“Because Salvation is a total concept, a savior has dominion and authority over every realm of life. If His Lordship is not total, his salvation is not effectual. Therefore, anyone who claims to be a savior must of necessity assert an overlordship over every realm of life and thought…. Churchmen, by withdrawing the idea of salvation to the soul, so that Jesus Christ is the Savior of men’s souls and not Lord of heaven and earth and the only Savior of all things, have thereby in effect denied that Jesus is savior. None can be savior who is not also Lord.”
R. J. Rushdoony
Christianity & The State — pg. 27
The Church in the West is in great peril. Indeed, the peril is so great and the problems so complex and varied and the hour so late in solving that peril that only my certainty of God’s sovereignty brings me peace. One of the chief problems in the Church today is the insistence by some of the Church’s best and brightest teachers and spokesmen, that there is no such thing as Christian Culture and that Christ is only Lord in a direct way over the Church while conceding that He is Lord over what they style the common realm in a indirect secret way. This Theology is what I will dub ‘radical Two Kingdom Theology,’ and it has possessed the thinking of many Reformed Churches and Seminaries.
The theory behind Two Kingdom Theology is that Christ has two Kingdoms. One Kingdom we commonly call the Church and there He rules by grace. The other Kingdom (The Kingdom of His left hand as it were) is what is commonly styled the ‘secular realm.’ Christ is clearly Lord over the former Kingdom while He is ‘Lord in a different way’ over the secular realm. The nearest I can translate this is that Christ has made His sovereign will as Lord known in the Church but His Lordship in the ‘secular realm’ is conducted by way of His secret eternal decrees. The implication of this doctrine is that the Church, through Christ’s spokesmen in the pulpit, is not to speak at all of Christ’s Kingly office over what is called the ‘secular realm,’ instead being content to Sunday by Sunday remind God’s people of Christ’s Priestly office.
Now, the radical two Kingdom Theology, freely admits that individuals in their ‘secular calling’ may seek to apply God’s Word to their callings but the Church is not to counsel them or pretend to give them God’s Word on their ‘secular callings’ because to do so would be to confuse the two Kingdoms, and besides, the Bible, so the theory goes, doesn’t speak to cultural issues.
Advocates of this position insist that there is no such thing as ‘Christian culture,’ insisting that only individuals can be Christian or not Christian. Radical Two Kingdom Theology teaches that to desire a Christian culture is to want to seize by storm the Eden that God has prohibited to us until the return of Christ. Radical Two Kingdomists insist that until Christ returns we must always live ‘East of Eden.’
Now, first it must be said that this Theology insures as a consequence what it teaches by way of theory. What I mean by that is that if we convince Christians that Christ and His Lordship doesn’t directly apply to the ‘secular realm’ then we can be certain that the result will be that we will always be living East of Eden and that we will never know what it means to live in a Christian culture. If the Church refuses to speak God’s Word to God’s people as to the claims of Christ over every area of life then the results will be that each Christian man will do what is right in His own eyes. If the Church will not speak Christ’s Kingly voice from Scripture making known His mind over the putatively secular realm, then individuals will be left to themselves to come up with their own theories which will lead to thousands of Christian voices hawking thousands of different ‘Christian’ positions.
Examples abound but let us restrain ourselves to just one realm. If the Church refuses to speak God’s Word as it pertains to what just Government looks like we will find ourselves with individuals insisting that there is such a thing as Christian Fascism or Christian Socialism or Christian Communism, or Christian Anarchy or Christian Tyranny, and the Church, having all these people in her bosom, must not speak to the issue or to God’s people since the Bible isn’t about these issues. The two Kingdoms must remain separate at all costs. Now multiply this example into the myriad of realms that exist and you will begin to see all the confusion this will sow among God’s people.
Now, having observed all this we must ask how is Jesus a savior in this doctrine? Ok, we grant that with this doctrine Jesus saves our souls in a very restricted sense (when we die our souls get to go to heaven) and He saves our Church lives but how does His salvation reveal itself in any of the rest of our institutions and the relationships that comprise those institutions? In short, as Rushdoony notes above, this Kingless Jesus is reduced to being a savior who really is no savior.
Also, we should realize that while Christians work hard at making sure that culture isn’t Christian or that it is kept secular the other gods are not so shy or withdrawing concerning their intent to be Lord over all. This is just a way of saying that if the Church refuses to speak the Kingly voice of Christ as it pertains to cultural issues the consequence will not be that the culture remains common but rather the result will be that the adherents of the false gods will bend and shape culture so that it reflects the will of their false gods. In their haste to avoid the notion of Christendom the radical two Kingdomists are insuring that the tide that will come rushing in is ‘Islamadom,’ or ‘Humanismdom,’ or ‘Multi-culturaldom,’ or some kind of culture that will be beholden to a false god. This is because every culture is a reflection of and instantiation of some god or gods.
Now, having raised the warning about Radical Two Kingdom theology we should admit immediately that Reformed people have historically embraced the notion of Two Kingdoms, but they have always recognized that these two Kingdoms are interdependent and not isolated and divorced from one another. For example many if not most of the 1st and 2nd generation of Reformers held that the Magistrate was to uphold BOTH tables of God’s law. Calvin, Bucer, Bullinger, Beza, Martyr, Knox, Wollebius, A’Brakel, Voetius, Turretin, Ussher, Durham, Perkins, Cartwright, Dickson, Rutherford, Gillespie, Nye, Palmer, Burroughs, Thornwell, et.al. all hold that the magistrate is God’s minister and as such should enforce God’s law – both tables. Try advocating the position of these Reformers at Westminster West today and see what kind of response you elicit. So, we freely concede that there are two Kingdoms and that God reigns differently in one than the other (use of the Keys vs. use of the sword) but what we do not agree on is that the use of the sword should not be self-consciously and explicitly Christian and neither do we agree that we should be satisfied with God’s muteness and secret sovereignty over the what is called the ‘secular realm,’ especially when God has made His mind known on many issues we find in this ‘secular realm.’
A few more loose ends here and then we shall finish. Radical Two Kingdomists insist that the kingdom of Christ is concerned with spiritual and eternal affairs and advances by Word and sacrament. First, we will be glad to agree that the Church advances by Word and Sacrament but where we do not agree is the notion of the idea of ‘spiritual’ here. It is true that the Kingdom of Christ is concerned about spiritual and eternal affairs but does this mean that Godly economic policy (as one example) is not a spiritual or eternal affair all because it lies in the Radical Two Kingdomist ‘secular realm’? What does ‘spiritual’ mean for the Radical Two Kingdomists? Does it mean ethereal? Abstract? Non-Concrete? Gnostic? Is the only spiritual part of me my soul or is all of me, both body and soul spiritual? And if all of me, body and soul is spiritual then why can’t it be that all that I do for the glory of God, under the unction of the Spirit, by the authority of the King’s Word is likewise spiritual? I do not believe that the Christian can do any of his actions as less than a pneumatikos being (Spiritual one).
To answer a final objection the Radical Two Kingdomists believe that by applying the Bible to all of life we dilute its effectiveness in its Gospel proclaiming and saving capacity. The thinking goes if you apply the Bible to everything it will not be seen to be good for anything. So, by these lights, if God has a word that applies to the family realm or the educational realm that automatically lessens the authoritativeness of God’s Word in the salvation realm, after all men can’t take serious God’s Word about their souls if they also have to listen to God’s Word about Biblical Education. First, we would say such thinking reveals, again, constricted thinking in terms of what salvation means. It is true that God’s Word is about salvation but it is not a Word that deals only with personal and individual salvation. The salvation Christ brought with him is cosmic and so when you find a word in the Scripture that applies to family life it has the intent of bringing the effects of His salvation that He brings personally to men to their larger corporate lives. There is not bifurcation here between a saving word to the individual in one place and a word that isn’t saving to a particular sphere or realm in another place. All of God’s Words are saving Words and when we live those Words out we experience the fullness of the Salvation that God came to bring.
In the words of Rushdoony, ‘None can be savior who is not also Lord.’