26 March 2014

Two Articles on Reformed Two Kingdom Theology (II)

For some readers this is revisiting old ground. But some find it helpful to continually revisit these basic themes. These two posts are responses to two articles. The articles are fairly brief and helpful in providing a matrix for this discussion. I hope that those who are still struggling with understanding these issues can read these pieces and my responses and in the end come to a fuller understanding of just what is at stake.
 


The second piece by Tuininga is actually much less helpful and far more guilty of generalization and at times misrepresentation. But it's still worth looking at.

Tuininga makes much over the fact that creation as is continues and takes that to mean that somehow its actions and fruits can somehow be redeemed or sanctified. This error is simply a repetition of the entire Dominionist thesis which takes Genesis 1.26-27 as a mandate in perpetuity and yet misses the effects of the fall even in the mandate's reiteration after the Flood.

The mandate (as it were) is fulfilled by Christ the Second Adam and will only come to fruition with this world's destruction and remaking. To suggest the Church fulfills the mandate in this age is utopian, an attempt to build heaven on earth. It's an attempt to re-create Eden (and the Tree of Life) in the here and now. But we read in the Apocalypse that these things will only occur after the Second Coming and in fact I would argue the attempt to reconstitute Eden/Zion in the present only leads to a false Zion. It is little more than placing a cross atop the Tower of Babel.

They would of course deny this is what they are attempting to do. I believe Dominionists are largely sincere in their motives, but they have grossly misunderstood what the Scriptures teach concerning the Kingdom and Church of Christ.

Some have grasped the problems with utopianism or an over-emphasis on a theology of glory and thus they try to modify the model. In the end they deny there will be success in this age but in terms of practice the Church is to effectively proceed with this way of thinking. It's kind of like 'keep trying' but we'll never succeed before Christ returns. I argue the 'trying' itself is misguided and in fact quite dangerous.

Tuininga seems more keen to defend the Two Kingdom theory a la Luther and Calvin and relegate other Two Kingdom camps as being deviationist.

I will happily admit that Luther and certainly Calvin's views of the Kingdom are not my own or what other Two Kingdom advocates would believe. It is critical to realize that Luther's view (and this followed by Horton, Van Drunen and others) still acknowledges the Magisterial Sword as somehow part of the Kingdom or Kingdom-work and certainly a legitimate function for a Christian to exercise.

They will defend this by pointing out that the Magistrate is referred to as a 'minister' in Romans 13. That's fine but it is to be understood in terms of General Providence. Paul is laying out that while magistrates are basically agents of violence (sword-bearers) they still serve a purpose in keeping the world from falling into utter chaos. He's not for a moment implying that we are somehow part of that or that (even worse) we would look to the magistrate to aid us in the building of the Kingdom. Nero was the magistrate in Romans 13. That was not Paul's position.

Paul is speaking more in terms of how Cyrus of Achaemenid Persia or the Assyrians are agents of God's Providence. The magistrate can be used to bring Judgment or Blessing. That in no way meant that Persia or Assyria were somehow sanctified or Covenantal.

We neither join with the magistrate nor do we war against it. It is what it is. Generally speaking if we're not making trouble the magistrate will leave us alone which is in fact what we want. This is why Paul prays that they would let us live our quiet lives engaged in the work of the Kingdom.

This language concerning the state is speaking in general terms. At other times the Bestial aspect becomes more manifest and when we refuse to worship the Beast we are persecuted.

Yes, Calvin and the Reformers were trying to re-work the Constantinian model that had been hijacked by the even more outrageous and unbiblical claims of the Papacy. They wanted to restrict the direct jurisdiction of the Church and legitimize and strengthen the hand of the magistrate. After all the Reformation would not have happened without Magisterial support. This was critical to their project and exactly why it was flawed from the beginning and must be ultimately rejected.

But even then it fails. And this becomes so clear in the years that follow as we think of the Anglo-American context in terms of the English Civil War or Puritan New England. Under their model the king or magistrate must be part of the Church and the Church will hold the King politically and legislatively accountable. Thus in the end (and this was clear enough in Geneva) the Church is still ascendant. Instead of a Head Priest you simply end up with a council of them. Priest writ large as Milton rightly said. Calvin's system and especially its Scottish Presbyterian variety are little more than Episcopalian Christendom recast.

Ironically it was the Reformation in the end which strengthened the state vis-a-vis the Church and ended the centuries of struggle. The Hildebrandian model of Church over state was cast down once and for all. The struggle continued in modified form in Protestant circles but by 1700 was over. The state had won.

The Reformation changed many things but one thing it definitely accomplished was an empowering of the state and the doctrines of the Enlightenment to support it... hardly something modern day Christian political activists wish to celebrate.

Tuininga echoes Calvin's caricatures and misrepresentations of Anabaptism as destructively anarchistic. He like Calvin fails to understand how a rejection of Christendom does not mean a rejection of civilization. Rejecting Christendom is not a rejection of Christ or His Kingship. Actually from the Two Kingdoms perspective it is a rejection of a Pseudo-Christ or a Pseudo-Zion.

The Anabaptists of Munster fell prey to false prophets and visions. I'm not going to defend their actions but I will only say it was a deviation, not the norm. It was not a faithful representation of mainstream Anabaptism let alone Medieval Waldensian ethics. Remember it was the Bohemian Chelcicky (whose voice speaks the heart and soul of Medieval dissent) who criticized the violent revolutionary Taborite branch of Hussitism. They too were a deviation and like Munster failed and disappeared.

Tuininga seems to allude to Munster in his comments. This is a common slander used by Magisterial Protestants to discredit the Anabaptists and all they stood for... as if the Munster Revolt were the norm or in any way represents what the Anabaptists generally stand for. Its excesses and failure are utilized to dismiss the entire Anabaptist Anti-Sacralist view even though Munster didn't actually represent them. It is a classic straw-man argument.

Tuininga errs in assuming that modern Two Kingdoms doctrine is a response to the Social Gospel. Reformed Two Kingdoms doctrine has arisen in conservative Confessional circles which eschewed the Social Gospel a century ago. In reality it is a mostly healthy response to the Christian Right and movements like Theonomy which have had a profound effect on the Church.

Though Theonomy in its original form has all but disappeared it has left a long shadow.

The theological particulars may have been all but refuted but it reawakened and stirred numerous older impulses regarding the culture and the state. The Cultural Consensus in the American setting which ranged from the post-Revolution period to the 20th century meant that practically speaking the Churches didn't really have to address these questions. The Civil War would be something of an anomaly leading to the split and the Southern view of 'spirituality'... but it was largely the various cultural shifts and crises of the Post-World War era that forced the Church to revisit and re-think these issues. The Reformed were by no means alone in this.

Tuininga is correct in noting that Two Kingdom advocates have been critical of the Christian Right Political project as a re-working of the Social Gospel but Tuininga of course will not accept this criticism. The core issues which led the Confessional Churches to reject the Social Gospel are now being used against them by some Two Kingdom partisans and rightly so. So in one sense Tuininga is correct. It is a reaction to a form of 'Social Gospel' though not the Social Gospel of the early 20th century.

The Social Gospel sought to build a better society through the process of Christianization. It sought to utilize social institution to aid in the spread of its version of the Kingdom of God. The political and social goals are different with the modern Dominionist influenced Christian Right but the general idea is the same.

Tuininga misreads Hart and accuses him of separating Christianity from daily life. He makes the same mistake as Evans and more Two Kingdom critics who just cannot grasp the idea that we live as Christians in the world and yet the things we do aren't specifically Christian nor does the Bible envision or empower us in the transformation of the cultural activities into something that's part of the Redemptive Kingdom.

For Tuininga to do something that isn't working toward Transformation would probably be reckoned sinful. Doing are daily tasks aren't sinful. They are simply means in a fallen world. We look at the world differently and as Christians our lives have meaning and purpose. But the means are in the end just that... means. They are not ends. They simply serve a temporary purpose which is often as simple as putting food on the table. If we can't go about our daily tasks with Christian integrity then we don't do them. What I mean is that if our jobs require us to violate Christian ethics, then we don't try to transform the job... we quit and find something else to do.

This sends Dominionists into a frenzy. The idea that we would abandon segments of society like the military, police or much of the business world to the pagans is unacceptable. Under their model every 'sphere' must be Christianized. We either must transform it into the Kingdom or if completely unredeemable we must eradicate it.

This is to misunderstand the Church's place in the world. We can be thankful there are structures of culture and even to some extent a magistrate. This doesn't mean they are part of God's Kingdom. They are simply mechanisms utilized by Providence to restrain chaos while the Gospel goes forth. They exist as something akin to necessary evils. They must be, but have nothing to do with us. We interact with them by paying taxes etc... but they are forever 'without'.

Tuininga seems to suggest that this approach teaches that we abandon the law of God in our daily lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. And once again I argue that the sacralization of culture ends up legitimizing tasks (which are necessary to culture) that are in fact sinful for Christians to engage in. The moral loophole that Tuininga can hide behind is the erroneous Reformation view of Vocation which reckons daily tasks as holy, redemptive Kingdom tasks. The Bible teaches a doctrine of Vocation. Our Vocation or calling is to be Christians. The other things that we do, we do as Christians, but painting, paperwork, delivery driving, and answering phones are not Christian tasks. That doesn't mean they are necessarily evil but they're not Christian. The fruit of these tasks do not build God's Kingdom on earth. They are not redeemed and thus part of the Kingdom. They will not play a part in the Age to Come. The fruits of these tasks will burn in the fires of Judgment.

Since we do them as Christians when we show kindness to others we interact with, speak with wisdom or even stand our ground and get fired... these things are living out our Christian life and calling. I can give a kind word as I hand over a package but helping UPS or FedEx gain stock value through profits does not help in the redemption of the world.

I can run my business and manage my time with moral integrity (and more or less fail as a consequence) but as I wire and plumb a room for covetous and wasteful people, I'm not building the Kingdom. My relationships and interactions with co-workers and clients, these can help build the Kingdom, but connecting water lines is incidental and non-redemptive. It's just a means to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

The Monistic thought-patterns of Sacralism are unable to apprehend let alone comprehend this truth which is actually quite important to understanding the New Testament. This concept is very much present in statements like Christ's declaration concerning the Roman coin.  

Tuininga I argue cannot possibly understand how Christ could say give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. They are not two spheres of the same Kingdom. They are two different realms altogether and never the twain shall meet.

Or consider Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians regarding those who are without, let alone his sentiments regarding our pilgrim posturing that seeks to lead a quiet life, minding our own business and that in order to be a good soldier of Christ we don't entangle ourselves in the affairs of this life...

I commend Tuininga for his comments on Van Drunen. They are helpful and elucidate some common themes that all Two Kingdom advocates hold dear. Even though we might not agree with all of Van Drunen's solutions, his analysis and criticism of Kuyperian Neo-Calvinism as concisely reported by Tuininga needs to be considered.

Tuininga mentions two realms. Again I think it's better to think in terms of Reign and Realm. Christ 'reigns' over all as Creator and Judge but not all is specifically part of the Holy Realm. It will be after His return... not merely because of transformation but because of purging and a new creation. There's a significant difference.

Van Drunen seeks to develop a non-redemptive morality that can function in the world and has decided to turn to Natural Law as a possible solution. All cultures more or less can agree on basic principles concerning right and wrong. These can be the basis for creating a world that while by no means becomes a Zion can at least be a somewhat better place while we await the return of our Lord.

I don't share Van Drunen's concern. Call me a pessimist even a cynic but the more we grasp the state of the world and magnitude of depravity such an endeavour seems to be not only a waste of time but there's really very little evidence for it to be found in Scripture.

Our role as Salt and Light are in terms of our martyr-witness and the testimony/proclamation of the Gospel. The more the macro-level political, social and economic systems are considered the more I find they simply will not work. They are but ideological dreams, static paper models in an unfathomably complicated world. This does not mean that we throw our hands up in despair and head for the hills.

No, we live as exiles in Babylon, build our houses, plant our gardens and raise our families. We live, do what we can in terms of society. In terms of the lost world, pragmatic solutions are probably more realistic and hopeful than working toward the implementation of flawed ideological systems.

But where we make a real difference is among the handful of people that we really get know. Babylon will fight its wars, pass its good and bad laws, be conquered and replaced by another Babylon. Some times will be better than others. Some models will work fairly well in one context and in another open the door to wickedness. Our job is to speak the truth and with open eyes denounce and expose the works of darkness that we may contrast them with the Kingdom of Truth.

 

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