Glenn Beck, the Kingdom, and Me (per usual)

Criticisms of 2k theology keep coming and a major source of opposition is the distinction between Christ’s rule as redeemer in distinction from his rule as creator. For some, this kind of division within Christ could wind up in the error of Nestorianism. And yet, I wonder how you avoid Rob Bell’s error of universalism without this distinction.

This is what I have in mind. Most Reformed Protestants would likely admit that Glenn Beck and I have different relationships with Jesus Christ as savior and lord (assuming these Protestants accept that I am a believer but you know what happens when you assume). As a citizen of the United States, Beck gets my respect and civil affection even if his conservatism is several steps removed from the genuine article. But as a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Beck and I are at odds; he is even my enemy because he is not part of the kingdom of grace.

In other words, when I pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come,” I am praying with regard to Beck that he become part of the kingdom, not that Christ would defend Beck and the rest of the church as part of the kingdom of grace’s battle with the kingdom of Satan.

Here a little confessional political theology may be instructive. If we read the catechisms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the explanation of the second petition involves not not civil or political realities but spiritual ones.

Here is Calvin’s catechism:

Master. – What understand you by the kingdom of God in the second petition?
Scholar. – It consists chiefly of two branches-that he would govern the elect by his Spirit-that he would prostrate and destroy the reprobate who refuse to give themselves up to his service, thus making it manifest that nothing is able to resist his might.
Master. – In what sense do you pray that this kingdom may come?
Scholar. – That the Lord would daily increase the numbers of the faithful-that he would ever and anon load them with new gifts of his Spirit, until he fill them completely: moreover, that he would render his truth more clear and conspicuous by dispelling the darkness of Satan, that he would abolish all iniquity, by advancing his own righteousness.

Here is Heidelberg:

Question 123. Which is the second petition?
Answer: “Thy kingdom come”; that is, rule us so by thy word and Spirit, that we may submit ourselves more and more to thee; preserve and increase thy church; destroy the works of the devil, and all violence which would exalt itself against thee; and also all wicked counsels devised against thy holy word; till the full perfection of thy kingdom take place, wherein thou shalt be all in all.

And here is the Shorter Catechism:

Q. 102. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

As I read these accounts of the second petition, I do not think much about nations, politics, or rulers (why should I, the Psalms warn me about princes). I also don’t see much about the rule of law (even if it is God’s) but I read much more about the power and authority of God’s word and Spirit. And I also don’t understand anything here that would lead me to think that Glenn Beck and I are both members of God’s kingdom. Instead, these answers presume a marked division between saints and unbelievers.

In other words, these answers point in the direction of Louis Berkhof’s account of the kingdom of God:

The Kingdom of God is primarily an eschatological concept. The fundamental idea of the Kingdom in scripture is not that of a restored theocratic kingdom of God in Christ – which is essentially a kingdom of Israel –, as the Premillenarians claim; neither is it a new social condition pervaded by the Spirit of Christ, and realized by man through such external means as good laws, civilization, education, social reforms, and so on, as the Modernists would have us believe. The primary idea of the Kingdom of God in Scripture is that of the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of sinners by the powerful regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, insuring them of the inestimable blessings of salvation, – a rule that is realized in principle on earth, but will not reach its culmination until the visible and glorious return of Jesus Christ. The present realization of it is spiritual and invisible. Jesus took hold of this eschatological concept and made it prominent in His teachings. He clearly taught the present spiritual realization and the universal character of the Kingdom. Moreover, He Himself effected that realization in a measure formerly unknown and greatly increased the present blessings of the Kingdom. At the same time He held out the blessed hope of the future appearance of that Kingdom in external glory and with the perfect blessings of salvation. (Systematic Theology, 568)

This quotation from Berkhof is congenial – duh! – to 2kers and before the Kuyperians and theocrats start to quote from him a couple of pages later where Berkhof speaks of the kingdom as bigger and broader than the visible church, that is, aiming at “nothing less than the complete control of all manifestations of life,” I understand that Berkhof is a mixed bag on this issue.

But this brings me back to Glenn Beck. If in a broader understanding of the kingdom, the complete control of Beck involves implementing laws and policies that he and his family will follow to the glory of God, then the rule of the Spirit and the eschatological concept of the kingdom as a spiritual and invisible enterprise located in man’s (and woman’s) heart, is lost. Or if the kingdom is so broadened to include unbelievers and believers in it, then you seem to enter the ballpark of universalism where all God’s children are God’s children – you know, the fatherhood of God and the siblinghood of all people.

We do have, however, an easy way around the problem. It is to distinguish between Christ’s rule over Glenn Beck as creator, and his rule over me as creator and redeemer. I don’t know of any other way to avoid the problems of Anabaptism or Constantinianism than by affirming this distinction. Without it, Glenn Beck is not my worldly foe, but my brother in Christ. (If only.)

Advertisements