Steven Wedgeworth over at Credenda Agenda has registered a critique of two-kingdom theology that uses David VanDrunenâ€™s new book on natural law and the two kingdoms as the object of critique. Some of the usual federal vision suspects have lined up to promote Wedgeworthâ€™s piece. Rabbi Bret writes:
Wedgeworth also spends time exposing how the Two Kingdoms, as defined by the Magisterial Reformers, covered different realities then the Two Kingdoms of Escondido fame. For the Magisterial Reformers the Two Kingdoms were defined as such that there was a diversity in unity. For Escondido the Two Kingdoms are defined in such a way that there is diversity (Nature realm vs. Redemptive realm) with no unity. (Hence the constant charge of Dualism.)
So you know it must be good.
Wedgeworth has two main complaints â€“ one is that the idea of a spiritual and a temporal kingdom (or Augustineâ€™s two cities) do not correlate with the church and the state. Wedgeworth writes:
It was precisely because the visible church existed in the temporal kingdom that Christian magistrates had a duty to protect and reform them. The princes were not to personally involve their office in crafting doctrine or worship, but they surely were involved in financing, defending, and promoting certain visible churches to the exclusion of others. Since all Christian laypersons were priests, the Reformers saw no problem with allowing princes to function as Christians in their particular vocation and to make use of their superior ordering abilities in the visible church. All of the Reformed confessions are in agreement on this point, as well, and so it seems impossible to remove this feature from the ecclesiology of the Reformation.
What Wedgeworth fails to acknowledge (aside from an inordinate fixation on Calvin as the standard of all things Reformed) is that Zurich and Geneva differed over the respective powers of the city council and church authority. Zurich was much closer to (if not guilty of) an Erastian model, with the magistrates reserving the right of excommunication, while Geneva worked hard to gain for the church the spiritual power of excommunication. In other words, the responsibility of the state to preserve the true religion is much more a legacy of Zurich than of Geneva and the difference is evident in the way that the Geneva Confession (1556) and the Gallican Confession (1559) refuse to attribute ecclesiastical powers to the magistrate the way, say, that the Westminster Divines did when in the original version of their Confession (subsequently altered by American Presbyterians in 1787) gave the magistrate the right to call and preside over synods and councils of the church. Can anyone imagine George Bush or Barack Obama presiding over the General Assembly of the OPC? (For that matter, can anyone imagine why a president would care to preside over a gathering of 160 pastors and elders?) And yet, that was the kind of power that a Zurichian arrangement bequeathed to one side of the Reformed brain.
(By the way, for the record this would make the Federal Visionaries pro-Zurich on political theology but pro-Geneva on the Lordâ€™s Supper. Can you say â€œdualismâ€? Sure you can.)
While Wedgeworthâ€™s point that the spiritual and the temporal do not equate to church and state, itâ€™s pretty hard to read Calvin on the two kingdoms and not think that the civil and ecclesiastical polities lined up pretty neatly with the visible church and the visible state.
Therefore, to perceive more clearly how far the mind can proceed in any matter according to the degree of its ability, we must here set forth a distinction: that there is one kind of understanding of earthly things; another of heavenly. I call â€œearthly thingsâ€ those which do not pertain to God or his Kingdom, to true justice, or to the blessedness of the future life; but which have their significance and relationship with regard to the present life and are, in a sense, confined within its bounds. I call â€œheavenly thingsâ€ the pure knowledge of God, the nature of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom. The first class includes government, household management, all mechanical skills, and the liberal arts. In the second are the knowledge of God and of his will, and the rule by which we conform our lives to it.
Of the first class the following ought to be said: since man is by nature a social animal, he tends through natural instinct to foster and preserve society. Consequently, we observe that there exist in all menâ€™s minds universal impressions of a certain civic fair dealing and order. Hence no man is to be found who does not understand that every sort of human organization must be regulated by laws, and who does not comprehend the principles of those laws. Hence arises the unvarying consent of all nations and of individual morals with regard to laws. For their seeds have, without teacher or lawgiver, been implanted in all men. (Institutes, II.ii.13)
Since Calvin puts government and household management â€“ and not the church â€“ under earthly things, it looks like the distinction between church (spiritual) and state (temporal) was in Calvinâ€™s mind (and not just VanDrunenâ€™s or Lutherâ€™s). Heck, it was even in the minds of the Westminster Divines when they wrote:
Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate. (WCF 31.5 original)
In other words, even in an Erastian environment with a king or parliament calling the churchâ€™s shots, Reformed churchmen were able to distinguish the differences between the civil and the ecclesiastical in ways that leave todayâ€™s Christendomians (read: theonomists) tripping.
To see how much the Reformed tradition identified Christâ€™s kingdom with the church you only need to look at the way that the Reformed catechisms treat the second petition of the Lordâ€™s Prayer or Christâ€™s kingly office. Here is the Larger Catechismâ€™s rendering of Christ role as kind:
WLC Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.
In other words, the Reformers, whether influenced by Zurich or Geneva, were jealous to preserve the spiritual rule of Christ from being confused with the rule of the state, and to locate the spiritual rule of Christ with officers of his visible church.
Wedgeworthâ€™s other objection to VanDrunenâ€™s book is the distinction between Christâ€™s mediatorial (i.e. redemptive) and his creational rule. Wedgeworth believes this sets up an impossible scenario of a divided self where a Christian is â€œguided by his cultural spirit and imagination at certain moments of his life and by his religious spirit and imagination at others.â€ Why this is so hard to imagine I do not know. After all the Christian father who is also an elder treats his son differently when appearing before the session or when addressing him in the home, just as a Christian gynecologist treats a naked woman differently depending on whether heâ€™s married to her and heâ€™s her physician. Christians make distinctions of office and vocation all the time. If we can imagine doing it, why not someone who is more adept at juggling human affairs and diverse responsibilities than we are â€“ namely, Jesus Christ.
But not to be missed is that if Wedgeworth wants to collapse the mediatorial and creational rules into one power, he is guilty of Roman Catholicism. At least, that was how David McKay explained it when expounding Samuel Rutherfordâ€™s account of church-state relations. McKay writes:
. . . Rutherford does maintain that Christian magistrates have a duty to promote the well-being of the church. He also insists, however, that â€œthe Magistrate as a Magistrate is not the Deputie of Jesus Christ as Mediator,â€ a view that he goes on to describe as â€œthe heart and soule of Popery.â€(McKay, â€œFrom Popery to Principle: Covenanters and the Kingship of Christ,â€ in The Faith Once Delivered, p. 136)
Later in this essay, McKay also quotes George Gillespie to the following effect: Christ has all power â€œby the eternal generation, ad by the declaration of him to be the Son of God with power, when he was raised from the dead, Rom. 1:14.â€ According to McKay, Gillespie agrees that Christ has power to subdue the enemies of his church, but â€œas Mediator he is only the churchâ€™s King, Head, and Governor, and hath no other kingdomâ€ (p. 139).
So while the Federal Visionaries and neo-Calvinists keep figuring out ways to redeem all of life â€“ with the aim, I guess, of putting Christians in charge of everything so believers can be the ones calling synods and councils â€“ they should remember first that the magisterial reformation started with the magistrate, not the church. Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Ursinus served at the good pleasure of the state; they did not call a church council and send petitions to the magistrates to adopt pro-Protestant policies. And if Federal Visionaries want the same circumstances today as those that informed the Reformation, they better start working on getting Doug Wilson or Neil Plantinga to run for office â€“ preferably with a little more clout than the district superintendent of public recreation.
Or they could simply follow Calvinâ€™s advice and remember that the effects of salvation are first, foremost, and ultimately, not cultural, political, legal, medicinal, or agricultural but spiritual. As Calvin put it at the beginning of his discussion of the magistrate, the problem with Federal Visionaries and neo-Calvinists is their addiction to the Judaic Folly:
But whoever knows how to distinguish between body and soul, between this present fleeting life and that future eternal life, will without difficulty know that Christâ€™s spiritual Kingdom and the civil jurisdiction are things completely distinct. Since, then, it is a Jewish vanity to seek and enclose Christâ€™s Kingdom within the elements of this world, let us rather ponder that what Scripture clearly teaches is a spiritual fruit, which we gather from Christâ€™s grace. . . (Institutes, IV.xx.1)