Vocal defenders of 2k are in such short supply – though practitioners are everywhere in North America (it is the default position for Reformed Protestants, after all) – that I wondered about commenting on this. But when I read this, it seemed that some comment was in order.
Matt Tuininga is a smart fellow and doing impressive work at Emory University on political theology. His blog is worth reading. In addition, he has defended 2k in the pages of Christian Renewal where Dr. K. has done his darnedest to associate 2k with all things profane. (Aside from the kitchen sink, the only charge that Dr. K. has not hurled is is that of Communism.)
In a fairly recent piece for CR, Matt tried to explain the controversy over 2k as one between those who use its logic without even thinking about it and a minority that takes the position to extremes:
The controversy arises when people appeal to the doctrine to question causes closer to home. For instance, some have used it to challenge the politicization of many evangelical churches directly involved in the political work of the Christian Right. Others have used it to challenge what they perceive as the excesses of Neocalvinism and its failure to distinguish the advancement of the kingdom of God through the work of the church with the work of cultural transformation.
Usually when I hear people opposing the two kingdoms doctrine today it is because they think it entails the abandonment of something like Christian education, or of a Christian worldview that guides the actions of Christians in every aspect of life. While there have been some recent two kingdoms proponents who do move in this direction, it is a massive theological and historical mistake to allow those people – who are most certainly in a minority – to define the two kingdoms doctrine and to control the way in which we speak of it. To do this ignores the importance the doctrine has held in establishing precisely the kind of Reformed biblical autonomy and church government that we value so highly and on which the integrity of the Reformed tradition depends.
Since I have in fact used the logic of 2k to question the necessity (as in “thou shalt”) of Christian schools and to wonder about the German idealist pretensions of nineteenth-century critiques of liberalism (i.e., w-w), Matt’s comments would appear to implicate me. Since he and I are friendly and recently had a pleasant chat at the Greenville seminary conference on Old Princeton, I doubt that Matt was necessarily singling me out. Even so, I would like to see him amend his analysis by considering the following.
In addition to the important debates about church power – with Geneva (2k) and Zuirch (Erastian) representing the main options on questions of excommunication – was the even more basic question of the authority of Scripture (i.e. sola Scriptura). Ministers could teach only what Scripture reveals, and churches could require only what the Bible commanded. The doctrines and commandments of men, no matter how wise, pious, or well intentioned, could not bind a believer’s conscience. For that reason, whenever the church evaluates the integrity of a believer’s profession, it must do so on the basis only of norms revealed in Scripture. The church must have a “thus, saith the Lord.” An effort like Adam’s instruction to Eve about not even touching the fruit of the tree won’t do. Either you don’t eat the apple or you sin. Touching it, looking at it, cutting it is not a command revealed by God.
All of the Reformed creeds begin with an affirmation of sola scriptura. Here is how the Gallican Confession (1559) puts it:
We know these books to be canonical, and the sure rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books upon which, however useful, we can not found any articles of faith. (Art. 4)
For churches to require anything that the Bible does not require is akin to establishing an article of faith on a foundation other than the Bible. Kuyper and his views about w-w’s or about education may be useful, though the way that places like the Free University turned out or that Christian w-w formation is playing out in numerous so-called Reformed day schools is not the best of testimonies to Kuyper’s wisdom. Still, the point should not be missed. Unless anti-2kers (and even some 2kers) can establish that Christian education and w-w are necessary as in an article of faith, then those who raise questions about Christian education and w-w are not radical or extreme. They are only doing what the Reformers did by asking where the Bible, as opposed to influential saints, establishes the existing practices and teachings of the church. In fact, it is those who establish a hierarchy of faithfulness based on tradition and look down on those who don’t follow the doctrines and commandments of men who are extreme.