Five Questions About Two Kingdoms

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In my various discussions of the modern forms of “two kingdom” theology, I have frequently summed up my concerns with the question of how many kings there are. This has made my point, to a point, but it still needs to be pushed into the corners.

Here is my summary of what I take to be a theological novelty, by which I am referring to the R2K position, and the position I am interacting with.

“God rules all human institutions and endeavors, but He does so in two fundamentally different ways. He rules in His spiritual kingdom, the church, as a redeemer, and He rules the civil realm as creator and sustainer. These two kingdoms have different ends and functions, and therefore must be ruled differently. The spiritual kingdom is governed by special revelation, the Bible, and the other kingdom is governed by natural law.”

I take this to be a novelty because, according to the Reformers, the spiritual kingdom was that of the heart, the conscience, the inner man, while the other kingdom was external and visible, church included (e.g. Calvin’s Institutes, 3.19.15). In other words, the modern form of it divides church and state while the reformational form of it divided inner and outer, invisible and visible.

So all that noted, here are my basic questions for adherents of the modern take on two kingdoms. Assuming the divide is between civil and ecclesiastical . . .

1. Is there anything in the charter of each kingdom that prohibits cooperation, communication, and traffic with the other kingdom? In other words, does natural law reveal that we must not ever resort to special revelation? And does special revelation ever say that we must never import specific and revealed content into the civil realm?

2. As God rules in the civil realm, does He require us to worship Him? If not, why not? If so, under what name, and by what forms? Or in this realm is He satisfied with being the unknown god of the Athenians? Or was an altar to Him too much? Is the God mentioned on American coinage the God of natural law?

3. As God rules in the civil kingdom as creator and sustainer, does our human disobedience of natural law also mean that He acts in His capacity as judge? Using the criteria of natural law alone, will God judge us for our abortion laws, same sex mirages, and confiscatory taxation?

4. If God can act as judge in the civil realm is there any gospel or good news for those under judgment in this realm? If He does not act as judge in this realm, in what sense can He be said to be ruling?

5. If the reason for not bringing special revelation to bear in discussions about what to do in the civil realm is that unbelievers don’t believe the Bible, what are we to do in those debates when they claim not to believe in natural law either? If their denials and unbelief do not cause us to set aside natural law, then why should their denials and unbelief be the cause for us to set aside the Scriptures?

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Mark Brown
Mark Brown
10 years ago

If that is where the Reformed are taking Two Kingdoms that is big trouble.  More because if your main point is dividing church and state, what about that constant sore point, church governance?  One of Luther’s main points of Two Kingdoms was to bring a theological explanation to why the church does so poorly if it is governed by Christ.  And the simple answer is the crooked timber it is ruled through.

10 years ago

From where is the quote taken?

Tom King
10 years ago

I’m not sure you’re espousing this historically, which I believe could be argued as coming from the Lutheran perspective.  Luther would not have divided things the same as Calvin, so it is wrong to assume such Calvinistic considerations on the reformer, Luther.  Here is a better summary than I could provide:
Please do not take this the wrong way.  I appreciate all your insight and work, Doug.  Keep in His Word.  Thanks for all your work.

10 years ago

How closely would you say your summary correlates with Calvin’s? Do you find the novelty to be the last sentence of your summary or the whole of it?  Calvin, Institutes, 3.19.15: Let us first consider that there is a twofold government in man: one aspect is spiritual, whereby the conscience is instructed in piety and in reverencing God; the second is political, whereby man is educated for the duties of humanity and citizenship that must be maintained among men. These are usually called the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘temporal’ jurisdiction (not improper terms) by which is meant that the former sort… Read more »

10 years ago

I’m not saying that your assumption is incorrect, but what if is? Wouldn’t you then be arguing with a straw man? What if the proper distinction between the two kingdoms is temporal vs. eternal, visible vs invisible, earthly vs. heavenly?  Why do you paint the argument as civil vs ecclesiastical, church vs. state and law vs. grace?  Do you really think that 2Kers are gnostics? As for the distinction between God’s acting as creator/sustainer vs. redeemer, why does this have to be described as separate Kingdoms?  Doesn’t it refer only to the distinction between those who are eternally healed (saved) and… Read more »