Sunday, January 22, 2017

Two-kingdom fascism

Darryl Hart is a leader of the 2-Kingdoms position. Here are some comments he left on a very long thread: 

D. G. Hart says:
Nero did not violate God’s law if he executed Christians who obeyed God rather than man. If Paul continued to preach after the emperor said he may not, then Nero was doing what God ordained government to do. Christians don’t get a pass from civil law just because they follow a higher law. 
The question wasn’t whether Nero should light up his gardens with Christians. It was whether Nero executed Christians. 
That is what God ordained the magistrate to do, right? Just because a believer has a special relationship with God doesn’t let the believer disobey the magistrate’s laws. Christianity is not a license for civil disobedience. 
If a law is unjust or if we must obey God rather than men, then we suffer the consequences of disobedience. That’s what the apostles did. They didn’t form political action committees to overturn Roman laws.
Paul doesn’t mention justice. He doesn’t mention God’s law. He doesn’t qualify the magistrate’s authority. They are God’s ministers – period. 
So you disobey God’s word. You refuse to do what Paul says. Submit to the unjust emperor. 
I am saying that I follow what Paul said in Rom 13. God wants his people to submit to those in authority, those whom he has established. 
If I break the civil law, I should be punished. God gave us authorities to uphold the law and maintain order and peace. It’s disorderly and unpeaceful if you think you can pick and choose which laws to obey because you have Jesus in your heart.

i) That's the reductio ad absurd of 2K. Hart's fascist interpretation of Rom 13 represents a moral inversion of Rom 13. 

ii) As I've pointed out in the past, it's naive to suppose that in Rom 13, Paul is stating everything he thought about the issue at hand. Paul is writing to Christians in the capital of the Roman Empire. What if his letter was intercepted by the Roman authorities? For the sake of Roman Christians, he has to be guarded in what he says. That doesn't mean he says things he doesn't believe, but it does mean he probably leaves some things unsaid. 

iii) In addition, that's more than sheer speculation. He was a firm believer in the OT. He surely didn't believe Ahab, Jezebel, and Athaliah had a civic duty to punish Jews who refused to worship Baal. And he certainly didn't believe Jews had a civic duty to submit to the idolatrous edicts of Ahab, Jezebel, or Athaliah. Likewise, Paul would surely endorse the civil disobedience of the Jewish midwives (Exod 1). So there are unstated caveats in Rom 13.

iv) Hart acts as though the divine institution of government means God has delegated absolute, autonomous authority to the state, so that rulers are entitled to do whatever they see fit. Hart has an amoral conception of civil authority, by separating law from justice. 

But in Paul's understanding, the duty of the civil magistrate is to punish wrongdoers, not simply lawbreakers. The civil magistrate isn't merely or primarily a law enforcer, but an agent of justice. As such, he has no duty to act unjustly. Indeed, he has a duty to act justly and refrain from injustice. 

v) Hart says "Paul doesn’t mention justice. He doesn’t qualify the magistrate’s authority. They are God’s ministers – period."

How could Hart miss that? Perhaps Hart is committing the word-concept fallacy. Does he imagine that if Paul doesn't use the word "justice," then the idea can't be present? Yet Paul says the role of the magistrate is to reward or facilitate those who do good and punish those who do wrong. What is that if not the essence of justice? 

vi) Paul doesn't say or imply that Christians have a duty to submit to rulers in virtue of their sheer, unconditional authority. To the contrary, Paul specifically qualifies the legitimate mandate of civil authority. 

vii) In addition, as one commentator notes:

The authority is a servant of God, but it has the purpose of serving its constituents in the accomplishment of their good actions (Rom 13:4)…The authority is a servant for the constituent so that the person can accomplish what is good. This reconceptualizes authority…[It]  has the just purposes not of perpetuating its own power and authority but of serving its constituents by enabling them to do what is good. S. Porter The Letter to the Romans (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015), 246.

The fact that God ordained government is not a blank check for any specific exercise of power. Hart's inference is like saying God ordained sex, therefore any kind of sexual activity is divinely sanctioned. In Hart's Looking Glass world, God ordained the magistrate to execute those who are doing God's will, as if God is acting at cross-purposes with himself. 

vii) Does Hart think Christians have a divine obligation to commit evil if the state commands what God forbids? He makes statements to that effect. Does he think 1C Christians had a divinely-imposed duty to submit to emperor worship? 

viii) Perhaps Hart would concede that there are situations where Christians have a higher obligation to break the law. If so, Hart seems to be saying the magistrate has a duty to punish Christians for breaking a law which Christians have a duty to break. 

To take a concrete example, Hart either thinks German Christians had a duty not to protect their Jewish neighbors, or if they had a duty to protect their Jewish neighbors, Nazi authorities had a duty to punish Christians who sheltered Jews. 

ix) Of course we need to be prepared to face the consequences of civil disobedience. But that's beside the point. That hardly means the state has a right or duty to punish civil disobedience when the state commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands. 

Does Hart think the state is supposed to punish people in situations where people are supposed to defy the state? How coherent is that? 


  1. I would ask Hart what he thinks about the role of Babylon in conquering Jerusalem. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, & more all stated that Babylon was God's agent in Jerusalem's downfall but that didn't stop God from judging Babylon for their cruelty. I'm reminded of what C.S. Lewis said about Attila referring to himself as the 'Scourge of God' - If you are going to do the Devil's work, don't complain about the wages.

  2. A reductio indeed. I think he has lost his mind. You'd think such silly conclusions would cause him to reevaluate first principles.

    "Nero did not violate God’s law if he executed Christians who obeyed God rather than man. If Paul continued to preach after the emperor said he may not, then Nero was doing what God ordained government to do." DGH

    It's one thing to say that an executor (or a soldier for that matter) doesn't break God's law if he energizes the electric chair that kills someone whose crime is righteousness (or kills the enemy in an unjust war). It's quite another thing to try to abolish moral accountability to an unjust law maker, in this case Nero. Am I imagining things or did Hart just say that Nero cannot break God's law by obeying himself?

    Regarding Hart's tired old argument from silence as it pertains to Romans 13, we could just as easily infer that Jesus wasn't good, Israel would be restored and John should've remained until the second coming. As I've written to Hart regarding his abuse of Romans 13....

    Mark 10:17-18: When a rich young ruler called Jesus good, he neither affirmed nor denied that he possessed that quality of person but instead said nobody is good but God. Depending upon one’s pre-commitment it might be inferred that Jesus was not good and, therefore, not God; yet the text neither affirms nor denies either conclusion.

    Acts 1:6, 7: When the apostles asked Jesus whether he was at that time going to restore the kingdom to Israel, he neither affirmed nor denied such an intention but instead said that it was not for them to know the times or epochs that the Father has fixed by his own authority. Dispensationalists, given their pre-commitment to a restored national Israel, infer from the answer a confirmation of their theology, that the kingdom will be restored. Notwithstanding, no logical conclusion can be deduced from the text with respect to the restoration Israel’s kingdom.

    John 21:20-22: When Peter asked Jesus whether John would be alive at the time of Jesus’ return Jesus told him that if he wanted John to remain until such time it was no business of Peter’s. Jesus then put to Peter his task, which was to follow Jesus. Jesus’ answer did not logically imply that John would remain or not, let alone whether Jesus would even return one day! The answer even caused a rumor among the brethren that John would not die (John 21:23). John in this very epistle (same verse: 23) remarked on the unjustified inference that caused the rumor: “Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?’”

  3. If i understand correctly, Hart's view would mean Herod's imprisoning of John the Baptist and Pilate's execution of Jesus wasn't blameworthy.

  4. This insanity does not do the 2K theology any favors. A hobby-horse gone terribly awry.

  5. It appears that Mr. Hart has attempted to employ the two Kingdom construct long before he fully understood it with all of its appropriate Biblical discretion.

    As a result he uses this theological tool to his own injury and relies heavily on his rationalistic use of the construct instead of allowing its full theological development in his mind which he clearly has not permitted.

    Frankly I am surprised more than a handful of people would take him seriously with such comments and he would be given an audience more than 15 or 20 people in the entirety of Christianity. He comes off almost like a Jonesboro Baptist and his thinking.

  6. Sometimes I wonder if Hart smokes more than nicotine.

  7. "Am I imagining things or did Hart just say that Nero cannot break God's law by obeying himself?"