Published on July 20th, 2011 | by Bojidar Marinov21
The Mixed Moral Landscape of the Two-Kingdoms Theology
The church is free to obey the Law of the Bible, and the state is free to obey the latest version of “natural law” as decided by the political majority. The wall of separation is maintained. Things just couldn’t be better for a Two-Kingdoms theologian. The state of New York, it can be said, has achieved a moral revolution in their culture: No more Christian culture based on the Bible, as far as the government law is concerned, just as the Two-Kingdoms Theology requires; and exemption for the churches to obey the Bible within their area of jurisdiction.
In the context of such development, it is highly puzzling why a prominent proponent of the Two-Kingdoms Theology like Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary would be disappointed of the New York’s legislature’s vote. In a essay on his blog this week, “The Empire State’s Moral Revolution: New York State Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage,” he expresses his concerns, and calls last Friday a “sad day for marriage.” Dr. Mohler doesn’t explain why, according to his own theology, it would be a “sad day.” In fact, the whole essay is written in such a spirit as if Mohler has completely forgotten his commitment to the Two-Kingdoms Theology, and has never ever preached such a thing. Instead of satisfaction of a success for his own theology, he expresses pessimism.
Let’s take a more detailed look at Dr. Mohler’s article and its contradictions with his own theology.
First of all, it is not clear with what authority Mohler writes about the decisions of a legislature, which is an institution of the common kingdom. There is only one law that clearly states that sodomy is sin and abomination and therefore must be prosecuted, not endorsed: The Law of God revealed in the Bible. Mohler is a minister of the Christian Church and it is reasonable if his position is based on the Bible. Given this, it is normal that he describes last Friday as a “sad day,” a day of disobedience to God by the State of New York, a day of rebellion against God’s holy Law.
But wait, is the State of New York under the revealed Law of God in the Bible? According to Mohler’s Two-Kingdoms Theology, it isn’t. The revealed Law of God applies only to the redemptive kingdom of the church; the institutions of the common kingdom – one of which is the State of New York – are not under that law but under another law, the “natural law.” For Mohler to speak to the State of New York on the basis of the Bible would mean a confusion between the two kingdoms, an illegitimate trampling of the authority of the common kingdom institutions by the church. Mohler certainly doesn’t mean that, if he is faithful to his own theology.
May be Mohler is not speaking as a church minister but as an individual whose “moral feelings” are based on the “natural law.” He can speak to the state as long as he doesn’t do it as a Christian based on the Bible so that he doesn’t trample on the authority of the state based on the revealed Law of God. And according to his Two-Kingdoms Theology, he can use the “natural law” which is the law for the common kingdom. But we have a problem there: There is no law in nature that prohibits sodomite “marriages.” Neither is there a law in nature that endorses them. Unless we turn to the revealed law in the Bible we can’t know if sodomy is a sin or not, and if sodomite “marriages” are legitimate or not. The “natural law” has no clear standard as to what should be considered legal marriage or not; eventually, what the highest and final authority in the common kingdom decides must be the expression of the “natural law.” If Mohler is only speaking as an individual citizen, he has no reason to claim that he speaks for the “natural law” better than the state does; he can’t claim he is a prophet of the “natural law” better than anyone else. Therefore Mohler can’t really say that Friday was a “sad day,” except that Mohler himself subjectively feels it is a “sad day” because the decision of the State of New York disagrees with Mohler’s subjective ideas of what the “natural law” says. May be it is a “joyful day,” after all, as far as the “natural law” is concerned. Mohler can’t make a definitive statement either way, based on his own Two-Kingdoms Theology.
Therefore, whether Al Mohler speaks from the position of Biblical Law, or from the position of “natural law,” his article is pointless, if he is serious about his own professed theology: If he speaks from the position of the Biblical Law, the state shouldn’t listen; if he speaks from the position of the “natural law,” he can’t prove he has any authority whatsoever to speak for it. And it is not clear why Mohler would be sad about it, if the church is exempt from the law: seriously, if the revealed Law of God is only applicable within the jurisdiction of the church, and if the state acknowledges this immunity of the church, what’s the problem if the state decides to have another law outside of the church? Isn’t this exactly what the Two-Kingdoms Theology is all about? In another article, “When the Church Bows to the State,” Mohler warns that “When a church or Christian institution bows to the authority of the state on a matter of such direct biblical importance, it is destined to lose biblical fidelity.” But in the case of the State of New York, the law specifically states that the churches do not have to bow, that they are exempt from the law. What else does Mohler want, if he is faithful to his own theology? Does he want the church to rebel against the state over a law that doesn’t even affect the church itself?
But he doesn’t stop there. He makes another statement that violates the prescriptions of the Two-Kingdoms Theology even more:
Given the central importance of marriage to our civilization and culture…
Now, whose civilization and culture? This is the question we need to ask before we take Mohler’s words.
In his interview with Peter Wehner, Albert Mohler specifically asks the question: “You’re not really suggesting that there can be the creation of a Christian culture rather than that there will be Christian influence in this culture?” He is also warning against “Constantinianism” that leads to a “Christian society.” Both Christian culture and Christian society are out of the question for Mohler, and this is consistent with his Two-Kingdoms Theology. But what does he mean when he says that marriage is of “central importance to our civilization and culture”? He certainly doesn’t mean a Christian civilization and culture because he himself warns against them. Does he mean the general, pagan civilization and culture? If so, what makes him believe marriage is of a central importance to it? Obviously, as we saw from the example of the State of New York, the general culture doesn’t care for marriage as we Christians understand it. So what is it? Christian civilization and culture, which Mohler doesn’t believe in, or pagan civilization and culture which cares nothing about marriage? The confusion is complete.
No, not yet. There’s more coming. The sentence quoted above ends as follows:
…it is hard to imagine how such a mixed moral landscape can last.
What mixed moral landscape? Does he mean that different institutions in our society have different moral laws to control their legislative processes? Does he mean that our society is not held together by one supreme Law, the Law of the Lawgiver, the same Law for all institutions of the society, family, church, and state? If he means that, he is right: Our society has become a “mixed moral landscape,” where every person and every institution have their own law.
So what’s the solution? Does Mohler believe in a unified moral landscape – all institutions and individuals under the same Law? He doesn’t. His own Two-Kingdoms Theology is based on the premise that the two kingdoms – the redemptive and the common kingdom – are under different law systems; the church is under the revealed Law of God, the state is under the “natural law.” Mohler complains about the political mixed moral landscape; what he fails to mention is that that political mixed moral landscape did not appear out of the blue. The political mixed moral landscape came as the result of a theological mixed moral landscape: Mohler’s own Two-Kingdoms Theology. It was the retreat of Christians from the political and cultural arena that created the setting for the legalization of sodomite “marriages” in New York. It was Christians who listened to Mohler that we couldn’t and shouldn’t build Christian culture and civilization who remained passive when the vote was cast. It was pastors like Tim Keller – another Two-Kingdoms proponent – who made the distinction between politics and service who effectively disarmed the church and the Christians, making them ineffective in the cultural battles of our time. The solution to the political mixed moral landscape is preach a theology that unifies the moral landscape under the Law of God, bringing all cultural institutions under the Law of God; a theology of self-conscious building of a civilization and culture that obeys God in everything He said – the Kingdom of God. If Mohler wants the solution, he can have it in Theonomy: The theology of the comprehensive conversion of all the institutions of the society under Christ and His Law. That’s what the legacy from the early days of America was. Mohler is right: The new law in the State of New York is a moral revolution, from the Christian culture we have inherited from our forefathers to a new, pagan culture. But Mohler’s own theology rejects that legacy of Christian culture we have had. He has no right to complain about the results of his own theology now.
Mohler knows he has no solution in the framework of his own theology; he specifically says that the mixed moral landscape won’t last for long. But he doesn’t mean by that that the old Christian solution of unified moral landscape will be restored by concerted Christian action. No, he is quite pessimistic about the outcome of what’s happening in New York, and he ends his article with a very pessimistic statement:
Last Friday was a sad day for marriage and, if the advocates of same-sex marriage are right, it was also a sign of things to come.
What are the things he expects to come? I have described them in another place: The church may remain two-kingdoms in its ideology but the state’s ideology is never two-kingdoms. The state never believes in a mixed moral landscape, it always works to unify the moral landscape. As long as the church remains in the theology that Mohler and his theological friends preach and teach, the state will have the liberty to overstep any boundary, forcing the church to retreat. And if the law of the State of New York gives “religious exemptions” to the churches today, it will certainly be looking for a way to repeal those exemptions tomorrow. Mohler knows his own Two-Kingdoms Theology is bankrupt in practice, and it never works in the real world. Even if the law claims that the church is protected in its realm, as long as the state is not under the Law of God but under a different law, it will keep expanding, until the church is forced to completely submit to the state. While Mohler officially claims he believes in “Christian influence in this culture,” he doesn’t expect much to come out of it. The “things to come” are not good, and there is no reason for optimism, because whatever things come, we can’t have a Christian civilization or Christian culture, only change from one pagan culture to another pagan culture. The Two-Kingdoms Theology is essentially a religion of despair and hopelessness, of impotence and confusion; and its proponents can not promise any victory over the world, only despair. That’s why Mohler can offer no hope and no promise of victory; and what is worse, based on his own theology, neither can he offer blueprints for righteous action.
In conclusion, I heartily agree with Mohler’s disappointment of the legislative decision in Albany. It is a tragedy for our nation, and it must be reversed. Unlike Mohler, I have a good basis for my disappointment: According to the covenant theology of theonomy, there is only one kingdom, the Kingdom of Christ, and all institutions must be under the Law of God as revealed in the Bible. A civil government institution that does not obey the Law of God is unrighteous, and it must be opposed by those that love God, and its laws must be changed to reflect the Law of God. Mohler, on the basis of his own Two-Kingdoms Theology, has no basis for his disappointment; were he consistent with his own theology, he should rejoice and welcome the legalizing of sodomite “marriages” and the religious exemptions for the churches. His theology is in essence dualistic; and dualism inevitably produces intellectual schizophrenia. Mohler’s inner contradiction between his theology and his feelings concerning the sodomite “marriage” are the perfect example of the schizophrenia dualism produces. The mixed moral landscape in the politics of our nation is the product of the mixed moral landscape that the Two-Kingdoms Theology preaches and teaches.
It is time for Mohler to change his theology. The more he clings to it, the more confusion he will produce in those that trust him to lead them in the way of righteousness.