Tipping the 2K Burden of Proof

Given the most recent Two Kingdom (2K) skirmishes that started over at Green Baggins and then dispersed to other blogs, it’s time to make some observations about the form of those disputes. To do that, we’re going to borrow the legal term “burden of proof.” Burden of proof refers to which side has to do the proving and the level of proof it has to attain.  Prosecutors have to prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt, plaintiff attorneys have to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence and there are some proceedings that require “clear and convincing” proof, a level that is less than “beyond a reasonable doubt” but more than “preponderance of the evidence.”

For one reason or another, it seems that the burden of proof always falls heavily on 2K. Most recently 2K’s were basically put in the position of having to answer various allegations put forth by John Frame, but there are other reasons why the burden always seems to be on the 2K’s.  First, although the 2K position has deep historical roots, it seems like a new idea in today’s reformed circles. Second, it’s a minority position. Third, there’s the sure-fire rhetorical tactic of mentioning things like abortion, gay marriage, bestiality, rape, or pedophilia (those are all actual examples except for pedophilia, but just wait) with the implication that 2K’s are indifferent to them. Well, that puts 2K’s on the defensive in a hurry and soon the 2K position looks over-subtle, complicated, and amoral.

 In actuality the 2K position is really quite clear insofar as it impacts the church. And here it is: don’t politicize the church. Let the church worship, preach, and administer sacraments without talking about legislation, constitutional amendments, or candidates. We can talk about possible extraordinary cases but, really, it’s a pretty simple position.

What’s complicated is the position of the anti-2K politicizer.  We can start with what seems to be their strongest case for politicizing the church: abortion. Should a church proclaim support for a state’s particular pro-life legislation? Should a church proclaim support for particular federal prolife legislation? But what if a member objects to the language of the state legislation or doesn’t believe the federal government should be involved in abortion? Should that member be disciplined?

Then, if churches begin to proclaim upon specifics in the realm of abortion, can they also make proclamations about other 6th commandment concerns? Perhaps a local session/consistory would come under the conviction that our overseas military involvement involves unjust taking of civilian lives and should be opposed on those grounds. Can they speak thus on behalf of God?

Then we could consider voting for candidates. One man votes to re-elect President Obama because he believes a welfare state tends to do justice to the orphan and the widow, and, moreover, believes that re-electing a black candidate will tend to greater justice for blacks. But, of course, President Obama is pro-choice. Should that man come under discipline?

Finally, consider elected officials themselves. Think of an elected official who has the power to veto pro-life legislation and does so. His rationale for the veto is that he would be breaking his vow to uphold the constitution by signing legislation inconsistent with Roe v. Wade. Shall that magistrate be disciplined?

See, it’s not about being pro-life or not – it’s about the complexity of political issues and the limits of church authority. And these tough questions are responsive to what is seemingly one of the easier issues to resolve on a purely moral level.  When the burden of proof is shifted in this way – requiring the anti-2K to give details on just how we should politicize the church – it’s a very different conversation.


Filed under Church, evangelical politics, Spirituality of the Church, Two Kingdom

7 responses to “Tipping the 2K Burden of Proof

  1. Richard

    Is this even a 2K issue? It seems something like this would fall within a “spirituality of the church” issue. The church doesn’t even have the authority to speak to these matters since Scripture is silent on the specifics–which goes also to the church’s ministerial authority.

    • Yes, Richard, it is pretty much the SOTC but perhaps from a different angle.
      Transformationalism in full bloom is polticization of the church. And, really, if there are univocal “Christian” positions on such things the Church could and should enforce them. But there isn’t and she shouldn’t.

  2. But when the simple point about not politicizing the church is made, the retort is that this is mere cliche and needs further defining. Which strikes me as pedantic as claiming that “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth” is just as cliche.

  3. Steve

    Churches “remaining silent” is what led to Hitler in Germany. At best it just makes the church look hypocritical and irrelevant.

    Obviously you just want your church to be a “Feel Good” church. You want them to just go around singing songs and the like. Funny, my reading of scripture never had our Lord going around singing songs. No, he upset a lot of people.

    By the way does your church leader wear a sweater?

    • Steve, I have a rule about Hitler: anyone who invokes him loses the argument. But you didn’t know that rule, so I’ll call that strike one. Then it is “obvious” that I am from a “Feel Good” church. That would be strike two, although we feel good about expository preaching and reverent worship. Finally, pastors in my denomination tend to wear suits that don’t draw a lot of attention, so that’s strike three on my “church leader” wearing sweaters.

      But, if you want to interact so that both of us learn something, you can answer the questions I have asked in this posting.

  4. Richard

    Steve is also wrong historically. What “led to Hitler in Germany” was, in part, churches with a liberal theology which had no problems actively identifying the church with a warped German culture of Aryan superiority. And my pastor wears a Genevan gown–which distinguishes him from others and our culture. We also don’t have an American flag in our church–which was one of the marks distinguishing the German Confessing Churches from the state church which just loved political involvement.

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