Posted by: mattcolvin | October 16, 2013

Schilder’s Christ and Culture continued


20. Schilder explains what he means be the terms koinonia and sunousia. The term koinonia is the sharing or fellowship or common life of believers: it is brought about by God’s Spirit. Schilder insists that mere commonality of interests is not sufficient for koinonia, since “the same thing is essential also for quarrelling and fighting with one another.” (This argument is parallel in form to the one by which he objected to Kuyper’s claim that the postponement of hell in history is grace.) Cultural koinonia is thus only possible among believers. Cultural sunousia, on the other hand, is the necessary precondition of human interaction, including between believers and unbelievers.

Schilder finds the Biblical basis of this sunousia, this “being together”, in the parable of the wheat and the tares. This parable informs his opinion of this sunousia in several ways: it is undesirable (“an enemy did this”) and temporary (“until the harvest”). The continued existence of the tares in the field is for the sake of the development of the creation (“let them grow together”), and especially of the elect (“lest you uproot the wheat along with them”). In light of these coloring considerations, It should be apparent that Schilder’s conception of sunousia cuts against any attempt to derive lasting ethical norms from the shared interests or common ground between believers and unbelievers.

Schilder also advances some NeoCalvinist ideas that were later elaborated by Dooyeweerd and popularized by A. Wolters in his Creation Regained. Specifically, Schilder teaches a “structure and direction” distinction:

…[S]ince all fashioning of the material, the good as well as the bad, is bound to the nature, the structure, and the laws of that particular material, the products of the labour of the unbeliever and those of the labour of the believer are very much alike. This similarity is not caused by the similarity of their diverging minds but by that of the stiff, recalcitrant material. There is a great difference between the one potter and the other, between the one sculptor and the other. The one builds a temple, the other builds a dancing hall, but both of them go for their clay to the same pit and for their marble to the same quarry.

Schilder calls the material “recalcitrant”: since the world was created by God and made good, it does not easily submit to being turned to evil uses. Thus, the structure of creations works to restrain evil. But Schilder also says that God restrains evil in order to prolong history:

God has tempered the process of sin and curse; the “withholding” of Antichrist is a matter of fact. However, this withholding of Antichrist corresponds with the holding- Himself- in of Christ Triumphant. He too, does not let Himself go. He, too, does not yet allow this world, which is still tempered and held in check in all its life’s movements, the view of the full expansion of His exalted power. All the carts are still held in check, all the horses are bridled. Judgment is held back, but so is grace, in this world.

We have here the basic principle of amillennialism. Schilder defines the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 as the time between Pentecost and the parousia — rightly, in my opinion. But the progress of good and that of evil are basically parallel. The triumph of Christ ends history; it does not happen within it. The “tempering” is a holding back of Christ’s triumph, and therefore also a holding back of grace.

I think there are good reasons to question whether he is right about this being a postponement of the fullness of Christ’s triumph. It seems to me rather to be the slow-motion outworking of it, so that we may linger over, and savor it. Certainly the Bible’s language depicts Satan as definitively defeated at the cross, even if still able to do harm, and Christ as definitively triumphant, even if his victory is not visible in its pomp and splendor yet. We ought not to suppose that the restrainer of the Anti-Christ is equally the restrainer of Christ — as though Christ too were straining at a leash, wishing He could appear with more outward glory than He does at the moment. No, Christ is in control of the pace and progress of the world’s redemption.


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