The Seattle Hermeneutic v. the Escondido Hermeneutic:

Posted: January 1, 2010 in Theology

Recently, we’ve seen the outbreak of a new theological disturbance (to use Mark Twain’s term).  It appears to be a debate between two-kingdom theologians and one-kingdom theologians.  See:

http://ironink.org/index.php?blog=1&title=kerux_aamp_its_five_alarm_fire_why_stopp&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1#comments

http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/sometimes-one-has-to-consider-the-source/

The two-kingdom view (usually abbreviated 2k) holds that there is a sacred and a secular kingdom, Christ’s church being the sacred, and the natural realm the secular kingdom.  Because the secular kingdom is governed by natural law, the church shouldn’t interfere with it.   By the same token, the secular realm should not interfere with the church.

The one-kingdom (1k) view holds that Christ’s kingdom encompasses both the sacred and secular realms, and believes that a theocracy of some sort should govern both the church and the state.

Ironically, both views hold to some version of covenant theology.  In my essays on Gary North and the Constitution, I’ve warned about the political dangers of covenant theology (at least in some of its more extreme manifestations).  The basic error I pointed to was the idea that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of grace.  In fact, the Mosaic covenant was a conditional covenant, not a covenant of grace (which is unconditional).

To the extent that one’s covenant theology infuses grace into the Mosaic covenant, to that extent it will lead to theocratic politics.  By the same token, the less one infuses grace into the Mosaic covenant, the less theocratic one’s politics will be.

Here’s how it works.  By infusing grace into the Mosaic covenant one can bring all its laws down to apply to modern states – hence the familiar conception of politics known as “theonomy.” This was a popular view of politics among some Christians during the 1970s through the 1990s.  It too held that the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace, and therefore all of Israel’s laws, including its penal sanctions, were valid in the New Testament era, and could be applied to modern states.

Another type of covenant theology – known as the Federal Vision — managed to infuse grace into the Mosaic covenant by making grace a part of all covenants, including the Adamic covenant.  In effect, all covenants became conditional, including the Abrahamic covenant, which according to the New Testament, is the true covenant of grace.

The basic error this led to was a failure to distinguish law and gospel, which led to the denaturing of the Protestant doctrine of justification.  The practical effect was the refurbishing of ecclesiastical authoritarianism and a church first movement that has led some of its followers to abandon Protestantism for Roman Catholicism.

While the dangers of theocratic conceptions are fairly obvious, many do not see the dangers on the other side.  Some 2k advocates argue that Christians should not be involved with the political process, or speak out against moral evil, but should stay within the confines of the church.  There are enough problems in the church, they say, and Christians should clean up their own house first rather than sweep out the Augean stables of modern culture.

Thus, some views of 2k lead to an introverted Christianity.  I think the solution is simply to keep a balanced perspective.  The secular realm is governed by natural law, but since this law is the same as biblical morality, I see no reason why Christians have to sit on the sidelines and play second string in culture and politics.  Everyone has his or her own gift or calling, and should apply themselves accordingly, whether in the realm of politics, culture, science, or theology.  It is God’s world after all, isn’t it?

Vern

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Comments
  1. todd says:

    Vern,

    Nice explanation, except I know of no 2k guys, including myself, who says Christians should stay out of the political arena. What we say is that the church as it speaks authoritatively should not dictate to people how to vote, make political statements, etc…But how ind. Christians try to be good neighbors through politics, social action, etc… is a matter of freedom of conscience, but not discouraged in any way.

  2. John Taylor says:

    I am an attorney who is deeply involved in government politics and I endorse David VanDrunen’s views on Two Kingdoms. You write ”Some 2k advocates argue that Christians should not be involved with the political process, or speak out against moral evil, but should stay within the confines of the church.” Who are these 2k advocates??? You should always support your claims with references. And if you give a reference from some liberal Lutheran source your claims will not hold any ground.

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