REPORTS OF SPECIAL STUDY COMMITTEES
A. The Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms
Dear Fathers and Brothers,
The 2012 Classis voted that a special committee be established to study “The Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms” and to report back this year “with specific recommendations on how to respond to this teaching.”
As of this writing (February 1, 2013) which is late in the day, most of the Committee members have fulfilled their assignment to spell-out the features of the Two Kingdoms theology. One of the members has since moved on to another Classis, reducing our Committee membership from five to four. As of this writing, studies of the writings of Meredith G. Kline, Dr. David VanDrunen, and Dr. Michael Horton have been submitted to your chairman to review and to include into our report. Committee members were asked to study the original sources and not to rely heavily upon the comments of Professor John Frame in his book, The Escondido Theology. Some of the members of the Committee, besides studying the original sources have even sat under the instruction of the Two Kingdoms principals at Westminster Theological Seminary (in Philadelphia) and Westminster Seminary California.
The goal of the Committee is to summarize the Two Kingdoms theology, not to distinguish the fine differences that may exist between the Two Kingdoms theologians. Thus the purpose of this report is more informational than critical. Yet, our report does ask important questions about Two Kingdoms theology, especially in areas where there is ambiguity.
The Committee also did not evaluate the claim that the Two Kingdoms position is a faithful representation of orthodox Calvinism as defined by the genius of Geneva himself. If Classis wants us to do a creedal study of this subject and to report back next year, we are willing to comply. At least one Committee member believes that the creeds of the Reformed Church do not teach the Two Kingdoms viewpoint as defined by its champions. Calvin’s dedication of his Institutes of the Christian Religion to Francis I of France, together with some of his statements in the ‘Institutes’ about the necessity of having a “Christian government” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, Chapter 3:20) seem antithetical to the Two Kingdoms viewpoint. But that is a topic for another day.
After our Committee was formed last year we met immediately after Classis and agreed to study the views of three of those who are in the vanguard of the Two-Kingdoms ‘Movement.’ Accordingly, our report will place a zoom lens on their work in order to ascertain ‘where they are coming from’ and whether we want to explore their writings further in case there is serious error that will injure God’s people.
I. MEREDITH KLINE AND THE TWO KINGDOMS
Dr. Kline’s views on the Two-Kingdoms Theology are stated in his book, Kingdom Prologue. Yet, Kline does not use the Two-Kingdoms terminology often. He prefers to articulate the distinction with the expression ‘two cities.’ The holy theocratic city of God and the unholy, common, and profane city of man. These two cities are categorically different according to divine design.
Kline’s theology is one of sharp distinctions. He divides up the world after the Fall using a cult/culture distinction and a sharp holy/common distinction. These distinctions correspond to each other as cult goes with ‘holy’ and culture corresponds to common (unholy, profane). For Kline ‘unholy’ is not a moral category but has to do with the objective state of a thing, action, person, or place. The city of God is the cultic city and is holy. The city of man has to do with the culture and is unholy. Frame summarizes Kline’s cult and culture distinction as follows: “Kline….sets forth a very sharp distinction between cult (formal worship) and culture (man’s other activities, set forth in the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28)” (The Escondido Theology, p. 169).
Kline’s view of the ‘two cities’ is intrinsic to his understanding of Redemption History and its goals. Basically God created man to be his prophet, priest, and king, to engage in the Cultural Mandate. And this Mandate involved advancing God’s holy theocratic kingdom on the earth. The situation in the Garden of Eden was that of a theocracy. Cult and culture were one structurally and religiously. But with the Fall of Man, came sin, a common curse, and man was thrust from Eden. The Edenic theocracy was no more. In his curses upon Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, God did not set forth his curse but all instated Common Grace. The purpose of this grace was to be a restraint upon the curse. Kline writes: “The positive benefits realized in a measure through this restraint on the effects of sin and the curse are not the eternal blessings of the holy, heavenly kingdom that comes to the elect through God’s saving grace in Christ, but they are blessings—temporal blessings that all men experience in common by virtue of their remaining part of the continuing world order” (Kingdom Prologue, p. 95). Such grace is established for an interim period to mitigate or offset the curse so that God can carry out his redemptive program to save his elect and reestablish his holy theocracy.
Concerning God’s curse Kline says that “….the Lord pronounced a temporal, common curse rather than an ultimate judgment against the generality of mankind (Genesis 3:16-19).” Countervailing this curse is common grace with its benefits. He tells us that “The positive effects [of common grace] realized in a measure through this restraint on the effects of sin and the curse are not the eternal blessings of the holy, heavenly kingdom that comes to the elect through God’s saving grace in Christ, but they are blessings—temporal blessings that all men experience in common by virtue of their remaining part of the continuing world order” (p. 95).
As an act of grace God appointed a city, a common grace city for the general good of mankind. He says that “It would not be a theocratic, covenant city with an institutional integration of culture and cult” (p. 95). Built by fallen man, it “would be a common city, temporal, profane, and it would exist under the shadow of the common curse” (p. 101). Complete expression of the common grace city comes after the judgment of the Noachian Flood, and it came in a covenant form as recorded in Genesis 8:21-9:17.
However, the judicial structure of the State was communicated orally in Genesis 4:15. There God says, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.” This means that God’s vow of vengeance would descend on the head of anyone who murdered Cain. For Kline the vengeance would be exacted by those authorized to do so; i.e., the State. This verse [Genesis 4:15] establishes an order of justice and becomes the virtual charter for the city of man. Two verses later the State comes in view when Cain builds a city. This is the first instance of the city of man (Genesis 4:17).
So in the land of Nod a city was made, a common grace city, that should be viewed positively. Man may turn the city to evil, but its origins, purpose, and basic structure are meant for good (pp. 102-103). This city has a remedial role in a fallen world. The original theocratic city (Genesis 1:28) had a variety of functions which remained operative before the Fall. In the postlapsarian situation these functions have been modified for the purpose of curbing or offsetting the evil of man and the curse of God upon that evil. The curse is an exile-curse; man is consigned to a life of vagrancy rather than fellowship in the garden-city with God and his fellows. But the postlapsarian city offsets this curse providing now a protective function as well as hospitals, welfare, and corrective functions, performed by the government, instituted with Cain as recorded in Genesis 4:15-17.
It should be noted that Kline sees in the original Cultural Mandate the formation and structuring of the city of God. After the Fall, however, God has instituted a separate city which Kline calls the city of man. This means that for Kline the city of man does not carry out the original dominion mandate. He writes: “The common culture that is the direct fruit of common grace is not itself identifiable with the holy, Sabbath-sealed redemptive kingdom of God.”
“Another way of saying this is that common grace culture is not itself the particular kingdom that was mandated under the creational covenant. Although certain function and institutional provisions of the original cultural mandate are resumed in the common grace order, these now have such a different orientation, particularly as to objectives, that one cannot simply and strictly say that it is the cultural mandate that is being implemented in the process of common grace culture.”
After explaining the city of man, Kline then compares it to the kingdoms of Satan and of God (pp. 104-106). The city often takes on a bestial nature. Kline means that the common grace city of man is usurped by Satan. Its bestial character alludes to the Beast of the book of Revelation. Satanic control does not undermine, however, this city’s legitimacy. For it is a “structure founded on the common grace ordinance of the creator” (Kingdom Prologue, page 104). It must not be identified with demonic powers that often usurp it, as some do. Christians, who belong to the heavenly city, can serve in those functions that bear the sword (here Kline opposes Christian pacifism).
While the city/state of man (the common grace city) cannot be identified with the demonic power that often captures it, and thus it cannot be called the city of Satan, etc, nor can it ever be identified with the kingdom of God (page 104). This thought is slightly qualified, as Kline means “in an institutional sense.” That is, institutionally and structurally, the common-grace city cannot be identified with the Kingdom of God. It is structurally and institutionally common, profane. To attempt to sanctify the city of man at the institutional and structure level is to be involved in a category mistake. For Kline’s attempts to do so are very common and constitute serious errors (Kingdom Prologue, page 104). Yet, Kline does not explain why this is a serious error. He only explains: “In the midst of the threatening world environment to which man is exposed through the common curse, the common grace city offers the hope of a measure of temporal safety, but it does not afford eternal salvation. It should not therefore be identified with the holy kingdom of God, which is the structural manifestation of that salvation” (Ibid, page 105).
There is a boundary between the common grace culture and the holy kingdom of God that must be respected.
This is a divinely instituted order as Kline expresses in the following statement: “If we listen to what the Word of God says specifically about the institutions in question, we discover that with the emergence of the religious antithesis, the Lord God, in the interests of his redemptive purposes, sovereignly revised the original structure of things, brings into being within the arena of earthly history an interim world order which involved the holy/common distinction as one of its fundamental features. In particular he established the institution of the state as a non-holy structure under the principle of common grace. The sphere of the state, though not exempt from God’s rule and not devoid of the divine presence (indeed, though it is the scene of God’s presence in a measure of common blessing), is nevertheless, not to be identified as belonging to the kingdom of God or sharing in it holiness (Kingdom Prologue, page 106).” So the common grace city in the interim before the Fall and the eschaton is not theocratic in terms of status and structure.
In Kline’s understanding in the interim postlapsarian world, God has instituted a cult and culture boundary that must not be transgressed either by the State or by the citizenry. In other words, the State does not engage in cultic activity and the citizenry (including officials of the State) are not to work toward making the State engage in cultic structures or function. This is to mix the holy with the profane. The State belongs to the realm of ‘culture,’ to the ‘common and profane.’ Yes, all cultural activities are to be carried out in devotion to the Lord from the heart, but to institute the kingdom of God is not the State’s job. Kline writes “[any] cultic activity on the part of the state, if it is not in confession of the living God, is, of course, idolatrous. But even if it is in acknowledgment of the God of the Christian faith, it is guilty of a monstrous confusion of the holy kingdom of God with the common, profane city of man” (page 111). The State is forbidden to undertake the cultic function of the covenant community. Nor can it execute the discipline of the covenant cultus. It cannot use its power and sanction to compel obedience to the first four commandments of the Decalogue. But it is not to hinder ‘the holy covenant institution in the fulfilling of its peculiar mission…” (Ibid, page 111).
Concerning the relationship between the common-grace state with the cultus (covenant community), Kline says that “the common state is designed by God to provide a supportive framework for the life and mission of God’s covenant people, in keeping with the fundamental purpose of common grace to make possible a general history within which God’s redemptive program might unfold” (Ibid, page 111).
Two questions arise: What are we to make of the role of the nation of Israel and its legislation? For Kline, Israel is a holy theocratic kingdom that was typological of the heavenly city. It was a temporary arrangement. Its laws and structure belong to that Covenant situation. It was a holy cultus, where cult and culture were united for a period. As a nation it pointed to the future eschatological kingdom, the ultimate holy theocracy. But God’s New Covenant people do not belong to the Old Covenant, the structure of which has been abrogated. As with the ancients, we belong in the common grace realm. We have more affinity with the covenant people of the early Genesis record than we do with the nation of Israel, structurally speaking. The following quotes address the issue:
“In fact with regard to the form and function of the redemptive community and its relationship to the world and its institution that ancient community offers a parallel in some respect closer to the church of our age than does the Israelite whose history….stands nearer in time to ours” (Ibid, page 100).
The second question is: What is the standard of the common-grace city? Certainly, the city of man can be governed by the general regulations of Genesis 9. Also, his argument that the first Four Commandments of the Mosaic law are not to be forced upon the common-grace State imply that the final six may be. This probably means that Kline would discourage our enshrining the words “In God we trust” on our currency and coinage and might even be troubled by the phrase “One nation under God” in the flag salute. On the other hand, we ask that if Genesis 9 is the standard of the common-grace
state, then the civil magistrate could not only appeal to Genesis 9, but argue for capital punishment on the basis of the image of God in man (Genesis 9:6). These deductions seem to flow from the logic of his position. Interestingly, we do not find Kline advocating Natural Law nor criticizing it for that matter.
The importance of Kline is that he is arguably the “grandfather” of the Two Kingdoms Doctrine that we see today. This means that Two Kingdoms theology is not new (For a more critical analysis of Kline, we direct you to John Frame’s comments in The Escondido Theology, pp. 166-181).
II. DAVID VAN DRUNEN AND THE TWO KINGDOMS
Dr. David VanDrunen, who occupies the Robert B. Strimple Chair of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California, has written a great deal about the Two Kingdoms viewpoint and is arguably its principal engine and popularizer. In his book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, David VanDrunen asks two questions that strike the core of the Two-Kingdoms controversy. His first is—will our cultural products adorn the eternal city? His second question is—will our restorative works be included in “the new heavens and the new earth?” VanDrunen’s unequivocal answer to both is no. The negative answer leads him to think that contemporary conversations about Christianity and its connection to this fallen world are currently on the wrong track. He argues that Christians ought to realize that our cultural labors in the current world are temporary and will eventually pass away when Jesus returns; however, our spiritual labors in the Church will endure forever. Thus, our labors should be focused on the spiritual needs of the Church, rather than transforming the world. VanDrunen writes: “Our cultural activities do not in any sense usher in the new creation.” And again he writes: “Cultural activity remains important for Christians, but it will come to an abrupt end, along with this present world as a whole, when Christ returns and cataclysmically ushers in the new heavens and the new earth” (Living in Two Kingdoms, p. 28).
VanDrunen sees the Two Kingdoms theology as a direct alternative to a theological movement known as neo-Calvinism. He paints neo-Calvinism (which has its roots in the theology of Herman Dooyeweerd and Abraham Kuyper) with broad strokes since he understands it to be the predecessor of two contemporary, albeit problematic, theological movements—the emerging (or emergent) Church and the New Perspective on Paul. According to VanDrunen, these modern brands of neo-Calvinism are problematic because they place too much emphasis on transforming the culture of this world. According to VanDrunen, they fail to realize that this world, along with its culture will inevitably pass away when Christ returns to usher in His heavenly kingdom.
In the Two Kingdoms theology, the Church makes up one kingdom while the world comprises the other; the former is a spiritual kingdom, while the latter is a “common kingdom.” The primary concern is how these two kingdoms relate to one another. The Two Kingdoms formula is actually quite simple as it contrasts Adam with Christ, the Noachian covenant with the Abrahamic Covenant, and then draws implications from these in order to determine how we ought to live as Christians in God’s two kingdoms.
Adam was originally given a mandate which he was supposed to accomplish—to exercise dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). According to VanDrunen, this was a Cultural Mandate. It was commissioned by God and had a reward connected to it. If Adam successfully completed this Cultural Mandate, then God would have transferred him directly into a new kingdom; in a sense, Adam’s cultural labors would have earned him a place in the new kingdom. This new kingdom would have even surpassed the sinless paradise that the Garden of Eden was prior to the Fall. Unfortunately, Adam failed
in his task and did not complete this mandate. However, Jesus succeeded where Adam originally failed. Not only did Jesus pay the penalty for Adam’s sin, but he also completed Adam’s original task. Thus, Jesus alone is the second Adam.
Much of the difference between neo-Calvinism and the Two Kingdoms theology centers on the nature of Christ’s redemptive work. Neo-Calvinists tend to think that Christ’s redemption allows Christians to continue to labor according to the Cultural Mandate that was given to Adam prior to the Fall. They essentially view Christians as little Adams and think that Adam’s original position in creation has been regained by Christians because of Christ’s redemption. However, VanDrunen explains that only Jesus regained Adam’s position, not Christians. Furthermore, Jesus completed the labor that was left incomplete by Adam. This being the case, for Christians, creation has not been regained in redemption, but rather a “new creation” has been gained. Yet, this “new creation” has not arrived in full, but is eagerly awaited by Christians in Christ’s return. Adam’s cultural labors would have ushered in the new kingdom, but Adam failed. Yet, Jesus fulfilled those labors, thus earning Christians a heavenly citizenship. In order to put this into better perspective, the nature of two covenantal kingdoms should be explained.
VanDrunen singles out two distinct covenants that correspond to the two kingdoms. The Noachian Covenant corresponds to the common kingdom, whereas the Abraham Covenant corresponds to the heavenly kingdom. According to VanDrunen, the Noachian Covenant governs all people (believers and unbelievers alike), while the Abrahamic Covenant has jurisdiction only over the Church. The Noachian Covenant is concerned with cultural things that Christians share in common with unbelievers, things such as education, vocation, and politics. Alternatively, the Abrahamic Covenant is concerned with spiritual things (i.e. salvation, etc) which pertain exclusively to the Church. While Christians occupy both kingdoms, their labors should be focused on the spiritual things that pertain to the Church.
This discussion about Adam and Jesus, covenants and kingdoms, has tremendous implications concerning how we live as Christians and interact with the common kingdom. VanDrunen expresses that it is the life and ministry of the Church, not the cultural life and activities of the common kingdom, which ought to be the focal point of the Christian. The affairs of human cultural are temporary and provisional. When Jesus returns the common kingdom and its affairs will come to an abrupt end, but the Church will endure forever. Thus, the focus of Christians should be on the Church, not the common kingdom because it is passing away and is not concerned with spiritual things; the Christian life is comprised of waiting for Christ’s return, as the Bible even calls us pilgrims and sojourners in this world.
Now, some difficulty arises concerning the common kingdom since the Bible is not always clear in explaining how Christians should live in it. For instance, questions like what school should a Christian attend? What job should one work at? What person should one vote for? These are not clearly articulated in the Bible. For this reason, an individual Christian should have liberty to pursue education, vocation, and politics as he sees fit, and as long as his intentions are to glorify God through his labors; however, the Christian is not commanded to transform the world through his labors in the common kingdom. According to VanDrunen, neo-Calvinism tends to lord its view of cultural transformation over other Christians. The neo-Calvinist tries to transform the education system, the workplace, and even politics so that all areas of the common kingdom become distinctively Christian. Yet, VanDrunen sees no biblical mandate for this neo-Calvinistic vision of creating a single Christian society. But he assures us that this is not to say that a Christian’s labors within the common kingdom are unimportant. On the contrary, VanDrunen argues that they are very important; however, our spiritual labors in the Church are more important since they will be brought into the heavenly kingdom, whereas our cultural labors in the common kingdom will not be brought into it. VanDrunen writes: “Therefore Christians are not called to pursue cultural activities as a way of attaining the world-to-come, nor should they expect the products of their cultural labors to survive into the new creation” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 71).
A key text for VanDrunen is 1 Timothy 6:7, which reads, “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” Thus, what VanDrunen means by the word “products” seems to be material. He tells us that “Our earthly bodies are the only part of the present world that Scripture says will be transformed and taken up into the world-to-come….Asserting that anything else in this world will be transformed and taken up into the world-to-come is speculation beyond Scripture” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 71).
VanDrunen sees the Two Kingdoms theology as a Biblical alternative to the neo-Calvinistic theology of the emerging (or emergent) Church as well as that of The New Perspective on Paul. He understands these brands of neo-Calvinism are inaccurate depictions of Christ’s redemption. He tells us that neo-Calvinism “emphasizes the centrality of Christian cultural work as a means of building the kingdom of God and anticipating the new creation” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 23).They view redemption as creation regained, meaning that Christians occupy a position (or office) similar to that of Adam prior to the Fall. However, VanDrunen thinks that Christ has already accomplished Adam’s original cultural mandate; thus, creation has not been regained through redemption, but a new creation has been gained; a new creation that is not yet here in its entirety. Furthermore, the two kingdoms correspond to two covenants. One covenant—the Noachian—is concerned with governing the Common Kingdom, which is inhabited by both believers and unbelievers. This kingdom is focused on secular things such as education, vocation, politics, etc., things shared by believers and unbelievers, but also things that will ultimately vanish when Christ returns. The other covenant—the Abrahamic—is concerned with governing the Church, which is populated by believers. Since Christians are not expected to accomplish Adam’s Cultural Mandate, and since the Common Kingdom that is shared with unbelievers will eventually pass away, Christians should focus their cultural labors in the Church rather than trying to transform the Common Kingdom because such a transformation will not last, but the labors done in the Church will endure forever.
As for how the common kingdom is to be governed, VanDrunen states that it is not to be done by the Scriptures (alone?). He boldly writes: “The church attends to the business of the redemptive kingdom and does not trample on the authority of common kingdom institutions. Unlike these other institutions, its authority derives from the Scriptures alone” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 31). He writes that objectively “the standards of morality and excellence in the common kingdom are ordinarily the same for believers and unbelievers: they share these standards in common under God’s authority in the covenant with Noah” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 31). Yet, even though VanDrunen drives home the point that we are not called “to take up the original cultural mandate per se, yet God calls us “to obey the cultural mandate as given in modified form to Noah in Genesis 9” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 164).He does not say too much about what this “modified form” of Genesis 1:26-28 includes or excludes. He seems to restrict it to the command to be fruitful and to multiply, that is, “to exercise dominion on earth” in a procreational sense only. Probably his use of the word dominion includes the command to exercise the death penalty for murder, too (Genesis 9:6).
III. MICHAEL HORTON’S TWO KINGDOMS VIEWS
Dr. Michael Horton has not written extensively on the Two-Kingdoms Theology; most if not all of his lectures and articles about 2K seem to be his defense against caricatures of the 2K perspective by those militant to the position. He also tries to clarify the issue by disowning that there is such a thing as “Escondido theology,” pointing out that the President of Westminster Seminary California is a Kuyperian neo-Calvinist. Horton also argues that on the most important points that the Kuyperian position and 2K theology are agreed.
Like David VanDrunen, Michael Horton also affirms that “all things are under Christ’s personal dominion” (The Christian Faith, p. 26). He opposes the idea that a valid civil order must be based on the Bible. He maintains that natural law and common law are complementary since “the work of the law is written in the heart” of every man (Romans 2:16-17). This “Canon of natural law” is engraved on every human being (The Christian Faith, p. 152). He says that “God is King in status, but will one day be king eschatologically in all the earth” (The Christian Faith, page 540). Most if not all of his use of the word kingdom is reserved for the Church since there is the kingdom of grace (the Church) and the kingdom of glory (which is the Church in the future) (The Christian Faith, p. 537). He interprets the words of Revelation 11:15 which speak about the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of the Lord and His Christ to refer to the ushering in of the kingdom of glory. He also emphasizes that God’s kingdom is “not a kingdom we are building” but “receiving” (The Christian Faith, p. 543). Pressing the “already-not yet” focus of Scripture, Horton argues that the kingdom is coming, but also has come (Ibid, 544). So, “Wherever the King is present, His kingdom is present also” (Ibid, 547). Yet, he seems unwilling to apply the word kingdom to the State or any cultural activity outside of the Church. One reason is because “In this era Christ’s kingdom doesn’t overthrow the kingdoms of this age” (Ibid, p. 973).
One reason that Christians are not transformers of this world is because Scripture identifies us as “strangers and pilgrims.” Horton so presses this metaphor that the cover of his book on systematic theology pictures two pilgrims, shrouded in darkness, making their way thru life on blackened soil. In fact, the sub-title of his book reads, “A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way” (our emphasis). Accordingly, Two Kingdoms theologians depict the Christian as a sojourner, traveling to a religious shrine (“the kingdom of glory”). For Horton, the figure of a sojourner complements his theology better than a triumphant king on the earth who “occupies” until Christ’s Second Advent (Luke 19:13). Horton does not balance his emphasis of “pilgrims on the way” with other New Testament emphases, such as our being kings and priests who fight God’s battles on the earth (Revelation 5:10).
Dr. Horton refers to all rulers of this world as “secular rulers” (Ibid, p. 713) and these secular rulers are not to be directed by the Church (Ibid, p. 896). To prove this, he cites the Westminster Confession of Faith in Article 32.1-2, which states that the Church must not direct the State “….unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary….” (Ibid, page 889). His conviction is that the Church does not direct “secular affairs” (Ibid, page 896). These “secular affairs” are issues that relate to the old Cultural Mandate, not the Great Commission of Matthew 28. Horton writes: “Nowhere in the New Testament is the Great Commission fused with the cultural mandate. Rather than offer a blueprint for establishing Christ’s kingdom through cultural, political, or social power, Paul’s instructions for daily conduct of believers in civil society seem rather modest:…” (Ibid, p. 713).
Again, he writes: “Christians are not distinguished from non-Christians, which is to say, are not holy—because they show love and kindness to their neighbor, defend justice, and care for the environment. These are obligations of the law of creation that Christians recognize in their conscience together with non-Christians. It is only the gospel that marks believers as holy, and it is only the preaching of the Gospel and its ratification in baptism and Communion that generate a city of light in a dark world” (Ibid, p. 719).Again he writes: “The calling of the Church is not to witness to its own piety or to transform the world into Christ’s holy kingdom” (Ibid, p. 868).
The impact of the Church upon the State is not supposed to be direct, according to Horton. The era that we live in is the “era of common law measured by equity to which believers and unbelievers are bound in secular friendship” (Ibid, p. 973). This means that our attitudes toward unbelievers are determined by Common Grace. Horton writes: “All places are common….” (Ibid, p. 961). For Horton this means that Christians are to “influence” the world without transforming the world. The goal of transforming the world is “the heresy of Constantinianism” (Ibid, p. 973). As to how to distinguish how we are to influence but not to transform, Horton says that “Christians may appeal to general principles of justice and love of neighbor, but not to Israel’s national covenant” (Ibid, p. 973). Horton even argues that “Theology does not provide a normative theory of politics, or even address every area of moral concern” (Ibid, p. 105)
The leading features of the Two Kingdoms theology are:
1. 2K theologians reject the so called “neo-Calvinism” of men like Abraham Kuyper, in so far as they think that the Lord does not call the Church (nor individual Christians) to engage in distinctly Christian cultural and institutional transformation.
2. 2K theologians believe that their view saves the Church from interfering with the civil magistrate in the name of dominion and saves the secular world from self-destruction by emphasizing the preserving character and laws of the Noachian covenant.
3. Christians are not called by God to transform the world via the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1:26-28.
4. Christians are but strangers and pilgrims, so that we should not emphasize cultural activities.
5. Only the Church is holy; except for the kingdom of glory, all else is profane and unholy.
6. The world outside of the Church is governed by the Noachian Covenant of Genesis 8 and 9.
7. The standard that is to govern the common kingdom is not God’s inscripturated law, but natural law.
8. The standard that governs both Christians and unbelievers in the common kingdom is “ordinarily the same” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 31).
9. Christ has fulfilled the first Adam’s commission so that the Church today is no longer expected to obey that Commission.
10. The Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate are two different things, as Christ’s command to teach “whatsoever things I have commanded you” excludes the Cultural Mandate.
11. If the State acknowledges the God of the Christian faith, she is guilty of a monstrous confusion of God’s holy kingdom and the common.
12. Neither the State, nor anything else outside the Church is the holy kingdom of God.
13. Eschatologically, Christ’s kingdom will not overthrow the kingdoms of this age until His Second Coming.
14. The goal of the Church to transform the world is “the heresy of Constantinianism.”
15. Christian theology does not address every area of moral concern.
16. The Gospel does not contain the Cultural Mandate.
17. The common kingdom is not to be governed by an appeal to anything in God’s national covenant with Israel.
18. God’s covenant with Noah and his descendents reinstates the Cultural Mandate, but at best, only in a modified form.
19. Christ has so fulfilled the Cultural Mandate that God has given us in an entirely new creation. The old creation mandate that Adam was commanded to implement is in the main, or totally obsolete.
Some of our concerns and questions about the Two Kingdoms theology are as follows:
1. That the command to exercise dominion in Genesis 1:26-28 is missing in Genesis 9, does not have to mean that God has cancelled the Cultural Mandate. Its absence is explained by other reasons, especially since the priority was for man to be fruitful and multiply so as to repopulate an earth that was depopulated by the Flood. Moreover, that God does not repeat a command does not mean that the command has fallen by the wayside or been nullified.
2. If life outside the Church is to be governed by natural law under the Noachian Covenant, then it would seem that the culture outside the Church must appeal to the written laws of Genesis 8-9, where God commands man to be fruitful, to multiply, and to execute murderers.
3. If the Noachian covenant alone preserves the world, then the State would have to acknowledge the God of the Bible as the true God since God made man “in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). Moreover, the God of Genesis is Triune (Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22; 11:3; 18:1-3). It is not clear whether Two Kingdom theologians believe that the Church has the express duty to tell the State that it must read and implement the Noachian laws of Genesis 8-9.
4. The expectation of verses like Psalm 2:10-12 is that kings as kings and judges as judges would “Kiss the Son” and serve the Lord in their respective callings. The thought that their service to Christ should be private instead of public seems foreign to the text. Kline’s view is that the State must not baptize or implement any cultic structure, thus implying that stamping “In God we trust” on our coins, or making a pledge to “one nation under God” is improper and “monstrous.” Neo-Calvinists (as they are called) would quote Calvin who explained Psalm 2:10-12 as God not ordering “…. them [kings and judges] to lay aside their authority and return to private life, but to make the power with which they are invested subject to Christ, that he may rule over all” (Institutes of the Christian Religion , Book IV, Chapter 20:5).
5. The idea that the Bible does not address every moral concern is contrary to the doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture.
6. The idea that only the Church or the kingdom of glory is holy seems a severe limitation of holiness, since other things (such as food—Mark 7:19, Acts 10:15; 2 Timothy 4:5) have been cleansed and sanctified by Christ. Plus, the civil magistrate in Romans 13:4 is called “the minister of God” for us for good. He is the agent of God’s wrath to mete out God’s justice. Although the word holy is not used in Romans 13, Paul’s assessment of the civil magistrate squares with John Calvin’s view that the civil magistrate is “the most sacred, and by far, the most honorable, of all stations in moral life” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, chapter 4). (See also Isaiah 45:1.) Certainly God’s institution of marriage is “holy wedlock” for everyone (Heidelberg Catechism 108). We could even argue that since all men are in the image of God in the broad sense, that all men are holy (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9).
7. Another question concerns the impact of natural law upon the common kingdom. Two Kingdoms theologians teach that natural law is sufficient to govern human life outside the Church, but do so without factoring-in the extent of man’s Fall and total depravity. They cite Romans 2:14-15, but have not grappled with the problem that natural law without God’s inscripturated law to enlighten it, is not an infallible moral guide.
8. Our concern about the Two Kingdoms viewpoint is that it might turn the Church into a ghetto in a world crying out for truth and justice. Two Kingdoms theologians teach that our labors in the common kingdom or city of man are unnecessary and wrong if we are trying to impose the expired Cultural Mandate. If this assessment is correct, then all work outside the body of Christ is unholy, common-kingdom work. Although it is still claimed that our work is very important and that God commands us to fulfill our secular callings, it would seem that the quality of our vocations is impaired, if not adulterated if our “secular” work is not in some sense holy.
9. Another ambiguity in the Two Kingdoms viewpoint concerns the reward of Christian work, which will result in God’s “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” VanDrunen tells us that none of our “products” will accompany us to heaven. Our resurrected body is all that we take with us. But the issue is not “products,” the real issue is the good works done in every sphere of our lives. The issue is not whether our products follow us to heaven; the issue is whether all our good works (in the cultural sphere, too) follow us (Revelation 14:13).
10. That Christ fulfilled the Cultural Mandate does not mean that we who are “in Christ” by faith alone are exempt from its summons for obedience. That He fulfilled it could mean that He filled it with new meaning and enables us by His grace and Spirit to fulfill what Adam failed to fulfill.
CONCLUSION: Since much of the debate about the Two-Kingdoms theology concerns neo-Calvinism and its belief that the Cultural Mandate is fully in force, your Committee makes the following recommendation:
1. That the Special Committee to study the Two Kingdoms viewpoint continue for another year in order to perfect the conclusions of this report.
2. That the Special Committee include within the report a discussion of “The Role of the Cultural Mandate in Reformed Theology,” and its connection with the Two Kingdoms doctrine, and present their work at the 29th Annual Meeting of Classis.
3. That the Nominations Committee appoint a replacement for the Rev. Scott Henry, who has transferred to another Classis.
#1 The report was dispatched late. Also, the Committee needs time to assure itself that its observations are correct and that we are not misrepresenting the Two Kingdoms theologians (observations and comments from the floor of Classis would be helpful at this time).
#2 Much debate concerns the relationship between the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. For example, while Horton and VanDrunen argue that the Cultural Mandate is not in force and is not included in the Great Commission, so called neo-Calvinists argue that it is “republished” (John Frame) in Genesis 9 and included in the Great Commission. Although there are many features of the Two Kingdoms theology, its conviction that the Cultural Mandate is obsolete occupies a central position.
Rev. Jim West (Chairman), Rev. Tracy Gruggett, Rev. Scott Henry, Elder Derrick Merkel, Elder Greg Stewart
Classis Action: The recommendation was passed and the report was adopted.