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Monday, October 23, 2006 

Reflecting on Two Kingdoms Theology
Topic: Theology

Reading: studying for Midterms
Enjoying: Fudge thin mints and coffee
Listening: Godsmack

Head over to De Regnis Duobus, blog by PCA church planter Rev. Stellman, for a scintillating discussion of all things cult and culture, and specifically Two Kingdoms Theology. The discussion is pretty terrific, and make sure you wade into the comments discussion, where Rev. Stellman et al are at their best, and further nuances and clarifications are developed and culled from the discussion. Two Kingdoms theology, developed in primitive form from Augustine's distinction between the City of God and City of Man, reached fruition under Luther and, as is argued at the blog in question, Calvin, and holds that Christians operate in "the awkward position" of living as citizens of the heavenly, cultic, and spiritual Kingdom to come, and live in the earthly, cultural, and temporary kingdom of man at the same time. God, sovereign over both, governs the heavenly Kingdom through special revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign over the Church, and He rules the kingdom of Man through common grace and Providence.

This doctrine would be in contradisctinction to the previously mentioned weltanschauung, or "world-and-life-view" espoused by Abraham Kuyper and neo-calvinism.[1] You can quickly imagine that the Two Kingdoms theology (2Kt) has several other theological bridges and ramifications connecting it elsewhere in Christology, amillenial views of eschatology, etc.

While we are very thankful to God for what Rev. Stellman is doing, no doubt he would probably think I still have some transformationalist tendencies to excise. I am ok with that, primarily because I am not completely convinced that 2Kt advocates aren't speaking past exemplary representatives of neocalvinism and other forms of "transformationalism."[2] Hopefully, as I ask more questions and read more of his blogging and the comments, the fog will lift and I will come to more biblical conclusions.

Before I launch into a few questions of my own, it may be helpful to point out one of the better (and lengthier) discussions over at De Regnis Duobus. On dealing with whether or not Christians need to play a role in the city (to my mind a completely moot point for 2Kt) and the voices presented by Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in NYC, Stellman penned the popular Holy Urbanism Old and New with contributions in the comments by both the esteemed Dr. D. G. Hart and Pastor Keller participating. It seems to safe to consider Pastor Keller a strong and reasonable proponent of the "transformationist" perspective, and the conversation is helpful. For the groundwork of laying the 2Kt, check De Regnis Duobus' archives for more.

But back to the interrogation. While hopefully further queries will be developed as more reflection and conversation develop, here are some initial reactions and questions:

Questions for 2Kt
1. Is there an assumed neutrality at play in 2Kt when dealing with the cultural? For instance, you (JJS and blog) assert that Big Brother should play according to the rules of justice, fairness, etc., as derived by common grace, but whose definition of justice carries the day? One of my assumptions is that the cultural stands on the assumptions of the cult, and to my crackedlimited knowledge there has never been a culture that has not reflected the values and norms of the cult. In keeping the lines between the 2K distinct, the culture will always begin to revert to more and more corrupt conceptions of justice. (In order to even conceive of "corrupt justice" you must have a cultic definition of justice!) The Church is necessary to hold the culture even to pluralistic notions of justice, etc.

2. How does the 2Kt model account for Christ's imperatives (nomos) that affect believers in the kingdom of man? While you argue that the Bible does not give directives on which political party to align with, it does speak to several other transactions - business and otherwise - that must occur in the culture. Issues of spending money, rendering justice and mercy, helping one's neighbor, all take place outside of the cult. Do the principles of the cult get to direct behavior in the culture, and if so, where do we draw the line? Only the baptized? Only when acting in the name of the cult?

3. In accord with #2, will a Christian politician vote and act differently than an upright, moral non-Christian politician? What about an immoral non-Christian politician?

4. Dealing only within the sphere of culture, why is polygamy and marijuana wrong? How is the kingdom of man not ultimately regulated to relativism?

5. You state,
"World" and "life" are about the two broadest categories one can think of, so where does one's "view" of these things come from?

It seems that if the answer is, "From the Bible," then a certain view of the Bible is presupposed which is hard to sustain, namely, that it is meant to furnish the believer with enough information about politics, economics, art, and culture to provide us with the correct world-and-life view and thereby secure "the coherence and integrity that is the basis for a meaningful life."

But is the Bible's view of economics Libertarian or Green? Is the Bible's view of politics Red or Blue? Is art supposed to be descriptive or prescriptive, according to Jesus?

And further, if we maintain that the Bible speaks to every area of life, then in the end mustn't we conclude that it really speaks about nothing at all?[3]
First of all, there is a quantitative difference between not speaking to the subject and not exhausting the issue. The wisdom of God in James 3 is a moral wisdom unavailable in common grace. When you ask where we are to get our categories for "world" and "life" and seemingly reject special revelation ("the Bible"), this seems to call into question a covenant epistemology. At one level, there is only the choice between theonomy and non-theonomy. Finally, when you say, "if we maintain that the Bible speaks to every area of life, then in the end mustn't we conclude that it really speaks about nothing at all?", one response could be, "No, we need not say that. The Bible does speak to everything, and it really isn't all that hard or all that inconceivable." To say that the Bible is only sufficient for matters of faith and practice seems to be a hair's breadth from old nineteenth century liberalism.

6. Is there a category confusion being made between "theocracy" and "exile," in that there is also the category of "exodus?" The condition Israel found herself in while wandering in the desert does not seem to perfectly fit either of the original categories. Interestingly, I think I have heard "transformationalists" like Keller and Pastor Mark Driscoll talk about how the church is in exile a la Israel in Babylon. However, when Dr. Rev. Micahel Horton wishes to speak on the church, he thinks in terms of exodus and "pilgrim."[4] Do you see this distinction, and would you continue to follow the "exile" trajectory, or more the "exodus?"

7. You say, "So to use Keller's example from the comments below, a Christian CEO won't seek to maximize profits if workers' rights are violated (counterculturalism), and his church won't use the Trinity Hymnal if the unbelievers' tastes are violated (contextualization)." Alright, now who is using their paradigm for greatest theological comfort? Hobby horse much? ::wink and grin::

8. Partially mentioned above, but one concern is that 2Kt gives too much credit to unregenerate man. You speak of "common grace wisdom," but I maintain that wisdom is moral in nature and the fool says in his heart that there is no God. How does this 2Kt take into account Van Til's brute facts and the necessary incongruity and borrowed credit of natural man? I am not arguing that Da Vinci or Thomas Paine were in fact idiots, but to credit "common grace wisdom" seems more than I would allow.

9. Finally (for now), is it accurate to say that neocalvinists and 2Kt advocates agree that the benefits of Christ's saving work do indeed need to be applied to all spheres of life, but disagree on the means and the time?

Anyway, these are a few questions I have. No doubt some are poor, some will be revised, and some will be completely shot through with 2Kt pellet. I eagerly await further thought.
__________________________________
Footnotes

[1]Here is more on Abraham Kuper, here is more on neocalvinism, and our musings here and here. Back

[2]"Transformationalism" as it is used in these discussions by 2Kt advocates is derogatory. I use it only descriptively and self-deprecatingly only. Promise. Back

[3]Source Back

[4]Source Back



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[theology] | [neocalvinism] | [kingdom]

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Thanks for the shout-out. I'll try to address each of your questions as best I can.

1. Yes, all people have a concept of justice because they are God’s image-bearers, as tainted as that image may be. But remember, the secular kingdom is no less ruled by God than the sacred, and so it’s not “neutral,” but it is common. It’s not demonic or divine. It’s creational not redemptive, cultural not cultic, &c.

2. Yes, Jesus’ imperatives (the law of Christ) have implications for how we behave in culture. But they are implications, not explicit directives. So one’s man’s conscience may prohibit him from voting Democrat because they reward lazy people, and another’s prohibits him from voting Republican because they promote greed and self-interest over helping the poor. So how the law of Christ works itself out in the cultural realm is often a matter of individual conscience.

3. Each will act according to his conscience. We mustn’t baptize things like “Don’t Murder,” since non-Christians believe this too. Better to be ruled by a wise Muslim than a foolish Christian, as Luther said.

4. Polygamy is wrong because it is contrary to natural law and God’s original intent for marriage. Marijuana is wrong because it is illegal.

5. You don’t really ask a question here, but I will say that saying “the Bible is our only rule for faith and practice” is a quote from the PCA’s Book of Church Order, a far cry from nineteenth-century Protestant liberalism.

6. Hmmm…. I guess I don’t draw that strong a distinction between “exodus” and “exile.” In both cases the people of God are removed from where they’re supposed to be, with a view to eventually getting there. The latter is employed more commonly in the NT though.

7. ???

8. Common grace wisdom is borrowed capital, so I’m not sure we disagree with each other on this one.

9. Well, without the benefits of Christ’s saving work the whole world would have been destroyed in Gen. 3, so in a sense, yes, they are applied to all spheres of life. But properly understood, the “duplex beneficium” (double benefit) of Jesus’ work is justification and sanctification. These apply to his people for whom that work was accomplished, but the day will come when all of the cosmos will be liberated from its bondage to decay. But that will happen at the consummation, not through the cultural efforts of the church militant.

Hope that helps!

JJS

Thanks for the shout-out. I'll try to address each of your questions as best I can.

1. Yes, all people have a concept of justice because they are God’s image-bearers, as tainted as that image may be. But remember, the secular kingdom is no less ruled by God than the sacred, and so it’s not “neutral,” but it is common. It’s not demonic or divine. It’s creational not redemptive, cultural not cultic, &c.

2. Yes, Jesus’ imperatives (the law of Christ) have implications for how we behave in culture. But they are implications, not explicit directives. So one’s man’s conscience may prohibit him from voting Democrat because they reward lazy people, and another’s prohibits him from voting Republican because they promote greed and self-interest over helping the poor. So how the law of Christ works itself out in the cultural realm is often a matter of individual conscience.

3. Each will act according to his conscience. We mustn’t baptize things like “Don’t Murder,” since non-Christians believe this too. Better to be ruled by a wise Muslim than a foolish Christian, as Luther said.

4. Polygamy is wrong because it is contrary to natural law and God’s original intent for marriage. Marijuana is wrong because it is illegal.

5. You don’t really ask a question here, but I will say that saying “the Bible is our only rule for faith and practice” is a quote from the PCA’s Book of Church Order, a far cry from nineteenth-century Protestant liberalism.

6. Hmmm…. I guess I don’t draw that strong a distinction between “exodus” and “exile.” In both cases the people of God are removed from where they’re supposed to be, with a view to eventually getting there. The latter is employed more commonly in the NT though.

7. ???

8. Common grace wisdom is borrowed capital, so I’m not sure we disagree with each other on this one.

9. Well, without the benefits of Christ’s saving work the whole world would have been destroyed in Gen. 3, so in a sense, yes, they are applied to all spheres of life. But properly understood, the “duplex beneficium” (double benefit) of Jesus’ work is justification and sanctification. These apply to his people for whom that work was accomplished, but the day will come when all of the cosmos will be liberated from its bondage to decay. But that will happen at the consummation, not through the cultural efforts of the church militant.

Hope that helps!

JJS

On your question #2: why would a politician be any different from a parent who confronts two different sets of responsibilities and needs to choose between them. When his child does something wrong, does the parent turn the other cheek as Christ commanded, or does he discipline the child as Proverbs commends? A Christian politician has to make similar decisions, differentiating between his duties privately as a believer and his public one as a statemen. In that latter category it would seem that the general guidelines of Rom. 13 apply and then he draws on the light of nature.

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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