“What do you mean by culture?” sneered New York Gov. Mario Cuomo on “Face the Nation” last week. “That’s a word they used in Nazi Germany.”
~Sam Francis, Shots Fired, p. 1
Though overshadowed by the work of his uncle Cornelius, Henry Van Til did attain a level of notoriety in his own right by his maxim, “Culture is religion externalized.” This proposition has come to both a greater prominence and a narrowing application over time with the rise of Alienism in the Reformed churches. As Alienists grope for some means to undergird their convictions that heredity is meaningless, if not evil, and spirit is the sole component of the Christian’s constitution, they have canonized Henry Van Til’s definition of culture. They have taken advantage of the season marked conspicuously by the suicide of the institutional churches, denominations, and seminaries to quietly append this proverb to Calvinism as if it had always been an essential and unassailable aspect of the Christian creed.
Let us then examine this new stipulation being grafted onto the Reformed faith: if Alienists invoke Van Til’s maxim with the same gravity that they otherwise reserve for the Doctrines of Grace, the Three Forms of Unity, or the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, as if it were an authoritative summation of the orthodox position, settling all debate, we must at least be circumspect enough to pause a moment and ask the obvious question – was Van Til right? Are cultures naught but religion lived? Doctrine manifest in the otherwise nondescript husk of an indifferentiable mankind?
To answer this question, we turn first to Van Til’s own opening words on the subject: in the first paragraph of the preface of his book, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, he defines culture as “the secondary environment which has been superimposed upon nature by man’s creative effort.” In the main, this tracks with the elder agrarian definition of culture: the cultivation of nature; so comes the term “horticulture.”
To this point, the only tension between his social definition and the horticultural definition lies in his use of the word “superimposed.” This means something quite different from cultivation. In fact, it means the near opposite. For where cultivation of nature is bringing nature to the fullness of its potential, redeeming it, fulfilling the destiny of its design, “superimposing” man’s imagination upon nature would seem not to cultivate, but rather overthrow, mute, attenuate, or de-nature nature.
Is the substance of Paradise Regained rightly understood as the transmogrification of nature into something unconnected to its own telic distinctions, or its redemption and renewal unto its original design and purpose under God? To take Van Til’s maxim as Alienists now invoke it, one must, among other things, stand the entire Christian category of redemption on its head. Because there is no actual redemption of man’s nature in their schema, only a transfiguration of the physical man into a purely spiritual entity.
But to his credit (and the demerit of modern Alienists), we find these facts were not wholly lost on Van Til, as he elaborates:
That man as a covenantal creature is called to culture cannot be stressed too much. For the Lord God, who called him into being, also gave him the cultural mandate to replenish the earth and to have dominion over it. (Ibid.)
So here we see that Van Til was cognizant of the fact that the cultural mandate is concerned with the “cultivation” and “replenishment” of nature, not its abrogation, as Alienists insist. But when he turns to entertain the alternative – that the cultural mandate might not be for the replenishment of nature, but its abnegation – he makes a stunning admission:
To say that culture is man’s calling in the covenant is only another way of saying that culture is religiously determined. This fact has been quite generally recognized by such eminent cultural philosophers as Brunner, Tillich and Kroner. Tillich’s Theology of Culture did not appear until the manuscript for this book had gone to the publishers, so that I was unable to react to it. However, although my purpose was not mainly polemical but historical, that is, to trace the rootage for what I choose to call the Calvinistic concept of culture, I may say that although I agree with the Existentialist theologians (Tillich, c.s.), that religion is an ultimate concern and lies at the heart of culture, my theology is worlds apart from theirs. A critical analysis of Tillich’s existential concept of the Christ of culture merits separate treatment and is, personally, very appealing.
That is to say, he admits his thesis (that culture is wholly religious) had historically been a product not of the Calvinist perspective, but existential philosophy and/or neo-orthodoxy. He candidly informs us that he is breaking with Calvinists and Calvinism proper, to shoehorn an existentialist social theory into Calvinist thought. For the most part, his book is an attempt to explain how he fits that square peg into the round hole, and why it really belongs there, in spite of all indication to the contrary.
But the theory of culture being wholly the product of mind has a more eclectic pedigree still, and goes back further than he dare admit. The entirety of modern developmental psychology is predicated upon just this concept – environmentalism – the notion that humans are all born tabulae rasae, blank slates; and that the whole of our behaviors, tastes, and talents are dictated by the dogmas, customs, taboos, and habits under which we are reared. Nurture (i.e., religion) over nature, mind over matter. The conceptual lineage of Van Til’s theory comes through modern psychoanalytics as canonized by that sublime subversive work, The Authoritarian Personality, penned and published by devotees of the Frankfurt School of cultural Marxism – and that, resting uncontestedly upon the work of Freud.
Just as Marx described his system as the extension of the French Enlightenment, so too had Rousseau and Locke espoused the same theory of culture in advance of the cultural Marxists and Van Til. Just like our modern Alienists, the Marxists and the Jacobins before them insisted that heredity made no contribution to man’s social expression. To revolutionary thought, only ideology signifies, because as they see it, physical man is just a random bag of protoplasm, impersonal matter in motion, equal to all and distinct from none. In spite of the solemnity now lent to these ideas by Alienist lecterns, such notions used to be unthinkable to Christians, because they are the obvious inverse of biblical anthropology.
If the reader doubts these ideas to accord with contemporary secular anthropology, I would refer him to Jared Diamond’s recent bestseller – which was met with rave reviews from academia – Guns, Germs and Steel. The controlling premise of that work, and the field it so well typifies, is that Europeans came to rule the world and create everything we think of with respect to Western culture (art, technology, literature, law, medicine, philanthropy, etc.) not by anything endemic to the European himself, but only by virtue of the conceptual circumstances (ideas, technology, hygiene, ethics, philosophy, etc.) imposed on him from without, by the northwesterly environment itself. The only difference between Diamond’s explanation and that of the Alienist-Christian is that the former attributes Western ideals to environmental accident, while the latter calls those environmental circumstances “providence.” Otherwise, they agree on the mechanics of mind and spirit submerging all the unique aspects of individual men and finite groups.
And this they emphasize foremost whenever the uncomfortable reality of the near one-to-one correspondence of European-Western culture with historic Christendom barges its way into the conversation. This often drives them only deeper into the marshes of critical deconstructionism, inclining men such as Peter Leithart to even argue that historic Christendom was foremost an African civilization, not European. Yes, he really makes that argument, unbelievable as it is.
Do not miss the irony in all this: Alienists are co-opting a distinctly pagan (secular humanist) theory of culture as they simultaneously deny that Christianity can redeem anything pagan to Christian use. However, Alienists would be scandalized to learn that Henry Van Til himself did not hold his thesis as they do, as a trump card or anything approaching a settled theological law. He concludes the preface of his book thusly:
However, let no one conclude from the sometimes passionate affirmation of certain propositions that I consider my definition of Calvinistic culture definitive or conclusive. Rather, the author seeks by a tentative statement to elicit further explication and critical analysis, in order that the Calvinistic community may become increasingly articulate concerning culture and its religious roots. In that sense my efforts may be construed as contributing toward a definition of Calvinistic culture. (Ibid.)
So we see that Van Til proffered this thesis most tentatively, in the full expectation that others would amend it to better comport with Calvinism proper. Which means that the modern Alienists who’ve come to cite Van Til’s maxim as the ironclad benchmark of orthodoxy would regard Van Til’s own skepticism of the principle as anti-Calvinistic. And this means that the corrective hand which he expected to amend his thesis is well overdue.
To begin with, the Protestant doctrine of vocation is at loggerheads with the idea. Dr. Gene Veith explains:
The doctrine of vocation amounts to a comprehensive doctrine of the Christian life, having to do with faith and sanctification, grace and good works. . . . It shows how Christians can influence culture.1
That is to say, the doctrine of vocation is causally entwined with any Christian manifestation of culture. Dr. Veith continues:
[The] doctrine of vocation encourages attention to each individual’s uniqueness, talents, and personality. These are valued as gifts from God, who creates and equips each person in a different way for the calling He has in mind for that person’s life. The doctrine of vocation undermines conformity, recognizes the unique value of every person, and celebrates human differences; but it sets these individuals into a community with other individuals, avoiding the privatizing self-centered narcissism of secular individualism.2
Vocation means, by etymology, a “calling.” It is an acknowledgement of teleology (purpose) in each of our individual, and group, designs. Some vocations are callings of God’s Law, such as duties toward parents, toward spouses, toward the clan, and toward the nation, but other callings are prescribed by the talents and passions allotted to us by heredity and the circumstances which our heredity fosters. One adopted into a musical household may early develop an appreciation of music, but if he was born tone-deaf, he will never find it his own vocation, whereas the child come of the same music-inclined and talent-bearing lineage as his family will more readily find his nature answering in accord to the environment and the family’s micro-culture.
Talents differ not by faith but by nature. And the Christian faith is the redemption of a man’s tangible aspects as much as his intangible aspects. The covenant cultivates those natural gifts to their right purposes and lawful expression under God. So speaks the Scripture:
But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. (1 Cor. 7:17)
Though the context of 1 Corinthians 7 is concerned primarily with the Christian’s responsibility to abide contentedly in whatever ethnicity, class, and status which God ordains to us by nature, it applies conceptually and contiguously to all the other aspects of His natural ordination in our lives such as talents, tastes, sensitivities, perceptions, and predilections: all of which are distributed by God differently along hereditary lines, clustered unequally in families, nations, and races. This fully explains the pluriformity of Christian cultures seen throughout history, and around us still. Such is the testimony of Abraham Kuyper, who defined the Calvinist concept of culture in diametric opposition to the Alienist interpretation of Van Til’s maxim.
The Javanese are a different race than us; they live in a different region; they stand on a wholly different level of development; they are created differently in their inner life; they have a wholly different past behind them; and they have grown up in wholly different ideas. To expect of them that they should find the fitting expression of their faith in our Confession and in our Catechism is therefore absurd. Now this is not something special for the Javanese, but stems from a general rule. The men are not all alike among whom the Church occurs. They differ according to origin, race, country, region, history, construction, mood and soul, and they do not always remain the same, but undergo various stages of development. Now the Gospel will not objectively remain outside their reach, but subjectively be appropriated by them, and the fruit thereof will come to confession and expression, the result may not be the same for all nations and times. The objective truth remains the same, but the matter in appropriation, application and confession must be different, as the color of the light varies according to the glass in which it is collected. He who has traveled and came into contact with Christians in different parts of the world of distinct races, countries and traditions cannot be blind for the sober fact of this reality. It is evident to him. He observes it everywhere.3
Why do Italians (mostly Catholic) speak with their hands? If religion alone dictates their culture, why would they differ so in habits of communication from, say, German Catholics in this respect? For that matter, why do Germans – Catholic, Protestant, and secular – feel compelled to make a word for everything? And why the compulsive hyper-cleanliness and minimalism of the Dutch? Sure, secularists have attributed it to economic causes, and that would still comport roughly with idealism being the sole determinant of culture, but for Christian Alienism, it doesn’t at all explain why the Dutch differ notably from other Christians in these respects. Nor does it explain why the Swiss hold far more intellectual property via patents per capita than any other group on earth. Why are the Scots so thrifty, so theologically discerning, and so shrewd? Why are Scandinavians (especially the northernmost) so unsentimental and stoic, and why do they produce such inordinate numbers of geniuses in science and art? Why are the Celts so poetic, and the Irish, in particular, such gifted writers? Why are Whites, in and out of the covenant, so philanthropic by comparison to other peoples, believers or not? Why are Whites, irrespective of religion, so enamored of their pets, and of animals in general? Why do Whites, Christian or no, gravitate so disproportionately toward endeavors which emphasize the stewardship of creation – things like farming, permaculture, gardening, forestry, land management, wildlife conservation, eco-science, etc.? Aside from White people (a tiny global minority), there would be no crusades for the welfare of endangered species, nor even any significant zoological studies to categorize them in the first place. Why do Whites, almost to the total exception of all other racial groups, take stewardship of orphaned children? Why are Whites in the church nigh exclusively the ones compelled to missions work, and that to the benefit of all races and nations? Really, when American churches (even metro/mixed congregations) send missionaries to Haiti, Mexico, or Africa, there are virtually no non-White faces to be found in those endeavors. This proves true even in local missiological efforts, as Whites predominate also in urban outreach programs. Why are there no missions to Africa or Haiti originating even in the ultra-wealthy Black churches, such as the ministry of Creflo Dollar?
And why are Africans so rhythmic? Even the in utero studies of fetal responses to music have shown unborn Black babies responded to hip hop music with pleasure and what can only be described as dancing, while the White babies cringed and grimaced at the same. This is a clear cultural predilection demonstrated prior to the impartation of any doctrine or social mores. And all of these unique characteristics have expressed themselves both inside and outside the context of Christendom. Contrary to the Alienists’ dogged assertions to the contrary, Christianity did not abolish these cultural distinctions, but rather redeemed them to Kingdom use.
If we reject the Kinist answer in favor of the Alienist vision – that all peoples are the same and that culture is determined entirely by religion – the fact that White Christians remain the near solitary obstructionists on the subject of interracial marriage in America is an irreconcilable mystery. And as Patheos notes, the same is the case with respect to sodomite marriage. Christians of other racial backgrounds are much more willing to redefine marriage, it seems. So, if worldview is entirely determined by religion as the Alienists allege, why do White Christians continue to vary so much from Christians of other backgrounds on social ethics?
On the subject of distinctly Christian education, J. Gresham Machen affirmed Kuyper’s view of a plurality of Christian cultures by identifying himself as a member of the liberty-loving Anglo-Saxon race:
In the presence of this apparent collapse of free democracy, any descendant of the liberty-loving races of mankind may well stand dismayed; and to those liberty-loving races no doubt most of my hearers tonight belong. I am of the Anglo-Saxon race; many of you belong to a race whose part in the history of human freedom is if anything still more glorious; and as we all contemplate the struggle of our fathers in the winning of that freedom which their descendants seem now to be so willing to give up, we are impressed anew with the fact that it is far easier to destroy than to create.4
And both Rev. Alexander Gregg and Dr. Palmer wrote approvingly of the character of “exceedingly clannish” Welsh Settlers of the Carolinas:
Such was the scene presented by this infant band of brothers in the early days of their history, with no court of justice in their midst to which conflicting claims and angry disputes might be referred, and no frowning gaol for the reception of the criminal. Nor were they needed . . . the voice of society, though newly formed in this southern home, was potent enough to silence the voice of the blasphemer, and make the evil-minded man pause in his ways. Simplicity of character seems to have been one of the most marked traits of the people; a virtue which has been transmitted through succeeding times to their descendants. . . . these virtues were strongly impressed upon the community they established. . . .
The Welsh brought with them to a new country those marked features for which their ancestors were known long before.5
Upon Gregg’s ruminations at the culture of the Welsh settlers, Rev. Thornwell would go on to comment:
The investigations of science will, perhaps, never interpret to us the law of transmission, by which characteristic traits are derived from parent to child, through which a distinct type is impressed upon families and tribes, and by which, more mysteriously still, the intellectual average is preserved in the race at large.6
So too has John Frame testified to the genuine Calvinist position:
Scripture, as I read it, does not require societies, or even churches, to be integrated racially. Jews and Gentiles were brought together by God’s grace into one body. They were expected to love one another and to accept one another as brothers in the faith. But the Jewish Christians continued to maintain a distinct culture, and house churches were not required to include members of both groups.7
The option dubiously tendered by Van Til, and subsequently propounded as the bar of orthodoxy amongst Alienists, was roundly denounced by Machen in his essay, “Christianity and Culture“:
The second solution goes to the opposite extreme. In its effort to give religion a clear field, it seeks to destroy culture. This solution is better than the first. Instead of indulging in a shallow optimism or deification of humanity, it recognizes the profound evil of the world, and does not shrink from the most heroic remedy. The world is so evil that it cannot possibly produce the means for its own salvation. Salvation must be the gift of an entirely new life, coming directly from God. Therefore, it is argued, the culture of this world must be a matter at least of indifference to the Christian. Now in its extreme form this solution hardly requires refutation. If Christianity is really found to contradict that reason which is our only means of apprehending truth, then of course we must either modify or abandon Christianity. We cannot therefore be entirely independent of the achievements of the intellect. Furthermore, we cannot without inconsistency employ the printing-press, the railroad, the telegraph in the propagation of our gospel, and at the same time denounce as evil those activities of the human mind that produced these things. And in the production of these things not merely practical inventive genius had a part, but also, back of that, the investigations of pure science animated simply by the desire to know. In its extreme form, therefore, involving the abandonment of all intellectual activity, this second solution would be adopted by none of us. But very many pious men in the Church today are adopting this solution in essence and in spirit. . . . Such men can never engage in the arts and sciences with anything like enthusiasm—such enthusiasm they would regard as disloyalty to the gospel. Such a position is really both illogical and unbiblical.
Over against which Machen defines the genuine Calvinist view of culture:
A third solution, fortunately, is possible—namely consecration. Instead of destroying the arts and sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God.
Isn’t this the same example set by the Apostle Paul in his citation and redemption of the heathen poets wherever they illustrated Christian principle?
Gordon H. Clark in his signal work, A Christian View of Men and Things, juxtaposes the two modern canons of historical interpretation against one another: Spengler’s theory of history at one extremity, and Toynbee’s at the other. And he upbraids both equally. Where Spengler followed Herodotus in the pagan cyclical theory of history, claiming no ultimate purpose or end, his metaphysical narrative yet depicts history as the march of peoples. Whereas, Tonybee’s linear view of history envisions all, after the Aristotelian perspective, primarily as the march of ideas. Both are in equal measure right and wrong, albeit in tension; they supplement each other well. And Francis Parker Yockey has resolved that tension equally well:
Race is the material of History, it is the treasure which a people brings to an idea.8
This was the view presupposed in every jot and tittle of Bishop James Ussher’s Annals of World History, as well as Augustine’s City of God: history is neither solely the march of peoples nor ideas, but both; because certain ideas only occur to and resonate with certain peoples in any appreciable numbers. As it pertains to the Gospel, we know certain groups have proven more receptive than others, and in varying degrees. Some groups seem to continue demonstrating Christian principle in their culture even when the inward substance of that culture has slipped away. Other groups, having long accepted Christianity in abstract, have never gone on to demonstrate it in their societies. And others still, such as the Pirahã people have proven thus far incapable of grasping the most rudimentary aspects of Christianity.
It is on this intersection of faith and folk that R.J. Rushdoony offers an addendum to Henry Van Til’s aphorism: “‘A faith for men to live by’ is the necessity and need of every race and nation. This faith must give meaning to man’s life, to his past, present, and future.”9 Of course, the thrust of Rushdoony’s contextualization is lifted almost verbatim from King Solomon: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any race” (Prov. 14:34). History is the march of covenanted families, tribes, nations, and peoples.
This is why Calvin addressed his Institutes of the Christian Religion not to the inhabitants of France (a geographical emphasis), nor to the king of the French government (a civil emphasis), nor by any Alienist abstraction, but to the King of the Franks (an ethnic emphasis). So too is it the reason why Luther had addressed his letter to the government of Germany as “to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.” The Reformers understood ethnic peoplehood as an essential aspect of the Christian worldview.
A constant in Scripture from the days of Seth, wherein the earth was divided between two great polarized nations, to the Table of Nations when the ethne were delineated into their separate identities (divinely reinforced by the confusion of tongues), to the founding of the nation of Israel as an exemplar to all the nations of the earth, to the genealogies of the tribes, to the royal genealogy of the Messiah, to the Great Commission (Matt. 28) wherein the nations are discipled and tutored in all God’s commands (including the Mosaic insularity codes), to Paul’s defense of the Gospel and nationalism at Mars Hill (Acts 17), to the consummation of the book of Revelation wherein we see “the glory and honor of the nations” streaming into the Kingdom of God (Rev. 21:26), the Faith is everywhere communicated in the context of finite people groups which abide eternally in heaven.
The Covenant spanning testaments old and new, in terms of baptism as much as circumcision, is everywhere concerned with toledots – the proliferation of covenanted lines inheriting the land to a thousand generations under the dominion of the King of all kings and kindreds, Lord of all nations and nationalities.
Whether we speak of catechism or inherited disposition and the interaction between them, there is nothing we have which we have not received. With Cornelius Van Til, we can say it is by the power of the “All-Conditioner,” Christ alone.
I saw the power of God in nature and His providence in the course of history. That gave the proper setting for my salvation, which I had in Christ. . . .
The telling of this story has helped, I trust, to make the basic question simple and plain. You know pretty clearly now what sort of God it is of which I am speaking to you. If my God exists it was He who was back of my parents and teachers. It was He who conditioned all that conditioned me in my early life. But then it was He also who conditioned everything that conditioned you in your early life. God, the God of Christianity, is the All-Conditioner!10
And even if the Alienists refuse to interact with the fact, Henry Van Til ultimately agreed with his uncle:
[A] people’s religion comes to expression in its culture, and Christians can be satisfied with nothing less than a Christian organization of society.11
But when reverend Bret McAtee dared clarify the matter by rephrasing the motto at issue as that “culture is religion poured over ethnicity,” Bojidar Marinov and his merry band of lickspittles dismissed it as a “Kinist Koncept of Kulture,” and declared all who held any such view “pagan dogs.”
Comrade Bojidar may be beyond the reach of rational conversation on the subject, but suffice it to say, the definition tendered by pastor Bret was no novelty. In point of fact, much of Henry Van Til’s discourses on the matter appear to be cribbed from T.S. Eliot’s proto-Reconstructionist work, Christianity and Culture, wherein we read:
So, while we believe that the same religion may inform a variety of cultures, we may ask whether any culture could come into being or maintain itself, without a religious basis. We may go further and ask whether what we call the culture, and what we call the religion of a people are not different aspects of the same thing: the culture being, essentially, the incarnation (so to speak) of the religion of a people. . . .
We need variety in unity: not the unity of organisation, but the unity of nature. By “culture,” then, I mean first of all what the anthropologists mean: the way of life of a particular people living together in a particular place.12
Nonetheless, the Alienists may, in the face of all, dig in and persist on the basis of their default etymological argument, that the term “culture” is to be understood only by its root word, cultus; but this too only ignores its foremost synonyms, “folkways” and “folklore,” wherein we see the ethnic emphasis countervailing the cultic aspect of the same idea. Taken together, these synonyms round out the definition of each – cult upon folk. Culture, then, is the religion of a people externalized. Creed upon breed yields the deed. Even if creed is not sole contributor to the deed, it is only through the creed that one understands his breed or the deed.
What’s more, as it pertains to anthropology, the Alienist view is completely incompatible with vanilla Reformation thinking. On the question of a dichotomous versus trichotomous view of man, the Reformation always favored the former because Genesis describes man’s constitution as flesh (derived of the earth) and spirit (the breath of life), which together made man a living soul. And on the question of man’s components within the whole, two possible options have predominated historical discussion:
(1) a monistic relation, which itself can emphasize either materialism (wherein matter is the basic element, from which spirit and soul emanate or occupy lesser varieties of the same thing) or idealism/spiritualism (wherein the spiritual component of man is the basic element from which matter emanates).
(2) a dualistic relation, which can be broken down into three sub-perspectives also: occasionalism, which completely dissociates body and spirit from one another; parallelism, which interprets the symbiosis of body and spirit as illusory, and their simultaneous actions as reflections in a mirror without real interaction; and lastly, realistic dualism, which Louis Berkhof endorses with these words:
Realistic Dualism. The simple facts to which we must always return, and which are embodied in the theory of realistic dualism, are the following: body and soul are distinct substances, which do interact, though their mode of interaction escapes human scrutiny and remains a mystery for us. The union between the two may be called the union of life: the two are organically related, the soul acting on the body, and the body on the soul. . . . This view is certainly in harmony with the representations of the scripture on this point.13
Yes, in the Anglo-American vernacular, when lives were lost at sea, it was as likely to be described as “souls lost at sea.” Because the death of the body bears upon the soul. Of course the body acts upon the soul as much as the reverse. This organic and sympathetic correspondence between body and soul is the reason why a sickness in the soul has physical effects upon the body as well. Demoralization drains the strength from a man’s limbs, and the phrase “he died of a broken heart” is not hyperbole. A grief-fractured spirit has been known to kill the body in some cases. The aged, by their physical deterioration, often fall to senility and therein lose much of their confession, and the doctrine seems as if it were siphoned away from them. So, too, is this why we feed the hungry, rather than merely blessing their spirits as they perish. Hunger, fatigue, and illness are often demoralizing to the soul. And here originates the old saw, “Fatigue makes
cowards of us all.”
Albeit, as Berkhof says, there is significant mystery in it, but as much as a good spiritual state can bring health to our bones, our physicality does indeed affect our spirituality as well. And Christian anthropology does not stand alone by the constitution described in Adam, but is reinforced and doubly vindicated by the Incarnation of Christ. The Chalcedonian Definition defines the Hypostatic Union of Christ so:
Following, then, the holy Fathers, we all unanimously teach that our Lord Jesus Christ is to us One and the same Son, the Self-same Perfect in Godhead, the Self-same Perfect in Manhood; truly God and truly Man; the Self-same of a rational soul and body; co-essential with the Father according to the Godhead, the Self-same co-essential with us according to the Manhood; like us in all things, sin apart; before the ages begotten of the Father as to the Godhead, but in the last days, the Self-same, for us and for our salvation (born) of Mary the Virgin Theotokos as to the Manhood; One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He were parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as from the beginning the prophets have taught concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hath taught us, and as the Symbol of the Fathers hath handed down to us.
Yes, the Alienist resolve with respect to culture, by way of their anthropological confusion, implies certain misconceptions about Christ Himself. The battle for orthodoxy up through the first four ecumenical councils was to arrest just these sorts of errors as the Alienists are presently stumbling at. Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Gnosticism, and Docetism, though distinguishable one from another, were reactions against and rejections not only of Christ’s divinity, but of His humanity. This is the core of modern Alienism.
Whereas Alienism denies Christ’s humanity in varying capacities at different times, what we call Kinism today abides in the orthodox doctrine of hypostasis. Christ’s manhood (body and soul) is not to be understood as amalgamated with His Godhood. Nor is His manhood to be seen as divinized by contact with His Godhood. Neither even is His manhood rightly understood as being suppressed or overpowered by His Godhood, because He is not like the pagan demigods, half-man/half-god; no, He is at once true man and true God, in perfect communion and without confusion. And He bears the natures of both, physicality as much as spirituality. This is why as a man He had special affinity for His own nation, tribe, and family, counterpoised with a special love of the elect from among all peoples.
Alienism rejects these things at its heart. And in so doing, it tacitly joins common cause with Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Gnosticism against the Hypostatic Union of Christ.
The true “Calvinist Concept of Culture” is the hypostatic definition of man – distinct physical and spiritual substances in union; not attenuated or alloyed by that union, both in the Christian operate in accord with their designs. Reformed theology has ever held these precise calibrations and tensioned harmony between body and spirit as indispensable to men’s existence as “living souls” and to their God-given vocations. And to to the extent that Alienism denies the heritable folk dimensions of culture, they deny not only the Reformed view of man, but implicitly deny the hypostasis of Christ as well.
The Christian Faith redeems native talents to their right functions under God. And the foreordination of a man by God is comprehensive, having to do with the whole man, not just his spirit. Inasmuch as God elects men to unequal states of existence spiritually, so too does He foreordain men to unequal states physically. Remonstrants against this divine prerogative with respect to the spirit we call Arminians; remonstrants against the same with respect to the physical man we call Alienists. Both object to God’s sovereign right to destine men to unequal states of existence and indulge therefore in the same Jeroboamism, if on different occasions.
Lastly, we must also remember that the Scripture redundantly and severely reprimands a class in the churches of the first century who made the argument now being promulgated by Alienists – that there was only one true Christian culture – and no salvation outside of it. These were the “Judaizers,” whom the Scripture calls “false brothers who crept in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into slavery” (Gal. 2:4).
- Gene E. Veith, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, p. 17 ↩
- Ibid., p. 21 ↩
- Kuyper, Common Grace (1902–1905) ↩
- Machen, The Necessity of the Christian School (1933) ↩
- Gregg, History of the Old Cheraws, qtd. by Palmer in The Life of James Henley Thornwell, p. 8f. ↩
- Ibid., p. 9f. ↩
- John Frame, “Racism, Sexism, Marxism” ↩
- Francis Yockey, Imperium, p. 305f. ↩
- RJR, The One and the Many, p. 372f. ↩
- Cornelius Van Til, “Why I Believe in God” ↩
- Henry Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, p. 245 ↩
- T.S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture, pp. 101, 198 ↩
- Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 195-196 ↩