More on the Two Kingdoms

Lee responded to me and asked several questions in the comments of my last post.  I’ll respond here- might as well get another blog post out of it.

I have taken a while to write back because there is so much to say to what you wrote. It may take several comments. I finally decided to start with this: you are a 2K guy. If you believe that the structures of society are not being redeemed and that they do not bring in the Kingdom of God or participate in that, then you are not a Transformationalist. And unless you are a withdraw from culture guy that leaves 2K as your option. If you want to be a Transformationalist then I hope you will be voting Constitution Party this year because they are the only party that includes Jesus Christ in their platform. Since I know you are not going to do that from previous discussions, you are already operating on 2K thinking. I just have to get you to see it.

Overall, perhaps I am closer to a moderate 2K view than cultural transformationalism.  I think you set up a false dichotomy, however.  I don’t think transformationalism or 2K, especially as presented by VanDrunen, are our only two options.  I think a middle road between the two is possible.

Lee again:

Next, I think you are wrong about 2K and Scripture. Those guys are clear that Scripture applies to the Christian always and in every area of life. He is not allowed to do things not for the glory of God. It is not that the Scriptures say nothing about economics, it is just that they don’t teach a full view of economics. The Christian is always bound to follow such things like just weights, no usury, and the other things we find throughout the bible, but that does not teach us Free Market Economics for example as you mentioned. If the Scriptures are really teaching Capitalism then was the colonial mercantilism system sinful? Is America’s current “mixed” economy sinful? Those are questions that are all yes if the Scriptures positively teach Capitalism. Now if Capitalism is just the result of people living out other Biblical principles, then it is a different story, and that is a 2K position.

I know the 2K guys say that the Scriptures apply to every area of life.  I think this is an inconsistency on their part, however.  Of course it is undeniable that the Bible talks about things besides forgiveness of sins and our eschatological hope.  My point is, I think this demonstrates the weakness of their system.  What is the point of their instruction to use just weights and measures, for example?  This information is contained in natural revelation as well.  In the 2K view, the law is largely superfluous to the Christian life, or at best a supplement to natural theology. And what is the role of the law of God in my salvation?  I know they say I “should” do it, but why?  And given their sharp law-gospel distinction, would it not be a valid conclusion to say I simply will not try to obey the law, since I may fall into legalism if I try, and I will go to heaven even if I don’t, and my observance of the law now has nothing at all to do with my eternal state?  That strikes me as a legitimate implication of VanDrunen’s teaching, even if he himself does not draw that conclusion.  I know plenty that do.  Horton says the law is everything I do and the gospel is everything God does.  Here’s why I think that’s wrong.  But if I am to focus on the gospel, according to Horton, then I must not look to my own actions as any part of my salvation at all- not even a living out (or “working out”) of my salvation or an experiencing of my salvation.  This strikes me as quietism, and it’s all through 2K, at least as VanDrunen and Horton present it.  I know they say I “should” do good works, but I cannot see how those works function in their view of salvation at all.  It seems like merely a duty that God gives me without consequence if I don’t, and without advantage or benefit if I do, and a lot of risk of legalism if I even try, so that the safest course in their theology would seem to me to be antinomianism.

As to free market economics, I think it’s the only possible conclusion from the eighth commandment.  The state does not have the right to tax for whatever purpose it deems right.  It has the right to do the things God tells it to do in the Scripture- punishing evil, praising good, protecting people.  Nowhere in God’s will for state governments do I see economic planning, and if God doesn’t give it the right, then the eighth commandment applies.  If they take my property for purposes other than those which God has given them, it is theft.  One of the reasons God destroyed Israel by the Babylonians was the state’s violation of property rights.


Also, I don’t think this debate is about whether or not the culture is transformed. It is about how the culture is transformed. Is cultural transformation a goal of the gospel, or is it a by-product of the gospel? Is the culture transformed by distinctly Christian institutions or is it transformed by the church preaching the gospel and people responding to it? These are the questions at hand. Charlamagne was a Transformationalist. He did transform the culture of Saxony by putting to death those rebel rousing pagans. He was a distinctly Christian emperor going about a program of instituting Christianity. Is that Biblically legitimate? Is Charlamagne the second greatest person to ever walk the earth (which I heard in seminary from a professor who shall remain nameless)? That is the question of 2K or Transformationalism.
And for the record, I don’t think Transformationalism is the new legalism. I think it is a perfectly confessional way to go about things (when not taken to extremes). It is just not what I see right now when I read the Scripture.

The culture is ruled by the covenant of preservation, according to VanDrunen.  God rules the culture through that covenant for the purpose of preserving the status quo, not for the purpose of redeeming it.  Christ in His messianic role rules only the church.  So what would transform culture?  If there is no Christian approach to culture, as VanDrunen states, then how is the spread of the gospel going to transform the culture?  What force will act on the culture to transform it?  Many who describe themselves as transformationalists believe that transformationalism can only follow conversion.  Most theonomists believe that, that the transformation of society only comes after large-scale conversion within a society.  So if that’s the only difference, it is no difference.

This is what I mean by my legalism / antinomianism comparison.  Legalism says that we somehow accomplish salvation by our work.  Antinomianism says that our works don’t matter at all.  So on the subject of bringing in the kingdom of heaven, transformationalists say that our efforts in culture bring about the kingdom of God.  VanDrunen says that our efforts in culture are irrelevant to the kingdom of God.  I’m saying there is a middle course, the course of orthodoxy, which says that our efforts in culture just live out the salvation already achieved for us as the thankful response to all God has done for us.  I don’t think that 2Kers are necessarily antinomians or that transformationalists are necessarily legalists.  But narrowly, on this aspect of salvation, on bringing in the kingdom of God, I think the two positions tend in those directions.


Finally, I think Scripture is not non-sensical in 2K. I think 2K applies Scripture to all of life. Take your example of Philemon. Paul argues against slavery by arguing about Christ, forgiveness, and love. The gospel ends slavery by changing hearts like it did for Onesimus. Very 2K. Abolitionists took the Transformationalist position and Lincoln ended slavery with an appeal to the bayonet. Thousands died, but slavery ended. Proverbs too speaks about all of life, but does so by talking about spiritual principles. Sloth, pride, submission, gossip, lying, and such things. Proverbs is by no means a guide to economic investing in today’s stock market. I believe that Proverbs is written in a style that is to reflect the Christian’s day. Maybe he starts off fighting against sloth, but then he is awake and his tongue is sinning, and then he has to submit to his boss, or is tempted by a seductive lady. Then he is back to sinning with his tongue, and tempted by pride. It is not organized to teach a view of econ, but rather a view of life filled with temptation and sin. Yes, sometimes living a Christian redeemed life according to the gospel gives us earthly blessings and advantages. If the Christian is not slothful, he will be able to work. If the Christian is not prideful, he can get good advice from others. So on and so forth. 

Your language of a “redeemed life” is at odds with VanDrunen’s approach, I believe.  He does not believe your life outside of the church is redeemed.  It’s in the common kingdom which is not being redeemed and which is governed by common grace.  See in the quote you gave me- where is the Scripture in the common kingdom?  The only mention of the Scripture is its function in calling people into the church.

So I know that they say we have to follow the Scriptures in our lives.  But aren’t the Scriptures just repeating what natural revelation already tells me?  Doesn’t VanDrunen say that the only real benefit to being a Christian as far as the common kingdom goes is that the Spirit enables me to see natural revelation a little clearer?

I agree with your concern of Redemptive Historical Preaching, so yeah, but Theonomy is clearly related to Transformationalism. I would be interested in what you think the law-gospel problem is.I don’t think the Sabbath problem is related to 2K. Lots of Transformationalists make it too, unless we are thinking of different things.I don’t think Natural Law rules the Christians life. He must be governed by Scripture in all areas. It is just that Scripture does not make some judgments like homeschool or christian school or public. That is not governed by Natural law, but is an area that is simply governed by liberty.

 The advocates of 2K are also advocates of RH interpretation, in general, if I’m not mistaken.  They go together.  I’m not sure what your point re: theonomy is- I agree with you.  I think I articulated my problem with their law-gospel distinction- they wrongly ascribe it to works versus faith, instead of seeing it rightly in terms of covenant- the distinction between the covenant of creation and the covenant of grace.  Works and faith are present in both law and gospel.  And about the Sabbath- their view of the Sabbath directly affects their view of Adam’s mandate.  The pattern of work followed by rest is according to them normative.  Adam also was supposed to work for some period of time and then cease.  So the mandate is probationary, not definitional to the nature of humanity itself.  This despite the fact that Scripture itself in defining the Sabbath does not say that, but says rather than the Sabbath is a sign to show us that the Lord sanctifies us, not our own efforts (Exodus 32, Ezekiel 20).  Our “rest” is not a ceasing of efforts, any more than entering the promised land meant an end of labor, but a joyful enjoyment of that which God had accomplished for us rather than what we earned for ourselves.

And if your point is just that we can’t say what the Scriptures don’t say- I agree.  You don’t have to be a 2K guy to see that.  The homeschool-only advocates don’t claim that they have some right to speak where Scriptures don’t speak.  They say that the Scriptures do require homeschooling.  I think they’re wrong.  But that is a legitimate discussion about what the Scriptures do and don’t require.  It’s like free-market economics.  We can disagree about whether it is the legitimate inference of Scriptural principles or not.  But nobody is saying that they have the right to enforce principles as “Christian” about which the Scriptures are silent (well, except for Roman Catholics, of course.)

Overall it feels like our disagreement is about what the Two Kingdoms doctrine, as presented by VanDrunen and Horton, actually is.  If you’re right about it, then I don’t really have a problem with it.  But I don’t believe you are.  I believe he goes significantly farther than you think he does.

I guess for me the heart of it is- in the Christian life, what is the function of good works?  What is the purpose of living all of my life in obedience to God?  Is it a necessary part of the Christian life?  And are there Christian principles that govern all areas of life?

I appreciate your interaction, Lee.  And for other readers, I’d highly recommend Lee’s blog.  He’s currently responding to Frame’s book on Escondido theology, which is addressing a lot of these same points.

2 thoughts on “More on the Two Kingdoms

  1. Redemptive-historical preaching sees all of Scripture as being centrally about the story of Christ and how God has redeemed His people through Christ. Therefore, every text should be used primarily to point to Christ.

    I think that it is true that the Scriptures centrally are about Christ, but in a broad sense. The danger I think with RH preaching is that it goes to the text with an interpretive framework already in place. If the text must be about Christ, what Christ do I believe in? It is the text that must tell me that, not some preconceived notion of who Christ is or what the gospel is. We should let each text speak for itself, not force some preconception on it. I follow grammatical-historical interpretation, meaning I believe we simply let each text speak for itself, interpreting it according to the normal rules of grammar within the historical context. What did the human author think he was saying to his human audience? That has to drive our interpretations- otherwise the text becomes a wax nose we can turn any way we want.

    One common feature of much Redemptive-Historical preaching is a downplaying or even a refusal to ever apply the text. They are often especially opposed to "exemplarist" preaching, where narratives are used to encourage or discourage certain behaviors and attitudes. To them, it's all about the gospel, and the gospel is often seen as being limited only to what God has done for me. It's largely external and objective, and the internal and subjective aspects can really be minimized. So in their more extreme forms, RH and 2K go together quite nicely.

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