The Medieval Manichee, the Modern Liberal, Monism and Pluralism
The reality of life in a fallen world...accepting that some things won't ever be perfect and that some questions don't have good solutions.....is not acceptable. Every cultural question must have an answer and everything is now cast in strict moral categories. Pragmatism is not allowed. Everything is ideological and since so many of these areas of culture are shaped by law and power...everything ultimately becomes political.
Interestingly Marxists have understood this principle as well...they just have a different solution, but they frame it in very similar ways.
Medieval Manichaeism and the various Gnostic camps usually understood the universe to be subject to competing principles...a good force and a bad force...good gods and bad gods.
Thus they were labeled as dualists, rejecting the monistic structure of the universe and the basis of this structure's application to society....a unified society...a sacral monism. Since they didn't believe in a Monistic universe they didn't believe in a state that tried to create a Monistic socio-political structure based off that understanding of the universe. In fact to the Manichaeans the very idea of building a 'fleshly' empire was anathema.
Later when other groups like the Waldensians arose who questioned the Medieval order in the West and rejected the Monistic structure under the Papacy they were called Manichaeans...dualists. They understood the Kingdom in terms in which it could not be manifest on the earth and ruled over by a political sovereign. So they were not only theological heretics, but a political danger....they were questioning the social and cultural status quo.
Consequently you'll find that any time someone came along who questioned the social order they often get pegged as being Manichaean. They may have had literally nothing in common with the original Gnostic groups but because they suggest a dual-order to the world...a spiritual kingdom...a rejection of a Temporal pre-eschatological Monistic order in which heaven is trying to be created on earth...they would receive this label. This has led to a lot of confusion for historians trying to sift out what individuals actually believed. They maintained the necessity of social pluralism but did not embrace a Manichaean cosmology. The only Monism that can appear before the Eschatological Kingdom… is that of the Beast Powers.
To be labeled Manichaean or Dualist was the ultimate insult and social rejection. You are the other, not one of us, a danger, a heretic, a traitor.
Sacralists still use it today. Modern Secularists are arguing for a dualistic or to use the sociological parallel, Pluralistic society.
It works for awhile, but since no socio-political order is static in a fallen world, it eventually will succumb to Sacralist (even Secularism can be Sacralist) desires.
Biblical Christianity wants this antithesis, desires this social dualism. In fact we ought to insist on it. This is why all the dissenters from both the Protestant and Roman Catholic Sacralist societies were driven to flee to the New World, especially to colonies like Pennsylvania. This played a large role in the psyche of the common people and helped shape some of the ideas and thought that led many Colonial Christians to support the American Revolution, even though I would argue its architects were motivated by a very different ideology. They too were pushing for Pluralism, but for different reasons and with different goals. Groups like the Moravians and Quakers held to a theologically principled social Pluralism, while the Founders rooted their Pluralism in the Enlightenment theories of men like John Locke. Propagandists like David Barton dispute this and make their case by tolerating a very watered down Deistic Christianity for the founders, ironically something they would never allow within in their own Churches. But when it comes to mythmaking, heroes are given a great deal of leeway.
Today those pushing for Social Dualism or Pluralism are not called Manichaeans by the guardians, the Conservators of the social order. A Catholic wanted a Universal or Unified social order. They wanted to preserve the Medieval order. A Manichaean wanted to divide it.
Thus to reiterate, Manichaean was the ultimate venomous name-calling charge in the Middle Ages...one who rebels against and undermines the social order.
Today, all the same baggage and packaged concepts are applied to the term...Liberal.
Whether or not the person really is on the political Left, the name is employed to immediately cast aspersions on motive and character. Once someone is labeled by a Conservative as a Liberal... you can be assured they're the enemy, they're wrong.
Even though I'm arguing for some of the most conservative theological viewpoints, even though I homeschool my children, my wife doesn't work, and so forth...I'm a liberal because I'm not a Christo-American Nationalist.
What they're saying is that I'm a Manichaean because I reject their understanding of the social order. In discussions and on internet forums...I'm a liberal, thus the discussion is over. You can dismiss everything I say.
Never mind the fact that the term, just like Manichaean in the Middle Ages is almost meaningless in the broad way it is used.
It’s kind of like the label Christian. What does that mean in today's context? For most I would argue it is a sociological label and has little or nothing to do with any theological understanding. Sacralists blame liberalism for this watering down of Christendom. I blame them more than anyone for creating an unbiblical category and understanding of Christian. They substituted nation and society for Kingdom and when the fallen and lost people...act fallen and lost...suddenly they're surprised?
While we in no way suggest the universe is ruled by two forces or gods, we do strongly posit the Scriptures present a certain dualism...the antithesis between the believer and unbeliever, the kingdoms of this world vs. the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
But with Kuyper's seemingly innocuous statement.....that dualism, that tension will be or ought to be eradicated. All dualism are invalid. This is practically a mantra for the Kuyperian and many theologians.
Again, after the 2nd Coming, the antithesis will no longer exist, but they're trying to labour to bring about this change right now. This is the Church's task, not merely with the Word-based Gospel, but with the gospel of politics, economics, arts and sciences. In fact many believe there is a continuity between this age and the age to come. They believe their advances and contributions in the arts and sciences will continue on and be part of the Perfect Realm. Thus we'll have Bach and Baroque music in heaven as well as Romanesque architecture, not to mention the artwork of the Dutch Masters.
This is an example of hyper-eschatology. They want Heaven....now. They're not content to suffer here while we at the same time participate in and are part of the Kingdom of Heaven (a dualism)...but will only experience its fullness when Christ returns and this world is purged. We have Heaven now....in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. But we also do not have it…at all.
They seem to miss this. Or...it's not good enough?
This is fundamentally different understanding of the nature and mission of the Kingdom of God and our place in the world.