably Christian rationale for protesting against “big government” or “oppressive taxes,” and end by speaking nothing but the language of greed and rights–“Mine! Mine! Mine!”?

It is not, I think, necessary to carry on all political action in explicitly Christian terms, or to refuse to ally with any who do not share all our goals and convictions.  However, we need to be “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”  We need to be always ask, “Can Christ’s love be shown through this sort of action?  Can I bless my neighbor through this sort of action (not only in the short term, but in the long term)?”  And we must be carefully attuned to the possible side-effects of our actions, to the way our protest will come across, whether it will bring Christ into contempt, whether it will advance the agenda of elements that are ultimately destructive to any Christian charity.  


So, can we, as Christians, protest taxes and other perceived injustices?  Well, possibly.  But can we protest as Christians?  That is the question.  If we cannot, if we can only speak as outraged property owners, or as capitalist ideologues, or as troublemakers who remain perpetually unsatisfied with any status quo, then we’d best stay out of the brawl and find better uses of our time.  

Taxation and Christian Ethics, Pt. 2: Paying Up

From the passages discussed in Part 1, we can glean several principles about our responsibility to pay our taxes, and about the extent to which it is legitimate to try to minimize our tax-paying through legal loopholes, etc.  Here’s a first attempt to think through those principles, and how they might apply concretely.  

1. We shouldn’t care

For himself, the Christian shouldn’t be bothered about paying taxes.  This is chiefly because the Christian shouldn’t be bothered about money in general.  “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth” (Mt. 6:19-34; Lk. 12:13-34); “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  We are certainly not to seek after wealth as a good in itself–that much is obvious enough.  But nor are we to seek after it unduly as a means to meet our needs, for we are to have faith that God will provide–interestingly, it is what we might call legitimate prudence, rather than miserly greed, that is primarily being targeted in both the Matthew 6 and Luke 12 passages.  This does not mean, of course, that we are to indulge in sloth and apathy; it means we are to work diligently in faith, without fear, and it means that if we have enough for our needs, we will be content.  If someone demands money from us, then we will have no reason to make a fuss about it, because we don’t need it.  Of course, this raises the objection, “What if we do *need* it?  What if the government is in fact levying very oppressive taxes on very poor people?”  Well, actually, it kinda was in the Palestine of Jesus’s day; and Jesus still calls on us to trust and pay.  I imagine that there could very well be exceptions, however; but as our own tax systems are far less oppressive, considering our disposable income, it hardly seems like a relevant objection in modern America.


 2. It isn’t ours

It’s also important to remember that the money isn’t ours to begin with.  People will immediately raise objections to the first principle based on “good stewardship.”  Ok, fine.  But what does stewardship mean?  Taking care of what is someone else’s, in this case, God’s.  Now, if God demands it from us in some form or another (say, by putting over us a magistrate who demands it), then we can’t very well protest on the basis of good stewardship.  “No, God, we can’t give this up, like you’re asking us to, because we have to keep it safe for you.”  Ha!  

Indeed, more to the point, on whose behalf are we exercising our stewardship?  For God?  That’s silly–God doesn’t need the stuff!  “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”  God gives it to us to exercise stewardship over it for the sake of those who need it.   Why does God give me the things that I have?  To use for the advancement of his kingdom, which will include any number of things, but will mostly boil down to using it for the help of my neighbor.  (This doesn’t mean there’s never any basis for enjoying it myself.  If God has given me more than enough, and I’m using the surplus to help advance his kingdom and care for those around me who need it, and there’s still surplus, then by all means enjoy it, and be thankful!)  Now, this raises a couple of points that have ramifications for the current question.  For instance, it raises the question of whether tax-paying is a legitimate means of helping the needs of my neighbor.  I think it is, but before addressing this, another issue must be cleared out of the way.


 3. Legitimacy isn’t relevant

In view of the foregoing points, a common issue that is raised in this discussion (indeed, the chief issue) melts away as irrelevant–the issue of legitimacy.  Generally, the question of taxation is posed in these terms: The government has a right to take a certain amount from you, and everything else, you have a right to keep.  Therefore, you have an obligation to pay the part they have a right to, and no more.  If they demand more than they have a right to, then in principle, you don’t have to pay, though you don’t really want to get put in jail.  So, by all means, look for legal loopholes, to avoid paying more than you have to.

This paradigm is immensely unhelpful on a number of levels.  For one thing, it simply embroils us in endess and heated political disputes which seek to determine how much the government does and does not have a right to.  This would seem a very difficult question to resolve in abstract terms, and even more so to determine clearly in particular circumstances.  So it doesn’t really solve the problem, and any answer it gives us is one that is hardly theological.  More seriously, it represents a “rights” paradigm that should be excluded ipso facto for the Christian by the fact that “we are not our own.”  We do not even possess ourselves, much less our earthly possessions.  We are possessed by Christ, and all that we have is at his service.  If the government takes more than they ought to, then, it is not we who are robbed, but Christ, and he is more than capable of taking care of himself.  Likewise, we might say that the government does not have “rights” so that we “owe” them anything in an absolute sense.  We all stand before God, and are accountable only to him.  “The sons are free.”  However, we express this freedom in love and service to all.  The sons pay their taxes not because the government constrains them, but because the love of Christ constrains them, and because they are free, in any case, from bondage to their money.  It has no hold over them, so why not give it up? 

To decide whether or not we ought to pay taxes, then, it is not really relevant whether or not the government demands “their fair share,” whatever that might be.  Perhaps the tax rate should only be 20%, but it’s 50%.  Well, can you afford to pay 50%?  Then shut up and pay up.  This, I have suggested is the point of Romans 13.  No doubt the Roman government was extraordinarily unjust with their taxes.  But how does the Christian confront injustice?  Like Christ, by giving himself up on behalf of others.

(Now, I should add that this does not, of course, preclude any form of speaking up against injustice and oppression.  It may be unhelpful to try to pinpoint a “legitimate” amount of taxes the government can demand, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to recognize an exorbitant and harmful demand.  And there are godly ways to oppose this–at least, one would hope so!  I’ll try to touch on this in the third post–Tax Protesting.)


4. Charity is the rule

Now, this “on behalf of others” then leads us to the crucial point.  The Christian is to use their financial resources for the sake of others.  This is the controlling principle.  So, what if I’m planning to give 30% of my income to charity, and the government comes along and demands that 30%?  

Well, the principle that comes in here (one I’ve recently been focusing on in my Reformation research) is this: we are not bound to civil laws, except insofar as failure to obey is a sin against charity.  Now, first, the law itself may be an expression of charity, and so failure to obey it will be ipso facto a sin against charity.  Although we are inclined to be highly skeptical of the value of our laws, and can easily list off dozens of examples of bad laws, the fact is that most of our laws, at any rate in a modern Western country, do considerably more good than harm.  Despite all the wicked and inefficient things in the US budget, I would be willing to hazard that a majority of our tax money then does actually do some very good things (even if one wanted to argue that the same money might hypothetically do even more good if controlled by another entity).  And I would submit that it is our duty to give the benefit of the doubt, assuming the law is an expression of charity, and happily paying up, except where there is clear reason to think otherwise.


And what if there is?  Well, it’s still possible that disobeying will be a sin against charity.  I can think of at least three ways: a) because other good people think the law is good, and your disobedience would look evil to them, and would thus be a source of offence; b) because you get thrown into prison or something, which is probably not good for anybody; if the law is downright wicked, it may be worth it, but usually not; c) because a bad order is often better than no order at all, and while the taxes may be bad, a failure to pay them will be disruptive in a harmful way.  

One or all of these, presumably, is probably in view in Romans 13.  The taxes were themselves bad, both by virtue of demanding too much from poor people, and from the fact that the Roman government used this tax money for some very wicked things.  Despite all this, Paul says pay. (Brief excursus: this, in my view, is enough to refute the regular arguments that we shouldn’t pay taxes that will go to support abortion (as the right will object) or to support wicked wars (as the left will object).  While we are by all means to oppose such things, tax resistance does not seem to be the right way to do so, at least in the ordinary course of events.  And it seems clear that we do not incur guilt by forking over the money that is used for such things.)  To fail to pay would have been a failure of the Christian charity that Paul calls for here–it would look bad in the eyes of their neighbors and their rulers, even if it did not call down needless persecution on them, which it may have done; perhaps also he knew that the attitude of the Roman Christians was such that any disobedience on their part would not have been rightly motivated.


But this does not prove that Paul’s command would apply in every circumstance.  What if, for instance, your sister had just died and left her three children for you to care for and feed, and along comes the tax man, and you simply can’t afford to pay him?  Well then, you would do as charity demanded in this situation–not pay–at least, not beyond what you were able.  Obviously an extreme example.  In such a case, you would be legitimate in refusing payment even if somehow it did cause offence–the urgent need of another human being that you were in a position to relieve could take precedence over the tax demand, so that you ought first to look for legal ways to minimize your payment, and if necessary illegal ways.  Now, it’s important to be careful here.  Because there are always urgent needs of other human beings.  Can I say I’m not going to pay my taxes this year because there are desperately hungry people in Haiti who need that money instead?  Well, I suppose there would be some moral integrity in this position if I really did give every penny I could spare to these desperate people, and lived an ascetic life myself; but few people are going to do that.  At any rate, I think a good sense of vocation will come to our rescue here–you’re not called upon to shirk demands that God has put right in front of you–the laws of your country–for demands thousands of miles away.   

And, to come back to my little parenthetical excursus above, you may have noticed that I said “at least in the ordinary course of events.”  Might there be times when tax resistance is legitimate because of the wicked cause the money is going to?  I think so.  Imagine if in 1400, the English king came along and said, “I have to levy a huge additional tax to finance an expedition into France, so I can kill fellow Christians simply to increase my domain.”  (You know, hypothetically–as if such a thing could ever happen!)  I think Christians could say, “Heck no.  We will not be party to such wickedness!”  Of course, I think that this ought to, as much as possible, be a corporate action, something church leaders could agree on, instead of just individuals taking it upon themselves.  Likewise, if the US gov’t came along and said, “We need to raise an additional $10 billion to fund Planned Parenthood this year, and we’re going to do it by taxing such-and-such.”  In such a case, by all means mount a concerted resistance to paying taxes on such-and-such.  Of course, I still wouldn’t say that you are required to do so, and would be sinning ipso facto by paying the tax.  It may prove unrealistic to resist the tax.  But if it was doable, then I would say it would be legitimate.  The problem is that most taxes are not like this, and if one is not given the opportunity to selectively opt out of the downright wicked bits of the tax, then one is not given license to start resisting the whole thing.

So, assuming such extreme circumstances aren’t in place, then what?  Well, then, you could only avoid taxes if it were not a source of offence or harm–possibly.  Here’s the bar one would have to meet: IF (1) a tax were in itself bad–unjustly demanded, wickedly used, whatever–and (2) you wanted to put the tax money toward another use that was clearly for the benefit of others, not simply for yourself; and (3) you could do so–avoid paying the unjust or harmful tax–without causing disruption, getting yourself in trouble, causing others to stumble or being a bad example to others with less pure motives, THEN it seems to me you would be justified in avoiding the tax.  Now, the way I’ve put it, this would conceivably include even tax evasion (which is illegal) rather than mere tax avoidance (which is legal), if you were certain that you could get away with the evasion and thus avoid violating condition three.  But I’d be very hesitant to go there in practice; at any rate, it seems quite unlikely you could be sufficiently certain, so you’d have to have a really darn good reason for it.  On the whole, this is quite a high bar to meet, and the capacity for self-deception is high.  If Christian love is our guide, in any case, we will not go in with an attitude of looking at a checklist to try to justify exploiting tax loopholes…rather, we would only go in that direction if love was otherwise driving us toward it by putting other more urgent demands before us.  


So much for paying.  But can we pay up scrupulously and fully and still protest the injustice, the inefficiency, the idiocy of our taxes?  In a final post, I’ll try to explore this question a bit.

Nestorian or Universalist? Hart on Two Kingdoms

Although Darryl Hart, the stalwart and combative online defender of VanDrunen’s “Reformed two kingdoms” paradigm, has thus far (remarkably) left me almost entirely alone, my recent post on VanDrunen, Hooker, and Christology was brought to his attention via Nelson Kloostermann and elicited an interesting response:

Criticisms of 2k theology keep coming and a major source of opposition is the distinction between Christ’s rule as redeemer in distinction from his rule as creator. For some, this kind of division within Christ could wind up in the error of Nestorianism. And yet, I wonder how you avoid Rob Bell’s error of universalism without this distinction.” 

Now, oddly enough, nowhere in this post does Hart seek to confront or deflect the charge of Nestorianism, or of Christological confusions more generally.  Instead, the apparent logic of the post is “Well, Nestorian or not, it doesn’t matter, because it’s necessary, by golly!”  I could, in other words, triumphantly take this as a tacit acknowledgment of the basically Nestorian posture of the R2K movement.  Now, I daresay Dr. Hart would disclaim this interpretation; indeed, he would probably say that the reason he didn’t address the charge was that it was so patently absurd as not to warrant engagement.  However, as I did offer some rather detailed engagement with VanDrunen’s own words in several posts, and some careful analysis of their Christological implications, and as this is a very serious issue, I think some engagement or attempt at rebuttal is necessary.  

In any case, it’s worth pausing to try and see what is behind Hart’s somewhat perplexing counter-charge of universalism, and why the R2K Christology does rather more than guarding against this error.

 Hart says,

“This is what I have in mind. Most Reformed Protestants would likely admit that Glenn Beck and I have different relationships with Jesus Christ as savior and lord…In other words, when I pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come,” I am praying with regard to Beck that he become part of the kingdom, not that Christ would defend Beck and the rest of the church as part of the kingdom of grace’s battle with the kingdom of Satan….

 …if the kingdom is so broadened to include unbelievers and believers in it, then you seem to enter the ballpark of universalism where all God’s children are God’s children – you know, the fatherhood of God and the siblinghood of all people.

We do have, however, an easy way around the problem. It is to distinguish between Christ’s rule over Glenn Beck as creator, and his rule over me as creator and redeemer. I don’t know of any other way to avoid the problems of Anabaptism or Constantinianism than by affirming this distinction. Without it, Glenn Beck is not my worldly foe, but my brother in Christ. (If only.)”

In other words, clearly we must distinguish between the way Christ exercises his lordship over his saints, and the way he exercises lordship over unbelievers.  We must say that he does the former as redeemer, and the latter as creator.  And therefore, we must say the whole VanDrunenian nine yards–that there are two kingdoms, a spiritual which Christ rules as incarnate God-man, and a civil which he rules as eternal divine Son.


Now first of all, it’s worth noting that the “universalism” issue is a red herring.  There are all kinds of ways to avoid universalism, to distinguish between Christ’s rule over believers and over unbelievers.  For instance, one could give a Van Tillian antithesis account of how Christ relates to the two, an account that would not at all distinguish between “civil” and “spiritual” kingdoms.  But of course, Hart wants not only to assert the difference between me and Glenn Beck, but a sense in which we are precisely the same.  Therefore, he wants to say that Christ (or, if we are to be all precise and VanDrunenian about it, “the Son”) relates to Glenn Beck only civilly, whereas he relates to me both civilly and spiritually.  The distinction, in short, is not between the believer living in one relation to Christ and the unbeliever in another relation, but is in fact that the believer himself lives in two totally different relations to Christ.  This is what he’s really after–avoiding universalism without being an Anabaptist or Constantinian–which is, I must say, a rather different claim than the one he makes at the outset.


Now, my problem with the R2Ks is not that they distinguish between different aspects of Christ’s work, or different “offices” of Christ, or different relations in which Christ exists toward different people.  Everyone can acknowledge that.  But that isn’t, I don’t think, sufficient for what VanDrunen and Co. want to do.  (This replies also, by the way, to an unanswered comment on my original post, that suggested that the “Nestorian” tendencies were perhaps just careless language, and that the language of distinct “offices” of the one person Christ Jesus could serve the same purpose.)  For what they are seeking is an account of two different relations of Christ that are not complementary.  Christ’s work of redemption does not complement his work of creation, but stands completely unrelated to it.  Christ’s work of creation does not undergird his work of redemption, either, except in the purely formal sense that only beings that first exist can be redeemed.  This is what they want in their political theology: a civil sphere that is not oriented toward Christ’s work of redemption–that makes no claims about it, that is not affected by it, to which redemption is quite irrelevant.  It carries on its work in its own terms, without need of Christ’s revelation or redemption, and without contribution to the ongoing work of redemption; and an ecclesial sphere that is not concerned with matters relating to the creation, or of trying to influence any human social realities other than those called into being by Christ’s redeeming work.  These two realms have different subject matters, different ends, different standards, different ethical postures, etc.  

So, can we really say that Jesus Christ created the world without a view toward his intended work of redemption and new creation?  Can we really say that he came to redeem us without respect to our relation to him as his creatures?  No.  If so, there is really no reason why it had to be the same person; God might as well have sent the Spirit to do the work of redemption.  It is no surprise, in view of this, that VanDrunen denies that we should really call the creator of the world “Christ”–he is for all practical purposes a different person, carrying on an unrelated task.  On the contrary, to be orthodox we must affirm that these two works were completely complementary–they have no meaning without one another.  Creation can only be understood in terms of new creation, and new creation can only be understood in terms of the original creation.  How are Christ’s works to have meaning except in light of one another?  Redemption is the undoing of sin, and sin is the undoing of the original creation–therefore, creation provides the categories for understanding redemption, and vice versa.  


And this being so, it has political-theological consequences.  It means that Christ’s redemptive work in the Church always challenges the fallenness and incompleteness of the creation that this work enters into, giving us ethical imperatives that do not leave surrounding social structures or practices unaffected.  It means that the created structures that Christ governs as creator are to be redirected in light of redemption, and must serve Christ’s redemptive work in the Church.  They may, of course, in many cases not do so, may merely serve to perpetuate the structures of fallen creation.  This is of course not wholly bad, inasmuch as creation, however fallen, is still good, but it is not sufficient.  Christians will insist that the imperfect structures of creation be re-ordered in service to Christ’s redeeming purpose.  Which is, of course, precisely what Calvin and the Reformers said, I have to add.