Book Review: Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms

churchstate-300x186

Series: Emory University Studies in Law and Religion

Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdsmans Publishing Co.

Copyright: 2010

ISBN: 978-0802864437

Pages: 512

Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms can be summarized as a survey of the historically reformed Christians position on the two key concepts of the Two Kingdoms and Natural Law. Those two terms in the title are the key to understanding this book both in how the data the author uses to interpret the reformed position on these two concepts along with how they work themselves out in both the civil and ecclesiastical realms.

The book is an excellent work of collating the historical position on these two concepts going all the way back to Pre-Reformation area with Augustine all the way down to Greg Bahnsen and R.J. Rushdooney. One of the main reasons that I picked up this book is that I could not find a book that has attempted such a large venture and the author should be commended for such a work. The author does a good job of defining what he means when he interprets what Natural Law means from the historical sources he cites.

In regards to the term, “Natural Law” the book essentially defines it as the decalogue applied to unregenerate man being made in the image of God. It is vital to understand that this term has nothing to do with the Ecclesiastical part of the book (this is covered in the Two Kingdoms term), but purely in the civil realm in regards to how un-generate man can rule the civil realm in righteousness and justice. This presents a problem from the Christian Reformed position in that the assertion has always been that although man has been created in the image of God, man is dead in trespasses and sins. This is no problem when it comes to the doctrine of the church, but with this book the position is negated when it comes to the civil realm and the “Natural Law” of man.  The author claims early in the book that he’s not trying to defend the position in the book, but merely to express what the historical Reformed Christian position has been on the subject. If you do read this book you will begin to see that the author holds to the actual premise that he’s attempting to demonstrate: that the Reformed position is providing chapter by chapter is the correct one and deviations from this are wrong and heretical.

The second motif in the book has to do with the Two Kingdoms. This is where the role of the church and the role of the state is expounded from the historical Reformed Christian sources he documents. The author seems to handle this in a more consistent way until towards the end of the book when he discusses Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen. It’s the classic position where the church operates in it’s own sphere of church doctrine and discipline and the state (civil polity) operates in its own realm in governing and legislating according to it’s own doctrines and precepts. The author essentially puts Christ Kingdom into two domains: Christ as Creator and Christ as Redeemer. The domain of Christ as creator is argued to mean that Christ governs the civil realm as Creator along with the providence he gives to unregenerate man through natural law and the other domain being Christ as Redeemer where he rules and governs his church by His Word. Natural Law is the link in the authors chain as to how he justifies these two kingdoms.

A key and problematic theme that is recognized in the book is an appeal to pagan authors and authorities more so on the Natural Law side than the Two Kingdom side, but one that is most disturbing. There’s even a section in the book where the author appears to be passively mocking those that would have God’s law as the standard in the civil realm as ‘Biblicists’. This seems to me to be most disturbing given his Reformed Christian presuppositions.

I did find it interesting on his response to Bahnsen’s theonomic position, but then again it aligns with the whole argument of leaving sinful man to rule the civil realm and only expecting the regenerate in Christ to rule the ecclesiastical realm. You will also find in this book that when it came to the Reformed tradition actually executing their presuppositions that the author articulates various consistencies come to light. He highlights some of this in Calvin’s Geneva with the execution of Servetus being the best use case against the authors position since he was executed for an ecclesiastical charge and not one bound in the law of the civil realm at that time.

Concluding the book is a good survey of the historical Reformed position on the two areas of Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, but the premise that this position is correct or even consistent for that matter is questionable. As a Reformed Christian, I believe the Reformers were spot on in regards to the various doctrines of the church that they expounded and fought for, I just don’t think their position in the civil realm has been consistent for biblically driven enough to warrant the position that the author assumes. If the Scriptures are to be the only rule for faith in life, this includes the civil as well as the ecclesiastical realm.

 

Pushing The Antithesis – Part 3 – Defining Worldviews

beermat_apologetics.012-300x225The third part of the series has to do with as the title suggests, defining worldviews. The actual definition for what a worldview is plays a critical role in understanding the presuppositions one brings to the table for interpreting reality, knowledge, and ethics.

One of the reoccurring themes you will notice through this blog series is Bahnsen’s emphasis on the myth of neutrality. This becomes even more apparent when defining what a worldview actually is. In each of the major domains of a worldview you must assert truth’s in each area and this itself removes the option of neutrality. An assertion has only a binary conclusion; true or false.

Bahnsen defines a worldview as:

“A worldview is a network of presuppositions(which are not verified by the procedures of natural science) regarding reality(metaphysics), knowing(epistemology), and conduct(ethics) in terms of which every element of human experience is related and interpreted.”

Another quote worth providing is viewing the Christian faith as a complex system:

“We must recognize that the Christian faith is a complex system of mutually-supported, interwined beliefs filling out a broader interdependent worldview.”

Like in Systems Engineering each component affects the overall health of the whole system, so each element of a worldview affects that worldview as a whole. Each subcomponent functions as a link in the chain and if one link is inconsistent with the others the system will break down. The Christian faith is no different, which is why the Bible must be the only rule for faith, life, and apologetics, otherwise Christianity will self-destruct on the sand of human autonomy.
 

Recommended Reading

Bahnsen, Greg, “Worshipping the Creature Rather Than the Creator

Hurd, Wesley, “Me and my Worldview

Moore, T.M., “Beyond Creation vs. Evolution: Taking the Full Measure of the Materialist Challenge

Nickel, James, “Mathematics: Is God Silent?

Stump, James, “Science, Metaphysics, and Worldviews

Pushing The Antithesis – Part 2 – Destroying Philosphical Fortresses

beermat_apologetics.012-300x225The second part of the series has to do with taking down philosophical fortresses. Although we have not covered chapter 3 on worldviews you may consider this prep work as a number of principles will nicely lead into the next series.

Try to understand why the unbelieving mind is hostile to the Christian worldview; understand why no one can be neutral and still remain philosophically consistent; what is meant by the “noetic” effects of sin.

 

The main points to be observed from this chapter are:

  • Factually we must recognize that the unbeliever is not neutral.
  • Morally, we must understand that the believer should not be neutral.
  • Any claim to neturality is a pretense, and it is philosophically impossible.
  • “Noetic” is derived from the Greek word, nous, which means “mind”.
  • This is one aspect of the doctrine of “total depravity”, which declares that the fall reaches deep down into a man’s very being, even to his mind, and his reasoning faculties.
  • The world and the universe do not operate randomly by blind chance or under their own inherent power.
  • In fact, you will even give account for every “idle word” that you speak (Matt 12:36).
  • None of your words is neutral; each one is subject to God’s evaluative judgement.
  • We are not saying unbelievers “know nothing.” We are saying that they do not know anything “truly,” because they do not recognize the most fundamental reality: All facts are God-created facts, not brute facts.

Recommended Reading

Flashing, Sarah J., “The Myth of Secular Neutrality: Unbiased Bioethics?

Kruger, Michael J., “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics

Oliphant, Scott, “The Noetic Effects of Sin

Woodward, Thomas E., “Staring Down Darwinism: A Book Review

Pushing the Antithesis – Part 1: The Myth of Neutrality

beermat_apologetics.012-300x225I had acquired through a friend on Twitter, a copy of Greg Bahnsen’s, “Pushing the Antithesis“. As such I have decided to publish a blog post for each chapter. This is the first of twelve blog posts. Each post will consist of some key bullet points along with some recommend reading links where available.

As the chapter title suggests, Dr. Bahnsen puts to bed the supposed “neutrality” that anyone has let along the Christian.

 

The main points to be observed from this chapter are:

  • This “neutral” approach is neither biblical nor effective.
  • Christians must not set aside their faith commitment even temporarily in an attempt to approach the unbeliever on “neutral ground”.
  • If you don’t start with God as your basic assumption, you can’t prove anything./
  • The assumption of God’s existence required to all reasoning.
  • Evolution theory is taken for granted throughout the college curriculum, just as it is in all aspects of modern though and experience.
  • Modern education is effectively subliminal advertising for atheism.
  • The university and the media supposedly encourage neutrality by urging tolerance of all views.
  • But we are all aware that the Christian view is seldom given equal tolerance.
  • The Christian who strives for neutrality unwittingly endorses assumptions which are hostile to his faith.
  • Simply put, you cannot adopt a position of neutrality toward God if you are to remain faithful to Christ.
  • The Bible claims infallible and obligatory authority which demands commitment to its truth claims.
  • Such neutrality actually amounts to skepticism regarding the existence of God and the authority of His Word.
  • He (Satan) suggested that she must remain neutral in order to decide who was right, God or Satan. She did not accept God’s word as authoritative and conclusive, but as a true neutralist, determined for herself which option to take. (Gen 3:4-6)
  • Robert South (1634-1716) said, “He who would fight the devil with his own weapons, must not wonder if he finds himself over matched.”
  • Van Til – “there simply is no presupposition-free and neutral way to approach reasoning.”
  • A true biblical apologetic does not set aside Christ from our hearts, but sets apart Christ in our hearts.

Recommended Reading

Bahnsen, Greg L., Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith

Demar, Gary, Thinking Straight in a Crooked World: A Christian Defense Manual

Gentry, Kenneth L., Jr., Defending the Faith: An Introduction to Biblical Apologetics

Security Links for March 2016

SecureCode_product offering Here are some new security-related (for the most part ;) links from the month of March 2016

Bitcoin Wisdom – Trading-type Terminal for Bitcoin – https://bitcoinwisdom.com/

Zone Transfer Tutorial – https://digi.ninja/projects/zonetransferme.php

Debian Hardening Wiki – https://wiki.debian.org/Hardening

Standard Password Manager for UNIX – https://www.passwordstore.org/

Is your Browser safe against tracking? – https://panopticlick.eff.org

Have I been Pwned? – https://haveibeenpwned.com/

CryptoPals -Cool CTF for Crypto – http://cryptopals.com/

Nice Tool to Tell What CMS A Site is Running – https://whatcms.org/

A simple SSL/TLS proxy with mutual authentication for securing non-TLS services – https://github.com/square/ghostunnel

Find out if a site is down globally – http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/

DNS Zone Transfer Tool – https://github.com/stryngs/axfr-tools

Nice Coding Guide for N00bs – http://download-mirror.savannah.gnu.org/releases/pgubook/ProgrammingGroundUp-1-0-booksize.pdf

Ransomware seems to be popular these days. Here’s a site that tracks the variants – https://ransomwaretracker.abuse.ch/tracker/

Need I say more? – http://www.routerpwn.com/

Security Links for February 2016

SecureCode_product offeringMade a blunder on the droplet that runs this blog on Digital Ocean and lost the previous two security link blogs. Luckily had a backup from August that I was able to restore from. Anyways, here’s the security links for February 2016.

Application Security Learning Resources – https://github.com/paragonie/awesome-appsec#application-security-learning-resources

A Dead Simple TCP Intercepting Proxy Tool Set – https://www.praetorian.com/blog/trudy-a-dead-simple-tcp-intercepting-proxy-mitm-vm

Let’s Encrypt Audit – https://community.letsencrypt.org/t/independent-audits-of-lets-encrypt-finished/6518

Introducing the Keybase filesystem – Sounds like a sane approach to encrypting data at rest – https://keybase.io/docs/kbfs

Securely Hash Passwords – https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/211/how-to-securely-hash-passwords

An Interesting Online Scanner – https://www.censys.io/

Another Attempt at Creating a Secure Linux Distro – https://www.parabola.nu/

An open-source network simulator/emulator hybrid (Tor & Bitcoin) – https://shadow.github.io/
For Encrypting/Decrypting Data on the Fly – https://encipher.it/

Red Team Field Manual – http://www.amazon.com/Rtfm-Red-Team-Field-Manual/dp/1494295504/ref=pd_bxgy_14_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=19V4X7X4WW7215V446N7

Decentralized DNS 
for Blockchain Applications – https://blockstack.org/

Github Bounty Program – https://bounty.github.com/index.html#open-bounties

Send An Urgent Message to a Friend When your in Trouble (i.e. Feds are knocking at your door) – http://www.snapmailemergency.com/

Get your cheap exploits here – http://cheapbugs.net/#home

Educating Youth for Cyber Security Careers

security-icon-01This past week I attended the Northeast Ohio Cyberconsortium conference sponsored by a number of entities in the Cleveland,Oh area. The goal of the conference was to stimulate a collaborative effort around building up and sharing information around Cyber Security as it relates to the North East Ohio area. One of the main talks was about the skills shortage in Information Security and what should be done to increase the talent pool. The proposition(they loved throwing this word around) offered was to build educational programs in the school systems around Cyber Security at as early of an age as possible. I think the NSA said that they get the gifted ones as early as 3rd grade and for security we should consider preschool.

The goal is an excellent ones, but the reductionist attitude offered presents a number of challenges. The one problem is that you simply cannot teach Information Security as an isolated discipline. There are a number of prerequisites that are necessary before you can even start to teach kids security. To name a few:

  • Computer Architecture – X86/X64/ARM
  • Operating Systems – UNIX/Windows/OSX/Android/IOS
  • Programming – Powershell/Python/Perl/Bash
  • Networking – TCP/IP, OSI, Ethernet, Wifi
  • These are all complex domains by themselves and then add on to that the various security principles that need to be applied and you can see it’s not as cut and dry as you may think.

    Then there are the ethical challenges in that to really understand how to secure things is you have to understand how to break things. This will no doubt create dilemmas with existing school policy and what the kids can currently do with school equipment.

    So I think what really needs to happen to make this achievable is a complete rewrite of existing educational plans. I think a structure more like college should be implemented where kids that are interested in a given domain like Cyber Security can elect to make it their ‘major’ and by doing so a specific roadmap would be produced for their educational career.

    The other thing to keep in mind is not all kids will be interested in such a field nor have an aptitude as you need to think about problems in a very detailed and logical way and not everyone’s brain is wired this way.

    Let’s Encrypt Talk @ Debconf15

    ssl1-150x150At this years Debconf15, a nice overview of the Let’s Encrypt project was given that you can view here. It’s a nice exposition as to the current broken state of CA’s and the projects plan to solve them. Let’s Encrypt is going to be making free certificates available in the next month or so.

    Will this be a game changer for commercial CA’s that make their profit off of selling certificates? Probably not in the short term and a large part of the answer will depend upon adoption and getting the Root & Issuing CA’s added to the trusted browser stores.

    Security Implementations & Scaling

    SecureCode_product offeringI have been doing Information Security for a decade and a half and there is a disturbing pattern that still to this day has not abated. That pattern involves more of a philosophy than the actual scaling you would need to for designing a security solution for an organization. The scaling law I’m talking about is one that is usually recognized too late in the implementation process, namely the post-production phase of a project.

    What I’m referring to is the amount of output you have to deal with that is a result of implementing a security solution without considering the resources necessary to manage and the resulting business process that need to accommodate this reality.

    One of the best use cases that demonstrates this phenomena is around the implementation of a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solution for an enterprise. A typical DLP solution usually involves three main areas:

  • Data in Motion – Data that traverses the network
  • Data at Rest – Data that is stored on disk
  • Endpoint Data – Data that typically is read and written to removable media
  • You have a number of approaches you could take. The most reasonable would be to focus on one of the three areas that consider was vital and to scale the scope of the inspections to very specific set of criteria. Is this how most DLP deployments go? No, instead usually all three are turned on at the same time and there is no scaling back of the criteria.

    The result; more incidents and false-positives than fleas at the Westminster Canine convention. Once this scenario is encountered you end up scaling back your efforts and loss at least 3 months of progress. So do yourself a favor when implementing a security solution and understand what our outputs are before they are produced.

    Warfield’s Apologetic Error

    bb-warfield-1851-1921-grangerOne of the most important aspects of any aspect of Christianity is that it is itself a complete system. Try to isolate any one component from the system and the same is no longer consistent. We see good example of this expounded by Greg Bahnsen in his book on Van Til’s apologetic in regards to B.B.Warfields method of apologetics:

    “We thus see two things about the philosophical (epistomological) perspective which Warfield encouraged the apologist to take: it should be (1) outside of a commitment to Scripture and (2) in agreement with the right reason of the unbeliever-in a word, autonomous.”

    Here we see two grave mistakes; one in that God’s authoritative word is not relevant at the outset of our dialogue with the unbeliever and two that Scriptures themselves must bow down to the rationality of the unbeliever before they can be accepted. So right out of the gate the Christian apologist who takes this approach is already defeated since the whold foundation for which he/she stands (The Holy Scriptures) is removed as a foundational basis for the apologetic and therefore it’s just a matter of whose rationality is more convincing.

    I hope you can see another danger in this approach and that this approach is reduced to mere opinion and probability among may ideas. Of course this will fail from a pure reasoning standpoint with the unbeliever, because the unbeliever has become vain in his reasoning (Romans 1:21), and he cannot receive the things of the Spirit, because they are foolishness. (I Cor 2:14)

    Let us remember that apologetics just like theology, evanlgelism, and philosophy are all part of a single system derived from the single authoratitive source of God’s Word.

    Source of Quote: Van Til’s Apologetic – Greg Bahnsen