24 August 2016

Desperate Attempts to Refute Two Kingdom Theology


I'm referring specifically to the conclusion of the discussion beginning at about 53:00.

Recently I was listening to this podcast and the guest, a fairly well known professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary (MARS) tried to add the nail to the coffin with regard to 'radical' forms of Two Kingdom Theology... those espoused by people like me.

He attacked the doctrine, not utilising Biblical exegesis but in terms of coherence.

And yet even this attack was shall we say unique. He attacked it on the basis of a failure to bring about interaction between plurality/universality and particularity.

In other words in his mind Two Kingdom's fails because it isn't properly structured with regard to the Problem of Universals or the One and the Many.

He argued, even insisted for 'Interaction'. He seemed to mean there has to be a bridging concept (a synthesis) that brings about resolution or harmony, a way for tensions to function in a state of unified symbiosis.

This would be opposed to the 'radical' Two Kingdom notion of Antithesis- that the Church and the World are separate and never shall the twain meet. This view argues the reconciliation (or synthesis) is Eschatological Judgment and the purging as by fire. In other words reconciliation is the absolute elimination of one aspect of the binary tension. The New Heavens and Earth, the redemption and consummation are not a case of harmonisation or even purification but deconstruction/reconstruction, re-creation and regeneration. The reconciliation in Scripture is either through propitiation and union with Christ or it's through judicious wrath... the extraction of payment due... the reconciling of a debt (to Christ) that can never be fully paid. The reconciliation of the wicked comes in the form of conformity, the bowing of the knee to Christ Jesus, the acknowledgement of guilt (through gritted cursing teeth to be sure) and finally, eternal fire.

He utterly misses the antithesis and seems to suggest we have to create theological frameworks that allow us to work toward reconciling the world system, integrating it (in some form) with the Holy Kingdom.

It is a purely Sacralist assumption, rooted in philosophical commitment, speculation and is without exegetical foundation. He's against Ecclesiastical Establishment... but not really. It's simply a question of whether or not it's formalised.

Rutherford and Gillespie as well as Thornwell and both Hodges were wrong. AA Hodge's trajectory raises an eyebrow. It shouldn't. It's consistent but still wrong and demonstrates his inflexibility and failure to examine his context in light of Scripture.

Certain assumptions regarding the nature of the Kingdom (and of God) are imported into the text of Scripture. While Scripture is 'officially' elevated it is actually subjugated and (ironically) integrated into a philosophical framework, a rationalist system that resorts to speculation and rests heavily on inference.

In this case the Problem of the Universals (as opposed to the Text) drives the question. Or, it could be argued that in this case, the philosopher's toolkit has been raided and it is being used as a device to charge Two Kingdom theology with incoherence.

But I would also ask, why does universality have to be found in some kind of integration between the Church's antithesis and the temporal state?

The professor appeals to the Trinity and the Incarnation as examples of this. Apparently they serve as paradigms for the whole of theology. Amen, but I'm surprised to hear him of all people say it.

Does he really mean this? Generally I encounter a great deal of hostility when I argue the duality present in the Incarnation affects the whole of theology. I would also argue the Two Kingdoms position accurately reflects this principle as well. I found it strange that he would make such an appeal.

I would hope he realises these analogies will break down.

In the Incarnation plurality and particularity are expressed by declaring two natures in one person.... Does the New Testament teach the state and the kingdoms of this world find unity with the Church, the Kingdom not of this world? Is this a teaching found in the New Testament?

This is once more an instance of One Kingdom theology, a monistic structure in which This Age becomes 'holy'... again it's not derived from the text, but from philosophical necessity and certainly from tradition.

I would say the Incarnation has been abused in this case and is being employed as a philosopher's tool and the paradigm... pagan baggage and all... is being re-infused into Christian doctrine.

Typically we tell Jehovah's Witnesses that the Trinity is not pagan, not rooted in Hellenistic philosophy. I'm afraid in this case, the modern day Watchtower Arians are being given some ammunition, because this argument seems to vindicate their claims.

Ironically his appeals (and answers) to Eutychianism and Nestorianism remind me not of orthodox Christology but an integration producing a tertium quid. His answer to Nestorianism would (by philosophical necessity) result in a form of Eutychianism. The singularity of person does not reconcile the natures and create a coherence. It's rightly referred to as a mystical union, something which defies categorisation.

Evaluating the Incarnation in terms of logical coherence and its demonstrability is a perilous road. I don't usually hear this emphasis outside the circles of Gordon Clark and those of like mind. Of course, Clark's Antiochan-style Rationalism led indeed to Nestorianism and in the realm of the Trinity... that road leads to either Modalism or rank Unitarianism. Such is the consequence of equating finite and reductionist coherences with Divine Revelatory Mysteries.

Frankly I find the analogy between the Church-State relationship and the hypostatic union to be not just akin to sacrilege but staggering in its conceited attempt to dissect the Godhead and reduce the Deity to some kind of philosophical principle. I'm afraid the analogy tells us more about his view of God rather than shedding any real light on the salient question.

But what about the Trinity? Does God's Tri-unity provide an analogy for the Church's relationship to the world and the state?

Perhaps Latin Trinitarian Theology comes into play at this point.... is the Kingdom now presented in a type of modalism, sometimes the temporal state, sometimes the eternal eschatological kingdom? Is the state equally ultimate with the Church? Will he charge us with Subordination if we order the Church first in terms of eternal and eschatological priority? What of authority and revelation? How do these questions play into the equation without falling into Subordination?

He seems to think his appeal avoids these snares. In fact he's opened the door to them through his analogy.

Once again we seem caught in a theological morass. This is what happens when you stray from the text and try to build theological systems made of paper castles.

At one point he dwells on authority of confessional standards as if this is the end of the matter. Let all arguments cease, right?

That's the real issue here, even during the larger tortured discussion on Presbyterian intricacies. These men are committed to institution and tradition, as opposed to the Holy Text and sometimes it shows... painfully.

His final appeal to Acts 17 struck me as patronising and pedantic if not silly. Of course we preach the Word. Does any Two Kingdom adherent deny that? We call all men to repent. That's a far cry from arguing for the Sacralisation of culture and the state, let alone taking covenant law and 'integrating' it with the temporal non-holy order. There is no Biblical precedent for his view in either the Old or New Testaments and he assumes categories completely outside anything found in the Apostolic writings. Instead what he suggests is that natural fallen man can be compelled to 'keep' God's commandments and work together with the Spirit to build the Kingdom of God on Earth in the form of institutions and culture.

Calvin's comments on the state are wrong. He misinterprets Romans 13 let alone Christ's words concerning Caesar in Matthew 22. The state is not holy or redemptive. It is temporary and yet serves a 'ministerial' purpose. That's true with Assyria, Persia and in the New Testament context, the Roman Empire under Nero. The Reformed tradition got this desperately wrong and sadly their view has become the Evangelical standard.

The professor comes across as a moderate, because he's not an avowed Theonomist or some kind of Theocrat. He's upset that churches are using Glenn Beck for Sunday School. That's great, it is a repulsive display of heresy, but that doesn't mean that his view is much better. If on the error scale the arch-heretic RJ Rushdoony was a 10, then being a 7 or 8 doesn't mean you're in a good place or much closer to Scriptural doctrine.