One Way to Tell the Difference between Two-Kingdom Theology and Its Critics

Two-kingdomers want Reformed ministers to avoid compromising entanglements like those surrounding chaplains in the U.S. military. Critics of 2k want to keep women out of the military. That difference says a lot about the way each side views the church and the nation.

Thanks to Tim and David Bayly for reminding me of this important difference. In their typically slash-and-burn manner, they demean David Coffin, a well-respected PCA pastor and long-time defender of the spirituality of the church, for an interview in which Coffin said that mixing religion and politics was a “kind of apostasy.” The nerve.

It should be noted that the man who advocates a strict separation of Church and state in this interview is the same man who told my brother Tim, during the 2002 General Assembly debate, that the PCA should not oppose women serving as combatants in the U.S. Armed Forces.

So here’s a minister of the Word of God pedantically parsing his Biblical obligations in such a way that he can justify turning an official blind eye to one of the most depraved aspects of our culture’s destruction of women–almost as bad as urging them to kill unborn babies in their wombs.

To lodge his Uriah Heapish kowtowing to our culture’s attack on motherhood in the Westminster Standards is ludicrous. Has David read Reformed history–any at all?

Umm, the answer would be, yes. In fact, I’m betting Dave has read more Reformed history than the Bayly boys put together.

Mind you, I’m not wild about women serving in the military, nor about men for that matter who have to fight in places that would not matter to the United States if our nation had not super-sized its republican form and become an empire. I can certainly understand how mixing men and women in military situations could be a problem for tactical purposes. But I’m not sure that the Bible has a lot to say about the matter such that the church would call it “sin.” And I’m not sure that you would want to tell grandma Machen that she was wrong to defend her northern Virginia farm from Union soldiers who had designs on her chickens and cutlery during the Civil War. May not women defend themselves, their homes, or even their nation if circumstances warrant? Would the Baylys really conclude that a German woman, who could have saved the lives of her Jewish neighbors by shooting a Nazi soldier, should not pull the trigger because such an act would degrade her womanhood?

Meanwhile, the brothers B, who know about the pressures upon Reformed chaplains to compromise their convictions, don’t seem to mind ordained pastors serving as chaplains. The 2k objection to chaplains does not stem from anti-military prejudices or indifference to the spiritual needs of soldiers who are honorably and courageously serving their country. The problem for 2kers is that Reformed chaplains are having to submit to rules and work not only with liberal Protestant chaplains but also officers (some of them women — look out Tim and David!!!) from other faiths. Conservative Reformed churches would never allow this kind of cooperation in ecumenical or parachurch organizations. Some Presbyterian churches will not even join the National Association of Evangelicals because such membership would mean turning a blind eye to Arminianism. But the Baylys remain surprisingly calm when it comes to Reformed ministers serving alongside female Methodist chaplains in the military of the greatest nation on God’s green earth.

So once again, the anti-2k side takes an absolute stand on a debatable position, doubling down on the sex front of the culture wars. Meanwhile, 2kers avoid the culture wars for matters that directly bear on the witness and integrity of church officers.

If the Baylys actually knew Reformed history, they would understand they are on the wrong side of the Old School-New School controversy.


23 thoughts on “One Way to Tell the Difference between Two-Kingdom Theology and Its Critics

  1. If it is compromise for a Reformed confessionalist to serve in the military alongside liberal Protestants, Romanists and pagans of various stripes to minister to the spiritual needs of soldiers, then what would be a confessionally correct way of ministering to soldiers other than expecting them to hunt down an OP church? Is there no vocational distinction to be made between participating in interdenominational coalitions like the NAE or the TGC and the US Military chaplaincy?

    Another question: does 2K speak to this issue of America’s “Big Military conserva(tive-)ism,” or does everyone who subscribes to 2K have to take consistently Libertarian stances like Machen, yourself and Ron Paul?

    Does this further mean that if one doesn’t agree with a libertarian position on the legalization of grass that he is taking the same stance as the Prohibitionists of old? Are these morally equivalent, in your view? What saith the 2K perspective on this issue?

    I’m not trying to be adversarial, my intent is to examine the bounds of your seeming link between the 2K approach to culture and Libertarianism.


  2. Leithart : “The Creator made man to participate in and prosecute His wars.”

    Can a “minister” from the one kingdom become a chaplain for the other kingdom? And what would this mean? Would it mean defending a double narrative?

    Thank the true God that the temporary ruler is no Constantine, and that this secular ruler
    does what he does not in the name of the true God but in the name of natural order? And thus assists (but only as a “byproduct”) the true God in making it possible for us to worship in liberty and peace?

    Grateful to those in the military
    the killers who stand between us
    and the chaos of apocalypse but also the tyranny of a Constantine?

    How are the two kingdom folks
    going to keep the Neo-Conservatives from taking over ?

    The secular soldiers are cheap, their lives also,
    they kill for us so that we who are spiritual don’t have to?

    The Neo-Constantinians want the soldiers to become Christian
    and Christians to become the soldiers, the one visible church
    at all times and for all places.

    Because they know (and they will tell you) that two kingdom folks are really only sectarians posing as protestants.


  3. I am not sure that two kingdom folk would agree on what to say about the Exodus 32 ordeal/ intrusion. After the golden calf, Moses asked: who is on the Lord’s side? Go forth, and kill your brother… Today you have ordained yourselves for service. “ Two kingdom advocates are not agreed about what is legitimate and/or permitted for the people of God when they operate in another kingdom.

    Stellman (Dual Citizens) has an interesting note about being guilty as a citizen of what he thinks is the “legitimate” (natural law) second kingdom because of the innocents killed in Iraq.(p71) But he also seems to thinks it’s good for somebody to sometimes kill for the state or for the Target stores (the economy), just so long as nobody makes the mistake of thinking this is redemptive.

    Of course I don’t find much to get excited about in that distinction.


  4. John,

    I’m a 2K type, and I’m not a libertarian. Pastor Stellman, although I’m reluctant to speak for him, and I shouldn’t, seems to come from the left when he does talk about political issues. The beauty of the 2K position is the liberty we have to take various stances politically in the civil kingdom where God is working His preserving purposes.
    My vocation is with our American military. DGH’s critique of the military chaplain system is spot-on, in my experience.


  5. John C., just because we have OPC chaplains doesn’t mean an OPC soldier is going to find one. So the solution may be to express caution to men who want to serve in the military about the limited options for spiritual sustenance. If churches were worried about what America’s wars and foreign policy were doing to the souls of our boys, maybe the feds would rethink some of their strategy.

    BTW, I don’t think that 2k assumes any particular political position. Some 2kers could legitimately be proponents of national greatness. I’d disagree, but not necessarily on biblical or theological grounds.

    Which means the point of the post had to do with what matters most to 2kers and their critics — the church or the culture (and its sponsoring nation).


  6. I’ve been following the posts and discussion here at for about a year now and have been eagerly reading books and articles on the subject of 2k theology. I hold firmly to the ‘spirituality of the church.’ Long before I even knew the nomenclatures, I held to these views as being both biblical and confessional.

    On this topic, I may have some input and links that may be of interest. Having served in the U.S. army as an enlisted man, a commissioned officer, and a PCA chaplain, a number of years ago, I wrote an essay about the problems that stem from commingling church and state in the chaplain corps. I didn’t use 2k or spirituality of the church verbiage and the essay may be a bit dated, but it may be of some interest to those thinking through these issues.

    The article and subsequent interactions can be found here:

    Full disclosure, the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission (PRJC) wrote an official response here:

    Please let me be clear: There are some great men who are serving as chaplains in the military (I still have good friends who do so). At the same time, there is a problem with the military chaplaincy as a system. When people ask me if I enjoyed being in the army or if I would ever consider going back, my response is always the same. I loved the army, and I loved being an army chaplain; however, the politicalization of the branch and the self-imposed pressure by the chaplain corps itself makes it very difficult (if impossible) to maintain fidelity to one’s ordination vows.


  7. Thanks for linking to this article, Rev. Dietsch. Our family worshipped in Army military chapels in Germany for almost twenty years. We experienced first-hand many of the frustrations you listed here. It’s a shame men and women serving in our Armed Forces who seek to be faithful to the Confessions are ill-served because of a system which prides itself on diversity.


  8. “But I’m not sure that the Bible has a lot to say about the matter such that the church would call it “sin.””

    The only place the Bible talks about it is where is says males between certain ages can be called up and nobody else. Does it really have to be repeated in the New Testament to be valid? And even if one either didn’t have a copy of the Old Testament or thought those were somehow ceremonial laws, doesn’t the “light of nature” argument carry any weight? As is 99 + percent of every culture around forbidding it?


  9. Seeing as how the original article with David Coffin was promoting his appearance at our speaker series here in DC, and seeing as how the Brothers Bayly came after our series last year, I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time until they set their sights on Darryl, myself, or another one of our speakers.

    Any guesses on what they’ll find most offensive in Darryl’s talk?


  10. Dr. Hart:

    I’m certainly supportive of your advocacy of 2K theology, but the examples you use here seem misplaced to me.

    You begin by noting the compromising entanglements that Chaplains face in the military. These entanglements may exist in some form, but the manner in which they exist, in my experience, has never been due to problems with our country’s law or our military’s doctrine (admittedly, the effects of DADT’s repeal haven’t had time to take effect yet). In the Army at least, there is a clear distinction made between performing religious services and providing them. The former is done by Chaplains because the state has hired them to preserve the free-exercise rights of servicemembers. The provide function is done by Chaplains as an explicit expression of their particular faith tradition. These two hats that Chaplains wear has always seemed to me to comport quite nicely with 2K ideas: on behalf of the state, we ensure the free exercise of religion for all Warriors, and on behalf of our denominations, we conduct religious services in line with our faith traditions. Honesty of course requires me to admit that there are pressures for Chaplains to lose their denominational distinctives. But I would simply point out that those pressures really don’t have anything to do with current law or policy (again, let’s wait to see what happens with DADT’s repeal). In fact, those pressures are in spite of them. In my opinion, any pressure to conform results from the overwhelming presence of evangelical, I-don’t-have-an-ecclesiology-or-a-system-of-doctrine Chaplains in our nation’s military. They as a group hate putting people in “boxes” (lots of stories I could share here, but won’t for space). So those issues are not policy driven, but people driven. Certainly, taking Reformational Chaplains out of the mix isn’t the answer to that problem. As a parting shot on Chaplains in the military, we have to remember that the military isn’t the Church. So Frame’s shock-and-awe at a Presbyterian Chaplain’s appreciation for the faith of his Pentecostal colleague shouldn’t seem so scandalous. They were not a part of the same denomination, as Frame noted, so what’s the big deal about affirming the catholicity of the faith despite some people’s wacky backgrounds (see Peter Wallace here,

    Your use of women in the military also seemed to miss the mark. You rightly observe that women have the right to self-defense, but you wrongly confuse that, I think, with their participation in military service, as if “tactical” issues were the only thing at stake (it’s not clear what you meant by that). The truth is that women serving in the military poses a serious moral dilemma, whether arguing from the perspective of natural law or God’s moral law. First, it requires men to reprogram their protective instincts toward women. If caught in a fire fight (perhaps this is what you had in mind earlier), male soldiers must repress any urge to provide special protection to their female counterparts, simply expecting them to expose themselves to danger like anyone else engaging in combat with the enemy. How does this change men when they come back to their wives after a deployment? Second, it requires women to reprogram their natural nurturing motives. They must teach themselves to function among men as men, repressing the beauty of their femininity so as to conform to the aggressive and hard character of military culture. How does this affect their relationships with the husbands and children? Third, it creates a sexual-relational environment that promotes sexual immorality. The truth about college campuses is that putting men and women in close proximity to each other for extended periods of time tends to lead to all kinds of debauchery. Guess what a Forward Operating Base often becomes? You guessed it. WLC 99 clearly teaches that establishing conditions that foster sin is in itself sinful. Nature certainly teaches something similar.

    Again, I appreciate your advocacy of 2K. I just wish you had picked better examples, or at least better understood the ones you picked. As always, I would be interested in receiving your feedback.

    Chaplain (CPT) Ken Honken


  11. Any guesses on what they’ll find most offensive in Darryl’s talk?

    Darryl’s NL2k approach to these issues would be the most obvious guess.


  12. With re to Chaplains, wasn’t it Paul Wooley who said that the Armed Forces should not furnish chaplains, rather that the churches should provide chaplains to military personnel. Whatever the difficulties this would create, it would end the entanglement of church and state and thus the limitations on the freedom of chaplains.


  13. Ken, thanks for your response. Again, the issue here was not so much either chaplains or women in the military but the way these issues are used or abused by critics of 2k. In which case, a 2k perspective recognizes the difference between the church and the nation and is reluctant to baptize any aspect of the military as a way to pursue a righteous nation. In other words, the post was more about Tim and David Bayly than about chaplains or female soldiers.

    This means that at least for me the question of women in the military is not a biblical matter but one that should follow from the light of nature. Your remarks about the differences between men and women are on the mark in this regard. Though I would also leave a provision for women to fight on the home front against a hostile invader in dire circumstances. And if the U.S. only engaged in wars of self-defense, instead of establishing democracy around the world, it would be possible to conceive of women sometimes fighting as soldiers on the domestic front. Possible.

    As for chaplains I am less persuaded. It seems to me that no matter how much the Pentagon respects the communions of individual chaplains, each chaplain is still part of the team of U.S. chaplains and so responsible to officers who oversee all of these communions. It would be like NBA players playing for teams in Europe and retaining their identity as Lakers, playing for Barcelona while wearing an L.A. jersey. It may not be the best example, but I do think it is important to consider the ties that bind chaplains together in a common task of ministry. I don’t know how we possibly overlook the ties that bind OPC chaplains (no offense) to female rabbis under one agency of the U.S. Military. If we frown on OPC ministers serving on the boards of Pentecostal schools, how do we not pull out our hair about the associations that come with military chaplaincy?


  14. Mark, seeing as how the Bs are preoccupied with sex talk–which flows from their notion that the doctrine of man is the “gap issue” of our day the way the doctrine of justification was during the Reformation(?!)–I’m guessing the point about doing so shows an incredible and ironic lack of propriety. Of all the nerve. That sounds like a person who would also be skeptical of the wisdom of protesting abortion clinics.


  15. Dr. Hart:

    My apologies if my comment seemed to ignore the bigger point of your post. I tried to acknowledge it at the beginning and end of my comment by mentioning your focus on 2K ideas on the whole.

    Thank you for your important qualifications on women in defense of the homeland. And your remarks about American military imperialism. I assume you’ve heard about the 100 that were recently sent to Africa (insert non-verbals of disgust here).

    In a sense you’re right about the Chaplain Corps as a whole: there is a kind of forced episcopacy, as I like to call it. However, it’s an episcopacy built around the Constitution and military necessity, not the conscience. The distinction I mentioned in my comment was meant to illustrate how US law and policy conforms to a 2K view of church and state: the tie that binds OPC Chaplains to female rabbis is simply the free exercise clause of the Constitution. The degree to which we are obligated to directly perform religious services is completely–by law!–outside of the government’s jurisdiction: it depends entirely on our endorser (i.e. denomination). So my endorser protects me from having to lead worship services alongside a female Chaplain (that’s experience talking, by the way!) or with non-Trinitarian Chaplains (i.e. “Protestant” Mormons). Associating ourselves with Pentecostal schools can only come about through theological common ground (a stretch though it is). Associating ourselves with the US military’s Chaplain Corps begins with a healthy 2K commitment to religious liberty, and within that framework, moves into meeting the needs of Presbyterian and Reformed Christians in America’s fighting forces (if you send me your email address, I’ll forward you a photo of an unofficial NAPARC meeting we had in Afghanistan).


  16. I know most things are about Darryl, but the blogosphere does extend beyond Oldlife. I just thought I’d dip back in here to answer Brian Lee’s amusing “Captain Obvious” question.


  17. The whole problem of chaplaincy and confession seems to me to be a result of the empire DG Hart alluded to. In the old republic, regiments were militia based and chaplains reflected the religious makeup of the community from which they were drawn. When the 100th Pa (Roundhead regiment) marched off to defeat the rebels and possibly steal Granny Machen’s chickens they took their United Presbyterian Chaplain along. The Irish Catholics in the 116th Pennsylvania had Father Corby.

    The military is now identical to a large faceless corporation that has replaced local loyalties with those of the organization through placelessnesss and mobility. It reflects what we now are as a culture.

    @ Mr Chitty-I don’t think 2K and libertarianism are necessarily intertwined. I dislike the Randian and Rockwell libertarianism and have no problem with vigorous state and local government. While Machen had some leanings that might be described as proto-libertarian, he also tried to defend the “Blue laws” of Pennsylvania in the name of freedom for a quiet Sabbath.


  18. I usually disagree with you on R2K issues, but I’ll agree with you here (and not just because of political dissent).

    Chaplains are required to “perform” services of “their own religion” (which actually means that all Protestants get lumped together, including Reformed Presbyterians), and “provide” services of other religions. That means that Protestant chaplains are required by Army doctrine to coordinate to make sure that the Soldiers under them can attend the Romish Mass, a Mormon service, Buddhist service, etc. They may be required to provide for transportation for a priest, location and supplies for services, promoting the service to anyone who may wish to attend, etc. I think especially of priests on deployments, because they are relatively few in number, and frequently have to travel from base to base, just so that Soldiers can make it to mass even once a month.

    Could someone explain how this is consistent with the Larger Catechism, Questions 108 and 109? I asked Doug Lee, retired Chaplain (BG), when he came to address our Synod back in July as the current endorser for the PRJC, but I didn’t feel that he really answered the question.

    “The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his word… as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.”
    “The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself,” etc.



  19. “Thou shalt not steal” applies to Congress and the US Military. To tax the people to pay for chaplains is to overreach the gubmint’s jurisdiction and to violate the Constitution.

    James Madison on Congressional Chaplains (1817):

    “Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom?

    “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U. S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes.

    “Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation.

    “The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship against the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority.

    “To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics & Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the Legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a Chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers, or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.

    “If Religion consist in voluntary acts of individuals, singly, or voluntarily associated, and it be proper that public functionaries, as well as their Constituents should discharge their religious duties, let them like their Constituents, do so at their own expence. How small a contribution from each member of Congress would suffice for the purpose? How just would it be in its principle? How noble in its exemplary sacrifice to the genius of the Constitution; and the divine right of conscience? Why should the expence of a religious worship be allowed for the Legislature, be paid by the public, more than that for the Ex. or Judiciary branch…”

    Or, the military?!

    In supporting “our” chaplains, do we mean all chaplains – Arminian, Charismatic, Anglo-Catholic, Roman Catholic, Liberal, Female, Gay, Jewish, Muslim, et. al.?

    No to taxpayers paying for religious personnel.…/do…/amendI_religions64.html


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