Putting a Point on Two Kingdoms


Posts and comments have been flying fast and furious over at the blog of those two crazy guys, Brothers Tim and David Bayly (they admit that they are “out of their minds”) about two-kingdom theology. It started over a week ago with acrimony surrounding the experimental Calvinism of Jonathan Edwards and Martin Lloyd-Jones, but quickly descended into mud-slinging about who has picketed abortion clinics the most, thus proving that the conversion experience is hardly otherworldly.

One of the points to surface in these debates is the cockamamie idea (to them) of the separation of church and state. As I have tried to point out, if you don’t believe in the separation of church and state, what is the alternative? One to which a Bayly Bro alluded was Calvin’s Geneva, with a nice scoop of scorn for those Calvinists who have departed so far from the pater familia of Reformed orthodoxy and Christian politics. But when I try to bring up the idea that idolaters and heretics were not welcome in Geneva – ahem, can anyone say Servetus? – I receive another helping of scorn. I simply don’t know what I’m talking about because executing heretics is not what they are talking about. Then why bring up Calvin?

I may not know what I’m blogging about, but I definitely don’t know how you can promote Calvin’s ideas on church and state and not see the pinch that might be coming in this greatest of nations on God’s green earth for Mormons and Roman Catholics (for starters). I’m not sure Baptists would be secure either since they do rebaptize. (Just trying to show I’m not selective in my dogmatic intolerance.) And the Baylys have the nerve to call me utopian. What land of chocolate (props to the Simpsons) would execute Servetus and keep Orrin Hatch?

And then along comes Rabbi Bret to the rescue. Mind you, he has been banished (it could be a self-imposed exile) from the Bayly Bros land of chocolate blogging for extreme remarks, so I am not implying that he speaks for the Baylys. But I am not sure how the Baylys and other versions of Christian America, from an orthodox George Washington and a federally envisioned Moscow, Idaho, to the transformation of New York City, can avoid having a Christian influence on society that stops at religious intolerance without limiting Christian influence to mere morality (quite like the liberal Protestant project, mind you, where the Bible was good for ethics but lousy for doctrine).

Here is how Rabbi Bret puts a point on it:

A second problem with the idea of a Christian advocating some version of “it is only fair that in a pluralistic culture that no faith, including Christianity, ever be preferred by the state” is that such a statement is treason against the King Jesus Christ. All Christians should be actively working for the elimination of false faiths from our culture and for the elimination of the influence of false faiths upon our civil-social / governmental structures. Any Christian who advocates the planned continuance of religious and cultural pluralism is a Christian who is denying the King Jesus.

If we need to be subject to King Jesus in all of our lives, and if we want his rule in every walk of life, including Manhattan for those who can afford it, then how do we tolerate other faiths in our nation? If the Bible is the norm for all of life, including politics, why doesn’t the state assume the same opposition to false religion as the church? We don’t tolerate heterodox teaching or unrepentant immoral living in our churches, so why would a nation that has Christian standards be more lenient than the church? Wouldn’t that nation be the civil version of the mainline Protestant churches before the sexual revolution? (This question has the ring of plausibility since it suggests why so many Protestants are inclined to conclude that the founding fathers, who were hardly orthodox, were highly orthodox. If orthodoxy is synonymous with morality, then the criteria for judging Christ’s rule shifts significantly.)

But aside from questions this raises about holding back on fully applying God’s word to all of life, including Roman Catholic neighbors, what about being subject to the government ordered by a constitution that preserves religious liberty? If those who say public education is a legitimate option for Christians can be accused of denying the legitimacy of Christian education, can’t those who continue to live with a regime guided by the U.S. Constitution be blamed for supporting idolatry? And if the toleration of unbelief by law is so awful, a sign of disloyalty to King Jesus, then when are folks like Rabbi Bret and the Pastors Bayly going to do more than blog or picket and actually follow the example of many Calvinists and resist tyranny? Is it really fair to accuse 2k advocates of bad faith when the accusers themselves won’t engage in the sort of armed insurrection practiced by Calvinists in sixteenth-century Holland, seventeenth-century England, and eighteenth-century America?

Where Bret seems to part company with the Baylys (and the Christian school advocate, Kloosterman) is over the magistrate’s enforcement of the first table of the law. Bret favors it, while the others seem to think that the magistrate should acknowledge the first table but not enforce it. That sure doesn’t seem to be Calvin’s theory or practice with Servetus who was executed for a defective view of the Trinity (the First Commandment by my reckoning). But even if you allow for this weasely distinction, then haven’t you introduced an area where all that Christ has commanded is not enforce? Christ commands people to have only one God. The magistrate theoretically believes this but lives with subjects who believe in many Gods. Huh? I wonder where exactly the biblical instruction comes for rulers to distinguish the first and second tables of the law so that the latter becomes legislation but not the former.

At the end of the day, it seems to me that the Covenanters had a good position on all this, even if I disagree with their starting place. They refused to participate in the U.S. regime because it did not acknowledge Christ as Lord. They would not run for office or vote in elections (up until about 1980). That seems like a good way of keeping your distance from a regime that tolerates other faiths and doesn’t acknowledge the Lordship of Christ. But folks like Bret rail against the United States and then run for Senate on the Constitution Party ticket – the God-denying Constitution, that is.

For 2k advocates along with your average conservative Presbyterian, Bret’s and the Baylys’ complaints are no skin off our backs. American Presbyterians revised our confession of faith and we now confess that the magistrate has a duty to protect the freedom of all people, no matter what their faith or level of unbelief. According to Bret’s logic, my communion is guilty of treason against the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, the Covenanters, who would have disagreed vigorously with the American revisions of the WCF, never once considered (to my knowledge) severing fellowship with the OPC because of these differences on church and state.

In which case, are the Christian transformers of the U.S.A. making a mountain out of a mole hill? Or is it better to say that they are like Peter, defending his lord with a sword, when that way of doing things has passed away and a new order is in place, a spiritual regime for a spiritual institution – the church – which is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ?

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23 thoughts on “Putting a Point on Two Kingdoms

  1. I heartily agree with you. Calvin, or anyone else, cannot (and would not, given the opportunity) function as a cannon of Reformed theology. The confessions can, but they are united in the possibility of error, and therefore are open to amendment. The appeal to Calvin also ignores the fact that many of his disciples continued to reflect on the implications of their common theological commitments and became some of the ablest advocates of separation of church from state (in the interest of liberating the church).
    Thank you for the sanity.

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  2. Funny how Bret does “not support Christians serving in the U.S. Military at all, since by doing so they are defending this government which supports the cult of Molech,” but he can run for Senate.

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  3. Very well stated. Apparently, when Christ told Peter to put away his sword, he only meant until America was founded? Can’t we learn from history that trying to institute a Holy Roman Empire always fails? That our weapons are spiritual, not physical? Do we have any indications that Paul tried to enforce upon the state the decalogue while he was about his missionary journeys? I think the Jewish authorities when speaking with Pilate give us a better picture of where theonomy will lead: “We have no king but Caesar.” The end of this will be tyranny, and I would rather have a wise atheist as my king then a foolish theonamist. These guys scare me.

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  4. DGH: We don’t tolerate heterodox teaching or unrepentant immoral living in our churches, so why would a nation that has Christian standards be more lenient than the church?

    There are three, not two, possibilities:

    (1) There are no Christian standards for nations [my understanding of REPT-2K].

    (2) There are Christian standards for nations that are the same as for churches [my understanding of Baylys, at least on the issue of men and women].

    (3) There are Christian standards for nations that are different from the Christian standards for churches.

    I’ve not heard anyone explore this third possibility, even though that seems to be the direction that Calvin is hinting at.

    Matt: Can’t we learn from history that trying to institute a Holy Roman Empire always fails?

    Fixed it for ya — it’s not just religious utopias that fall victim to the Curse.

    JRC

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  5. Jeff, no offense, but everyone who is not a theonomist but wants a Christan society (in some form) is talking about option three. How can you say no one’s talking about it. Jerry Falwell, Tim Keller, James Dobson, and the Bayly Bros have been talking about this — and talking, and talking, and talking. I seem to think you’ve even been talking about it.

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  6. No offense taken.

    But …

    DGH: If the Bible is the norm for all of life, including politics, why doesn’t the state assume the same opposition to false religion as the church? We don’t tolerate heterodox teaching or unrepentant immoral living in our churches, so why would a nation that has Christian standards be more lenient than the church?

    DGH: …everyone who is not a theonomist but wants a Christan society (in some form) is talking about option three.

    So is she or ain’t she? Option (3) I mean.

    JRC

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  7. JRC:

    I am not sure what you fixed. I realized that Empires rise and fall. The point was whenever the church has tried to institute a holy society/empire, it fails. Paul’s point at the end of I Corinthians 5 seems pretty clear to me: the church is to judge those within the church; God will judge those outside the church. So why then do we want the outside (the State) judging what is better left inside (the church)?

    Matt

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  8. Sorry, I was being elliptical and in a glib mood all at once.

    I agree with you that the church is supposed to judge those inside, not outside the church.

    I was just pointing out that the failure of the Holy Roman Empire doesn’t properly teach us that point, since all empires rise and fall. Nothing profound.

    JRC

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  9. DGH, coming back to this, I thought I’d share an anecdote that illustrates the three options.

    I have a friend who could be described as Schafferian, Old Princeton, post-mill-leaning, “something close to biblicist,” and an excellent historian. She definitely has sympathy for the “transformationalist” side of things.

    Just for grins, I asked her, “What do you think about the thesis that ‘women should be subordinate to men in every area of life’?”

    Without missing a beat, she immediately said, “That’s based on a misunderstanding of the Scripture. Paul is speaking of the church.”

    “But,” I said, putting on my red tail and pointy ears, “Isn’t Paul arguing from a creation ordinance, implying that it’s in the nature of things that women should be subordinate? Isn’t he saying that he doesn’t permit women to exercise authority over men, period?”

    Says she, “Paul doesn’t permit anything outside of the church. He’s not a magistrate, but an apostle to the church. It’s not his sphere. If he were the emperor of the Roman world, then it [this argument] would be interesting. But given the context of his writing [the author and audience], there’s no way that we can we can interpret that passage to mean all of society.”

    Now what I found striking about this dialogue is that here’s a transformational-leaning “something close to biblicist”, and yet she’s quite clear on a distinction between the spheres.

    In other words, she would affirm immediately (think Schaffer) that we are to have Jesus as Lord in all walks of life. And at the same time, she affirms that there are two spheres. She’s not an inconsistent kind of thinker … she just recognizes that the existence of two kingdoms does not necessarily entail the entire REPT vision.

    JRC

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  10. Jeff, I think your female friend has a bit of feminism in her and doesn’t recognize that Paul also appeals to the created order (i.e., natural law) in his views about men and women’s roles. So (said not knowing her at all), I think she is inconsistent. It doesn’t serve her to argue for women’s subordination, though I’m not sure that such subordination extends to pursuit of a career, if men are in positions of authority in companies, universities, etc.

    I think this is another case where 2k shows itself to be different in that 2kers will insist on male ordination, try to order their own affairs with creation norms in view (as in their families, etc.,) but not make a big deal of it in the public square. Heck, I wouldn’t vote for Hilary Clinton, and it’s not just because she’s a woman. But I’m not sure I’d have to go out an picket against her because she is a woman (e.g., the Bayly approach).

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  11. Now what I found striking about this dialogue is that here’s a transformational-leaning “something close to biblicist”, and yet she’s quite clear on a distinction between the spheres. In other words, she would affirm immediately (think Schaffer) that we are to have Jesus as Lord in all walks of life. And at the same time, she affirms that there are two spheres.

    Jeff,

    2Kers affirm that Jesus is Lord over every square inch, and, at the same time, that there are two spheres (indeed, even more than two). The difference between 2Kers who do this and transformers who do the same is that the latter presume that there is a lot more intercourse between the two kingdoms than the former do. Another difference is that transformers put “Jesus is Lord of All!” in red print on white boards and stick them in their school and home windows (I’m looking out my ordinary and understated window at one right now). We 2Kers feel no compunction to stick our shared beliefs in our windows or wear them on our sleeves, because it is enough to simply believe and live by faith instead of by sight.

    But to your initial question, your friend’s answer sure sounds a lot like this 2K one:

    http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/are-there-limits-to-male-headship/

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  12. Jeff, I think I read your friend’s concerns correctly. I do think she is inconsistent And even if she is not talking about the source of Paul’s argument she should consider it to be consistent. If Paul is saying that sex relations are part of the created order, then both special and general revelation speak to this. And I as a 2k person can think that by appeal to Natural Law, the created order is set up to reflect a male hierarchy. Whether I advocate legislation or picket about it is another thing.

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  13. Bayly’s unwitting reliance on legal positivism to make his argument is telling. While such guys would likely deny that they take their lead in ethics from John Rawls and HLA Hart (and indirectly from Kant), their arguments betray them. In the end, to be consistent, 2Ks must deny the inherent goodness in creation–an inherent goodness that rests in the fact that it was created by a good God. Rawls and (HLA) Hart arrive at this point because they deny the Creator. The 2Ks reach this point because they wrongly mistake total depravity for utter depravity (and then compound their error by supposing that regeneration allows them to have access to unconditioned ‘truth’ via Scripture).

    Nick Wolterstorff is alleged to have said: “Kant is not a terminal disease. It is possible to get over him.” Apparently, though, such news has not yet made its way to certain corners of the PCA.

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  14. The argument was,

    (1) Paul is asserting a creational norm;
    (2) He draws conclusions from that creational norm for the church;
    (3) Those conclusions are good and necessary inference only for the scope into which he speaks because
    (3A) The creational norm does not necessarily operate in the same way outside of the church;
    (4) The thesis “women should be subordinate to men in every area of life” is extending Paul’s conclusion beyond the scope in which he speaks;
    (5) Therefore, the thesis is not a good and necessary inference from Scripture.

    (3A) is the 2K step here.

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  15. Jeff, I’m still confused. Are you trying to show 2k’s problems by this argument, Paul’s inconsistency, what? I don’t see why it is a problem for 2k. My view allows me to keep a clear conscience with no women in office in church and in subjection to Nancy Pelosi, even while thinking that Nancy is running afoul of the created order. But I also run afoul when I have that second helping of spaghetti.

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  16. No, I was trying to show what I set out in the very first sentence (ya know, the “thesis statement” thingy) — that my friend’s reaction illustrates a third-way approach: biblicism, but with a clear notion of sphere sovereignty.

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