David VanDrunen (whose Dutch heritage should count for more than it does among the nattering nabobs of neo-Calvinist negativism) recently conducted an interview with the folks at Credo Magazine. Two of his answers are particularly useful for explaining 2k (thanks to the Outhouse).
I like to describe the two kingdoms doctrine briefly as the conviction that God through his Son rules the whole world, but rules it in two distinct ways. As creator and sustainer, God rules the natural order and the ordinary institutions and structures of human society, and does so through his common grace, for purposes of preserving the ongoing life of this world. As redeemer, God also rules an eschatological kingdom that is already manifest in the life and ministry of the church, and he rules this kingdom through saving grace as he calls a special people to himself through the proclamation of the Scriptures. As Christians, we participate in both kingdoms but should not confuse the purposes of one with those of the other. As a Reformed theologian devoted to a rich covenant theology, I think it helpful to see these two kingdoms in the light of the biblical covenants. In the covenant with Noah after the flood, God promised to preserve the natural order and human society (not to redeem them!), and this included all human beings and all living creatures. But God also established special, redemptive covenant relationships with Abraham, with Israel through Moses, and now with the church under the new covenant. We Christians participate in both the Noahic and new covenants (remember that the covenant with Noah was put in place for as long as the earth endures), and through them in this twofold rule of God—or, God’s two kingdoms.
The “transformationist” approach to Christ and culture is embraced by so many people and used in so many different ways that I often wonder how useful a category it is. If by “transformation” we simply mean that we, as Christians, should strive for excellence in all areas of life and try to make a healthy impact on our workplace, neighborhood, etc., I am a transformationist. But what people often mean by “transformationist” is that the structures and institutions of human society are being redeemed here and now, that is, that we should work to transform them according to the pattern of the redemptive kingdom of Christ. I believe the two kingdoms doctrine offers an approach that is clearly different from this. Following the two kingdoms doctrine, a Christian politician, for example, would reject working for the redemption of the state (whatever that means) but recognize that God preserves the state for good purposes and strive to help the state operate the best it can for those temporary and provisional purposes.
I don’t think the church has any different responsibilities in an election year from what it has at any other time. The church should proclaim the whole counsel of God in Scripture (which includes, of course, teaching about the state, the value of human life, marriage, treatment of the poor, etc.). But Scripture does not set forth a political policy agenda or embrace a particular political party, and so the church ought to be silent here where it has no authorization from Christ to speak. When it comes to supporting a particular party, or candidate, or platform, or strategy—individual believers have the liberty to utilize the wisdom God gives them to make decisions they believe will be of most good to society at large. Politics constantly demands compromise, choosing between the lesser of evils, and refusing to let the better be the enemy of the good. Christians will make different judgments about these things, and the church shouldn’t try to step in and bind believers’ consciences on matters of prudence. It might be helpful to think of it this way: during times when Christians are bombarded with political advertisements, slogans, and billboards, how refreshing it should be, on the Lord’s Day, to step out of that obsession with politics and gather with God’s redeemed people to celebrate their heavenly citizenship and their bond in Christ that transcends all national, ethnic, and political divisions.
Since recent kvetching about 2k included the charge that the outlook has little substance and is hard to define, VanDrunen’s brief and clear responses should put to rest that particular complaint (especially for those too lazy to read the books that keep piling up on the 2k shelf). These remarks should also end criticisms of 2k since I can’t imagine how anyone could object to them. Actually, I can imagine that some will object but have a hard time thinking that the objections will be anything but perverse.