Friday, January 17, 2014

Unbalanced "Two Kingdoms" and Political Campaigns

Prof. Clark has a couple of posts up praising Ben Sasse and even including one of his political campaign advertisements ("Ben is a Straight Shooter" | "Ben is Speaking Up About Religious Liberty"). Personally, I can't vouch for Mr. Sasse (nor do I have any particular criticisms), and that's not the point of this post.

Among other things, Clark writes:
So, in light of the drift of the culture and the Christian accommodation to that drift, it has been interesting to watch Ben Sasse’s campaign for the U. S. Senate from Nebraska.
I appreciate Clark's concern against Christian accommodation of the culture. At the same time, that's one of the problems with an unbalanced view of the two kingdoms. It is an accommodation to the cultural norm that the state is to be "secular" rather than being normed by Scripture.

One of the ironies of the posts is that posts like these, which appear to be stumping for a particular candidate, would appear to violate the principles of the Darryl Hart-type unbalanced two kingdoms view. One of the commenters presented this issue, and in response Clark asked:
What about the twofold kingdom means that Christians cannot engage the civil realm?
and again
Now, once more, what is it about the twofold kingdom that prevents Christians from observing and commenting on the civil/political sphere?
I wasn't the commenter in question, so Clark wasn't asking me. I would respond that the more unbalanced forms don't say that people (who happen to be Christians) cannot engage the civil realm, observe the civil/political sphere, or comment on the civil/political sphere. Nevertheless, it does prevent them from doing so as Christians, bringing Christian doctrine and specifically the Bible to bear. In other words, in the so-called R2K system, a Christian cannot comment as a Christian, only as a person. Prof. Clark is not commenting on Ben as one might talk about a particularly skilled quarterback (or simply one wearing the right jersey) but rather he appears to be bringing Biblical principles to bear on the situation (as well he should! and good for him!) This does not seem consistent with the more unbalanced views of the two kingdoms.

For example, recall that Hart wrote:
Christianity is essentially a spiritual and eternal faith, one occupied with a world to come rather than the passing and temporal affairs of this world.
(p. 12 of A Secular Faith) Frame explains, Hart "is opposed not only to the church taking political positions, but even to individual Christians claiming biblical authority for their political views." (Escondido Theology, p. 248)

Contrary to what Hart seems to think (based on his book), the Scriptures have a lot to say about the passing and temporal affairs of this world, even though this is our pilgrimage with the best life yet to come. An error of an unbalanced view of the two kingdoms is creating a dichotomy between them rather than recognizing that the civil magistrate is a minister of God who ought to be normed by the Word of the God of whom he is the minister. Another error is like to it - treating all aspects of this life the same whether the Bible has said much (for example, good laws) or little (for example, plumbing, air conditioning, or pharmacology). Yes, the Bible is not principally concerned with teaching us how to roll aluminum foil quite flat without making it so thin it accidentally tears. The Bible is not principally concerned with teaching us how to build a controlled fusion reactor. But there are oodles of teachings regarding what sort of laws are good. There are oodles of teachings on marriage and family - on the raising of children, and so forth.



c.t. said...

I always think in terms of liberty vs. tyranny when seeing the relevance of Christian beliefs in regard to politics and so on. Liberty, for instance, enables the proclaiming of the gospel, and of evangelism, all the way down to just being able to print or own a Bible. Yes, in times of tyranny the faith can grow stronger and be more valued, but that is hardly something you court.

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