Two Kingdom Theology is the Change We've Been Waiting For

Kevin DeYoung, over at DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed, has weighed two-kingdom theology and Kuyperianism in the balance and hopes for a middle ground in the following way:

I am loathe to be an apologist for the status quo, or to throw cold water on young people who want to see abortion eradicated or dream of kids in Africa having clean water. I don’t think it’s wrong for a church to have an adoption ministry or an addiction recovery program. I think changing structures, institutions, and ideas not only helps people but can pave the way for gospel reception.

Perhaps there is a–I can’t believe I’m going to say it–a middle ground. I say, let’s not lose the heart of the gospel, divine self-satisfaction through self-substitution. And let’s not apologize for challenging Christians to show this same kind of dying love to others. Let’s not be embarrassed by the doctrine of hell and the necessity of repentance and regeneration. And let’s not be afraid to do good to all people, especially to the household of faith. Let’s work against the injustices and suffering in our day, and let’s be realistic that the poor, as Jesus said, will always be among us. Bottom line: let’s work for change where God calls us and gifts us, but let’s not forget that the Great Commission is go into the world and make disciples, not go into the world and build the kingdom.

Is recovering the dignity of the sacred office (as opposed to every member ministry), returning to psalm-singing (as opposed to hymns or praise songs), or restoring the Sunday evening worship service simply preserving the status quo? Or is judging a Christian profession by one’s quiet and ordinary work rather than whether you are making a difference really so widely accepted that Kuyperian transformationalism is a welcome relief? If so, beam me up, Kevin.

For what it’s worth, White Horse Inn has posted responses to DeYoung and Kevin himself gets the last word.

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16 thoughts on “Two Kingdom Theology is the Change We've Been Waiting For

  1. DG,

    I appreciated your post over at the WHI earlier today. I praise God for your faithfulness in/to your vocation 😉 Can you recommend a source or two on a Reformed or 2K understanding of vocation? As time wears on out here on the Left Coast on top of the job market thinning out my 2K peso is also getting a faultier exchange rate among my PCA brethren; thus, I find myself in desperate need of some constructive 2K fodder in regard to the latter.

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  2. Calvin and Luther are both very strong. Calvin’s commentary especially on the Luke narrative of Mary and Martha is helpful, as is Luther on the duties of parents. For contemporary authors, Gilbert Meileander and Wendell Berry on the nature of work are very good. The former has a bood dedicated to the subject by Notre Dame press. The latter’s book, The Hidden Wound, is depressing but also encouraging about the value of manual labor. Not to be forgotten is Matthew Crawford’s recent book, Shop Class as Soul Craft, or the discussions of the book over at Front Porch Republic.

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  3. Dr. Hart,

    Where would you place someone like Russell Moore at Southern Seminary and what do you think of his writing? His book on the Kingdom of Christ sounds neo-calvinistic in areas, but he also seems to advocate some ideas that are in line with the two kingdom theory. His book was fascinating, but I had a hard time deciding how to classify his views on the kingdom.

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  4. My sense is that Russell is struggling to hold together a proper ecclesiastical separatism (and so hold on to the conservative gains in the SBC) while also trying to find room for Carl Henry’s argument in Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. So I think you’re right that you hear both sides in Russell. Maybe he is the middle way that Kevin DeYoung is looking for. But I myself think that Henry’s ecclesiology was not up to the task of keeping the church the church.

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  5. But Kuyper himself recognises the concept of vocations – it’s just that he believes that a group of Christians carrying out their vocations and with hearts that have been changed (however imperfectly) will over time make a difference.

    I don’t think the answer to an over-realized eschatology is an under-realized one.

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  6. Chris E.,

    But there are two problems with the “changed hearts makes a difference over time” outlook:

    1) Even the holiest of us make but only the smallest progress in this life. And justified sinners are always more sinful than not until the day they die.

    2) Whatever miniscule progress has been made terminates when they die, and it has to start all over again with the next generation. Unless the first generation can pass down their sanctification the way they can their bank accounts, is there really anything new under the sun? That may be a function of an under-realized eschatology, but you have to remember I get my inspiration from Ecclesiates.

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  7. It is not an underrealized eschatology from which 2k suffers. It is unremarkable means. For some reason — I suspect the Corinthian theology of glory problem — kuyperians and evangelicals really struggle with victory coming through defeat, power through weakness, wisdom through folly. But how can you read the Bible and not conclude that the ways of the kingdom are NOT flashy?

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  8. I don’t think that 2K necessarily suffers from underrealized eschatology – see the gap between the two WHI blog posts.

    What do we do with all claims in the epistles that the gospel should lead to lives that are identifiably different from the culture around us ? That doesn’t exclude simultaneously looking weak and foolish to the world.

    Is this articulation largely a product of being middle class and american and thereby living in a culture with deep Christian roots. How well does it do in more crime ridden and poorer areas where the visible consequences of sin are so evident.

    Again, in some third world cultures there is a lot more respect for the sacred office than there is in the West, but they’d still look on the arguments against every member ministry with puzzlement.

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  9. “Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds.” I see the NT imperatives to be different from “the world.” I don’t see how a renewed mind is obviously identifiable. And when it comes to common activities like science, art, food, how identifiably different are Christians to be? Sorry, Chris, but you’re sounding like my fundamentalist mother — and she never read Kuyper (couldn’t even spell it).

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  10. So – let’s assume the OPC was to do inner-city ministry amongst a community of drug addicts and prostitutes, presumably their renewed mind would also not be obviously identifable in terms of not being conformed to the world in which they live in.

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  11. Yes and no. I’d like to think that someone struggling with drug addiction or a life of sexual promiscuity could still find forgiveness in the church. Would they be disciplined if they continued in an unrepetant state? Sure. But what if they struggle, repented, fell off the wagon, repented again? Would they need to live like yuppies or suburbanites in order to feel secure in the church?

    And what of those invisible sins that afflict OPC yuppies and suburbanites? Is there room in the church for them?

    Isn’t the church really a collection of sinners? Is one’s spiriutal health really so obviously identifiable? Are liars and self-righteus folks really better than repentant and struggling drug addicts and prostitutes?

    Oh, the visibility.

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  12. Chris E.,

    What makes us obviously identifiable actually takes place but once a week. On that day, we’re the ones with bread and wine in our hands and absent the mall. The other six days our eating, drinking and shopping don’t seem to reveal much. Ok, we don’t steal our goods, but neither do the Hindi. All the monumental effort to distinguish ourselves Monday through Saturday seems like an ironic posture given that all we need to do so is one day of rest.

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