Rev. DeYoung for the Gospel Coalition has written a piece on “Two Kingdoms Theology and Neo-Kuyperians” which is unhelpful in its “broad strokes” but helpful in its passing admission. DeYoung glosses that on the “plus side” of two-kingdoms theology is that it is “A bulwark against theonomy and reconstructionism.”
Finally, someone actually admits it. They don’t engage us exegetically; they just need some way to block it out of the discussion. The two-kingdoms guys would rather have a denuded social theology, however wrong its social implications and omissions may be, than deal with God’s Law for society. What we have here, finally, is an admission (intentional or not) of the designs for which modern two-kingdoms theology has been promoted with such emphasis.
Interestingly, this is the only solid conclusion DeYoung comes to. The rest is cloudy and unsure, bifurcated and bipolar. He writes, “I don’t like the ‘third rail’ folks who are always positioning themselves as the sane alternative between two extremes, but I have to admit that there are elements of both approaches–two kingdom theology and neo-Kuyperianism–that seem biblical and elements that seem dangerous.”
Like those third-rail folk or not, there’s nothing like the responsibilities and strictures that God’s Law places upon nations and societies to turn theologians and pastors into fence-sitters. And so DeYoung concludes in third-rail form: “Perhaps there is a–I can’t believe I’m going to say it–a middle ground.”
After listing his pros and cons of each side, DeYoung concludes, “So where does this leave us? I’m not quite sure.” 2K has some goods and some dangers, and Neo-Kuperianism has some appeal and some dangers. Who knows? Maybe God’s word has standards for all of life. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe states can rob, plunder, harass, kidnap, jail, and murder people (and Christians can vote for it all!), or maybe not. Who knows? “I’m not quite sure.”
But there is one thing on which many modern 2K advocates don’t lack certainty: they need “A bulwark against theonomy and reconstructionism.”
In all the clouded confusion, obfuscation, and fence-sitting, when the issue of biblical law arises to the fore, they suddenly have perfect clarity: “Definitely not.” “This must be stopped at all costs.” “We need a bulwark against this.” They have no alternative laid out, no plan, no blueprint, no vision (and, of course, there is a reason for that–Prov. 29:18), but they are perfectly clear and visionary on what they don’t want: God’s Law.
One of the theonomic authors once nailed it with this analogy: Society is diseased and we have the cure, but the evangelical world will for some reason try every bottle of medicine in the cabinet, one by one, and die trying, before they reach for that one bottle that happens to say “theonomy” on the label.
Here’s DeYoung’s prescription:
I say, let’s not lose the heart of the gospel, divine self-satisfaction through self-substitution. And let’s not apologize for challenging Christians to show this same kind of dying love to others. Let’s not be embarrassed by the doctrine of hell and the necessity of repentance and regeneration. And let’s not be afraid to do good to all people, especially to the household of faith. Let’s work against the injustices and suffering in our day, and let’s be realistic that the poor, as Jesus said, will always be among us.
Let’s be clear: there is not a single thing here a theonomist or Christian Reconstructionist would not, and has not, championed from the beginning. We would simply ask the proper follow-up question: “By What Standard?”
By what standard are we to “work against injustices”? By what standard are we to “be realistic”?
Let me add a couple remarks. First, by neglecting this question and shutting out God’s Law as the answer from the beginning, DeYoung is doing more than writing one more muddled 2K post. He is framing the debate in a deceptive way. By juxtaposing “Two Kingdoms” with “Neo-Kuyperian,” instead of with “Theonomy,” he is trying to frame the debate over social standards in such a way that the only acceptable answers to the social question will be humanistic—decidedly non-theonomic. And make no mistake about it, Kuyper was a socialist and welfare statist, his appeals to Christ and Scripture notwithstanding. Neo-Kuyperians can do no better than classic humanistic social gospel unless they revert to God’s Law for social matters. And from what I’ve seen, they usually don’t. This is probably why evangelicals like DeYoung who dismiss theonomy and yet entertain the idea of social involvement will only go so far as “Kuyperian”—it does not jeopardize their humanism.
In the end, if modern 2K and neo-Kuyper are the only options available, the social realm will see no difference. We will have the welfare state and warfare state, socialism, government schools, etc., either way. And why? Because both will be drawing from the same source for the content of their law: man. And both will be rejecting the standards God gave for society in favor of man-made law in the name of “natural law” or some other species of squid.
Whatever their standard, it cannot and will not be God’s. That must have a “bulwark” against it. Whatever the standard, it must be some “middle ground” between the two kingdom version of rejecting God’s law and the neo-Kuyperian version of rejecting God’s Law. The results are the same.
By that whatever standard, DeYoung can conclude his post by rewriting the Great Commission with a great Omission:
Bottom line: let’s work for change where God calls us and gifts us, but let’s not forget that the Great Commission is go into the world and make disciples, not go into the world and build the kingdom.
What is omitted? The part where “make disciples” means “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” One would presume “all” here includes God’s Law for society. And secondly, since when is making disciples not building the kingdom? Why are these things set at odds in DeYoung’s mind? Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction is what happens precisely when we make disciples and teach them everything Christ commands us. The growth of the kingdom in all spheres of life is the organic development of faithfulness to the Great Commission—not set against it.
I submit that the man-made dichotomy between these two things, introduced by the likes of 2K advocates, is at the heart of their apprehensions about God’s Law, and of their embrace of humanism in the social realm. It’s no wonder they create such theologies. It’s no wonder they wish to reframe the debate. It’s no wonder they want to exclude those of us who disagree.
I mean, if I held to such a standard, I’d probably leave out the part about observing all the commandments, too. And I’d find a real comfy fence to sit on.