A fairly common observation (and sometime criticism) is that two-kingdom teaching is simply a reiteration of Anabaptist notions about the separation of church and state. Because 2k is ambivalent if not in denial about the kingdom work supplied by the magistrate, the modern version of two-kingdom theology supposedly stands closer to sixteenth-century Anabaptists (who rejected ecclesiastical establishments) than to the magisterial reformers (who looked to the state to uphold the true religion).
Here is one reason why 2k is not Anabaptist, and it comes from the unlikely source of Alan Jacobs’ Christmas-day reflection on gun control:
I’m a Christian, and as such I am enjoined to pray and hope for the coming reign of the Prince of Peace. Christians might disagree about how and when that Kingdom is going to come about, but we must pray for it and seek it without all our hearts. We should look forward always to the the reign of shalom, as laid out in Isaiah 65. It is not, then, intrinsically desirable that we should be armed; it is, rather, intrinsically desirable that we should all live in the Kingdom of God where no weapons are needed because we live in mutual love and have our needs provided by the Lord.
Maybe that doesn’t even need to be said; maybe nobody really thinks an armed society is ipso facto a better society, even though some folks can sound that way at times. If so, then please just take this post as a reminder that if it is, or becomes, necessary for Americans to be regularly and publicly armed, that’s a sign of the tragic brokenness of a world populated by fallen people.
Aside from the fairly obvious point that Jacobs is blurring lines between society and God’s people with his invocation of “we” in connection with the kingdom of God, he fails to recognize that the peaceable kingdom for which he longs is evident every Lord’s Day when believers gather at the Lord’s Table and only need the spiritual discipline of fencing the table — not guns — for communion. Also troubling is the implicit logic that fewer guns in society is an indication of the arrival of God’s kingdom. (Readers may want to keep in mind that some neo-Calvinists invoke shalom the way Jacobs does as an indication of the arrival of God’s kingdom.) That kind of logic is what leads the hip urbano-Calvinists to regard more artists and chefs and fewer police and soldiers as evidence of the coming kingdom. In fact, the signs of Christ’s kingdom are more ministers, more church members, more congregations (disciplined, of course), and more fruit of the Spirit.
But with careful distinctions between the kingdoms and the sorts of weapons used in each, two-kingdom proponents can see the problems that come with police enforcing the true religion (as Anabaptists did) while rejecting pacifist and non-violent social norms (as the magisterial reformers did). The church doesn’t need guns. It enforces God’s law and proclaims the good news through spiritual means. But until Christ’s return and the ultimate sorting out of the wheat and the tares, society will need guns. Rules for owning, manufacturing, and selling guns will come not from God’s word (which is silent about such matters) but the shifting sands of human reflection.