Friday, March 27, 2009

Four Kingdoms?

It seems there are two two kingdom models one finds in the various media the theory is set forth in. One model claims that the Christian may, and should, take specially revealed principles into the public square, using them to inform him on issues of social policy. The other claims that this approach, while permissible in a free country, is not advisable or proper. They claim that you would not take your Bible under the sink with you to inform you on how to fix a leak. Likewise, in another equally common realm, why would you take specially revealed principles under that (much larger) sink to help you fix those leaks? These two two kingdom models make four kingdoms.

This latter view is more common on the internet and is the kind most transformers (though I have pointed out that this label breaks down as a demarcating locution and becomes simply a sophism) attack. So there is some talking past (if not over) each other in this debate. It appears the first model (the one pushed by the more reserved and sophisticated of all two kingdomers) breaks down into a difference of degree instead of kind with the more sophisticated transformers (for lack of a better word). The problem with the second model is that it is unlivable. In addition, due to the loudness of its protagonists, as well as the typical ghettoizing and wagon circling all such radical groups eventually undergo, the constant drum beating will fade into the background making them irrelevant dialogue partners.

I previously pointed out David vanDrunen's two kingdom model as an example of the more cautious models antithetical with the second model. Another example is that of Neil McBride (Reformed Christian and key player in various Democratic campaigns and administrations). I should point out that it is heartening to know that there are strongly confessional and theologically conservative Reformed Christians inside the Democrat Party (and the Republican party for that matter!). Nevertheless, and quite apart from biblical reasons, I think liberalism is irrational. But enough of that. What is interesting to note here are the comments two kingdom proponent Neil McBride made in October/November 2008 issue of Modern Reformation magazine. McBride was part of a group interviewed by Mike Horton. I would like to draw attention to his views on the Christian in the public square as contrasted with the more radical of the models I mentioned above.

McBride says:

As a Democrat and a Reformed Confessional Christian, I often tease my Christian friends who are neither Democrat or Reformed that I may be to the left of them politically, but that I am to the right of them theologically--and it drives them crazy. But as the late James Boice pointed out, if you're Arminian, you're stealing a little bit of the glory of God when it comes to those great issues.

I agree with Dan [Dan Bryant, another guest, and a two kingdoms advocate who is Republican and Reformed. Dan and Neil attend the same church in Washington D.C., by the way]. I would say at the outset that many times we hear, "You two kingdom folks, you Refomed folks, say that biblical principles should play no role in developing a coherent set of public policy." I don't understand that to be at all what the two kingdom doctrine says. I believe that our biblical faith can indeed inform how we think about public policy. It can and it should.
That kind of talk is radically different from what we so frequently hear espoused as "two kingdoms" on the internet. But, I guess every group has its radicals. If what I consider the radical wing of two kingdoms theology wishes to correct me, ensuring that they all agree with men like McBride and vanDrunen, then it appears that thousands of pounds of crow need to be eaten--and that may not be healthy. But, if they do wish to make this apology, perhaps they can make amends by engaging in an internet campaign where many of their comments to (what they call) transformationalists will be deleted from public view. After all, it sounds rather hypocritical to chide some person for claiming that biblical principles inform his critique of government and culture while claiming that you have the special status to invoke biblical principles to inform your critique of government and culture. No matter what side you come down on, hypocrisy isn't a virtue in the left or right handed sphere. Neither is special pleading. But, perhaps we'll be told that there are two kingdoms governing epistemic virtues. In one kingdom, logical fallacies and intellectual vices are allowed, but not in the other. Unfortunately, if this is the case, it's not always clear in which kingdom these epistemic virtues don't apply.


  1. Paul,

    Good post. I do realize that some in the 2K world have not done the doctrine much credit by their awful political views. Indeed, I have seen it used as a cover for both indifference and odious leftism over the past year. I mentioned this to my own pastor (a die-hard 2K guy and WSC grad). He said that that is where he parted with a lot of the Klinean 2Kers, since they read Romans 10 as a carte blanche, at least functionally, to the government.

    I consider myself a 2K guy, but I would be so bold as to challenge the basic logical consistency of being a Christian and being a Democratic Party mucky-muck like Mr. McBride. The Democratic Party has made it clear, in their official platform, that even the 2nd Table of the Decalogue doesn't apply to them.

  2. David,

    Thanks, I agree with your comments. I too have noticed that some 2kers like to use the doctre to advance their own politics--ironic indeed. I have also seen some use it as an excuse for political apathy.

    I like much of what 2k teaches and could consider myself one as well. I almost dropped it from serious consideration when one 2ker after another presented the system as implying the false and unlivable view mentioned in the post. I could post emails or even comments on line where 2kers have told me (or others) the exact opposite of McBride.

    As for McBride, I can only hope he is at least part of democrats for life (see their web page). But apart from that, I think Democrats are generally wrong on the poor, education, race, the economy, the environment, home security, etc.

  3. Yes, church/state issues are always very complex. There are differences among 2Kers, and differences among theonomists, and differences among traditional Kuyperianism. So, the question for me now becomes, "That's a neat idea--but what is the cash value of that? What does it/will it look like in the real world, where the rubber meets the road?".

    I am also looking forward to when DVDs book comes out.

  4. David,

    May one be a Christian and...a citizen of England, a ruler in an Aboriginal tribe or a general in the American army? Or are those also logical inconsistencies?


    Why does license to be a member of the Democratic party have something to do with "life issues," per rightists? Why does nobody have to prove themselves by saying they are both 2K and card-carrying members of the GOP?

    Boy, with 2K guys like you for friends, who needs enemies?

  5. Steve,

    I honestly don't know what you are driving at, but no, I wouldn't consider those identities to be inconsistent with being Christian.


    Yes, I agree with McBride's comment while disagreeing with his, um, line of work.

    The problem, as I see it, is in going beyond the distinction between the sacred and secular spheres and asserting, at least functionally, that there is no such thing as a Christian worldview*. As if Christian ethics (which include natural law) don't have bearing on the secular sphere.

    * While I acknowledge the existence of a distinctly Christian worldview, this does not make every field of inquiry distinctly Christian. I'm an aerospace engineer, but I don't believe that I practice 'Christian aerospace engineering' or 'covenantal, Trinitarian engineering'. While our knowledge is revelatory, it belongs to general revelation, not special revelation, and so is common to believers and unbelievers.

  6. Whoops I just caught a mistake in my first post - that should be Romans 13, not Romans 10.

  7. Steve,

    I too have no idea at what you're driving at. I'm not even sure I "get you." I'm unclear as to your reference to "nobody" proving "themselves." Is that like an uncaused cause? Anywho, I've read a few of your posts and comments at other places. Keep in mind what Nietzsche once said: "Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clarity; whoever would like to appear deep to the crowd, strives for obscurity."

    Anyway, I believe I mentioned "democrats for life," did I not? I believe I also referenced myriad other issues, did I not? I also don't care much for "card carrying Democrats" or "rock-ribbed Republicans." I'm unsure you're reference here too. I am sure that a cautious thinker like you wouldn't confuse political parties with political philosophy. That would be indicative of the shallow level many 2kers seem to operate at. But I'm convinced of better things from you.

    Perhaps you'd like to re-phrase your point with a little more rigor?

  8. Steve Z,

    It might also be interesting to note that one of your "Outhouse Saints" has said that he's backing away from the more radical expression of 2k that guys like you and some of your other saints express. Unfortunately, at this time I can't reveal his name to you. You'll just have to take my word on it as the information is first-hand. Anyway, the who isn't the point. The point is that he's backing down from the radical 2k expression.

    You also should, in intrest of full disclosure, make sure to ammend your statement above. You should say: "With guys like DvD, McBride, Gadbois and yourself as 2k friends, who needs enemies." And right about the time you correct your claim should be the time you see how radical you've become.