I’ve run into some recent critiques of Two Kingdom Theology that I’ll be interacting with over the next few days. Here’s the first. I’ve linked the title below to the original website. I’ve included the post and the couple of comments that were available at the time.
I appreciate this man’s concerns and his sincerity, but I’m afraid he has not grasped the meaning of Two Kingdom theology nor its implications.
Why do I care? He’s a pastor and this article is pretty typical of the material I keep encountering. Those who oppose Two Kingdoms are starting to become very vocal and some cases hostile, and while I don’t want to be hostile I want to be equally fervent in denouncing the error and dangers associated with Dominionism and all its variants.
Two Kingdom Concerns
I have been reading with interest over the last few months what some people are writing about r2kt, or radical two kingdom theology. I have thought, ever since I was a student in seminary(where I first read Dr. D. Van Drunen), that this issue had the potential of being a large one. Well, it seems that this is going to become a large one. To give a quick explanation to those who may be hearing of this for the first time, r2kt teaches that the scriptures are to govern the church and natural law is to govern the world. r2kt, via Kline, teaches that there are two kingdoms, a kingdom of common grace (world) and a kingdom of special grace (church). As an American I live in the world as a citizen governed by the natural law God places in the hearts of all men. As a Christian, I am governed by scripture, until I enter the realm of common grace. As a Christian politician, for example, I would not argue from scripture, but from natural law. What exactly "natural law" is, still is a bit unclear to me, as it was for Dr. Venema as he reviewed The Law is not of Faith, in the MAJT.
Those who strongly oppose Two Kingdom Theology make a distinction between a Kuyperian, quasi-Dominionist version advocated by some versus what DG Hart, Kline, Lee Irons, Van Drunen and others including me stand for. This they would call Radical Two Kingdom Theology.
They really balk when you say Natural Law governs the world, because they're still thinking in terms of Transformation. If you believe in Transformationalism, then sure, I could understand why Natural Law as a governing concept would be upsetting to you.
In addition many of these men are committed to the philosophical ideas of Cornelius Van Til and as a practical result end up pretty much rejecting the concept of or at least the validity of Natural Law.
He says, 'As a Christian am governed by Scripture, until I enter the realm of Common Grace….
That's incorrect. As Christians we are always governed by Scripture and that might mean there are times when we come into serious conflict with the Common Realm and its limitations. We may not be able to do our job and in integrity say so.
Since unbelievers cannot grasp God's law and the Common Order cannot become the Holy Realm, it would be pointless and in fact erroneous to attempt to do so.
As a so-called Christian Politician, I would never expect someone to understand social behaviour as sin. How can they? If I start preaching Scripture, then I'm hardly representing the people I'm supposed to be and I'm dishonouring my oath. The whole notion of a Christian Politician is somewhat problematic.
If I may turn this around, I would instead ask, what exactly is a Christian Politician hoping to accomplish? What goals does such a person have and where can I read about this agenda in the New Testament? The way the argument is framed, he's assuming the Transformationalist/Dominionist agenda. I'll grant if that position is assumed, it makes Two Kingdom theology look pretty weak. But if that position is erroneous, it shows once again they're asking the wrong questions and thus coming up with the wrong answers.
As Reformed Chrisitans we can agree that the Christian lives a two-fold life. BCF Article 35 says in part, "Now those who are regenerated have in them a twofold life..." We can also confirm with the Apostle Paul that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3). This is not the issue, as Reformed Christians we can all agree with this. However, how this plays out is the actual question, especially in light of the antithesis between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15).
I'm not terribly interested in what the Belgic Confession says since it contains numerous errors. As far as the antithesis, how does the Seed of the woman fight the seed of the serpent through politics? Isn't that what the Pharisees were hoping for, that kind of kingdom? Didn't Christ repudiate the very notion when he spoke to Pilate?
As I have been reading, I see many of my brothers and sisters who have a real fear of r2kt, and my sentiments are with them. The more I read about r2kt from Dr. David Van Drunen and others (think of The Law is Not of Faith), the more concerned I become. Here is where what we believe influences the way we live. I believe it was J. Knox who said, "Impractical theology is idolatry." Well, one problem with r2kt is that it is too practical and the conclusion it brings its adherents to embrace is problematic. A number of my colleagues have been, more ably than I am able, treating r2kt, including two of my former professor Drs. Venema and Kloosterman, just to name two. What I want to bring to the attention to the members of our churches especially is where this will likely lead if it is not dealt with quickly. I find r2kt to be an attack on many things we as Reformed believers hold dear. I will list four areas.
John Knox used to be one of my heroes. Now I would view him as a wrongly motivated troublemaker and in a great error. I could also mention that he seemed to view himself as some sort of prophet and was guilty of the worst forms of Constantinianism. Nevertheless, the whole idea of Impractical Theology being idolatry demonstrates a clever maxim to be sure, but is entirely absent from Scripture. What a Dominionist deems impractical, I might deem essential. Dominionists labour to work out supposedly Christian theologies of music, art, and politics, the end result being neither Christian nor of any value whatsoever, in others words a complete and utter waste of time. Two can play at this game.
First, the necessity of Christian day schools. What should govern the education of our children? I believe the Christian school is a tool that parents may use to educate their children (Deut. 6). Parents may do this with the understanding that the school isn't called to raise their children, they are called to raise their children (The Word of God must reign supreme in this whole process). With r2kt is there a need for the Christian school? I don't see how, since education would be found to be in the "common grace kingdom" and governed by "natural law." The only other option for r2kt and Christian education is to promote a parochial school and argue that all education must be performed under the authority of a consistory. Since I have not been reading anything along those lines, it is safe to believe, if r2kt, our schools are in grave danger.
This demonstrates yet again a misunderstanding of Two Kingdom Theology. I homeschool and wouldn't even consider sending my children to a Reformed Day School. Though they operate as Christian, the models they follow are thoroughly secular.
You think you're maintaining antithesis with your day schools, but again this is not your strategy…to maintain a separate identity. This is your tactic to create soldiers to transform, to conquer society and culture.
As far as your schools being in grave danger….not from me, but as I said I wouldn't send my kids to one.
This is almost straying toward caricature to say that Two Kingdom people would just want their kids educated by a natural scheme. That's a straw man argument.
Secondly, the role of the military. My best friend, Chaplain (Reverend) Andrew Spriensma is serving my nation in the SE U.S. as an army chaplain. To a r2kt proponent, that is problematic. It is problematic because he is bringing the gospel to the "common grace kingdom" while receiving a paycheck from the U.S. government. To them, this is a failure to distinguish between church and state. But to them, they would likely say that same things about BCF Article 36 where we confess that the civil magistrate is to "protect the sacred ministry, that the kingdom of Christ may thus be promoted. They must therefore countenance the preaching of the Word of the gospel everywhere...." Countenancing the preaching of the gospel everywhere certainly applied to the front lines of war, in prisons, in hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters and wherever else they will allow the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed.
Yes here we do have an issue. I have a big problem with military chaplains on several levels. I have a problem with a Christian so-called minister putting himself in that capacity, subjecting an officer of the church to an external organization and placing himself within a chain of command comprised of heretics and unbelievers…which most military chaplains are. That's not a sweeping generalization. That's a self-evident fact to anyone has spent time in the military and spent any amount of time engaged with chaplains. While there are some that are perhaps believers in sin, most are completely lost…and all are trained to put the 'mission' first. It's a fundamental contradiction.
He can quote the Belgic Confession but he won't find a shred of Scripture to support any notion. It's not doctrinally feasible, and it can't be supported by any New Testament notions of Church Polity.
It is also highly problematic that this man would take oaths to an authority which claims to supersede Scripture and in support of policies which are murderous and wicked.
Thirdly, the need for or allowability of Christian political organizations. I believe in a proper separation of church and state. But this does not mean that neither the church nor the state has anything to say to each other. As a minister of the word, I pray for Prime Minister Harper, President Obama, Members of Parliament, etc. I pray that they may govern according to God's law. That if they are Christians, they will govern as Christians, that in this land, the law (10 commandments) and honour of God may be revered. For instance, as a Christian, I don't know how you could vote to allow legalized prostitution, abortion for unwanted pregnancies, euthanasia, a repeal of the death pentalty, etc. Aren't we bound by the Word of God in all things?
Where to begin?
I don't believe he believes in a proper separation of church and state. He believes they build the Kingdom together. Apparently the state can participate in the Redemption project? Apparently unregenerate people can grasp the Law of God apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit?
The Ten Commandments is the law? We're under Moses? Since when? I realize this is part of the Reformed Tradition, but on this point the Confessions have erred.
Maybe we can't vote then. What are my options in the United States? I can vote for pro-abortion politicians or I can vote for pro-war pro-militarism politicians? I can vote for those who in their lost state are trying to help people pragmatically, or I can vote for those who care nothing for others and certainly don't care if their policies lead to people's death due to poverty, lack of access to health care etc…
We can fall for smokescreens and vote for the pro-life candidates, but when have any of them done anything to overturn abortion? Ford? Reagan? Bush I, Bush II?
Again, we're assuming the state helps build the Kingdom. Where is this in Scripture?
In Canada, a relatively new political organization has developed among primarily Canadian Reformed, URC, etc. This organization is called ARPA standing for Association for Reformed Political Action. This group petitions the government when bills which are contrary to God's law are coming up for votes, so that Christian citizens, can exercise their right to have their voices heard, if to no one else, at least to their local representatives. A number of the young people from my congregation are now involved in this. Should I discourage them? Should I tell them that this is unnecessary, and in fact, this is practicing a certain love for the world? I hold to Amillenialism and I have rarely been called overly optimistic about the plight of humanity in this world, but when I read this r2kt stuff, I just scratch my head in wonder. Have we forgotten our own history? What about the debates in the CRC in the 1911-1913 era over woman's suffrage? Or those ministers who spoke out against injustices during WWI? What about the dozens of CRC ministers who went off to war as army chaplains in WWII. While these soldiers were comforted by Psalm 121, Revs. Van Halsema and Zylstra put it to music which we now find in our Psalter Hymnal #261. I can see that these r2kt propenents are speaking against "Americanism at all costs", but come on....
Yes, I'm scratching my head as well. What are these young people hoping to accomplish? Okay, Canada outlaws prostitution…is Canada now a Christian Country? What is a Christian Country? You want a moral society? Is that possible apart from the gospel? You want a society safe for Mormons? That seems to be what a Christian society is to many of these folks. Okay, fine it may or may not be a nicer place to live, but how does that help someones spiritual state?
What does that do now when tough foreign policy issues arise? Have we forgotten history? Suddenly the agenda of the Christian state takes on a very different nature….passionate religious fervour drives the debate. I did not say Christian fervour.
Oh, we should be speaking out against injustices. But what happens? All the Christians around us are Constantinian and thus completely blind to the injustices that occur when their party is in power. George Bush decimated the Constitution and committed murder abroad…all the while cheered on by the Christians in the United States.
Does this man think WWI was a just war? Perhaps if the churches had been paying a little more attention then, World War II wouldn't have happened and certainly all the fine Christians in Germany wouldn't have signed on with their new Christian leader Adolf Hitler. His theology was heretical? George Bush's was just as Satanic in his abuse of Scripture to justify his deeds…and no one questioned it, that is, no in the Political Church questioned it.
As far as woman's suffrage? What does that have to do with the agenda of the Church?
Finally, the lack of Christian professionals left in the church. Why? Because there is no such thing as Christian professionals to the r2kt. Someone might be a Christian who happens to be a lawyer, doctor, financial adviser, surgeon, teacher, etc. Wha..? Yep, take your pick between an atheist doctor or a Christian one because it doesn't really matter. Am I not to preach the gospel to my congregation, week in and week out, so that they believe and grow into maturity in Jesus Christ. So that they take the Reformed worldview, and wherever God calls (vocatio) them, they can live their as servants of the great King, Jesus Christ?
Well, personally I usually run when I see someone marketing themselves as a Christian Lawyer or Doctor and especially financial advisor.
We are to live as Christians and thus that would make a doctor who is a Christian, a lawyer who is a Christian. You bet that will affect how I practice what I do, or ought to. But where does the Bible show me how to be a Christian Doctor? Is shows me how to be a Christian, but where does Paul teach me about being a doctor?
Again, we're assuming Transformationalism and Dominionism.
He continues and there are some comments…..I wish to interact with them as well:
As those who have within them, a twofold life after regeneration, we ought to thank our father's in the faith for the worldview that they have passed down, which is distinctively Reformed. It is not Roman Catholic, it is not Lutheran, it is certainly not anabaptist, it is Reformed. "This is my Father's world." I hope my concerns are invalid and I have nothing to worry about, but my fears are growing.
NOTE: This is Andrew writing, not Michelle!
Thanks for the posting Steve,
I think I was reading your post within the same week of receiving the news that the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was approved by our government. I again question how the church and how Christians are to speak towards the immorality of homosexuality using only this vague notion of "natural law" Romans 1 states that in the suppression of truth they exchanged that which was natural for that which was contrary to nature.
Here, I believe the church of Jesus Christ has a prophetic role to proclaim the will of God to her civil authorities. I was delighted to hear that our synod took up that calling. I was saddened to hear that our government ignored our plea.
I also share your concern for the Christian professional. It seems the r2kt teaching encourages Christians to wear two different hats. As a chaplain in a secular environment, I often work in that "realm of common grace", when for instance I am leading a class on suicide awareness and prevention. Now even while I teach this class, while I am not proclaiming the gospel at that very moment, I cannot divorce myself from my Christian worldview. Everything we think, do, and say is to be shaped and informed by our faith in Jesus Christ. To hang up that hat, so to speak, when working in the "other kingdom" to me seems to me to be spiritually and intellectually dishonest.
Most societies throughout history have penalized homosexuality. Some have not. Rome did not and that hardly seemed to be a concern for the early church. You want to help homosexuals? Preach the gospel to them.
An Imperial Military is immoral to begin with so I hardly care what the murderers do in their spare time.
As far as the last paragraph of the comment, no one is for a moment suggesting that you hang up the hat.
Again, I believe this is one of the main problems with the whole Two Kingdom debate. The other side assumes their paradigm and thus cannot grasp what Two Kingdom advocates are saying.
Rev. Steve Swets said...
Thanks for the interaction. r2kt is the exact thing that I was afraid of at synod. I fear that we have r2kt ministers who don't think we should have army chaplains.
Another problem with r2kt, is the possible tendency to teach our children that they are Sunday Christians. These are the worst type of "Christians" as they undermine the churches witness to the world.
May God bless your work, brother.
Actually I think Dominionism produces Sunday Christians.
Dominionism in its quest to transform culture has historically ending up being transformed itself. Acculturated Christianity ends up not being able to distinguish Christian ethics and practice from cultural norms.
For example, a so-called Christian doctor fills his waiting room with World Magazine and other Right-wing materials. He makes it very clear that his affiliations are with the Right-wing of political Christianity.
Now someone who visits his office without medical insurance is forced to front the money prior to service. In fact you have to fork over $75 just to get the clipboard to fill out the initial paperwork.
Of course he thinks his conduct is Christian. He's not thinking as a Christian Doctor. He's thinking like a Republican partisan and consequently treating the poor like dirt. Rather than view his job as a Calling…he is a good Dominionist after all, I'm safe in assuming that considering all of his World and Olasky materials…he's viewing his job as mercenary Capitalist…all the while assuming he's being a good Christian.
I took my money back and left and went to some Left-wing New Ager type doctor who showed compassion and behaved in a far more Christian manner than the Dominionist doctor did.
Who's the Sunday Christian? I have experienced numerous examples of this in my own life and have talked to many who can provide similar testimony.
At school I remember the most worldly students, the party animal types were those who had been reared and indoctrinated in Dominionist theology. It was off to the tavern on Saturday night to play music as a witness to the lost.
The only people they were fooling were themselves.
Two Kingdom theology provides the basis for antithesis and right understanding of our present age. It avoids the traps and pitfalls of acculturated Christianity in its quest for Dominion and it steers clear of all legalistic and separatist extremes.