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.