The reviewer of Westminster Californiaâ€™s Evangelium has repeatedly in different online exchanges accused the two-kingdoms proponents of denying Article 36 of the Belgic Confession where it teaches that the magistrate has the God-ordained duty to promote the true religion and punish idolaters and blasphemers. It says: â€œAnd the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word.â€ (Often not mentioned by such appeals to Article 36 are the revisions that Dutch Reformed communions in the United States made to this part of the Confession. See postscript below.)
What is striking for all good Kuyperians is that Abraham Kuyper himself rejected the original language of Article 36 and refused to let anyone claim he was less of a Reformed Protestant for doing so. In the early 1880s Kuyper wrote a pamphlet on the reformation of the church that the editors of the Standard Bearer, the denominational magazine of the Protestant Reformed Church, translated and published over many issues during the 1980s. (Thanks to John Halsey Wood for reminding me of this resource.) Under the heading of â€œConcerning Reformation and the Magistrate,â€ Kuyper wrote the following:
We oppose this Confession out of complete conviction, prepared to bear the consequences of our convictions, even when we will be denounced and mocked on that account as unReformed.
We would rather be considered not Reformed and insist that men ought not to kill heretics, than that we are left with the Reformed name as the prize for assisting in the shedding of the blood of heretics.
It is our conviction: 1) that the examples which are found in the Old Testament are of no force for us because the infallible indication of what was or was not heretical which was present at that time is now lacking.
2) That the Lord and the Apostles never called upon the help of the magistrate to kill with the sword the one who deviated from the truth. Even in connection with such horrible heretics as defiled the congregation in Corinth, Paul mentions nothing of this idea. And it cannot be concluded from any particular word in the New Testament, that in the days when particular revelation should cease, that the rooting out of heretics with the sword is the obligation of magistrates.
3) That our fathers have not developed this monstrous proposition out of principle, but have taken it over from Romish practice.
4) That the acceptance and carrying out of this principle almost always has returned upon the heads of non-heretics and not the truth but heresy has been honored by the magistrate.
5) That this proposition opposes the Spirit and the Christian faith.
6) That this proposition supposed that the magistrate is in a position to judge the difference between truth and heresy, an office of grace which, as appears from the history of eighteen centuries, is not granted by the Holy Spirit, but is withheld.
We do not at all hide the fact that we disagree with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians.
Granted, the appeal to Kuyper here may look a tad inconsistent because of regular objections to the idea of transformationalism that Kuyper himself apparently launched. At the same time, this quotation does show that even in the efforts to claim Christâ€™s lordship over every square inch, Kuyper recognized limits to the logic of that sovereignty, limits that many modern-day Kuyperians seem incapable of making in order to avoid the shoals of theonomy.
Postscript: Latter day Kuyperians also recognized the limits of Christâ€™s lordship when they attached notations to the Belgic Confession like this one found in both the Christian Reformed Church and the United Reformed Churches of North America (it follows the assertion that the magistrate is not only responsible for the â€œwelfare of the civil state, but also to protect the sacred ministryâ€:
The Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1910, recognizing the unbiblical teaching, contained in this sentence, concerning the freedom of religion and concerning the duty of the state to suppress false religion, saw fit to add an explanatory footnote. The Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1938, agreeing with the Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1910 as to the unbiblical character of the teaching referred to, but recognizing a conflict between the objectionable clauses in the Article and its footnote, decided to eliminate the footnote and to make the change in the text of the Article which appears above, corresponding to the change adopted in 1905 by the General Synod of the â€œGereformeerde Kerken in Nederland.â€ (See Christian Reformed Church Acts of Synod, 1910, pp.9,104-105; also Christian Reformed Church Acts of Synod, 1938, p. 17.). The Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1958 approved the following substitute statement which has been referred to other Reformed Churches accepting the Belgic Confession as their creed for evaluation and reaction: â€œAnd being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, in subjection to the law of God, while completely refraining from every tendency toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them and with the means belonging to them, to remove every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship, in order that the Word of God may have free course, the kingdom of Jesus Christ may make progress, and every anti-christian power may be resisted.â€