Recently, in the comments section David R. from Fla. has been mildly defending R2K theory by quoting Dr. Meredith Kline. I thought I would interact a little with David’s pull quotes. I hope to help pull back the curtain on the problems with this thinking.
Some people might remember Dr. Kline as the man who built a straw man out of Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s Theonomic position and then proceeded to destroy the straw man he had built, insuring before he wrote his unseemly attack piece that Dr. Bahnsen would not be able to respond to his attack piece in the same journal in which Dr. Kline attacked Dr. Bahnsen.
David R. writes,
In Kingdom Prologue, Kline has a very helpful discussion of the common grace city and its relationship to the kingdoms of God and Satan. He describes two aspects of the common grace city, that of religious antithesis and common grace, as follows:
David R. then quotes Dr. Meredith Kline,
“There is in the city a spiritual malignancy, the fatal consequence of the usurpation of the world kingdom by Satan and the prostitution of the city to demonic service. In the lurid expose found in the apocalyptic mode of Scripture, the satanically perverted urban power structure is seen as a beast savagely turned against the citizens of the city who refuse its mark…. The victims are not those disadvantaged in things temporal. It is rather a matter of religious antithesis, an ancient diabolical enmity. It is against the redeemed of the Lamb that the controlling powers of the world kingdom direct their hellish hostility.
“Yet in the face of the bestial aspect assumed by the city and the ensuing religious warfare that rages within it,
Scripture affirms the legitimacy of the city. One thinks of the historical context of Romans 13. The legitimacy of the city is affirmed not because the bestializing of the city is a relatively late historical development. As a matter of fact, the Beast-power is not just a phenomenon of the present church age. The founder of the city was himself the slayer of the first martyr-prophet…. Our positive affirmation of the city structure is not based on a mere chronological priority of positive to negative factors in the make-up of the city. It is due rather to the fact that fundamental structural legitimacy is a matter of divine ordinance, not of the nature of man’s administration of the institution. The frightful religious tension of the city belongs to the story of the apostate direction taken by the city potentates and should not be allowed to obscure the character of the city as a structure founded on the common grace ordinance of the Creator.
1.) Dr. Kline would have us believe that the city (common realm) is prostituted to a demonic service that is a beast that is turned against the redeemed of the lamb who are to endure the hellish hostility of an ancient diabolical enmity and yet despite the fact that these controlling powers have usurped the world kingdom so that common realm is implacably opposed to those who will not receive its mark Dr. Kline’s followers would have us believe that some kind of principled pluralism in the common realm can make it so Christians and non-Christians can function harmoniously despite all this hostility?
Well, I suppose some people can reconcile that position.
2.) Note that Dr. Kline mentions in these brief paragraphs both the idea of “religious warfare that rages within the common realm,” and again, “the frightful religious tension of the city.” This is fundamentally important to critiquing the disciples of Kline (the grand-daddy of R2K). Dr. Kline admits of this religious warfare that rages in the city and yet the disciples of Kline insist that the common realm, at least for Christians, is a religious free zone. Christians, according to the R2K acolytes are not to appeal to their Christianity (their religion) in the common realm but instead they are to appeal to natural law. I’ve even had one R2K supporter tell me that it is only natural religion that is to shape the common realm since Christianity was never intended to be a social order factor. Many of the R2K fellows communicate this same thing when they tell you that “there is no such thing as Christian culture,” or when they rail against the idea of Christendom. So, here is the question. If, in R2K thinking, Christianity is not to shape or impact the common realm, which is instead shaped by common grace and ruled by common law, how can it be that there will be “religious warfare that rages within” the common realm, and how can there be a “frightful religious tension?” If the common realm is common and Christianity does not exist in a public square sense in the common realm then whence this frightful religious tension? Whence this religious warfare that rages within the common realm?
Here we have one of the R2K disciples quoting Dr. Meredith Kline and yet Kline assumes to be the case what R2K insists can’t be the case.
3.) Dr. Kline refers to the city (common realm) as “bestial.” By what standard are we defining the common realm as bestial? Naturally that standard has to be the Scripture. Dr. Kline, looking to the standard of the Scripture, insists that the common realm is “bestial.” So, if the common realm is “bestial” it seems like it would be fair to say that the common realm is also evil. (Bestial and evil do kind of go together.) However, the R2K lads insist on telling us that Dr. Kline’s bestial common realm is NOT evil — not bestial — but rather is merely “common.” The common realm can not have in it a Christian culture the R2K lads tell us and yet their mentor, Dr. Kline tells us that the common realm must remain decidedly non-Christian. (After all, if the common realm remain bestial in hardly seems a stretch to insist that a bestial realm yields non-Christian cultures.)
The reason this is so important is that it was the Anabaptists who insisted that the realms outside of their communes were inherently evil. Dr. Kline’s position, like the R2K position, does sound Anabaptist at this point. Note that Dr. Kline seems to be saying that the common realm is animated by “the Beast power.” One wonders how that common realm can be considered common if it is, by definition, animated, shaped, influenced by “the Beast power?”
Dr. Kline continues
“Over against every tendency to identify the city at its essential core with those demonic powers that seize and manipulate the power of the state we must assert the biblical testimony to the goodness of this postlapsarian institution as an appointment of God’s common grace, beneficial and remedial in its functions.”
So, despite all the apocalyptic language earlier used to describe the common realm, the goodness of this common realm is asserted. This is akin to Alexander Solzhenitsyn writing about the horrors of the Gulag Archipelago and then concluding by asserting the goodness of the gulag.
Biblical Christianity, contrary to R2K dualisms, does believe that there is a present evil age that is every bit as wicked as Dr. Kline describes. However, Biblical Christianity doesn’t teach that the present evil age is good or dualistically permanent. Biblical Christianity teaches that this present wicked age is being incrementally pushed back by the age to come that was inaugurated by the coming and triumph of the Lord Christ. God’s Christ, being victorious over this present wicked age, and having bound the strong man is now, by the work of His Spirit and through the Spirit given obedience of the Church and through His providential orchestration of all things, is going from victory unto victory. The age to come is not yet in all of its manifested authority and will not be until the consummation of all things but the fact that the age to come is not yet seen in all its coming brilliance does not mean that it can not, will not, or should not be incrementally and increasingly turning the desert of the present wicked age into the Oasis of the already present and ever increasingly present age to come.
God’s common grace is seen in the reality that the present wicked age is not perfectly consistent with its own Christ hating presuppositions. God’s common grace keeps the present wicked age from nihilistic destruction so that the age to come, of our Lord Christ’s delegated authority to the Church, has the time and opportunity to be about the mission of teaching the nations to observe all things so that age to come goes from glory unto glory over this present wicked age which resists it at every turn.
Dr. Kline continues,
“Summing up then, the meaning or essential identity of the postlapsarian city is not found in identification either with the kingdom of Satan or with the kingdom of God. Nor is it to be explained in terms of a dialectical seesawing between the demonic and the divine. This divinely appointed institution exists within the sphere of common grace, which is the corollary, the counterpoise, of the common curse. The fundamental shape of the city is the resultant of the interplay of these two correlative principles of divine action, a divine wrath and a divine grace that restrains that wrath according to the measure of sovereign divine purpose. Such is the biblical conceptual framework for defining the basic meaning of the city.” (pp. 168-172)
Dr. Kline has thus given us two dualisms.
1.) The first dualism is the dualism between the City of God and the City of man. (Let’s not even venture into the fact that Dr. Kline’s followers uses these in a non-Augustinian sense.)
2.) The second dualism is the dualism that is found in the second duality of the first dualism. In the City of Man Dr. Kline has suggested that there is a dualism that exists between the ying of common grace and the yang of common curse.
Dr. Kline says that the essential identity of the postlapsarian city is not found in identification either with the kingdom of Satan or with the kingdom of God. Another way of saying that is that the postlapsarian city is found in identification with both the Kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God. After all, remember the descriptors earlier that was given to us by Dr. Kline. The City of Man was “Bestial.” The City of man had a spiritual malignancy. The City of man The World Kingdom had been usurped by Satan and the city of Man was prostituted to Demonic service.
After saying all this, how can Dr. Kline turn around and say “the postlapsarian city is not found in identification either with the Kingdom of Satan or with the Kingdom of God?
Yet at the same time Dr. Kline now says that this city of man is a divinely appointed institution. This is why I say that Dr. Kline is saying not only saying that the City of man’s identity is not to be found either with the Kingdom of Satan or the Kingdom of God, but Kline is also saying that the city of man’s identity is found both in the Kingdom of Satan and in the Kingdom of God.
Notice also, that with Kline’s assertion that the city of man is not to be identified with the Kingdom of Satan we are still left asking, “Where exactly is the Kingdom of Satan in Radical Two Kingdom theology?
Finally, note that Dr. Kline can deny his creation of a dialectic in the City of man all he wants but that is exactly what he has given us. In a very Hegelian manner Dr. Kline has given us, for the City of Man, a thesis which is the Kingdom of God and a antithesis which is the Kingdom of Satan and Dr. Kline has left the synthesis to only be arrived at with the consummation. It strikes me then, that the city of man for those who accept this thinking (R2K), is a Manichean reality. The common realm is a place where ultimate good and ultimate evil are perfectly counter-poised so that neither will have conquest over the other. This is perfectly consistent with Amilliennial eschatology that insists that good and evil grow together and evil only begins to triumph finally on the brink of Christ’s return.
Now keep in mind that this is the quote that was given to me by David R. I have only dealt with that quote which I was given.