THE NATURE AND EXERCISE OF CHURCH POWER
“All church power is wholly moral or spiritual. No church officers or judicatories possess any civil jurisdiction; they may not inflict any civil penalties nor may they seek the aid of the civil power in the exercise of their jurisdiction further than may be necessary for civil protection and security.
OPC Book Of Church Order
Recently, Dr. Darryl Hart cited this quotation from the OPC BCO in defense of Radical Two Kingdom theology (R2Kt — aka. – The Virus). Note that this quote has to do with the “Nature and Exercise of Church Power.” As I understand it this is stating how the Church as the Church employs the use of the Keys. According to this the Church as the Church may not use the sword in its use of power. Dr. Hart will be pleased to know that because of my belief in two Kingdom theology (notice the absence of the word “radical”) I find this perfectly acceptable. The power of the Church is that of moral and spiritual persuasion and not that of physical compulsion.
But having gladly admitted something I’ve never denied, that admission doesn’t change the problems with R2Kt virus. R2Kt virus goes on to say that the Church as the Church must not even seek to use moral persuasion when it comes to issues that are non-salvific (narrowly defined) that apply to the public square. According to R2Kt virus thinking the Church as the Church cannot speak to these issues because the Bible doesn’t speak to these issues. Now, certainly, non-ecclesiastical Christian societies may speak to these issues but the Church is absolutely forbidden to use its moral and spiritual power of persuasion and declaration to speak to principalities and power of this present wicked age that seek to make anti-Christ policy in the public square. Further according to R2Kt virus thinking pluralism is what the Church should desire in the public square. R2Kt virus supports a plurality of gods in the public square where Sovereign King Jesus is just another member in the cultural god club.
The quote from the BCO above does not provide ground fire for that agenda of the R2Kt crowd. No Reformed minister worth his salt would disagree with that statement but many Reformed ministers worth their salt would disagree that the BCO quote above proves that the kind of R2Kt that is being advanced in some quarters is acceptable. The quote above is not bizarre in the least. What is bizarre is to try and take that quote and stretch it to the point where it becomes a defense for the R2Kt virus.
Now, as this pertains to the civil realm I am perfectly pleased with the old Puritan commonwealth view that the State and the Church were coordinate power centers that were both under God’s authority and so were both responsible to sovereign God. These coordinate power centers could be delineated but they could never be divorced if only because those in the civil realm were members of the Churches and those in the Churches were members of the commonwealth. Further we know that R2Kt was not practiced in the commonwealth the way that it is being pushed in Escondido if only because of the legendary election day sermons where Reformed ministers would preach sermons speaking to the issues before their people as the electorate.
Still, in the Puritan commonwealth arrangement the lines between Church and State were clearly drawn and it was understood that the Church ministered grace while the State ministered justice. Where the commonwealth worked well there was no confusion between these coordinate power centers, nor was there a collapsing of one into the other so that they were indistinguishable but neither was their a divorce of the two as if the Church could not speak to the civil magistrate using its spiritual and moral voice of persuasion. So seriously did the commonwealth take the distinction between the two Kingdoms that ministers were not allowed to hold civil public office and Civil magistrates could not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Clearly these were people who understood the distinction between the two Kingdoms and yet they never would have countenanced Radical Two Kingdom Theology.
Clearly, I have no affection for the change by American Presbyterians of the Westminster confession done between 1787-1789 on the issue of the Magistrate. I think it moved the confession substantially in a non-Reformed direction. Given the political climate at the time, (how ironic that) the change is understandable, but I still believe that that change has wrought all kinds of damage to the Reformed Church.
Finally, while we are on this, let it be said that no Reformed person (not even the hated and dreaded theonomists) desire a ecclesiocracy. I say this because there seems to be some confusion in some quarters that what Theonomists and Theocrats desire is a government where the Church is running the show. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a mistake to think that a ecclesiocracy is the inevitable end of what Theonomy teaches.
I do not apologize in the slightest for thinking and calling R2Kt a virus. I remain convinced that should it become epidemic in the Church today it will have the result, as many viral fevers do, of leaving the patient (in this case, the Church) impotent.
Not all that is written by those who are infected with the virus should be avoided but the reader should be aware of this viral strain so that it can be identified when it crops up in works not immediately associated with this subject.