If You Think 2k is Dangerous, Imagine 1k

John Fea is upset with Jerry Falwell the younger for adopting a 2k position to defend his support for Donald Trump. Here is what Falwell said:

It’s such a distortion of the teachings of Jesus to say that what he taught us to do personally — to love our neighbors as ourselves, help the poor — can somehow be imputed on a nation. Jesus never told Caesar how to run Rome. He went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom and I’m here to teach you how to treat others, how to help others, but when it comes to serving your country, you render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It’s a distortion of the teaching of Christ to say Jesus taught love and forgiveness and therefore the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving, and just hand over everything we have to every other part of the world. That’s not what Jesus taught. You almost have to believe that this is a theocracy to think that way, to think that public policy should be dictated by the teachings of Jesus.

I am not sure I trust Mr. Falwell to capture all the intricacies of 2k political theology, but his rendering here seems quite sensible. You can have a theocracy of the Old Testament or a theocracy of the Sermon on the Mount. Modern sentimentality inclines more people to favor implementing New Testament laws than Israel’s political and civil codes (ouch!). But either way, if you require the government and rulers to conform to the Bible, you are a theonomist. Mind you, conducting war’s in God’s name or abolishing the sale of alcohol are not items you want on your resume if you are a government-should-conform-to-Christianity advocate, which John Fea is every time he uses the Bible, not the Constitution, against Trump.

So why is Falwell’s view dangerous? Fea explains:

Luther’s Two Kingdom belief, as I understand it, is more nuanced and complex than what Falwell Jr. makes it out to be. (I am happy to be corrected here by Lutheran theologians). In fact, I don’t think Luther would have recognized Falwell Jr.’s political theology.

That really doesn’t explain why Falwell is dangerous.

Turn’s out, what’s dangerous is a 2k person who won’t condemn Trump and that’s why John looks for help from a Lutheran who explains that 2k allows you fret about presidents like Trump:

Lutherans must avoid the mistake of the Reformation leaders who failed to cry out against the sins of monarchs. We must exhort all “sword-bearers,” that is, all agents of the state and public servants, from schoolteachers to the president, to live up to the demands of their vocations. Our Lutheran forefathers failed in this task; all the more reason Lutherans today must not.

Conservatives who fear that President Trump may be more like the decadent Belshazzar, feasting while the kingdom falls, than like the liberating Cyrus must pray that Lutherans remember the Two Kingdoms Doctrine. How we discharge the duties of citizenship—whether by accepting the creeping authoritarianism of the last two decades, or by raising our voices on behalf of the laws and democratic norms of our country—is a question of moral conscience, suitable for confession, and demanding repentance if we err.

Even if Lutherans call down God’s wrath on Trump, though, it’s still a judgment call, a question of moral conscience. It does not permit the kind of condemnation that John cites approvingly from Ruth Graham:

At one point, reporter Joe Heim asked Falwell whether there is anything Trump could do that would endanger his support from Falwell and other evangelical leaders. He answered, simply, “No.” His explanation was a textbook piece of circular reasoning: Trump wants what’s best for the country, therefore anything he does is good for the country. There’s something almost sad about seeing this kind of idolatry articulated so clearly. In a kind of backhanded insult to his supporters, Trump himself once said that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” without losing his base. It’s rare to see a prominent supporter essentially admit that this was true.

A reporter for a secular magazine used the I-word? Idolatry? Why that’s a biblical idea, even in the Old Testament, the same portion of Scripture that calls for the execution idolaters.

Why John Fea doesn’t find the use of that word dangerous, I do not know (though again Trump explains a lot). Falwell’s point is that we should not expect the United States to conform to the rules for church members. Among the errors that churches try to avoid (I wish they did it more) are idolatry and blasphemy. But in the United States, thanks to political liberalism, errors like blasphemy and idolatry have rights, or people who worship false gods receive protection from the government to do so.

Once upon a time, Americans thought dangerous governments that required one form of worship and denied rights to people of other faiths. To see Falwell, son of a man who regularly blurred the kingdoms, recognize that the church has different norms from the state is not dangerous but a breakthrough.

7 thoughts on “If You Think 2k is Dangerous, Imagine 1k

  1. But what if you think that the members of a true church should conform to the Sermon on the Mount? is that kind of “theocracy” also an un-natural threat to law and order?

    Matthew 5:17–“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

    David VanDrunen—A common reading of this verse in my own Reformed tradition is that Jesus is about to clarify the Mosaic law in response to Pharisaical corruption of Moses. While this reading has the virtue of guarding against denigration of the Mosaic law, it is not an adequate interpretation of Jesus’ words. It fails to reckon with the radical, eschatological newness of the coming of Jesus and his kingdom so emphasized in the preceding texts in Matthew considered above. Matthew 5:17 itself reinforces this sense of eschatological newness…..Jesus’ denial that he has come to abolish the law or the prophets indirectly offers further evidence of the spectacular newness of the kingdom of heaven: apparently what has transpired thus far in Matthew’s story has given some people the impression that Jesus has come to abolish something in the OT.

    David VanDrunen–The way in which Jesus’ commands unfold in 5:21–48 is ultimately incompatible with reading them as clarification of the Mosaic law over against corrupt Jewish interpretation. For one thing, all six of Jesus’ “You have heard” statements either quote or paraphrase the actual teaching of the Mosaic law, not contemporary Jewish interpretation of it…. However much the first two antitheses are amenable to the view that Jesus is purifying the interpretation of the law, the last four antitheses cannot reasonably bear such a reading. Jesus does show the inward demands of the prohibition of murder and adultery in the first two antitheses, but whereas the Mosaic law prescribed procedures for divorce, oath-taking, just retaliation, and destruction of enemies, Jesus proscribes these very actions.

    David VanDrunen– We must consider how Jesus’ commands in 5:38–42 are different from the lex talionis as imposed in the Mosaic law. The “eye for an eye” formula appears three times in the Mosaic law and is evidently a cornerstone of its jurisprudence. It was likely not intended to be applied in an overtly literal way, but represented a key legal principle: justice was to be strict, proportionate, and retributive.14 As such it encapsulated, on a personal level, the central Mosaic theme that Israel would be justly rewarded in the land if they faithfully obeyed God’s law and would be justly (severely) punished if they disobeyed ….Jesus is certainly NOT instructing his disciples in the most effective way to impose strict retributive justice against those who harm them. Jesus is legislating a principle different from the principle of proportionate justice.

    David VanDrunen–The Mosaic law, required theocratic Israel to pursue precise and proportionate justice in external matters through oath-taking, the lex talionis, and cherem warfare. These commands were bound up with the nature and purpose of the old covenant community. But Jesus announces that in his kingdom there is perfect and holistic righteousness and no pursuit of precise and proportionate justice in external matters through these various means. Jesus’ kingdom is of a radically new and different nature and these things have no place within it…..Jesus’ commands in 5:38–42 not only are different from the Mosaic lex talionis but also reflect the eschatological fulfillment (rather than simple abrogation) of it… The lex talionis prescribes a second action that is proportionate to the first action: the person who causes the injury is to receive the same injury in return. Jesus’ words in 5:38–42 preserve the twofold action and the proportionality of the lex talionis. The difference is that he exhorts his disciples to bear the second, retaliatory action themselves.17 A proportionate penalty is still borne, but the wronged party rather than the wrongdoer endures it. This reflects the larger Matthean theme that Jesus’ disciples must imitate Jesus in his suffering at the hands of sinners.


    If for the sake of not being religious about who we kill, we must ignore both Moses and Jesus as lawgiver here and now in our “public roles”, how then is our collective wrath justified as the wrath of God? Which God?
    Why should we not take sides with Pilate when Pilate in only taking sides with Caesar?

    Caiphas—better that those Muslim theocrats die by the sword than us non-theocrats

    James 1:19– “Human wrath does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”

    Psalm 76: 10—“Even human wrath shall praise you, for you are to be feared. Who can stand before you when your anger is roused?”


  2. Falwell Junior was candid about the benefits of the nonprofit status. “It insulated us from the attack on the for-profits”. Liberty was hugely reliant on federal money, in the form of Pell grants, Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and federally subsidized loans. By 2010, it had more than 50,000 students enrolled and was pulling in more than $420 million annually. But because Liberty was technically not for-profit, it was spared many of the administration’s new regulations, including its requirement that a certain threshold of graduates be able to attain “gainful employment,” which was designed to hit for-profit colleges much harder. It was also spared from the pre-existing rule that for-profit colleges could get no more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal sources. Liberty benefited from the crackdown. The Obama administration’s actions helped put out of business large for-profit chains like ITT Technical Institute, clearing formidable competition from the field.

    Rick Phillips —“it is a service to society for godly pastors to act on the state’s behalf in establishing godly marriages. Instead of pulling out of society, Christians should seek to be involved for the good of all,”

    Rick Phillips—-“May God send us many more snipers to defend us with courage and skill until Jesus finally comes and relieves of us the terrible burden of war. –



  3. “ But what if you think that the members of a true church should conform to the Sermon on the Mount? is that kind of “theocracy” also an un-natural threat to law and order?“
    Trump is not a member of a true church.


  4. Don’t you know the difference between submitting to death and putting to death? Or do you agree with Falwell Senior that all pacifists commit suicide and tempt God by not arming themselves? Caesar and Caiphas were lawless sinners who used law against Christ. Christ’s submission was not law-less but is our example.

    I Peter 2: 21 For you were called to this,
    because Christ also suffered for you,
    leaving you an example,
    so that you should follow in His steps.
    22 Christ did not commit sin,
    and no deceit was found in His mouth;
    23 when Cchrist was reviled,
    Christ did not revile in return;
    when Christ was suffering,
    Christ did not threaten
    but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

    Acts 2: 23 Though Christ was handed over according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him.

    Acts 18: Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. 11 At that, Jesus said to Peter, “Put away your sword! In the kingdom on earth, that slave is the property of the presbytery.

    Wasn’t Caiphas a child of Abraham with a vocation in the true church?
    And then first they took Jesus to the true church, and then after to the earthly political kingdom.

    verse 12 Then the company of soldiers, the commander, and the Jewish temple police arrested Jesus and tied Him up. 13 First they led Him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was advantageous that one man should die for the people.

    verse 28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They did not enter the headquarters themselves; because it was still the Sabbath and the Eagles game was on TV

    29 Then Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man weren’t a criminal, we wouldn’t have handed Him over to you.” 31 So Pilate told them, “There are two kingdoms. Judge Him according to your kingdom.

    “It’s not legal for us to put anyone to death,” 32 They said this in order that Jesus’ words be fulfilled signifying what kind of death He was going to die. 33 Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own, or have the court chaplains told you about Me?”

    “Your own kingdom and the chief priests handed You over to me. What have You done?” 36 “My kingdom is not from this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were from this world, My servants would fight, in order that I wouldn’t be handed over My kingdom (here/ repent) does not have its source here.

    37 “You are a king then?” Pilate asked. “You say that I’m a king. I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this—: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

    When you take sides with Caesar against the commands of Christ, do you question if Christ’s truth has any jurisdiction in this world of creation not yet redeemed? If the Assyrians use the word “idolatry”, you agree that the Assyrians had sovereignty. If the Assyrians don’t use the word “idolatry”, you agree that the Assyrians had sovereignty.

    Isaiah 10: 5 Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! 6 Against a godless nation I send
    him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mud of the streets.

    verse 12 But when the Lord finishes all His work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, He will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for his arrogant acts and the proud look in his eyes.” 13 For Assyria said:
    I have done this by my own strength
    and wisdom, for I am clever.
    I plundered their treasures;
    like a mighty warrior, I subjugated the inhabitants.
    14 My hand has reached out, as if into a nest,
    to seize the wealth of the nations.
    Like one gathering abandoned eggs,
    I gathered the whole earth.

    Isaiah 10, verse 15 Does an ax exalt itself
    above the one who chops with it?
    Does a saw magnify itself
    above the one who saws with it?
    16 Therefore the Lord God of Hosts
    will inflict an emaciating disease
    on the well-fed of Assyria,
    and the Lord will kindle a burning fire
    under its glory.

    Luther–“To kill a peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Cut their throats! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog! If they say that I am very hard and merciless, mercy be damned. Let whoever can stab, strangle, and kill them.”

    John Fea—Falwell Junior seems to believe that the only thing Christianity teaches Christians about their responsibility as citizens is that Christianity has no role to play in our responsibility as citizens. Liberty claims to “promote a Christian worldview ” about all things, including the ways Christianity intersect with politics and government. Wasn’t Liberty University directly linked to Falwell Sr.’s Moral Majority–an attempt to bring Christianity to bear on government and politics?



  5. “It’s a distortion of the teaching of Christ to say Jesus taught love and forgiveness and therefore the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving, and just hand over everything we have to every other part of the world.” Amen. Now can we please build the wall?


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