By David Beilstein
COMING in to interact some more with Lutheran minister Jordan Cooper’s blog post on “Escondido Theology”, and the Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms, Cooper writes,
Often in the Vandrunen approach, the church and state are separate to such an extent that there is no interaction between the two kingdoms.
Cooper did mention Jason Stellman, a 2004 Westminster Seminary California graduate, and former pastor of Exile Presbyterian Church, in Woodinville, Washington. Mr Stellman was accepted into the Roman Catholic communion, Sept. 23, 2012. It is unclear to me, as of this writing, if Mr Stellman still holds to a 2k doctrine. I’m unsure of the Roman Catholic teaching on this issue. I’m aware of Pope Boniface VIII’s two swords doctrine, in the papal bull, Unam Sanctam. Still, Stellman’s 2009 book, Dual Citizens, published by Reformation Trust, made the case the two kingdoms intersect in Christian saints themselves.
Since Christian saints are citizens of “two kingdoms” – with a foot in the Sacred Kingdom, glimpsed visually through Word and sacrament administered in Christ’s Church, and a foot in the secular kingdom (vocational, civil duties, marriage and children), Christians do all things Christianly, and to the Glory of God. Likewise, Secular activities do not build the Kingdom of God – and cannot – but those duties and activities are glorifying God and a love of neighbour.
This is a primary teaching from so-called “Escondido” 2k theologians.
The public square becomes something of a secular no man’s land, wherein one’s Christian presuppositions and convictions are not to be discussed. So what is the actual Lutheran approach to the subject?
Again, Dr Vandrunen denies this in his other book, a biblical defense of two kingdoms theology entitled, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms – but even still, Martin Luther in his treatise On Secular Authorities, makes the case that civil society cannot be governed from an “evangelical” perspective.
Luther went on to say,
The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth.
It is unclear to me how this leaves Christians without “presuppositions and convictions” unable to be discussed. I would, however, suggest caution in using Christian presuppositions and convictions when the issue concerns polity issues of public policy, which affects both non-believers and Christians.
Thomas Jefferson echoed Luther’s sentiment when he wrote,
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others
Therefore, to argue political issues concerning diverse groups of non-believers and other religious citizens, based upon Christian norms (presuppositions and convictions) opens up the counter-argument that those people are not “Christian”, hence the proposed public policy does not apply to them. Without an establishment of religion, the argument is over at that point. Clearly, we do not want an established religion, as the forbearers of America – and Protestant reformers – moved away from such mediaeval conceptions, on Biblical grounds, not humanistic grounds.
The abortion issue is an illustrious example. If the case is made abortion is wrong based upon Christianity, publicly speaking, then it does not apply to non-believers of every stripe, theoretically. And that argument is made often in our day. However, if the ground for eliminating abortion is based upon the U.S. Constitution’s creed of every individual’s right to life, liberty, and happiness – it involves every citizen in America.
The slow, but sure attitudinal change concerning abortion by pro-life activists in the United States has come from advances in science and civil rights arguments – not exclusive religious claims; for exclusive religious claims, based upon Protestant and then Enlightenment conceptions of “no established religion” in America, leave such claims non-legally binding.
I would suggest, also, this is the point of Dr Vandrunen, Dr Hart, and Dr R. Scott Clark’s discussions on this issue.
All and all, the Protestant Reformation was about a decoupling between the Sacred and secular realms. American evangelicals, in reaction to progressive anti-Christian sentiments (and policy) have steered widely in the other direction. It is a large issue that such an agenda by the religious right and evangelicals, has failed to stop the cultural and moral decay of the nation – nor protect Christian saints from assaults upon their religion by the Federal Beast.
A conflation of the Sacred kingdom and the secular kingdom, was seen to be folly by the reformers of the 16th century; I must concur it is also a folly in our day.
History matters – we ought to read it and follow its clear lessons. And within that, Christian saints must realise that although pilgrims and exiles in a strange and penultimate land – it is their duty to work and keep that land, striving for its animation and improvement to the Glory of God.
Therefore, within the Christian saint, by the grace and power of the triune God – the kingdoms of two meet and intersect in a tension between the overlap of ages.