It’s the Church, Stupid

James Carville

In an uphill battle against a President associated with The Persian Gulf War, Clinton campaign strategist James Carville didn’t want the campaign to be about foreign policy.  He wanted to take the campaign to a different venue and on a different theme.   Needless to say, he wanted it to be a winning theme.  His strategy, which was famously summarized as  “it’s the economy, stupid” was the right move at the right time and Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992.

If the current two kingdom discussion can be likened to two political campaigns, it’s the anti-2k group that has the superior rhetoric.  While two kingdom advocates have yet to even come up with a clever name for anti-2ks, the anti-2ks have never met a 2k who isn’t a r(adical)2k.  Its pretty similar to the way our national media overuses “far right Republican,” and it seems that both use their terminology to  marginalize and stigmatize.  But the rhetorical strategies don’t stop there.  The anti-2ks – who usually don’t understand two kingdom thought – portray two kingdom advocates as soft on abortion and homosexuality, two hot button issues.  It’s no surprise that the faction with the most interest in promoting mandatory political issues would use essentially political-type rhetoric to gain the upper hand.  Clearly two kingdom advocates are losing the rhetorical war.

As an aside, two kingdom advocates are rarely liberals; they aren’t secret agents of the Obama administration asserting a theological theme as a pretense to liberalize conservative American Protestantism.  They are largely (but not uniformly) conservative; they just don’t want their politics or anyone else’s politics to be, as it were, stapled to the back of the church’s confessions.

They don’t want any confession-apocrypha for a number of reasons.  Liberty of conscience is one important reason, but, unfortunately most conservative Protestants think liberty of conscience was once-for-all achieved in the Protestant break from Rome.  The second reason is actually more central: it’s about the church.

The church, simply put, is not a means for the greater ends of political and social progress.  Her task is greater: to preach the gospel and the way of sanctification.  The “world” will be better off because of what happens in the church, but the world does not set her agenda.  When the world sets the church’s agenda in the form of the “correct” candidates, constitutional amendments, and legislation, the church’s mission is impaired.  When the church is identified with partisan politics, those who don’t share those politics will see the church as their enemy and stay away from the gospel.  When the church is filled with politics, there will be either political dissension within her doors or an artificial concord achieved by shunning naysayers.

So, while a catchy name for the anti-2ks wouldn’t hurt, it’s more important to emphasize the heart of the two kingdom perspective: it’s the church, stupid.


Filed under Spirituality of the Church, Two Kingdom

19 responses to “It’s the Church, Stupid

  1. Richard

    I assume “r” means “radical.”

  2. Eric

    I’m an anti-2ker and I believe that your characterization of the anti-2ker is probably unfair. Could you possibly offer up some examples from the pulpit of the anti-2ker camp that would better illustrate this trend of using the pulpit for “political” agendas? Also could you offer up an analysis of why it would be wrong to teach in the pulpit on a political topic (if Scripture speaks to a particular issue)? Also do you consider it wrong to have Sunday School lessons that would touch on this subject matter or would do you only reject biblical application to social thought during the actual service?
    In Christ,

    • why it would be wrong to teach in the pulpit on a political topic (if Scripture speaks to a particular issue)

      Eric, I don’t know where the Scripture tells us to vote for Rick Santorum, push for a constitutional amendment on marriage, or vote for a particular drafting of pro-life legislation. It’s a big step from the ten commandments to particular political issues. So your “if” is the key.

      Also do you consider it wrong to have Sunday School lessons that would touch on this subject matter or would do you only reject biblical application to social thought during the actual service?

      I’m not sure what you include in “application to social thought.” In general, there’s a little more slack in Sunday School but it’s still a ministry of the church and, as such, shouldn’t distract the church with political legalisms.

      I’m an anti-2ker

      I’m glad the US Supreme Court is 2k. (See my latest entry) So in your 1K world, do you banish Mitt Romney to Rhode Island?

      • Eric

        Yes thats right Mr. Mann, that is exactly what us anti-2kers are proclaiming, i.e. that the Bible specifically tells us in every single situation the exact candidate to vote for! Oh and the Bible also speaks to the U.S. Constitution directly! (Please note my tongue planted in cheek).

        No sir, that is not what my position. I hold to a confessional view of the general equity of God’s law not only for our ecclesiastic and personal lives, but also for civil magistrates (see Romans 13).

        When the leaders in the church abandon God’s revealed law for a so-called natural law (one that somehow contradicts revealed law) that is the heretical position. This heretical position is one that declares that the law that is now written on our hearts is now somehow different than the law that was inscripturated by that same Holy Spirit thousands of years ago.

        The church has abandoned her responsibility to teach the whole counsel of God. The Word of God does not only speak of soteriology. When a man comes to know his position as redeemed in Christ he recognizes that he is serving a new master. That Master has rules and laws to live by and they are not compartmentalized into his personal and ecclesiastical life alone. No they touch on every area of life. His mind is being transformed and renewed as he takes every thought captive to Christ.

        You ask me what I would do with Mitt Romney, I would tell you that Scripture labels men who do not fear the living God as “fools.” So as a Christian I would not vote for someone who is a “fool.” Any candidate who does not profess Christ among other qualifications should not receive a vote from any Christian. Unfortunately because of the utter lack of principled Christian leaders informing their congregations of these simple biblical truths we are where we are today.

        May God have mercy and tear down this antinomianism within His Bride.

        Sincerely in Christ

      • Eric, General Equity wasn’t an officer in WWII. Wasn’t Chapter 23 of your confession revised?

        On your principles it’s not enough to refrain from voting for Mitt Romney. If he can’t be a church member, he can’t be a citizen in 1K.

        that the Bible specifically tells us in every single situation the exact candidate to vote for!

        Next time you visit explain what it did tell us. And, if it doesn’t tell us to vote for Gingrich or Santorum, I’m wondering what kind of principles do differentiate them. If they aren’t from the Bible, then I guess you can join the heretics in making decisions that can’t claim to be directed by the scriptures.

      • Eric

        In my fairly short study of this debate between anti-2k and 2k or R2kers, I am a bit perplexed. The 2kers are saying that the Bible is not sufficient to speak to the “common” kingdom. But that does not stop them from appealing to “natural law” for their politics. I scratch my head at this. Is it the case that 2kers hold that the general equity found in the case laws and summarized in the 10 commandments of the Old Testament are in contradiction to what has been written on the hearts of men under the New Covenant? Do 2kers believe that they are so sanctified that they have license to determine the correct interpretation of natural law apart from the lens of reveal law? This in my opinion seems to be the opposite of the Reformed tradition. How is that 2kers that hold to the doctrine of total depravity can turn around and assume that, apart from Scripture, they can somehow define justice in a society? How is it that a 2ker would not be guilty of being arbitrary in their ethical choices following the “common grace” model of Kline…

      • Eric, this is very helpful on understanding the confessional idea of “equity:”

        The Westminster Divines lived in a legal context in which law and equity were clearly distinguished. In the late middle ages, the English court system had become separated into two types of courts: law courts and equity courts.(2) The law courts decided cases according to the Common Law. If no statute law clearly applied, the common law judge was required to make his decision according to the nearest applicable law. No discretion was permitted to the common law judge. Obviously, this frequently led to injustice-especially when the law was not intended to be used for such cases. But if a man believed himself to be wronged, he could appeal to the Court of Chancery, where the Chancellor would decide his case (other equity courts included the Mayor’s Court in London and courts of request throughout England). In fact, as Plucknett puts it, “The judges had to admit in several cases that their rules actually favoured iniquity at the expense of the righteous, and themselves advised the chancellor to give equitable relief.”(3) The Chancellor was not bound by the Common Law. He was bound merely by equity-a system of principles of justice that enabled him to decide a case when the law did not directly apply. A good Chancellor had to train his conscience in these principles so that he could make wise and equitable decisions. Naturally his decisions would often be controversial (and he would frequently be accused of twisting the law), but few people objected to the system itself because all agreed that there had to be some place for equity. Invariably there are times when the law does not directly apply, because no law has ever been devised that covers every conceivable situation.

      • Eric

        Mikel, doesn’t this concede the argument? The divines were applying the Law as well as general equity, insofar as it could be reasonably discerned, to what 2kers consider the “common” kingdom. Is this not a big taboo for the 2ker? Isn’t that the issue? The R2ker does not believe in the continuity of the OT law into the NT era, is this not the case?

      • If the two choices are being bound by the commandments or proceeding according to equity, I don’t see how it helps you that equity is the guide of magistrate. Equity proceeds from the moral law written on the minds of men.
        But let’s get concrete: tell me how the Bible differentiates among the Republican candidates, what it tells us about tax reform, and how it directs our energy policies. Or how it instructs the construction worker and engineer. Does it tell Tim Tebow to make his throwing mechanics more like Tom Brady’s? I’m inviting you to the land of Letsgetreal.

      • Eric

        Mikel, you are misrepresenting the thesis. You seem to be attempting a reductio by using the Tebow/Brady illustration however, that is a category error. I have seen it before, usually it goes something like “the Bible does not tell us how to do surgery, fix my car engine, and brush my teeth… so therefore it follows that the Bible can’t be appealed to for statecraft.” There is a distinction between law, sanctions, justice and a mechanic, carpenter, doctor. The distinction is between morality in economics, law, sanctions and one of mechanics/vocation.

        Mikel, I do not profess to have all of the answers to the application of the Law of God as it speaks to statecraft. That proves nothing. Just because it may be very difficult and require great wisdom, caution, discernment, and (gasp) even debate, to properly apply God’s law to the current ethical dilemmas of our day does not mean that we therefore abandon the thesis. What is the alternative? Will the ethical dilemmas go away once we abandon the “silly notion” that God’s law speaks to statecraft and ethics? Absolutely not! The issue is still there only we are left to the arbitrary and inconsistent ethics of depraved men. Paul makes clear that the Jews were at an advantage because they received the Oracles of God, the New Israel has that advantage as well, why would we discard them in favor of vain philosophy or the traditions of men.

        Again I ask, do 2kers hold that the “natural law” of the New Covenant is at odds or contradicts the revealed law found in the Old Testament? To clarify I am not speaking of the ceremonial law.

        I would like to invite you to the land of letsgetreal, is it “just” to execute a rapist? If not why? Is capital punishment “just” for murders? If not why? Is creating fiat money ethical? How does so-called natural law answer these fairly straight forward issues? Where in your heart do you find “justice” defined? Romans 13 ordains civil magistrates to wield the sword against “evil”, where in the law that is written on your heart do you determine what is “evil?”

        Sincerely in Christ,

      • Eric, my current interest is “what does it deliver?” as in the posting on Does Worldview Deliver Presidents. If worldview makes all the difference in the world and we must apply scriptures to all situations, it should be easy enough to show that such application actually yields results. But the scriptures aren’t there to tell us whether to subsidize ethanol or whether Cain’s 999 plan is really the 666 plan.

        Again I ask, do 2kers hold that the “natural law” of the New Covenant is at odds or contradicts the revealed law found in the Old Testament?

        There was general equity in the OT law and then there was specific application to that people in that time and culture with a certain role in God’s progressive revelation. We are not that people, that time, or that culture and we live on the other side of the cross. There remains general equity to inform lawmaking, thus we see a great deal of overlap in the criminal laws of many otherwise diverse countries as they wield the Romans 13 sword against evil.

        Where in your heart do you find “justice” defined? Romans 13 ordains civil magistrates to wield the sword against “evil”, where in the law that is written on your heart do you determine what is “evil?”

        I think you’re trying too hard. Judges still rule in courts of equity, make no appeal to Moses, and yet rule quite justly. If presented with various scenarios, you and your religiously indifferent neighbor would have a large area of overlap on what is just. WCF 20:4 mentions acts contrary to the “light of nature.” I take it you deny that there is a light of nature, but I think you depend on strangers having a certain light of nature every day in your dealings with the world. Otherwise leaving the house every morning would be frightening.

  3. Eric

    Mikel, who are you to determine if a certain Judge is or is not ruling justly? Do you really believe that you are the determiner of what is justice apart from an ultimate standard? Are you a law unto yourself? The “light of nature” assumes Moses! You don’t have general revelation without special revelation! How is that not obvious? Do you think the sodomite is going to interpret the “light of nature” the same way a Mormon is, or a Muslim, or a Christian? The fact that unregenerate men use the borrowed capital of the Christian worldview says nothing other than that Romans 1 is true, and thus God’s word is true. Every man on the planet knows his Creator but he suppresses that truth in unrighteousness. The fact that unregenerate men sometimes get justice correct only proves the point that without the work of Christ and without a biblical worldview which informs the “light of nature” we are left with autonomous tyranny.

    • Eric, I’m familiar with the worldview script, but it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee with respect to two huge problems. Number one, there are so many issues it doesn’t resolve. Number two, there is so much of your life that you live without doing moment-by-moment scripture application. You need to resolve this tension between worldview and worldreal. A concept such as the light of nature doesn’t have that tension.

      • Eric

        I suppose I’ll leave this discussion with “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

        I would encourage you to study Bahnsen and Gentry’s discussions on continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. I have found them helpful. I thought Dr. Gentry’s ‘Covenant Theonomy’ was very good.

        I assume you are decades ahead of me in your reading and comprehension, but this is where I am. May God continue a good work in you and I.

        In Christ,

      • Yes, the scriptures are profitable and necessary for our salvation and sanctification. They just aren’t intended to say everything about everything.
        I’ve been down the Rushdoony and Bahnsen road. They tied me up in dilemmas that are resolved in 2k.
        Feel free to drop in again.

    • Yes, and this kind of thing:

      I saw friends threaten and bully their brothers and sisters in the faith with whom they’ve fought in the trenches with for years on behalf of a candidate they’ve barely known for months, and wouldn’t be taking their calls if they didn’t need them.

      …And that’s just the worst of it. That doesn’t count all the things folks posted on their Facebook walls – myself included – that we’ll probably regret for much longer than those posts lasted.

      …That was especially the case after I saw “friends” of ours stab my wife in the back and even leave our church because they grew tired of me telling them things about the candidate they wanted to support they didn’t want to hear, even though everything I said was true.

      • Richard

        When you get the chance, I’d like to hear about your journey down the Rushdoony/Bahnsen road and how that changed. Eric and others might benefit from that.

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