Over on the Heidelblog, there’s an interesting discussion between an African brother and Dr. R. Scott Clark of Westminster seminary on “Two Kingdom” theology. The modern version of “Two Kingdom” theology espoused by American Calvinists at Westminster appears to be different than that of the Reformers, particularly Calvin and Luther. We can get a better understanding of the modern view by looking at both sides of this discussion
My main concern with 2K theology now is that is primarily an “intra-American-Reformed-Church-” discussion.
Living in South Africa, reading van Drunen’s books and attending his lecturers when he came to SA, reading oldlife.org, reading Heidelblog, and the Reformed Confession, interacting with WSC alumni like Pastor Jooste (Cape Town) and Pastor Heck (Heidelberg, Germany), I was convinced of 2K theology for the past 8 years, until I recently interacted with the very brutal reality of Fascism, Muslims who won’t bend Shariah Law to anyone for anything, Big Tech company-driven “communism”, and Chinese communists in my business life.
Many a times I could only pray for all the death threats I received for rejecting the various “unwholesome” commercial agreements and partnerships (It is not that “easy” to walk away from those at the top!). The truth is I was “influenced” by 2K thinking in believing that a “good and reasonable” argument would make these groups “understanding” in terms of how to conduct business and commercial agreements, but alas, theirs is a “different gospel” and belief system. Death threats (for mere disagreement!) abound in these treacherous circles I unwittingly found myself in.
I only urge that my 2K brothers (I have now regrettably abandoned the position) comprehend this : 1) Muslim “nations” do not really care to budge to “natural law”, as witnessed by the persecution of many Christians over there; 2) Communists are not backing down on their China-led expansionism of their anti-God ideals and they will not listen to “argument” that derails them from their course; 3) Fascists (I primarily noticed this with an Italian I “almost” partnered with), don’t really live by any “law” except to protect and feed their own…
I am still not sure what the “resolution” is. But perhaps arguing “2K” in China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia is WAY BETTER than arguing about it within countries, and within Churches already heavily influenced by the Christian faith and the biblical/natural law. I REFUSED to give the “theonomy”/Belgis-36 crowd (J. Frame, etc) an ear 10 years ago; but I now reconsidering…
This brother is absolutely right. You can’t have a discussion about natural law with non-Christians because their religious beliefs always trump the commandments published at Creation. Non-Christian civilizations of the past and present have been dominated by homosexuality, polygamy, infanticide, murder, robbery, and suppression of free speech. For example, Muslims believe it’s ok to kill non-Muslims if they refuse to pay jizya. Mohammed had 13 wives despite God making clear at Creation that marriage is between one man and one woman. Hindus used to throw widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands before the British outlawed it. Pagans in the Ancient Near East and Greece and Rome made divorce, promiscuity, androgyny, and child sacrifice religious rites despite their obvious contradiction of natural law. It’s only in the Christian West that natural law has been affirmed and practiced somewhat. No sooner has Christianity been abandoned in the West that pagan sexual mores have returned with a flood of foreigners who practice the same? My question for modern 2 Kingdom Theorists, therefore, is “What proof is there for natural law as a basis for law and relations with fellow nations among non-Christian peoples?” I can’t find any. How do I have a discussion about natural law with non-Christians in the modern West when they think you can change from male to female???
R. Scott Clark’s reply illustrates the gaps in modern two kingdom theory, with my rebuttals:
I’m not sure what you’re in the process of rejecting. You write as if “2K” is a fixed, known, set of conclusions. I doubt that is correct. I would prefer to speak as Calvin did of the “twofold government” (duplex regimen) in which God is said to govern two distinct spheres in which Christians have two distinct sets of responsibilities. To deny that there are two distinct spheres commits one necessarily to (among other things) some sort of state-church. I share Abraham Kuyper’s question: Where in history has that worked out well for the orthodox? Athanasius stood for orthodoxy despite the magistrate, not because of him.
I don’t think anyone denies that there’s a City of God and a City of Man or Satan’s kingdom. The two are not even antithetical. There is still not a neat division between the two which is why we are to pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Meredith Kline and the Bible argue that Heaven will infuse earth at the day of judgment and we’re to live in light of that. It also argues that things will get worse until the end. The Bible says some paradoxical things as the Reformers well knew. -Bryce
I don’t think that you have accounted properly for natural law as a response to totalitarian movements (e.g., Fascism). I’m an American. Were it not for natural law, there would be no United States. Natural law was essential to our response to tyranny. -RSC
This is a rather flippant response. The African brother said that he has tried really hard to understand natural law and apply its principles to his common-grace life. The theory given to him doesn’t agree with his experience or reality. The response also ignores the historical context of 18th and 19th century American life. Natural law was practiced in the United States by the Protestants who founded it and governed it. As it has become less Protestant, it has become less governed by natural law. There is absolutely no proof that the tyrants of other nations would be persuaded by natural law, as if, for example, Stalin was unaware that he was murdering millions of people. What Stalin really needed to hear was the judgment awaiting tyrants and murderers. The fear of God should’ve been used to persuade men like him just as Paul attempted to persuade Roman officials during his trial in the book of Acts. -Bryce
I don’t see how adopting the Islamic view of Mosque & state helps Christians respond to the threat posed by global Islamism. D. G. Hart is right. It was the Christians who gave us the blessed category of secular. It was the pagan Romans who insisted on a state-cult. -RSC
This is a non-sequitur. No one is arguing for this. The Reformers were adamant that civil magistrates should be persuaded by the Bible though. R. Scott Clark believes this made Calvin a theocrat. I assume that he applies the same epithet to Luther who frequently counseled German nobles from the Bible. Civil government needs to be informed by religion. It WILL be informed by religion, one-way or the other. The cult of modern secular liberalism practiced by our elites is definitely a religion. – Bryce
The Israelite state-cult was divinely instituted and intentionally temporary. Where is the divine warrant for a Christian state-cult? Which apostle argued for it unambiguously? Natural law is entirely sufficient warrant for a civil-military response to totalitarian movements, whether Islamism, Communism, or Fascism. -RSC
I have refuted this above – Bryce
Who cares whether Muslim nations agree with civilized nations? International relations is a covenant of works. Civilized nations should arm themselves and fight to defend the civil-natural rights of their citizens when Islamist nations/groups violate that covenant (that covenant is essentially “leave us alone or die”). Christendom was at war with Islamism for 1,000 years. We had a respite of a few hundred years and, for a variety of reasons, that respite has ended. We are now back to the status quo ante. Now, post-Christendom, secular states have a duty to operate according to natural, including the duty to defend citizens against tyranny of all sorts. -RSC
Our elites definitely care whether we, the People, agree with the Muslims. They fall all over themselves to appease Islam now that we are post-Christendom. This isn’t terribly different from some of the Protestant states siding with the Turk against the Catholics in the past, but none of the leaders of Protestant states were arguing that their people should turn Turk or that Turks should be invited in large numbers to settle Christian lands. -Bryce
The problem academics have is they aren’t able to verify their theories in reality. The Reformers who gave us the Reformed 2 Kingdom view (as opposed to this modern one) got to test their theories in the school of hard knocks. Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door to have only an academic discussion with other monks and clergy. God had other plans: his theses were reprinted throughout Germany and he became a lightning rod for both church and state, much like Paul in the book of Acts. Show me a case in the history of the New Testament church where it has been otherwise? Even in the Dark Ages after the collapse of Rome, clergy were trying to restrain feudal lords with Biblical counsel and the power of the church. Without this Biblical counsel, the feudal lords would’ve done what seemed natural to them, which was oppress, tax, rape and murder more violently. Would this have been better? What would’ve happened to the laity if the clergy back then had said, “Welp, the feudal lord’s behavior is secular business? What has it to do with the Church?”