Recent interactions with Dr. K. and his followers have confirmed at least to (all about) me that no end (or substance) is in sight for the fine tooth comb applied to two kingdom theology. In an earlier exchange, potential clarification of views went essentially nowhere. Dr. K. did admit finally that Misty Irons may not be the best evidence of 2k’s problems, though he continues to make gay marriage a test case for cultural engagement (when he is not banging the drum for Christian schools). Why blasphemy laws are not also not on the table for culture warriors is still up for grabs (at one point Dr. K. said that gay marriage and blasphemy were apples and oranges).
So too some clarification came in the realm of biblicism. Dr. K. went out of his way to say that the Bible is not sufficient for all of life. But then with the other hand he insisted that the Bible must provide the lens with which to interpret everything. I don’t know about you, but if a book is silent on plumbing and then I am told the book in question needs to be used to interpret plumbing, the drip in my mental faucet quickens.
Arguably, the only glove that landed on 2kers was our failure to be as outraged as neo-Calvinists were about the incident of a transgender man exposing himself (herself?) to co-eds at a Washington State college.
Now (okay, a little while ago) comes another assessment of Matt Tuininga’s effort to find a middle way between 2k and neo-Calvinism. Part of the annoyance of this post is the mind-numbing numbering of paragraphs the way that European academic books do (arguably nothing makes scholarship look more arcane than numbering and sub-numbering paragraphs in the manner of a automobile manual). After three articles of trying to explain 2k to people unfamiliar with it and a tad frightened, Tuininga receives a barely passing grade from Dr. K.:
This essay written by Matthew Tuininga is the third in a series seeking to explain the heart of the new movement known as “natural law and two kingdoms” (NL2K, R2K, or simply 2K). It remains to be seen, however, whether his numerous qualifications designed to safeguard his position and to effect rapprochement with worldview Calvinism will offer genuine clarity or generate more confusion.
With the culture in such bad shape as neo-Calvinists have it, you might think Dr. K. would see 2k as a rather minor concern. Do anti-2kers really think that a few book writers, who are by no means celebrities at the Gospel Coalition’s registrants count celebrity, are derailing the project to return the United States to biblical standards? If only Old Life were that popular.
Meanwhile, not to be missed is a good statement of 2k convictions on Tuininga’s part:
Perhaps the most obvious expression of this reality is Ephesians 4, the passage Calvin used to link his two kingdoms doctrine with its institutional implications for church government. Paul explains that the fruits of Christ’s ascension, in which he was made Lord of all things, is expressed in his pouring out of the gifts of the church’s ministry. It is as the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers equip the saints for ministry and build up the body into Christ that the saints “grow up in every way into him who is the head” (Ephesians 4:7-16). This is Paul’s presupposition when he declares in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”
Thus, the church is the only corporate expression of the kingdom in this age. It is only as we join ourselves to the body of Christ, the body of those who hold fast to Jesus, that we participate in the kingdom that is coming. And although we witness to our citizenship in this kingdom in every single thing that we do in this age, doing everything “as unto the Lord,” the primary form this witness to Christ’s lordship takes is that of submission, service, and sacrifice in an often hostile and oppressive world. Only after believers, like Jesus and in conformity to his example, set aside the glory that they have been promised, take up the form of a servant, and humble themselves to the point of death, can they be confident that God will exalt them above every knee “in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:5-11). Only by following in the way of the Lamb that was slain, to the point of martyrdom if necessary, do the witnesses of the Lamb conquer with him (Revelation 12:11; 14:4).
My lone quibble with Matt is the sign of lingering neo-Calvinism (which I attribute to his Covenant College education, in part, and which he denies). For instance, he still believes that Christians will look or be different and noticeable when they apply the Bible to their daily lives:
The call of the Christian life is therefore not to establish the Lordship of Christ through conquest or external cultural transformation but to witness to Jesus’s lordship by imitating him in his sacrificial service. When we conform to Christ’s example faithfully the effect on our various vocations and communities will indeed be profound. Those in government will recognize the Lordship of Christ (Psalm 2) and seek to use their power to secure peace and justice for those under their charge, rather than self-aggrandizement, and to protect the church in order that it might fulfill its task (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Those in positions of economic power will serve those placed under them rather than dominate them (Ephesians 6:9). Husbands will sacrifice themselves for their wives in imitation of Christ, recognizing their equality together in him (Ephesians 5:25-33). Those who have been given gifts, talents, or riches will use those resources to provide for those who are in need (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:18). About all of these cultural affairs, in which believers engage in common with unbelievers, Scripture has much to say.
I know Matt thinks I am less than moderate at times in my expression of 2k and part of my provocation stems from an unwillingness to grant culturally distinct ways to Christians based on biblical teaching. But I also know and I am sure Matt knows, plenty of non-Christians who believe government officials should serve the public, that businessmen should not ruthlessly pursue profits, that husbands should be considerate and loving toward their wives, and that those with resources will share them with those in need. In other words, I see nothing inherently distinctive or biblical in the Christian pursuit of these social and cultural goods. Do different motives exist for Christian businessmen compared to their unbelieving peers? Sure. Can I see those motives? No. And that is the point. The best stuff that Christians produce in public or cultural life is hardly distinct from non-Christian products. Where you do literally see Christianity at work is on Sunday.
Oh no, there goes 24/7 Christianity.