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Kevin DeYoung’s introductory thoughts here–on the positives and negatives of both two-kingdom theology and neo-Kuyperianism–fit very nicely with where I have come down on the relationship between Christ and culture. Worth reading.


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9 thoughts on “A Middle Ground Between Two-Kingdom Theology and Neo-Kuyperianism”

  1. Topher says:

    There is a third option: Dooyeweerdian philosophy.

  2. Topher says:

    De Young's critique of Kuyper is thin, as these are not actually issues that are either explicit or implied in the view.

    He writes:
    "1 Blurs the distinction between common grace and special grace
    2 Blurs the distinction between general and special revelation
    3 Can minimize personal redemption at the expense of cosmic renewal
    4 Explicit biblical support for commanding all Christians to change the world or transform the culture is very thin
    5 Devolves quickly into an indistinct moralism"

    1. Actually Kuyper takes into account the real distinction between the two, and seeks to understand how a Christian might work out their salvation in the context of a world in which God is pouring out His grace even to those who do not know Him, albeit not in a saving fashion. There is no safe haven for special grace to function, unless you do as Paul jested and "leave this world".

    2. Kuyper never suggests that "truth" is found in a definitive, absolute sense in the creation. In fact Dooyeweerd goes far in arguing that the only absolute certainty is the Word of God (cf. Twilight of Western Thought). The Word is always central in both Kuyper and his successors, so I am not sure how De Young came to this conclusion.

    3. What Kuyper asserts is renewal of the whole of creation, with man at the center. Christ is the renewal of all things, as Paul wrote. We live in the days between the beginning of and final renewal.

    4. Explicit biblical support for the formulation of the Trinity is thin, but it is there, no? Implied all over the place. Read Genesis 1-3 over and over again for the next year and look for the "worldliness" that is there and the implications of man's restoration in the image of the Second Adam.

    5. Indistinct moralism? Not if the Law is at the center. Not quite sure what he means by this. His words are indistinct. Indistinct as in "risky"? Like, "no more hiding in the evangelical ghetto" kind of risky? Like, "I might get my hands a bit dirty" kind of risky? Just keep in mind, the Law addresses even what we are to do with our poop, so God doesn't glaze over anything.

    Any way, I understand that maybe De Young is caught in the middle of the OPC fight. It is getting nasty. Or he has friends who are on both sides of the thing.

    If nothing else, talking about these issues is great. It is rare indeed.

    In Christ,
    Chris

  3. From Meyery Depths says:

    Just a few brief comments on DeYoung's three points against two-kingdoms theology (from an admitted two-kingdom-er):

    - I don't know of any two-kingdoms people who would say that the laity have no responsibility in evangelism; we would just say that ordained officers have the primary responsibility.
    - Two-kingdom-ers should work for positive change in their communities – as citizens of their communities, however, not as church members. There's nothing special about wanting your town to be a safer place for your kids or for there to be fewer abortions – Mormons and Muslims want that, too.
    - The spirituality of the church was used by southern Presbyterians to defend slavery, but their problem was with mis-equating Southern race-based slavery with that which was allowed in the Bible, not their doctrine on the spirituality of the church. Just because an idea is hijacked and used for a bad purpose doesn't mean the idea is wrong.

    It seems to me that the "radical" two-kingdoms theology described by DeYoung is really a strawman.

  4. pduggie says:

    In another context I wrote

    I think the focus on the social salvation of humanity within the church is crucial. It means for one, that the whole Bible speaks to us, and the whole Bible speaks to us for thoroughly furnishing us for every good work, including social works. There are claims about the WCF allowing for this or that apsect of Federal Vision theology or not, but the chapter of the WCF that needs greater attention (probably at the time of the confession as well, since it seems woefully short), is the one on the Communion of Saints. I've posted (this one in response to Lucas, actually) a bit on this in the past, particularly asking how we are to distinguish the way the Spirit unites two elect believers in teh church, and how we unites an elect and non-elect church member. The WCF posits some ineffable difference; ineffable, because if it wasn't, we'd all know who was elect or not by sense of smell.

    This argument about culture and the church reflects tensions within the PCA, formed of two strands of thinking on culture, one from the RPCES and the call for the "Crown Rights of King Jesus" to bear on all of life, and another from Southern Presbyterianism and the "spirituality of the church" to keep out of 'political' (meaning social) questions entirely.

    The Southern position has some benefits, surely, in keeping a focus on some things which are important, and in helping to avoid overly politicizing things which are improper for the church to speak to. But if Gary North has taught me anything, its that a well-formed slogan is pretty easy to apply in many situations. And the form that North's slogans frequently take are

    Its not a question of _______ or no _______, but what kind of _______

    A decision to avoid political questions is a political position. A decision to refuse to decorate a church is actually a choice for a particular aesthetic, which communicates something whether the decider intends to or not. And a decision that "the church is not a culture" is a decision about what kind of church culture will actually exist.

    This was well stated recently by Andrew Matthews of De Regno Christi in response to Darryl Hart's claims that the church needs to stay out of political and cultural questions entirely, and that there is a secular zone where Christians need to work to accomplish all their tasks, aside from churchly ones like worship and evangelism. Matthews asks why Hart's logic wouldn't entail that it's perfectly acceptable for Christian businessmen to sue each other in court

    "Darryl holds that matters inherently secular attain the quality of spirituality when more than one Christian is concerned. However, this is to involve himself in an experience of cognitive dissonance. For, according to his thinking, Christians are to play by the rules of the City of Man when moving in the secular sphere: that is, the three-dimensional world outside the walls of our churches he identifies as the present age. Much less should ecclesiastical judges be carried away with any thoughts of their competence to decide matters pertaining to this life!

    As a spiritualizer of our religion, Darryl has no substantive objection to Christians hashing out their secular concerns in secular courts. Why not let the courts decide if a matter concerns temporal justice? After all, they’re the experts"

    Excellent question.

  5. John Tertullian and Contra Celsum says:

    There are at least two central problems with "two kingdom" theories. The first is that they either tend to propound a strict dualism between the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of Christ, or they end up hopelessly confused.
    Luther offers the most forceful, comprehensive, and self-conscious theology of the two kingdoms, and his view suffers both extremes: it is both dualistic and confused.
    For example, in which kingdom is the family–the kingdom of this world or the kingdom of Christ? The family is certainly not the Church, after all. Luther's solution was to argue that the family was in both kingdoms–which reflects the confusion. "Two kingdom" theories to be taken seriously need to demonstrate that they have not fallen into an unbiblical dualism, on the one hand, nor are hopelessly confused on the other. This is doubtless why Luther's "two kingdom" theory has never won hearts and minds in the Church–and to his credit, Luther gave a great deal of thought and energy to the attempt to develop a full-blown "two kingdom" theology. To all "two-kingdom" theoreticians we would offer the challenge of showing us where you stand viz a vis Luther's theology on these theories.
    The second problem has to do with the inevitable insinuation of platonic categories in all "two kingdom" theories. "Spiritual" and "spirit" loses its biblical denotation of that which is under the control and influence of the Holy Spirit and gains instead a platonic denotation of "another realm".
    This may not sound so bad, until we realise that it was the insinuation of platonic categories (rather than biblical ones) very quickly into the theology of post-apostolic church which led to the edifice of Roman Catholicism, the loss of the Scriptures and withdrawal of the Spirit Himself.
    "Two kingdom" theories will never be taken seriously until they demonstrate they have overcome these Achilles heels.

  6. Journeyman says:

    It would seem to me (in my limited ability to fully understand such things)that the debate between the two views or perhaps the quest for a "third option" is just an expression of the struggle all the saints have of this "already, but not yet" quality of our existence as believers. Each is important to recognize as a reality and the inherent tension it produces will not be satisfactorily solved until Christs Kingdom is fuly realized. Whichever stance is taken by any of us, I would hope we could all agree with the desire of John the Apostle when he wrote, "Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus." Revelation 22:20.

  7. Topher says:

    It seems that we could all agree that De Young pretty much mischaracterizes everyone in his post— regardless of which side you stand on.

    Caveat- read the sources before launching a critique.

    Those who have actually spent serious time reading the sources and even formulating their own philosophy in writing always appreciate it.

    For me, Kuyperian philosophy has given me the freedom to work out a Biblical philosophy within my sphere of work: design and the arts. Dooyeweerd has been a real friend to me in this way (posthumously, of course), showing me how meaning precedes being and work. Everything I do now is shot through with meaning, because Jesus is Lord over all creation. All praise unto Him!!

  8. Phil says:

    Two-kingdom guys talk about Augustine's City of God and City of Man, but they don't use his distinction. I could cite evidence (as could anyone who read the book) to show that the two cities split the holy and fallen angels, the Israel of God and the Philistines, etc.: FWIW, his distinction is *not* things of the institutional church vs. things outside the institutional church, such as church and state.

  9. Journeyman says:

    Topher said:

    Caveat- read the sources before launching a critique.

    I say:

    Thanks for the condescending elitist advice.

    Further -

    You neither persuade nor convert a man by silencing him.

    By the way, why does your link go to a house for sale in Olympia,WA?

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Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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