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Published on January 11th, 2013 | by Dr. Joel McDurmon

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Horton’s inglorious “two kingdoms” theology

A recent political post by the White Horse Inn’s Dr. Michael Horton illustrates the dialectic of two kingdoms theology, and why it is almost always a radical dialectic in practice. Pondering the then presidential election on the horizon, Horton essentially mused that it doesn’t much matter:

We can cast our votes while casting our fears on our risen and returning King. We can even promote our candidates (outside the church!), with restored sanity. United to Christ, we should be the most responsible and the least fearful people at the polls on November 6, 2012, because our King already achieved his landslide victory in Jerusalem during Passover, AD 33.

Horton made a further point to dismiss what he calls “the illusion that somehow our cultural and political labors are building or restoring Christ’s kingdom.”

Note especially this idea that we can only promote political candidates “outside the church.” While this could have some reference to 501c3 laws, I don’t think Horton found it necessary to remind his Christians readers of that point (which really only applies to spokespersons of the church). No, this is about the fact that Jesus, our king, reigns in the church, and that politics thing happens “outside the church.” Two kingdoms, and never the twain shall meet.

Now there is something of a renaissance in places in Lutheran studies arguing that Luther’s main point with the two kingdoms was that they were both God’s two kingdoms, and both are subject to His divine rule. Even the secular, civil kingdom is subject to God’s law, albeit revealed in human nature. I’ll discuss the logic of this below.

According to Matthew Tuininga, writing for the blog The Aquila Report, Horton recently affirmed this position during a panel discussion at Covenant College. Horton’s view is quite explicit: “Horton agreed that Scripture is necessary not just to the Christian doctrine of salvation but to the proper interpretation of natural law for the purposes of cultural and political engagement.”(1)

Even if this is true, I am still expecting a “but” to resound immediately afterward. Tuininga does not record one, but the duality inherent in the Radical Two Kingdoms position logically requires it.

Understanding our options

Granting the language of “two kingdoms” for the moment, here’s the logic. Either:

1) The natural law of the secular “kingdom” is based upon God’s moral law, or

2) It is not.

If it is based upon God’s moral law, then,

1) The natural law of the secular kingdom must be the same as that revealed in Scripture, and

2) The church should have a prophetic role in calling the civil government to adhere to Scripture in regard to law and punishment.

Else,

1) God and “God’s law” are divided and He speaks and governs man according to differing standards in each of the two realms, and

2) Civil rulers can justify anything as “God’s law” in their realm based on reason, nature, common sense, popular vote, expedience, or whatever, even if it contradicts Scripture.

On the other hand, if the natural law of the secular “kingdom” is not based upon God’s moral law, then:

1) The church has nothing to say prophetically or otherwise to the state, and

2) Civil rulers can legislate anything based on reason, nature, common sense, popular vote, expedience, or whatever, and

3) The church may not complain about anything the state legislates, no matter how egregious to life, liberty, property, or conscience.

By affirming the former sense (like Horton above), 2K proponents must ultimately look to Scripture to judge whether civil laws are righteous or unrighteous in God’s eyes. But where does Scripture give such content for civil laws? Only in the Old Testament civil laws. Here, the brake lights come on with smoke and tire marks and the whole bit. We are told these laws do not apply today.

When theonomists assert that these laws do apply today and that Christians ought to set them forth prophetically, the 2K brethren turn into Radical 2K (R2k) brethren and say, “The church has nothing to say to the civil government. Law is legalism. It’s not our job” (my paraphrases). It no longer matters at this point if the 2K proponent actually says Scripture is needed to interpret God’s law in nature. He won’t accept the only Scriptures available to do the interpreting, and then cedes the whole thing as “outside the church.”

We respond with the accusation that these R2K believers are pushing the civil realm outside of God’s rule and thereby giving license to ungodly laws in society. In response, they circle back around with their previous affirmation, “the natural law of the civil realm is an expression of God’s moral law in human nature.” And the discussion starts over again.

If this vicious cycle is to cease, it must be made clear that one or the other options in regard to the basis for civil law is absolutely unacceptable. If law in the civil realm is based upon God’s moral law, then it must be congruent with scriptural law. If not, then quit pretending that it is or must be.

The following is an attempt to show where the R2K doctrine logically leads based on historical example. This type of historical conclusion will hold true in either of two cases:

1) The church holds and practices that secular law is not based upon God’s moral law, or

2) The church officially holds otherwise, but fails to act on its convictions and does not act and speak prophetically to the civil order from the basis of revealed law.

While some people cry foul based on the so-called “Godwin’s law,” the fact is that these things happened in history, and the “two kingdoms” church either stood idly by or was pressured to remain silent based on its theology, until it was too late. Despite the sensitivities involved with Godwin’s so-called law, it should not deter us from serious studies of theological constructs in the midst of Nazi Germany.

Yes, we’re going to talk about Hitler

Both Luther and Calvin were inconsistent on this issue. Luther, especially, held on some occasions that the Christian has no business whatsoever promoting secular laws, that law is not Christian, that civil government exists only to coerce non-Christians into outwardly-righteous behavior, and that nothing in the civil realm could even properly be called “Christian.” I argue he gave license for the enactment of ungodly laws about which the church would in theory have to remain silent.

hitler2Because of other sayings and actions of his at other times to the contrary, some recent Lutheran theologians are able to present him in a different light, more positively. They even interpret the Barmen Declaration in the midst of the Nazi takeover of the Lutheran Church in Germany as upholding “that God prescribed rules and moral laws according to which the state must abide; that is, the synod recognized that the synod was not an autonomous sphere, which followed values or ethics evolved from laws inherent to that sphere.”(2) I am not persuaded personally that the Barmen Declaration was so explicit, but it did represent resistance on the part of some churchmen to state intrusion into church matters. Likewise, Luther himself is presentable from certain angles as requiring basic moral standards for civil law. Of course, this starts the circular discussion above, and I don’t think Luther ever solved the tension in his system.

What’s more important, however, is that the 2K doctrine was so vulnerable in that, even for some of these resisters, it meant the church must stay silent on all other state matters. Yes, it could well enough claim its own prerogative in internal church affairs and doctrine, but on social and civil matters it had to acknowledge the state’s prerogative.

Richard V. Pierard wrote a fabulous essay some years ago entitled “Why Did Protestants Welcome Hitler?”(3) While some of the factors were, of course, cultural and racist, others were overtly theological: the church’s own doctrine rendered it powerless to speak against the social evils, and Hitler consciously used the 2K teaching to remind the church to remain silent. Once adequately silenced, Hitler and others worked tirelessly to stack church leadership positions with Nazi-friendly clergy. Those opposed remained silent, due in large part to the grip of the 2K doctrine on their lips.

Pierard explains the historical buildup to this setting:

In the nineteenth century, however, German Lutherans made a strong bifurcation between the realm of public and private concerns. . . . Religion was the domain of the inner personal life, while the institutional and external, the public, so to speak, belonged to the worldly power. Redemption was exclusively the province of the church, while the law, determinative for the external conduct of human affairs, was solely the province of the state. Although Luther had taught that both realms served one another and were under the same God, the practical effect was that law and gospel were divided and the outer and inner lives of the faithful followed different directives. . . .

The Erlangen church historian Hermann Jordan declared in 1917 that the state, the natural order of God, followed its own autonomous laws while the Kingdom of God was concerned with the soul and operated solely on the basis of the morality of the gospel.(4)

This doctrine, while having the logical implications mentioned above, passed the piety test of most German Evangelicals because its 2K divide was presented as a protection for the church from secular interests:

By this teaching which neatly divorced the Christian from the natural life, Luther, so Jordan alleged, “maintained a pristine purity of both, preserved the Gospel from confusion with secular interests, and protected the state from the hypocritical application of evangelical motives in what is really its own proper sphere.”(5)

But the theological implications were being secretly worked out by those who had their eye on a civil agenda unhampered by any Word from the church:

These ideas where developed further by a group of theologians in the 1920s and 1930s . . . men who became identified with the pro-Nazi “German Christian” faction in 1932–33. They argued that there is a two-fold revelation of God, law and gospel. Law is God’s original revelation in creation, and it suffices to teach man to serve God and order his life morally. . . .

[B]y cutting law loose from its traditional biblical and Christian moorings, it opens the way for God’s law to be redefined along nationalistic and racial lines. What happens is that the Volk becomes the ultimate source of law and the church simply shares the ethos of the Volk. The Nazis could be welcomed as a manifestation of God’s law at work. . . .(6)

The same redefinition of God’s law can be done under any secular society, the Nazi extremes serving as only one loud reminder. Whenever the church does not prophetically proclaim God’s law as the standards for civil society, other political and social forces will mold and shape the moral landscape of society. Eventually, the morality of the Christian and the morality of the civil order will clash, and the Christian conscience must make tough decisions.

But with R2K doctrine, the establishment will push the church around, and the church will sit silently, afraid to speak to civil matters. The establishment will learn to speak the church’s pious language and start propagandizing it for the state’s own purposes. Eventually, the church begins to speak like the state. Eventually, the church is the propagandistic arm for the state. (Think: “we must keep the public schools!!!”) Eventually the church speaks for the state but in lofty platitudes it thinks are the language of the church. For example, Pierard relates that, “Positive Christianity” was “a useful term for the Nazis because it allowed the faithful to indulge in wishful thinking without having any concrete meaning.”(7)

What Hitler Really Said

It is important to realize that the rise of Hitler was not only allowed by the R2K doctrine, but Hitler was actively conscious of its teachings and exploited its weaknesses. He used the dichotomous doctrine on more than one occasion to put the clergy in their place when they got a bit too nosy or objectionable.

In a radio address on July 22, 1933, Hitler promised to stay out of the faith and doctrine of the church, which he called “purely internal affairs.” He also promised to give the church the “protection of the State.”

If I take up any position towards the elections in the Evangelical Church I do this solely from the standpoint of the political leader, that is to say, I am not moved to do so by questions of faith, dogmatics, or doctrine. These are purely internal Church affairs. But over and above these questions there are problems which compel the politician and the responsible leader of a people publicly to make known his position. They embrace “volkic” (völkische) and State interests in their relation to the Confessions.

National Socialism has always affirmed that it is determined to take the Christian Churches under the protection of the State. . . . Indeed, the Churches demand this protection from the State. . . .

Yet the R2K-conscious state always asks for a quid pro quo:

[I]n consideration for this protection, the State must require from the Churches that they in their turn render to it the support which it needs to secure its permanence. . . . The powerful State can only wish to extend its protection to such religious organizations as can in their turn become of use to it. . . .

In the interest of the recovery of the German nation which I regard as indissolubly bound up with the National Socialist Movement I naturally wish that the new Church elections should in their result support our new policy for People and State. For since the State is ready to guarantee the inner freedom of the religious life, it has the right to hope that in the Confessions those forces will be given a hearing which are for their part determined in their resolve to do all in their power for the freedom of the nation. . . . The inner religious questions and individual Confessions are not in any way concerned with this: it is not my task to adopt any attitude towards them.(8)

The church wanted the protection of the state, and since the church has nothing to say about politics or law, it would not mind making sure that its elected church officers are Nazi-friendly, would it, now? All the church needed was men faithful to the doctrine of the church. And after all, faith and redemption “are not in any way connected” with the civil realm, right?

Those clergy who detracted from the official 2K position and dared opposed Hitler’s laws were helped right back to their little realm of “inner religious questions.” In a speech given on October 24, 1933, Hitler reminded the public that the state was doing the church a service in guarding the line between the two kingdoms:

And above all we have dragged priests out of the depths of the political party struggle and have brought them back again into the Church. It is our determination that they shall never return to a sphere which is not made for them, which dishonors them, and which of necessity brings them into opposition to millions of people who in their hearts wish to hold to the faith but who desire to see the priests serving God and not a political party.(9)

But once the church’s voice is stifled in the public square, the role of culture-makers shifts to the secular realm. The state will see this need and fill that need itself—in the name of national unity. In the case of Nazi Germany, it realized that it was now the state’s educational role to create a unifying worldview for the nation. Hitler told this to a group of Nazi leaders, August 27, 1933: “[T]he unity of the Germans must be secured through a new Weltanschauung [worldview], since Christianity in its present form was no longer equal to the demands which were to-day made on those who would sustain the unity of the people.”(10)

We have more than just my deductions from Hitler’s quotes here and there. We have a direct exposition from him regarding “what he considered to be the relation of Church and State,” having been asked by the Nazi-friendly bishop Ludwig Müller. Hitler responded with a classic 2K doctrine clearer than Luther himself could give: “The Church, as such, has nothing to do with political affairs. On the other hand, the State has nothing to do with the faith or inner organization of the Church.”(11)

It was not long before some opposition from the church would occur, though less from the Nazified Evangelical Church and more from the Catholic side. Nevertheless, Hitler would use the 2K divide to scold the church and render her impotent.

In 1933 the Third Reich enacted forced sterilization laws for the “Prevention of Hereditary Diseased Offspring.” In order to promote the purity of the next Aryan generation, the state passed a law to sterilize by compulsion all mentally ill, deaf, blind, deformed, and others. The Roman Catholic Church vocally opposed this legislation. Hitler responded publicly on January 30, 1934, by reminding the church that her role in society does not extend to civil matters:

The National Socialist Movement rendered a great service even in the past year by adopting legislation for this first attack on this menacing gradual decay of the people. When objections are raised, especially in clerical circles, and opposition started against this legislation, my reply is as follows: . . .

If things continue to develop as they have done for the last hundred years the number of those under care of the State would one day threaten to approach that of those who are, after all, the only maintenance of the community. It is not the Churches who provide for the hosts of these unfortunates but the people that has to do so. If the Churches were to declare themselves ready to take over the treatment and care of those suffering hereditary diseases, we should be quite ready to refrain from sterilizing them. But so long as the State is condemned to raise from its citizens enormous sums which are increasing from year to year—and which already amount to 350,000,000 marks in Germany—for the maintenance of these unfortunates, it is compelled to adopt the remedy which both prevents such undeserved suffering being handed down to posterity, and also obviates the necessity of having to deprive millions of healthy people of what is absolutely necessary to them in order artificially to keep alive millions of unhealthy people.(12)

The side lesson here is that the church (ostensibly) was not fulfilling its role of charity in regard to these people. When it fails in this regard, the state picks up the bill. When the state picks up the bill, it becomes a matter of civil law. Once it’s a matter of civil law, R2K says, the church no longer has a voice.

When matters reach this point, the state recognizes the failure and impotence of the church. The state realizes it has won total dominance. At this point, whatever resistance may arise from the church will be easy to squash through intimidation, propaganda, etc.

For example, in the following year, 1935, the Nazi Party released a paper outlining its position against the Catholic Church on the issue. The paper, entitled, “Task and Demands of the Nazi Racial Laws,” placed the following stark alternative before the Catholics:

either accept the law or go out of this common destiny, common space, and historic community of people.(13) If the law is not accepted then there is a duty to defend the unity of the German people and State against any such brutal act of sabotage.(14)(15)

Indeed, at this point, the state considered any opposition from the church in the political realm not only out of bounds, but a “brutal act of sabotage,” against which the state must act in defense. Now, the church’s misstep across the 2K divide becomes an act against the state which is punishable by the state. Which means, also, that the church has nothing to say about that either.

The Catholic Church did not accept the law, nor did it leave the nation. Instead, the Vatican organized and eventually sent out a Papal Encyclical, “With Burning Concern,” condemning the most egregious aspects of Nazism. The editor of Hitler’s Speeches notes, “On 21 March 1937—Palm Sunday—the Papal Encyclical ‘Mit brennender Sorge’ was read from the pulpit in Catholic Churches; this condemned National Socialist racial doctrine and also the failure of the German State to observe the terms of the Concordat.

The Encyclical clearly dared to speak to political and socio-cultural matters:

8. Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community . . . above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.

9. Beware, Venerable Brethren, of that growing abuse, in speech as in writing, of the name of God as though it were a meaningless label, to be affixed to any creation, more or less arbitrary, of human speculation. Use your influence on the Faithful, that they refuse to yield to this aberration. . . .

10. This God, this Sovereign Master, has issued commandments whose value is independent of time and space, country and race. As God’s sun shines on every human face so His law knows neither privilege nor exception. Rulers and subjects, crowned and uncrowned, rich and poor are equally subject to His word. From the fullness of the Creators’ right there naturally arises the fullness of His right to be obeyed by individuals and communities, whoever they are. This obedience permeates all branches of activity in which moral values claim harmony with the law of God, and pervades all integration of the ever-changing laws of man into the immutable laws of God.

The Encyclical also recognized exactly where to find the content of those laws. While hardly theonomic and Reformed, the Pope here at least saw that “Nothing but ignorance and pride could blind one to the treasures hoarded in the Old Testament.”

15. In Jesus Christ, Son of God made Man, there shone the plentitude of divine revelation. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. i. 1). The sacred books of the Old Testament are exclusively the word of God, and constitute a substantial part of his revelation; they are penetrated by a subdued light, harmonizing with the slow development of revelation, the dawn of the bright day of the redemption. . . . Nothing but ignorance and pride could blind one to the treasures hoarded in the Old Testament.

16. Whoever wishes to see banished from church and school the Biblical history and the wise doctrines of the Old Testament, blasphemes the name of God, blasphemes the Almighty’s plan of salvation, and makes limited and narrow human thought the judge of God’s designs over the history of the world: he denies his faith in the true Christ. . . .

Hitler responded in in a speech on May 1. His response once again applied R2K doctrine and demanded the church to back down into its proper role (as the 2K doctrine would have it) or else the state would force it back:

Bend or Break! We cannot permit that this authority, which is the authority of the German people, shall be attacked by any other power whatever. That applies also for all Churches. So long as they concern themselves with their religious problems the State does not concern itself with them. But so soon as the attempt by any means whatsoever—by letters, Encyclica, or otherwise—to arrogate themselves rights which belong to the state alone we shall force them back into their proper spiritual, pastoral activity. They have no title to criticize the morals of a State when they have more than enough reason to concern themselves with their own morals. For the morals of the German State and the German people the leaders of the German State will be responsible—of that we can assure all anxious folk both within and without Germany.(16)

So here was the logic of the two kingdoms doctrine applied: there are two kingdoms, and the church cannot speak to matters of the worldly, civil kingdom. Thus, there are effectively two laws. This is exactly where Hitler had arrived. There is a morality of the church and there is a morality of the state. The church has no business telling the state what the morality of the state ought to be. Ergo: forced sterilization.

Ergo, abortion.

Ergo, euthanasia.

Ergo, disarmament of Jews.

Ergo, six million Jews dead.

Ergo, millions of others dead.

Ergo, racism. Occultism. Empire. World War.

Ergo, socialism, wealth redistribution, inflation.

Ergo, ad infinitum.

And the church, doctrinally, logically, has nothing to say to the state or in the civil realm.

Pierard lamented the fact that the 2K doctrine had been so prevalent in this manner at the time:

What is so disconcerting about this whole tragic story was that the ones who delivered the German Evangelicals over to National Socialism were scattered across the theological spectrum. The blame for the failure of the church to resist at a time when it could and should have—the period before January 1933—cannot simply be placed on the shoulders of the liberals.(17)

He more poignantly laments the fact that the two kingdoms doctrine still has the same vulnerabilities today. He leaves us with this warning:

Christians in the United States particularly need to take to heart the historical experience of their brethren in pre-1933 Germany. .  . . Just as the horrors of World War II constituted a judgment upon the German church, so Christians in other lands that do not maintain a prophetic stance toward their respective secular states are served notice that they, too, will be judged.(18)

The remedy: preach the whole counsel of God to every area of life.

If you believe the particular version of 2K which teaches that “Scripture is necessary not just to the Christian doctrine of salvation but to the proper interpretation of natural law for the purposes of cultural and political engagement,” then it is incumbent upon you to teach what Scripture says about that cultural and political engagement—the content of civil laws and punishments. For that topic is not “outside the church.”

When the government protects abortions, when the government demands Christian businesses fund abortifacients against Christian conscience, when the government maintains standing armies and unnecessary foreign invasions, oppressive levels of debt and taxation, 70,000 pages of unread new regulations every year, fiat money and monopoly control over it, massive entitlements built on debt secured by the labor of our children and grand children . . . the list could go on . . . . When the government does these things, it is the job of Christians and of the church to “maintain a prophetic stance” against the civil realm and declare those things as ungodly and tyrannical.

To avoid this task, or to condemn others for performing this task, is to be the practical equivalent of the German Evangelicals described above: forcing the church to remain silent while the state continues to encroach on every area of life. And history tells us how far that can go.Endnotes:

  1. If Horton denies this, and I have misrepresented him by quoting this, I will be happy to amend per his instructions.()
  2. William J. Wright, Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms: A Response to the Challenge of Skepticism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 33.()
  3. Fides et Historia 10/2 (Spring 1978): 8–29.()
  4. Pierard, 13–14.()
  5. Pierard, 14–15.()
  6. Pierard, 14–16. My bold emphasis.()
  7. James Zabel, quoted in Pierard, 23.()
  8. Hitler’s Speeches: April 1922–August 1939, ed. and trans. by Norman H. Baynes (London, New York, and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1942), 1:374–377.()
  9. Hitler’s Speeches, 1:378–9.()
  10. Hitler’s Speeches, 1:377–378.()
  11. Hitler’s Speeches, 1:380.()
  12. Hitler’s Speeches, 1:384–385.()
  13. aus dieser Schicksals-, Raum- und Geschichtsgemeinschaft der Menschen.()
  14. gegenüber jedem solchen Sabotageakt brutal zu verteidigen die Geschlossenheit des Deutschen Volkes und Staates.()
  15. Hitler’s Speeches, 1:385n1.()
  16. Hitler’s Speeches, 1:389–90.()
  17. Pierard, 25.()
  18. Pierard, 25.()
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About the Author

Dr. Joel McDurmon

Joel McDurmon, Ph.D. in Theology from Pretoria University, is the Director of Research for American Vision. He has authored seven books and also serves as a lecturer and regular contributor to the American Vision website. He joined American Vision's staff in the June of 2008. Joel and his wife and four sons live in Dallas, Georgia.



15 Responses to Horton’s inglorious “two kingdoms” theology

  1. Carol says:

    .Edit…Delete…

    Carol Dworkowski · 70 years old
    There can never be a satisfactory political solution to the abortion issue because it involves a conflict with two fundamental moral principles–the right to freedom of the mother and the right to life of the unborn child who is dependent on her to sustain that life.

    Ambiguous choices involving issues such as abortion or whether or not to go to war are always tragedies in which there are no “good” choice, only choices between two or more evils and discerning the lesser evil is not always an easy task.

    In the case of the abortion issue, he only satisfactory solution to is for the mother to choose life for her child.

    The affirmation of human dignity and the demands of justice require that the individual or institution who bears the greatest responsibility for the results of the choice is the primary decider. The provider …is the ultimate decider.

    Christians who picket women’s clinics that offer abortion services and then complain about their tax money going to support “lazy welfare mothers” or support the death penalty or a rush to war whenever national interests are threatened do not have a consistent life-affirming ethic.

    Animal breeders will all testify that a lack of security will often cause the mother to kill or maim her young. The same is true of our human species. Providing an adequate social safety net is the the most affective strategy for not only encouraging the mother to choose life for her unborn child; but to safeguard that child after birth.

    That does not mean that social welfare programs should enable those who have brought children into the world to abandon their responsibilities; but it does mean that, to the degree that the State prohibitss abortion it must also accept some responsibility for the care of the child if it is to be just.

    “No general principle can decide each concrete case; always secondary principles and special circumstances enter into consideration.” –David Spitz, The New Conservatives.

    “Without commonly shared and widely entrenched moral values and obligations, neither the law, nor democratic government, nor even the market economy, will function properly.” –Vaclev Havel, Czech Politician.

    “The law is only one of several imperfect and more or less external ways of defending what is better in life against what is worse. By itself, the law can never create anything better… Establishing respect for the law does not automatically ensure a better life for that, after all, is a job for people and not for laws and institutions.” – Vaclav Havel.

    Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace. –Simone Weil

    If we are serious about the Christian teaching that only by cooperating with Grace can the human person be healed and transformed, then we cannot expect to solve our social ills through a political process where compliance is driven by self-interested moralism and fear of punishment rather than inspired by unconditional, kenotic love.

    “The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved”.–Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    “The typical moralist sees grace as a means to fulfill a commandment. He puts the commandment in the first place and sees the difference of Old and New Testaments in the observance of the Decalogue. In the Old Testament they did not have the grace to keep the commandments; now in the New Testament they have sufficient grace if they use all the means, the sacraments, and so on. This is an anthropocentric, moralistic approach which makes the grace of Christ and finally Christ Himself only the means for the law, for the commandments. But primacy is not the law, the commandments “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”; the primacy is our Lord, who in his grace, his tremendous love, comes to encounter us.” –Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R., Redemptorist Moral Theologian.

    “Core moral concepts, such as freedom, conscience, obedience, and fidelity, can have very different meanings and importance. These differing meanings depend on if our concern is with conformity, fulfilling norms, and subordination, or instead if our focus is radical thinking infused with the spirit of God blowing as it wills and marked by grown-up, freely affirmed responsibility.” –Bernard Haering, The Virtues of an Authentic Life.

  2. Robin says:

    The first mistake the church in Germany made was thinking it needed the protection of the state. This the same biblical example we have of the same mistake when Israel looked to Egypt to protect them from king Neb. And they had no help to offer against the plan of God. The church should have stood up to Hitler and told him it was THEIR help HE needed. Which is just as true in the USA today as is it is anywhere else in the world. The political powers that be are given their authority by God who raises up one kingdom and takes down another as He pleases. They may think they can operate independent of considering what The Lord requires of them for this privilege, but they will do so at their own peril.

    Our God is a consuming fire.

  3. Mark R. Kreitzer says:

    Hey Joel, have you read anything by the post, post-theomist Brad Littlejohn? I say “post-theonomist” to mean the followers of the Federal Vision. Post-Fed Vision would mean those schooled in Moscow, ID of theonomic and post-theonomic parents. Littlejohn is studying in Edinburg for a PhD in political theology under Oliver O’Donovan. He calls himself an Anglican, Hooker-ian and now 2K and anti-biblical law. In addition, he calls himself a socialist and supports statist redistribution of wealth. Interesting fellow http://swordandploughshare.com/

    I have read a lot of his stuff debunking Horton and VanDrunen, which is good. His latest post is debunking Elizabethan biblicism, as he calls it. Would be worth your while to dialogue with him. He has been with Matt Tuininga and doing a good job debunking his version of Natural Law Two Kingdom (NL2K) [Kloosterman's term] theology which is the same as D VanDrunen. Matt was DVanD’s research assistant at WSC as you probably know.
    BTW: Congratulations on your PhD. From biker to G North’s son-in-law to PhD. !!

    Mark R. Kreitzer, PhD
    Busan, So Korea
    Kosin University.

  4. Just a brief comment to thank Dr. Joel McDurmon for taking the time and effort to explain the differences in Kingdom views to his readers and the church at large… I don’t think this topic is light or trivial, nor is Dr. McDurmon stirring up dissension or strife – he is teaching Christians the truth of God’s Word. I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to promote God’s Kingdom and thought I was fairly well-informed, but found myself recently buying into the 2 kingdom theory because I didn’t know what it was. It is packaged in a lot of Christian piety by well known theologians and if not for this article, I would have been led astray and distracted from doing the work the good Lord has called me to. My prayer is that Dr. McDurmon will continue his work and many benefit from it. In Lord Jesus Name, Amen.

  5. Curtis Dunn says:

    When I read the quote “(outside the church!)”, I read no duplicity coming out of the words; only a satirical comment on the reality of an arbitrary line of demarcation between Church and State; a seperation foisted upon all religious corporations whether church, synagogue, or other in order to maintain civil concord.
    As I percieve the matter, the duplicity arises from attempting to maintain some amount of conformity to the world in order to enjoy some measure of conformity to it. [Rom. 12:1, Ps.1:1,4,5] In which case the sword of the Spirit the Word of God is heard to appear weak to speak in the council of the ungodly; weak to convert the way of sinners; weak unable to sit over the scoffers.

    My weigh in on the two kingdoms: there’s the kingdom of men and the kingdom of angels and One Lord and King over both; if we begin our understanding with prayer, we maybe illumined. For in Prayer the Lord Himself teaches us all the same thing: Our Father….Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. . . Amen.”
    In Unison ( union/many +son/one) we acknowledge only One Kingdom: of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. There is the kingdom of darkness, and the Kingdom of the beloved Son who delivers us out of darkness into His Kingdom of Light.
    In Unison we supplicate the Perfect One in Heaven (Our Father) that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
    The message of the Incarnation for modern political man ( and nearly everyone has become clinically political), the message is Union and unity come from above not through conspiracies or collisions, not even through federations or covenant, but embodied in One person, who is in himself reconciles heaven and earth, and in whom there is no duplicity of kingdoms.
    1 Lord 1 King 1 God 1 Kingdom, I don’t know of any other reality.

    Curtis Dunn

    • Curtis Dunn says:

      When Protestants changed the calendar
      by rejecting its civil observance and even outlawing religious services associated therewith and did speak against it in every way denying its Christian heritage in the minds of men, it was a willfull rejection of a gift of the Holy Spirit through His faithful Servants.

      This was the birthing of secularity as a Protestant christian social worldview; this enabled the growth of separation of church and state. if the church can’t even order its own time, I’ll be damned if it will order mine. The 2 kingdom view, is simply attempting to be consistent to the secular vision and division of time.

      As long is the secular order is nurtured by Christian faith and ideals, secularism seems harmless to faith and fulfilling the Great Commission. but some ideas only look like wheat when they first are sprouted.

      Curtis Dunn

  6. Alex A UK says:

    I just thought I would make a brief response…
    Great stuff.
    Alex A
    UK

  7. Matthew says:

    I am a pastor, and I hate Pietism. Here is my short article expressing my thoughts.
    It is titled: The Destructive Influence of Pietism in American Society.
    http://www.mercyseat.net/destructivepietism.html

  8. David R. says:

    It’s one thing to use Hitler to make your point, but I wonder how consistently you are willing to follow your conclusion that: “The church should have a prophetic role in calling the civil government to adhere to Scripture in regard to law and punishment.” The logic of your position requires that the church should call the civil government to capitally punish blasphemers and Sabbath breakers, isn’t that right?

    • ACS says:

      You must be new to this neighborhood. As for the specific examples you cite here, I would defer to Dr. McDurmon and others. But, in general, it appears you are trying a “Are you really serious?” form of argument. Yes, they are really serious (see: http://americanvision.org/5569/the-two-kingdoms-theology-as-a-divided-personalities-psychology/). I suspect they would direct the question back. Are you really serious that God can give us His law, define for us what is right and wrong, good and evil, and just and unjust, and yet can be no standard for our laws today?

    • Jose Sanchez says:

      I might be new to American Vision but I believe the applicable principles of the Old Testament should be clear and straightforward for any believer and reader of the scriptures.

      I don’t necessarily know how AV would answer your question but this is what I would tell my fellow brethren when they cannot process the idea of using the Old Testament as a foundation for civil law.

      If we were to follow the Old Testament Laws literally and strictly without compromise, does that mean that we must administer capital punishment on those who blaspheme, who work on a Sabbath, etc?

      The first step is simple: We direct our hearts and minds to He who sits on the mercy seat, Jesus Christ.

      If you can’t comprehend this one simple fact, If the significance of Jesus Christ does not light your path, then nothing I can say from here on will help you apply the word of God to every aspect of your life.

      How did Jesus deal with blasphemers and sabbath breakers?

      If you cannot put on the mind of Christ when applying these laws then the letter can do nothing but kill. As the Apostle Paul states it is the spirit that gives life. The Spirit of God is like a wind that can not be directed. But the word of God is like an anchor.

  9. ACS says:

    Dr. Horton can be spot on on many aspects of Reformed Theology, but also be very slippery and contradictory on other areas, such as epistemology and church-state issues. One of his biggest problems is that he writes too much in cultural cliches rather than clear exposition. He rarely defines his terms.

    One view that he maintains is that while Christians have the right to call the state to righteousness, the church does not. While he sometimes contradicts himself, he usually argues that the church (which he does not define) has nothing to say to the state. It only preaches the Word and administers the sacraments to Christians and can say nothing to the state. He softens that stance, however, when it comes to slavery.

  10. Stephen says:

    Okay a I edited somewhat sorry for rushing my response to your article.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your written words of incitement and fully agree with your K2 instruction. I have been going through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s material again, after a 20 year break it seems time does fly (not pigs!), digging though it since 2007. It has been a treat dive in it, write College curriculum on his ethics book, read his sermons and sadly to see we are now moving into an era of troubled times because of the K2 belief same as at the beginning of the 20th century. It seems we find us living in an interesting chapter of our history where we are between the era of Christendom and the ancient Churches renewal (or at least I hope). The false piety of those that think greek and compartmentalize their faith, life and…. A growing movement (I hope) is starting to see life from a one Kingdom view with the many elements of interconnecting branches of Christianity and life. Many today that some think there are two realities – God’s and the World’s instead of one reality God’s, if it is two it is always us verse them and we the loss is love for one another to all men. I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that we live with eternal beings all moving toward eternity, which eternity is in reality their choice and our interaction (my interpretation).
    But more into the topic at hand: from I gather from you and agree fully the State and Church is the question of the hour. First off, I would simply assert that the concept of “the state is pagan” in origin and that it is alien to the New Testament is wrong. Government is a New Testament idea that does not imply any particular form of state or society. Government is ordained by God. I would reject those bases for government which project the state arising out of the character of man: i.e., Aristotle, medieval Catholicism, Hegelianism; as well as those theories based in man’s sin and need of government for restraint in a chaotic world: i.e., the Lutheran Reformation tradition – though as you point out may have not been the conclusion of Luther himself, Calvin’s yes but not Luther’s.
    My thinking is a second view is which is more – not less – biblical, affirming that government is “from above” rather than organized “from below.” I would also affirm Christ as the basis for all government because He is the mediator of creation, the goal of government, its Lord, and its source of authority and power. Kingdom – one Kingdom view.
    Government has a divine character in its being, think of those that sought freedom in the establishment of America’s Government. The very nature of Government, its task reflects its divine character in its mission through which it serves Christ by His word for punishment and justice and along with education (well-being) for goodness. A further divine implication is the claim of government on conscience, or obedience “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Pet. 2:13). The believer is bound to obedience until the government exceeds its commission, where upon one must obey God rather than man, which is happening again in many situations not just in America. But a disobedience in a single area must not be generalized to all areas of government just yet. Only an apocalypticocial /political series of events in which all obedience to government involved denial of Christ (see Rev. 13:7) would require total disobedience in our part. BUT there have been governments in the last 113 years that have required the church to be totally disobedient and in some cases has (or portions of it), we are moving rapidly to that point here.
    Government has a relation to the other mandates. It serves to protect and sanction these areas, but in itself government is not creative. Marriage and the church stand independently of government, but always in the presence of government to show the holiness of God. The sanctity of life both the unborn and those that are in need of voice (the aged, sick, those with disabilities…) we – the Church stands with and for them! As you so graphical showed in the serialization material.
    Government has a claim on the church in obedience. Obedience to government is obedience to Christ – again IF it isn’t involved in the denial of Christ and obedience to Him. Likewise, the church lays a claim on government. She reminds government of their common Master. She calls all governments to fulfill its “worldly calling,” its special task, and at the same time claims protection from the government. The government also has a claim on the church. Government must maintain neutrality with reference to exalting one faith (Christian or non-Christian) over another. It cannot originate new religions either or seek to obfuscate the Churches role! Similarly, the church has a political responsibility also, the church must warn of sin and call for righteousness which exalts a nation.
    We find ourselves serving/living/operating in a constitutional republic form of Government. We are blessed because of how we were founded. But God does not opt for any particular form of government. This means that government must recognize its being from above. It means also that the government’s power will rest on its ability in fulfilling its role as the implementation of justice for all, defense against those that seek to destroy, on the rights of the family and of its people to live life and enjoy liberty, and on the ability to freely give the proclamation of the gospel. If that government seeks to redefine that role (which it has been seeking to do for over 80 years more often than not) and thus become what is the role of the Church which is as Jesus’ body, then obedience to that government ends and the Church is required to respond openly in contradiction of the rebellion of the state against God. Today we see the effects/affects of a president’s liberation theology which believes Christianity gets in the way of his building his dominion brand of neo-socialism Christian like the Nazi redefinition of a German Christian. It is moving quickly to silence and take the role of the Church. There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it is outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life of piety. “Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Ethics. We as the Church need to take responsible action.
    Responsible action, in other words, is a highly risky venture. It makes no claims to objectivity or certainty. It is a free venture that cannot be justified in advance except to ask and receive wisdom and discernment. Civil courage, in fact does grow out of the free responsibility of free people – free people who are in Christ are truly free. “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”― Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
    I am beginning to hear many Christians and others who were “busy”, seem to be beginning to discover the meaning of free responsibility. That free responsibility depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith and who promises forgiveness and relief to a believer who becomes a sinner in that venture. But, nevertheless, it is how we participate in the reality of Christ, i.e., it is how we act in harmony with the will of God. The demand for responsible action in history is a demand no Christian can ignore.
    We are, accordingly, faced with the following dilemma: when assaulted by evil, we must oppose it directly. We have no other option. The failure to operate is simply to condone evil. There isn’t such a world of utopian possibilities it always leads to dystopian evil which has been the way through time and we are no different. We have to be Kingdom people and be that salt and light in a darkness that is present and strong. “Greater is He that is in you than he (darkness) that is in the world!”

  11. Stephen says:

    A quick response unedited…
    I thoroughly enjoyed your written words of incitement and fully agree with your K2 instruction. I have been going through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s material again, after a 20 year break it seems time does fly (not pigs!), digging though it since 2007. It has been a treat dive in it, write College curriculum on his ethic book, read his sermons and sadly to see we are now moving into an era of troubled times because of the K2 belief same as at the beginning of the 20th century. It seems we find us living in an interesting chapter of our history where we are between the era of Christendom and the ancient Churches renewal (or at least I hope). The false piety of those that think greek and compartmentalize their faith, life and… and they never tough and a growing movement (I hope) of seeing life from a one Kingdom view with the many elements of interconnecting branches of Christianity and life. It appears that some think there are two realities – God’s and the World’s instead of one reality God’s. I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that we live with eternal beings all moving toward eternity, which eternity is in reality their choice and our interaction (my interpretation).
    But from I gather and agree full the State and Church is the question of the hour in this season of life. First off, I would simply assert that the concept of the state is pagan in origin and is alien to the New Testament is wrong. Government is a New Testament idea that does not imply any particular form of state or society. Government is ordained by God. I would reject those bases for government which project the state arising out of the character of man: i.e., Aristotle, medieval Catholicism, Hegelianism; as well as those theories based in man’s sin and need of government for restraint in a chaotic world: i.e., the Lutheran Reformation tradition – though as you point out may have not been the conclusion of Luther himself, Calvin’s yes but not Luther’s.
    My thinking is a second view is which is more not less biblical, affirming that government is “from above” rather than organized “from below.” I would also affirm Christ as the basis for all government because He is the mediator of creation, the goal of government, its Lord, and its source of authority and power. Kingdom – one Kingdom view.
    Government has a divine character in its being, think of those that sought freedom in the establishment of America’s Government. The very nature of Government, its task reflects its divine character in its mission through which it serves Christ by His word for punishment and justice and along with education (well-being) for goodness. A further divine implication is the claim of government on conscience, or obedience “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Pet. 2:13). The believer is bound to obedience until the government exceeds its commission, where upon one must obey God rather than man, which is happening again in many situations not just in America. But a disobedience in a single area must not be generalized to all areas of government just yet. Only an apocalypticocial /political series of events in which all obedience to government involved denial of Christ (see Rev. 13:7) would require total disobedience in our part. BUT there have been governments in the last 113 years that have required the church to be totally disobedient and in some cases has (or portions of it), we are moving rapidly to that point here.
    Government has a relation to the other mandates. It serves to protect and sanction these areas, but in itself government is not creative. Marriage and the church stand independently of government, but always in the presence of government to show the holiness of God. The sanctity of life both the unborn and those that are in need of voice (the aged, sick, those with disabilities…) we – the Church stands with and for them! As you so graphical showed in the serialization material.
    Government has a claim on the church in obedience. Obedience to government is obedience to Christ – again IF it isn’t involved in the denial of Christ and obedience to Him. Likewise, the church lays a claim on government. She reminds government of their common Master. She calls all governments to fulfill its “worldly calling,” its special task, and at the same time claims protection from the government. The government also has a claim on the church. Government must maintain neutrality with reference to exalting one faith (Christian or non-Christian) over another. It cannot originate new religions either or seek to obfuscate the Churches role ! Similarly, the church has a political responsibility also, the church must warn of sin and call for righteousness which exalts a nation.
    We find ourselves serving/living/operating in a constitutional republic form of Government. We are blessed because of how we were founded. But God does not opt for any particular form of government. This means that government must recognize its being from above. It means also that the government’s power will rest on its ability in fulfilling its role as the implementation of justice for all, defense against those that seek to destroy, on the rights of the family and of its people to live life and enjoy liberty, and on the ability to freely give the proclamation of the gospel. If that government seeks to redefine that role (which it has been seeking to do for over 80 years more often than not) and thus become what is the role of the Church which is as Jesus’ body, then obedience to that government ends and the Church is required to respond openly in contradiction of the rebellion of the state against God. Today we see the effects/affects of a president’s liberation theology which believes Christianity gets in the way of his building his dominion brand of neo-socialism Christian like the Nazi redefinition of a German Christian. It is moving quickly to silence and take the role of the Church. There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it is outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life of piety. “Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Ethics. We as the Church need to take responsible action.
    Responsible action, in other words, is a highly risky venture. It makes no claims to objectivity or certainty. It is a free venture that cannot be justified in advance except to ask and receive wisdom and discernment. Civil courage, in fact does grow out of the free responsibility of free people – free people who are in Christ are truly free. I am beginning to hear many Christians and others who were “busy”, seem to be beginning to discover the meaning of free responsibility. That free responsibility depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith and who promises forgiveness and relief to a believer who become a sinner in that venture. But, nevertheless, it is how we participate in the reality of Christ, i.e., it is how we act in harmony with the will of God. The demand for responsible action in history is a demand no Christian can ignore.
    We are, accordingly, faced with the following dilemma: when assaulted by evil, we must oppose it directly. We have no other option. The failure to operate is simply to condone evil. There isn’t such a world of utopian possibilities it always leads to dystopian evil which has been the way through time and we are no different. We have to be Kingdom people and be that salt and light in a darkness that is present and strong. “Greater is He that is in you than he (darkness) that is in the world!” While I have a desire for everyone to know Jesus in faith, I am a realist to see it is a choice for all to make…it is a move of our free will – not destiny – nor determinism.

  12. Dave says:

    My wife’s mom lived throught the horrors of Germany during and after the war. She remembers bringing home a wheel barrel full of money home and her father angry at her for wasting her time.

    May God raise up an army of godly men that will enter politics and press home the Crown rights of Christ Jesus!

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