We’re continuing our study of eschatology in session 52 of the Guided Reading Course with an essay by David Field entitled “Samuel Rutherford and the Confessionally Christian State,” which appears in A Higher Throne (ed. Chris Green; Nottingham: IVP, 2008).
David’s essay evaluates the arguments for and against a “Confessionally Christian State,” that is, a state which explicitly and deliberately seeks
(1) to base its constitution upon the declaration that the triune God is the Creator and Ruler of all things and that Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth; and
(2) to base its statutes upon the infallible word of God, the Bible.
David’s essay draws upon the Reformed tradition as exemplified in Samuel Rutherford’s Lex, Rex, and considers the various alternative proposals found among both secularists and Christians.
A version of the essay is available online at http://davidpfield.com/other/RutherfordCCS.pdf, though page references in the questions below relate to the published version.
a. Would you like to live in a Christian theocracy?
b. “I wouldn’t support a campaign for Christian theocracy – that’s no different from a Muslim demanding Sharia Law.” Discuss.
1. In what two ways is “evangelical defeatism” a “failure of ... perspective” (pp. 85-86)? What are the consequences of this failure (pp. 86-87)? How would Samuel Rutherford react (p. 87)?
2. How would Samuel Rutherford respond to the claim that “belief in a confessional state produces, or at least tends to, a fundamental intolerance” (p. 89)?
3. What are “the main lines of Rutherford’s argument” (p. 90) in Lex, Rex?
4. How could “those who want a confessionally Christian state ... be identified” (p. 92)?
5. Explain how the “three questions” which “may be asked about the relationship between the lordship of Jesus and the kings of the earth” (p. 93) enable us to distinguish (a) Christians from non-Christians; and (b) Christians who support the confessionally Christian state from those who oppose it.
6. Consider in turn each of the “sixteen objections to a confessionally Christian state” (p. 94). In each case, please be ready (a) to explain how the objection might be expanded or strengthened (for example, with specific biblical texts or further theological arguments); and (b) to explain and defend your view of each objection.
7. Can you explain how the argument for “no favoured confession” actually leads either to arbitrariness or tyranny (pp. 108-111)?
8. What is wrong with so-called “principled pluralism” (pp. 112-114)?
9. Why is “natural law” important for principled pluralists (p. 114)? What are the “three versions of the natural law argument” (pp. 114-115)?
10. How does David respond to these natural law arguments (pp. 115-117)? Do you agree?
11. What do you make of the overall thrust of David’s argument in this essay?