Category Archives: Two Kingdom
In To Change the World by James Davison Hunter, we have seen a powerful critique of today’s mainstream transformationalism. He rejects efforts to change culture “one worldview at a time” and sets forth both the ineffectiveness and hazards of using political power as a means to cultural change.
But rejecting the most popular means of today are not the same as rejecting the ultimate goals of contemporary transformationalism. Hunter does, at times, reject the idea of “Christian culture” (p. 234) and counsels against the desire to change the world (p. 234), but ultimately Hunter is committed to the transformational quest – he just has a different strategy. Continue reading
Is two kingdom thinking gaining momentum? From sources as diverse as Front Porch Republic and the New York Times, by men affiliated with denominations as diverse as the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Free Church, we get two angles critical of a too-close relationship between church and state.
From Front Porch Republic is an article about the West Point cadet who resigned in protest against that institution’s religiosity. Andrew Bacevich, a Catholic, reflects on that decision, and wonders if the church is not better off when it is more distinct from the state:
Yet beyond the military realm, the ongoing debate that Mikey is promoting raises questions that call for especially serious reflection. It’s we believers who are not soldiers who ought to reflect. After all, when agents of the state promote religiosity, their primary interest is not necessarily saving souls. Throughout history, states have employed religion to advance their own purposes, which they routinely insist coincide with God’s own. Religion thereby becomes an adjunct of state power. Continue reading
Near the end of Essay II in To Change the World by sociologist James Davison Hunter, he takes up the ideas of illusion, irony, and tragedy. Noting that the public witness of the church has become a political witness and it understands the good of society as a political matter, Hunter endeavors to tell us just what is wrong with that.
First, it is an illusion. The chief illusion is the idea that the state can provide solutions to the ills identified by Christians: Continue reading
To Change the World by sociologist James Davison Hunter has much that is appealing to Two Kingdom advocates in its critique of mainstream transformationalism. Yet it comes with a recommendation by Tim Keller, lauding Hunter for teaching him about “this all-important and complex subject of how culture is changed.” In fact, both sides of the debate can find elements of the book to applaud. This is due to a certain ambiguity in its foundation.
First, Hunter assumes that “The creation mandate inevitably leads Christian believers to a transformative engagement with the culture in which they find themselves.” (p. 94) Is Hunter unaware that this is a fighting issue? He is a sociologist after all. There is just one passing reference to “two kingdom” and the index shows no mention of men commonly associated with the two kingdom view. Notwithstanding those omissions, the thrust of his argument includes elements that are near and dear to the two kingdom perspective:
Let me say further that the best understanding of the creation mandate is not about changing the world at all. It is certainly not about “saving Western Civilization” or “saving America,” “winning the culture war” or anything else like it. Continue reading
Citizen Kane is the story of a man who rose from humble beginnings – like enjoying the simple pleasure of sledding – to become a wealthy power broker. Like Kane, right-wing evangelicals have tasted power. The Reagan days were intoxicating, and Republican candidates thereafter had to court evangelicals first and foremost . There was grand talk of taking the country back, belief in a Moral Majority, and enough political victories to keep hope alive.
But with more recent developments right-wing evangelicals are taking a hard look at the progress of the culture war. For example,
The president of one of the leading Christian-based research organizations in the U.S. says it’s time for believers to re-consider how the church in America should engage a culture that appears to be shifting away from Biblical values. This year’s election results make it obvious that the country is embracing moral views that differ from evangelical Christianity, said LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer.
“We must face the reality that we may be on the losing side of the culture war,” Continue reading
In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth is written by Richard M. Gamble, Hillsdale College professor and Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Today we focus on Ronald Reagan with excerpts you can find in the sixth chapter.
Between 1981 and 1989 Ronald Reagan mentioned the “city on a hill” in more than 20 speeches. Reagan described his vision of the city:
I’ve spoken of the shining city on a hill all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here.
On a trip out of town this weekend I visited another church. There I heard the pastor pray that our leaders would rule according to the Bible. We hear that kind of talk often enough, and it vaguely feels like a good thing to pray, but I was wondering how that would specifically be done. Well, there are plenty issues raised in a presidential debate; how would the Bible be used to answer those questions? So, to facilitate this experiment, I’ve paraphrased the questions from last night’s presidential debate:
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin argues that God makes himself evident in both nature and man himself. God reveals himself so clearly that man is without excuse for not knowing him. However, man suppresses the truth about God and thus needs special revelation to truly understand God.
In speaking this way, Calvin explains knowledge in one realm – the heavenly realm. But there are two realms. Here he explains the difference between the heavenly realm and the earthly realm:
It may therefore be proper, in order to make it more manifest how far our ability extends in regard to these two classes of objects, to draw a distinction between them. The distinction is, that we have one kind of intelligence of earthly things, and another of heavenly things. By earthly things, I mean those which relate not to God and his kingdom, to true righteousness and future blessedness, but have some connection with the present life, and are in a manner confined within its boundaries. By heavenly things, I mean the pure knowledge of God, the method of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom. To the former belong matters of policy and economy, all mechanical arts and liberal studies. To the latter (as to which, see the eighteenth and following sections) belong the knowledge of God and of his will, and the means of framing the life in accordance with them. (2.2.13)
Regarding men thinking on “earthly things,” Calvin sees a kind of universal reason regarding civil order:
…Hence it is that every individual understands how human societies must he regulated by laws, and also is able to comprehend the principles of those laws. Continue reading
There’s an experience common to all sports-television-watching American males. The game comes to a break and a commercial begins. Your face is still pointed at the screen but your mind has gone elsewhere. Through the portals of your eyes come images: a fast car, a sleek woman, and a confident smile. If you were asked one minute later what was being advertised, you wouldn’t be able to answer. But later, for reasons unknown to you, there you are buying a new aftershave or razor or brand of beer – and feeling good about it – along with a subliminal expectation that the fast car, sleek woman, and confident smile will be forthcoming. That’s the theory anyway, as advertisers strive to associate images and emotions with their product.
But it’s not only commercials that use this technique. A similar thing can be happening in any given speech or essay. Or it might be happening in a blog associated with Reformed Theological Seminary.