Escondido Theology Before Escondido

In his new book, John Frame argues that two-kingdom theologians represent a novel development in the history of Reformed theology. In his introduction, he goes out of his way to explain that Escondido theologians reject Christendom. But this rejection creates a problem for 2k because the theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries taught that the magistrate had a duty to enforce the entire Decalague. “The two kingdoms view,” Frame writes, “goes beyond the Reformation theology in important ways. Indeed, except for the law/gospel dichotomy, its distinctive positions are American, not European.” (Frame also acknowledges that the roots of two kingdom theology are in Augustine’s City of God and Luther’s On Civil Authority. Go figure.) In fact, Frame goes out of his way to locate Meredith Kline as the source of these views.

What is odd about Frame’s analysis is that the so-called Escondido Theology was a position that Edmund P. Clowney espoused. Clowney was not only Frame’s professor at Westminster during the 1960s, but he was also the president of the seminary when Frame received a teaching appointment. Apparently, Frame did not pay attention to Clowney’s teaching or memos. But Clowney clearly taught the main lines of the so-called Escondido Theology in an essay, “The Politics of the Kingdom,” published in the Westminster Theological Journal in the Spring, 1979 issue (helpfully made available by Ken Myers at Mars Hill Audio, a time when the property for Westminster Seminary California was only a twinkle in Clowney’s eye.

First, notice Clowney’s understanding of the cultural mandate and Christ’s fulfillment of it:

Christ the second Adam fulfills the calling of the first. Adam was charged to fill the earth and subdue it. Man’s dominion, lyrically described in Psalm 8, is realized in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, as the author of Hebrews declares (Heb. 2:5-8). Further, in his resurrection glory at the Father’s right hand Christ fills all things. Paul describes Christ’s filling both in reference to the church (his fullness as his body) and in reference to the world, which he fills with the sovereignty of his rule (Eph. 4:10; Jer. 23:23). In Jesus Christ man’s vocation of sonship as God’s imagebearer is completely realized. The final depth of the covenant relation is not “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people,” but “Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee” (Ps. 2:7; Heb. 1:5).

Notice next that for the church to engage in political and social activities is to secularize the church and therefore a betrayal of the church’s duty:

Because there is one true people of God on earth, there remains a “theopolitical” structure and calling for the church. It is not the structure of the kingdoms of the world. To apply to the world the form of the church is a sacralizing process that is just as illegitimate as the secularizing process that would apply to the church the forms of the world. Yet the fact that the church does not possess a worldly political structure does not mean that it possesses no political structure whatever. The “politics” of the kingdom are the pattern, purpose, and dynamic by which God orders the life of the heavenly polis in this world. Only as it conforms to this heavenly pattern is the church a city set on a hill, given as salt to preserve the world from corruption and a light to point the way to salvation.

Look also at the way that Clowney deals with so-called mercy ministries in the church (or how the spiritual aspects of Christian existence transcend the temporal):

As a heavenly community the church must deal with the temporal concerns of its members, yet its discipline remains spiritual, not temporal. For example, the church could require a Christian storekeeper to refund purchases that had been gained by misleading advertising, but if the member refused, the church’s final earthly sanction would be excommunication, not economic boycott.

The heavenly community of Christ is called to an earthly pilgrimage. The people of God may not abandon the program of his kingdom—”if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him” (Rom 8:18). Paul rebukes the triumphalists at Corinth: “ye have come to reign without us: yea, and I would
that ye did reign, that we might also reign with you” (I Cor. 4:8). We may not wish to condemn Christians who in persecution that seemed beyond endurance turned upon their persecutors, but Christ does not call his church to Camisard rebellion. Rather, he gives that grace that enabled the Huguenot galley-slave to call his chains the chains of Christ’s love.

Finally, look at the way that church and state authority are distinct because of the differences between Christ’s rule as creator and redeemer:

The distinction between the state as the form of the city of this world and the church as the form of the heavenly city remains essential. Christ’s heavenly authority controls the nations but they are not thereby made his disciples. His headship over all things is distinguished from his headship over the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all (Eph. 1:21-23). To be sure, the life of the worldly kingdoms is influenced by the life of the church in their midst; the people of God are like salt to preserve the world from its corruption; the kingdom works as a leaven, penetrating the world with the influence of Christian faith, hope, and love. . . .

To suppose that the body of Christ finds institutional expression in both the church and the state as religious and political spheres is to substitute a sociological conception of the church for the teaching of the New Testament. Christ does not give the keys of the kingdom to Caesar, nor the sword to Peter before the parousia. The church is the new nation (I Pet. 2:9), the new family of God (Eph. 3:15). The covenantal family of the patriarchal period and the covenantal nation after Moses demonstrate that
the people of God are formed in a way that respects the structures of life in the world, but they also demonstrate that the electing grace of God’s kingdom cannot be fulfilled within these structures.

Maybe Clowney’s problem is that he was not European but American. But the last I checked, Frame was not importing his suits from Switzerland.

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  1. Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Charlie, socialism is man exploiting man. Capitalism is the same thing only in reverse. Ta-da!

    But do you really want to say that our republican form of democracy is founded on a Christian worldview? I thought it was founded on the Greco-Roman worldview. And if being opposed to Reformed Christianity is the basis for wanting to prevent Mormons from holding office (because they’ll oppress the church) then doesn’t that mean you also want to prevent Catholics and Baptists from holding office?

  2. mark mcculley
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Most evangelicals are hostile to any proclamation of John 3:16 which denies that Christ died for every sinner. The idea that none for whom Christ died will perish is NOT good news to the evangelical book market. This means that evangelicals have something much more fundamental from which to repent than “Telbowing their faith”. There are many sincere folks who nevertheless have a faith in a false gospel, and need to repent of that idolatry.

    A godly change of mind can come only in light of the Gospel wherein Christ and His righteousness obtained for the elect alone is revealed as the only reason for salvation . This godly repentance is a change of mind concerning Christ (Who He is and what He accomplished) and the efficacy of His obedience unto death (His righteousness). This repentance involves a change of mind about changes of mind making the difference in removing the guilt and defilement of sin

    What the evangelical now sees as pleasing unto God and as the work of the Holy Spirit, he needs to see as “flesh” (Philippians 3:3-4). What the evangelical once highly esteemed, when he repents of the gospel, he becomes ashamed of (Romans 6:21) and now, in light of the true Gospel, counts his experimental evangelical religion as fruit unto death, DEAD WORKS, evil deeds. He doesn’t look down into the toilet bowl of his history to see what can be reformed or redeemed. He flushes.

    The distinction between kingdoms is important knowledge, because it exposes the Idolatry of those who would give “spiritual reasons” for killing the enemies of their American property. But a more fundamental distinction is between the gospel in which Christ satisfies God’s law for the elect, and the false gospel in which God’s law is compromised and ignored.

    Matthew 5:16–“let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

    The light is not our good works. The light is the gospel, and the gospel teaches us which works are good and give glory to God.

    John 3:19 “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it will be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

  3. Posted February 9, 2012 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    Darryl, those liberties were purchased by the blood of the American revolutionaries, most of whom were Protestants. Will you sit back while the neo-Evangelicals sell out to the Papists? From the looks of it, you and Mike Horton will do so. Horton thinks Anglo-Catholics are Christians even though their doctrine is Papist through and through. If you’re going to complain about how Evangelicals are oppressing the Reformed faith, at least consistently stand for the Gospel and stop compromising with Arminians, Van Tilians, Theonomists, and Anglo-Papists.

    There is only one Gospel. Pretending there is a village green or a big tent is just naive, imo.

    The Evangelical Theological Society only requires that you believe in biblical inspiration and inerrancy and the trinity–as if the Gospel were unimportant. How about the five solas?

    Even worse, The Society for Pentecostal Studies does not even believe that the trinity is essential doctrine since they allow oneness Pentecostal modalist membership. For the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement the only thing essential is the gifts of the Spirit and Spirit baptism.

    Ecumenicalism has reared its ugly head even among the “Reformed”. As if Arminians are not closer to the Papists in theology than the Reformed? Please.

    I would that you guys would be consistent with the two kingdoms theology. If you were, you could never endorse false denominations and false religions as if they were part of God’s kingdom.

    Sincerely in Christ,


  4. Posted February 9, 2012 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    zrim, absolutely. I would prefer Reformed men to be office holders. Given a choice I choose the lesser evils. As for the government being Greco-Roman, I would say there are influences on western civilization from that form of government. But let’s not forget that John Locke social contract theory, the Magna Carta, and the ecclesiology of the presbyterian church polity have all influenced our political form of government as well.

    Furthermore, there is an influence of the Christian worldview evident in the appeals to divine authority in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I’m no fan of “civil religion” but historically the idea of an absolute separation between Christian faith and the political realm is just revisionism. The Church of England was an established church. The Americans did not have in mind an absolute separation of church and state that we see today argued by the socialists and liberals. No, they wanted religious freedom without an established church.

    The fact that the Decalogue is engraved on the face of the Supreme Court and other evidences of Christianity ought to proof enough that there was no idea of a godless secular government that we see pushed today. Jefferson was a Deist, not an atheist.

    When the 2k view is made to support godless and atheistic government then I have to strongly disagree. If by the 2k view you mean that we should have no established church supported by taxation and military might, then I agree. If you mean that government should not uphold natural law and a general equity, then I disagree. The Protestant Reformers one and all believed that the Decalogue should be applied in the realm of civil government. It was a magisterial Reformation.

    I believe that is what the term “general equity” means in the Westminster Confession.

    It seems to me that some interpretations of the 2k view are distinctly American. I’m wondering which political party you and Horton and the gang belong to? I’m guessing the socialist party.


  5. Posted February 9, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Charlie, yeow, so much for your efforts to avoid polemics. Do I really type like a socialist? Paging Senator McCarthy.

    But Jesus and the apostles supported godless governments–you know, render unto (godless) Caesar his due and all that. To my mind, what is distinctly American is the notion that our civil office bearers must share our religious convictions. Why is that? Do our doctors, librarians, store clerks and cops have to as well? How about our politicians more or less share our polical views and our other servants only a capacity that is relative to their craft? Or is that not glorious enough?

  6. Posted February 9, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Charlie, a little consistency from you may also be in order. The American Revolution drew great support from Calvinists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, who too often equated political liberty with Christian liberty. Such support for nation has fostered various forms of liberalism because it confuses the eternal and temporal realms. Clerical support for the Revolution paved the way for the Social Gospel.

    As for my own ecumenism, I’ve been outspokenly critical of the Manhattan Declaration. I have also wondered about Protestants who can’t tell the difference between spiritual and political matters and so are willing to overlook Roman Catholic teachings and practices for the sake of a public morality.

    Also, you may be interested in a series of Articles that John Muether and I wrote against Roman Catholicism.

    2kers are more consistent than you realize.

  7. mark mcculley
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    mcmark: I agree with Zrim that’s it better to have “secular friends” to remind us that we don’t have to
    join with religious friends with their false gospels. I think this is consistent.

    But to copy Zrim for himself–“But maybe we don’t want to take public stands on issues about which we agree with fellow religionists because it doesn’t take too long before “those issues” become confused with the essentials of faith. Secular friends help keep religionists from getting confused.”

  8. mark mcculley
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    one of dgh’s links doesn’t get to the Roman Catholicism essay. Maybe this will:

  9. Posted February 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the links, Darryl. I will read them and post the links on my blog…

    In Christ,


  10. Posted February 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Obeying civil laws in a godless realm is different from supporting what those godless governments choose to do. Jesus didn’t advocate insurrection but neither did He tell the Jews to commit idolatry by worshipping images. What He said was, “Pay your taxes.”

    Jesus and Paul condemned homosexuality. They didn’t support what went on the pagan world.

  11. Posted February 9, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Marky McMark, do religious right-to-lifers even know secular pro-lifers even exist? Friends don’t let friends drive confused.

  12. Posted February 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Charlie, when he said “Pay your taxes” he meant “Submit to the ungodly.” His hearers understood that and was why they were amazed. What’s so amazing about telling people to be practice good citizenship 101? Did Jesus really have to die for giving innocuous citizenship lessons?

  13. rey
    Posted July 28, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    So what does Escondido theology mean? It seems to mean “Calvinists who are NOT terrorists, or have no desire to be terrorists” whereas opposing Escondido theology seems to imply a sort of “terrorist Calvinism” or the idea that Calvinists should use terrorism to take over he government and use the secular sword to force everyone to be Calvinist. Does that about sum it up?

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