Dr. R. Scott Clark of Westminster West keeps missing the problems inherent in radical two kingdom theology. In an article he posted recently on his heidelblog site he tried to show how radical two kingdom theology would rescue the day when it comes to social concerns as well as continue to provide impetus to not compromise the Gospel by signing documents like Evangelicals and Catholics together (ECT).
First we should note that there are great numbers of people who are not radical two kingdom Reformed people that didn’t sign the ECT document. This reality demonstrates that the desire for co-belligerence in the civil realm does not necessarily lead to compromise on the Gospel. Those Reformed people who signed the ECT document were in egregious error. Those Evangelical people who signed it were just be consistent with their Evangelicalism. Dr. Clark should realize that the semi-pelagianism inherent in Evangelicalism serves more to explain the Evangelical signatories of ECT then Clark’s explanation that the cause of such evangelical declension is a lack of his radical two kingdom theology. The common front that was pursued in the ECT document is explained by the reality that Theologically, Evangelicals and Romanists really do share a common front, due to the synergism that is involved in both camps. In order to be as plain as possible Dr. Clark needs to realize that even if Evangelicals had owned a radical two kingdom theology that would not have necessarily kept them from signing ECT. Actually, ECT should have been called ‘Synergists Together.’
Clark desires to explain ECT as a document that was motivated by the desire to rally conservatives together to form a common alliance against the inroads of modernity, aping earlier work that existed in Britain in the 60’s. What Clark doesn’t seem to understand is that it is possible for people to be conservative and still be semi-pelagian — if even only as their theology is expressed pragmatically. I’ve read the McGrath volume that Clark cites and it was the same type of cast of conservative synergists in the 60’s in Britain that was seeking to build coalitions as it was in the 90’s in America. The common fault then and now was and is synergism and not a lack of Clark’s radical two Kingdom theology among the signatories. The doctrine of Justification did not get in the way in Britain or in America for the signatories because they were janus faced in their theology. Radical two kingdom theology would not have healed their janus faces.
Dr. Clark keeps insisting that if only Evangelicals had held radical two kingdom theology they wouldn’t have signed the document, but it seems to me that, at least theoretically speaking, there is no reason why an Arminian Evangelical couldn’t be radical two kingdomist, and so have signed the document. It seems to me the only reason that such an eventuality didn’t happen is because radical two kingdom theology is so obscure that only a very select breed of people embrace it.
Dr. Clark insists on the cure of radical two kingdom theology for weak kneed Evangelicals. The problem here is that the cure is worse than the disease. What consistent Evangelicals (guys like J. I. Packer) should have done, is that instead of signing the document they should have told the folks from Rome,
“Look, y’all, we’re never going to agree on Justification or on the Gospel, but you know what — we can still be co-belligerents in the culture wars, on particular issues. We are going to have to remain divided on the Gospel, but we can unite on any number of other issues.”
The last thing they should have said is what Clark might have told them,
“Look, y’all, Christ’s Word doesn’t apply to what we call the common realm — but we can still work together as individuals by appealing to something subjective that is called natural law. Now, if we all together objectify the subjective and agree and pretend that our mutually agreed upon objectified subjective is really objective we can make sure that the world doesn’t get as evil as our eschatology says it must — at least not to hastily.”
Clark goes on to site the things that natural law teaches that could be common ground for Roman Catholics, Reformed, Evangelicals, Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons. The problem of course is that those self-evident things that Clark insists that all these people can agree upon are only self-evident things when people have been conditioned by a largely Christian institutional framework that they have been informed by over the centuries. Try to get someone from the Democratic party to agree that liberty vs Statism is self-evident. Try to get someone from the house of Saud to agree that sharia isn’t self evident. Try to get someone from queer nation to agree that heterosexuality is self-evident. Dr. Clark refuses to see that natural law is not going to solve these problems, and indeed, that these people likewise appeal to their own versions of his precious natural law theory.
Dr. Clark finishes his article by insisting that in this world there are two Kingdoms. We agree. The problem is that for radical two kingdomists, like Clark, there is a desire to divorce the two Kingdoms from one another as opposed to merely distinguishing them in a way that non-radical two kingdom folk would. We agree that the Spiritual Kingdom finds its central expression in the Church. We agree that “in the Christian life we live by the law of God in the grace of God by faith.” However we also believe that the Christian life, lived by the law of God, in the grace of God by faith, means that we together build public institutions that reflect a people who are living by the law of God, and who are kept by the grace of God by faith. We agree with Clark when he says “that the power and authority of the visible church is spiritual and it touches spiritual ends: faith and sanctity and its means are spiritual: Word, sacrament, and discipline.” But we also insist that the spiritual ends that he speaks of, faith and sanctity, end up incarnating themselves in realms outside of the Church. Further we believe that the Word he speaks of, applies not only to individual piety but also to the public piety of Kings, Economists, Journalists, Lawyers, Educators, Artists, etc., and that the Word needs to be brought to bear on the public realm. We agree with Clark “that law is revealed in nature, in the human conscience and is universally known by humans.” Where we part with Dr. Clark is where he refuses to embrace the scripture that teaches that fallen men suppress that law revealed in nature and conscience. Finally we agree that “Christians, who live in both kingdoms simultaneously, may cooperate as members of the civil kingdom toward common ends without agreeing on the sorts of issues entailed in ECT.” Where we disagree is that when we are working on common ends with unbelievers, we, unlike Clark, realize that we are agreeing with people who are being inconsistent with their religious presuppositions which should have them behaving in a very different way. Thank God for common grace and providence.
Dr. Clark continues to advocate for a realm where religion or religious presuppositions don’t apply. He continues to advocate for the active pursuit of irreligion in what he calls the ‘common realm.’ Such theology is most unfortunate.