Advocates of 2k have long maintained that two-kingdom theology is the default position for most Protestants, even the critics who protesteth too much. After all, the only biblical alternative to 2k is theonomy, and even theonomists have not yet revolted against the American regime. (The political alternative is the confessional state with the magistrate enforcing the true religion but all Reformed communions have rejected this.) For this reason, finding 2k logic in a variety of remarks either about the United States or about biblical teaching should not be surprising. What is surprising is that none of 2k’s critics seem to object to the following:
For instance, was John Frame’s radar warning of the so-called Escondido theology’s dangers turned off when his comrade in modems, Vern Poythress, wrote this:
We must first seek to determine the scope of state responsibilities. In the area of punishment, I maintain that modern states are only responsible for punishing offenses against other human beings, not offenses directly against God.
To understand the issue, we must distinguish sins from crimes.
A sin is any offense against God. A crime is a legally reprehensible offense against another human being.
Sin describes damage to our relation to God; crime describes damage to fellow human beings. The two are not identical. Every crime is a sin, but not every sin is a crime. . . .
Crimes are offenses against other human beings, and hence they always ought to punished by restoration and retribution paid to other human beings and supervised by human courts of justice. In typical legal cases in the Old Testament, like theft, murder, or false worship, the fundamental system of recompense involves the principle “As you have done, it shall be done to you,” by the offended party. Governmental authorities supervise the procedures leading to penalties, but in the typical case they are not themselves the offended party. Moreover, the offended party in view is always another human being or a group of human beings.
God is of course offended by every sin whatsoever. But not every sin merits state punishments. Nor is the kind of penalty determined by how God is offended, but by how other human beings are affected. Hence the provisions of the law point away from the idea that the state is responsible for offenses against God as such. The legal punishments supervised by earthly judges make sense only when they are viewed as the fitting payment for offenses against human beings.
Another instance of 2k teaching came from John Piper when he distinguished the duties of a preacher from those of a political activist. On the one hand, ministers of the word should condemn homosexuality as sin. On the other hand, ministers lose their authority and credibility when they become part of a political crusade:
Don’t press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism. Pray that the church and her ministers would feed the flock of God with the word of God centered on the gospel of Christ crucified and risen. Expect from your shepherds not that they would rally you behind political candidates or legislative initiatives, but they would point you over and over again to God and to his word, and to the cross.
Please try to understand this: When I warn against the politicizing of the church, I do so not to diminish her power but to increase it. The impact of the church for the glory of Christ and the good of the world does not increase when she shifts her priorities from the worship of God and the winning of souls and the nurturing of faith and raising up of new generations of disciples.
If the whole counsel of God is preached with power week in and week out, Christians who are citizens of heaven and citizens of this democratic order will be energized as they ought to speak and act for the common good. I want to serve you like that.
Adding to the 2k buzz was Doug Wilson’s recent opinion that churches should not display the flag of the United States:
A Christian church has absolutely no business displaying a national flag in the sanctuary, at least not as it is commonly done. The church born at Pentecost was a reversal of Babel, not a doubling down on the fragmentation of Babel. . . .
If the church places an American flag in the front of the sanctuary, this becomes part of our sacred architecture, and therefore says something. It becomes a shaping influence.
Important questions should come immediately to mind: What is this saying? And is it scriptural? It should not be too much to ask for some kind of scriptural agreement with what we are saying before we say it. Placing a flag in a sanctuary has many possible implications. It could convey the idea that we claim some sort of “favored nation” status. It could imply we believe that the claims of Caesar extend into every space, including sacred spaces. It could imply that our version of Christianity is similar to some kind of syncretistic “God and country” religion, where patriotism and religion are one and the same.
It is unlikely that we as Christians would display another country’s flag, such as the flag of communist China, in a sanctuary. So we should seek to be consistent in our choices. One last caution is in order: Many don’t like the national flag in the sanctuary because they have no natural affection for it anywhere. But being a Christian doesn’t mean we should hate our home country, just that we should know how to rightly order our allegiances. This is why, in my ideal scenario, the elders who vote in session to remove the American flag from the sanctuary should all have that same flag on their pickup trucks, right next to the gun rack.
Finally, the fellows who seem to have started this 2k groundswell, the Brothers B., round out this 2k round up with the comments by Tim Bayly on a recent news-talk television show in Indiana where participants discussed the pros and cons of a state constitutional amendment to make gay marriage illegal. Pastor Bayly started out quoting from Scripture, but as the discussion progressed he too resorted to notions about the will of the people, historical precedent, and activist judiciaries — all from the tool kit of those who debate in the public square without everywhere and always declaring the will of God. (Readers will need to watch a video to hear Tim Bayly’s remarks on polling data, the will of the people, and legislatures which start around minute 9:20).
All of which suggests that 2k is not radical but modest and sensible.