R Scott ClarkReformed minister and professor Dr R Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California is the author of several books on the Reformed Confessions. He also writes the ever-helpful Heidelblog.

On July 26, Dr Clark wrote ‘Between Pearls and Privatization’, a post about the confusion between making everything secular or everything sacred. Those who like to do the latter are known as transformationalists. Hence, we read or hear of ‘Christian math’ or ‘Christian plumbing’.

Of this, he rightly points out:

Instead of “Christian plumbing,” why not exhort Christians to fulfill their daily vocation to the glory of God and the well being of their neighbor. This would save us endless, and as far as I can tell, fruitless wrangling about exactly what is distinctively Christian about “Christian math” or “Christian plumbing.”

Clark appeals for a return to the 16th century perspective in such matters, as supported by John Calvin and the Belgic Confession (Article 35, in this case):

Over against transformationalism, I am arguing that we need to recover the older Reformed conviction that there is a distinction between the sacred and the secular. Calvin used these categories without embarrassment. The common is not “neutral” and the secular is not dirty. We recognize this very distinction every time we administer holy communion. Reformed liturgical forms regularly speak about setting about common (secular) bread for a sacred use.

Ultimately, neither the secularist nor the transformationalist is correct. Not everything is worldly. Not everything is holy. Clark explains (emphases mine):

Our English word secular comes from the Latin saeculum which stands for “world.” We might distinguish between secular and secularist. It is one thing to recognize a distinction between a good secular vocation (e.g., plumbing) and a sacred ecclesiastical vocation to pastoral ministry. A secularist, however, seems to want to insist that we live in a closed universe and that nothing is sacred. The transformationalist seems to want to make everything sacred and the secularist seems to want to deny the sacred universally but the historic Christian position is distinct from both.

Our Lord instructed us not to cast our pearls before swine (Matt 7:6). He was invoking the Mosaic (Old Covenant) restrictions against pork, which made pigs ceremonially or ritually unclean. Whatever else this teaching means to it certainly means that there are times when Christian truth is to be withheld from those who are metaphorically pigs or dogs. There are times when it is not appropriate to speak the truth of the kingdom. In his comment on this passage Calvin exhorted his readers strongly not to use this verse as a justification not to preach the gospel to sinners. He urged his readers to preach the gospel indiscriminately but to recognize that there are times and places in which it is wise to hold our counsel.

In other words, do what is appropriate in the situation, time and place.

A Heidelblog reader responded with a cut and paste of Precept Austin’s collection of commentary on Matthew 7:6, well worth reading for all clergy, Christian bloggers and those who lead groups or classes in churches.

Through that page I was introduced to an Anglican preacher with whom I was unfamiliar: Charles Simeon. More on him tomorrow and on Tuesday, pearls of his wisdom on what Matthew 7:6 means.

Tomorrow: Who was Charles Simeon?

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