Misrepresenting 2K… Again


Two-Kingdom’s Theology has come under fire yet again, and as has continued to be the case, it’s opponents are unable to fairly present what it’s proponents teach. Bill Evans recently posted this blog critiquing 2K theology. Dr. Anthony Bradley, (Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics at The King’s College), whom I follow on Twitter, posted this:

Which engendered a bit of a twitter conversation between the two of us. I responded saying that Evans’ post is a Straw Man of 2K theology. Bradley dismissed my lack of credentials and willingness to respond to his support of Evans’ blog post. I’m not here to defend my credentials or lack thereof, but to show Dr. Bradley that Evans post so overtly misrepresents the 2K position, that even an uneducated person such as I can see the fault with it.

Evans does a fairly good job outlining the main tenants of 2K theology and then goes on to say that

According to 2K advocates, such thinking is firmly rooted in the Christian tradition, and four key sources are often cited.

I will only address the first point. D.G. Hart has addressed several of the other points (and is in a better position to critique the historical aspects than I). Evans’ attempts to show that 2K theologians use Augustine’s City of God as a historical source and articulation (albeit rudimentary) of 2K theology. Sadly, Evans links and cites no sources where any 2K theologian (Van Drunen, Horton, Hart, et al.) use this source in such a way. Though there are certainly overlaps, VanDrunen, in his book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, asserts there are distinctions between the two, and actually tries to protect against the very conclusion Evans’ is trying to say 2K theologians assert:

To  clarify, one matter for readers who may be interested, I do not believe that Augustine’s “two cities” refers to the same thing as the “two kingdoms” that I discuss in this book. Both are biblical concepts and both should be affirmed, but the they do not describe identical realities. In short, Augustine, in The City of God described two cities, one consisting of true believers and destined for eternal blessing, and the other consisting of unbelievers and destined for eternal condemnation. Each person is a citizen of one city, and one city only, though the two cities necessarily intermingle in this present world. The Reformed tradition from which I write, has understood both of the two kingdoms as God’s. God rules all things, but rules the affairs of this world in two fundamentally different ways. Christians are therefore citizens of two “kingdoms” but one “city” [1]

Further, Evans’ writes:

[Augustine] recognized that the inhabitants of the earthly city can accomplish relative goods, and he also believed that the efforts of Christians to better society can achieve real, if limited, results.  Moreover, Augustine encouraged a public role for distinctively Christian virtues, even arguing that temporal rulers should suppress idolatry.

First, 2K theology primarily wants to distinguish an individual Christian’s cultural activities from the Church’s cultural activities. Evans’ seems to use the terms interchangeably, which is part of the problem. No 2K theologian or adherent (that I know of ) disagrees that individual Christians (or even Christians working together civilly) can accomplish relative goods in society and culture. The problem comes when we try to call those activities “redemptive” and “Christian” or argue that the Church should be ‘renewing’ or ‘redeeming’ culture. 2K theologians argue that there isn’t anything particularly “Christian” about advocating for better political system or giving people justice. This is part and parcel of being human, created in God’s image.

Secondly, Evans’ seems to assume that 2K proponents don’t believe Christians “can accomplish relative goods” or “that the efforts of Christians to better society can achieve real, if limited, results”. This is a patently false assumption about 2K theology and it’s proponents. No 2K theologian argues this contrary point, and would agree with the first to points.

Evans’ continues on to assert that

…the kingdom of God and the institutional church are wrongly equated by 2K advocates.  There is a rough consensus among New Testament scholars that the kingdom of God is a much more comprehensive reality than the institutional church, and this misidentification of the church and the kingdom has all sorts of unfortunate results, such as confusion over the nature of “kingdom work” and the silencing of Christians from speaking to societal issues.

Again, Evans’ just asserts that 2K theologians “equate the church and the kingdom of God”. I am not aware that such an equation is made by 2K theologians. There is a direct correlation between the two and access to the kingdom only comes through the Church and is purely spiritual.

VanDrunen repeatedly states in Living in God’s Two Kingdoms that “the Church is the only institution that can be identified with the kingdom proclaimed by Christ” [2].  VanDrunen at no point equates the Church and the Kingdom; he strongly identifies one with the other, and access to the one (the kingdom) is through the other (the Church), but at no point does he say or imply the Church is the kingdom. He certainly draws the direct correlation between the two, but nothing in VanDrunen would violate the “rough consensus” among New Testament scholars that “the kingdom is a much more comprehensive reality than the institutional church”. Additionally, a phrase like “much more comprehensive” begs the question – of course 2K theology doesn’t work if you’ve previously defined the kingdom[s] in ways that de facto rule them out.

Bill Evans’ assertion that 2K theology leads to “the silencing of Christians from speaking to societal issues” is simply a bald assertion and shows a stark lack of acquaintance with any of the current 2K proponents:

VanDrunen states:

Among the commonest objections to the two kingdoms doctrine does seem to be that it promotes indifference to the broader life of society or treats the world outside the church as somehow autonomous or morally neutral. I can only say emphatically that that is a false charge and misrepresentation. That is simply not what two kingdoms theology meant historically and certainly not what I mean by it. The common kingdom is God’s kingdom: he rules it, his law governs it, and the whole world is accountable to him. Christians are to participate in it, and should recognize that their various vocations in it are avenues for love and service to their neighbor.

Michael Horton states:

This does not mean that we may not be called to extraordinary—even heroic—acts of service, or (especially in a democratic republic) to exercise our legal rights to defend justice and engage in acts of charity beyond the communion of saints. Thank God for William Wilberforce, who drew on his Christian convictions as he brought the slave trade to an end in England. Thank God for believers who were great scientists and helped to create greater understanding and advances in medicine. But God should also be thanked for the myriad believers who have simply strived to fulfill their everyday callings as parents, neighbors, workers, volunteers, and friends. Abraham Kuyper spoke of the “little people” of the kingdom, citing examples—like a parishioner: the elderly woman who led him to Christ even though he was her pastor but as yet steeped in liberalism. We will still need government and private sector relief agencies, but it would make a big difference in society if Christians spent more time in their ordinary vocations, caring for aging parents and growing (perhaps physically or mentally challenged) children, being good neighbors, and fulfilling their calling at work with remarkable skill and dedication.

A brief perusal of both Darryl Hart & R. Scott Clark’s blogs and writings will also evince that both men are very active contributors to the political and social spheres.

This does not prove that 2K does not lead to civic indifference, but it certainly does imply that it’s current main proponents have either failed to fully implement their theology or in fact the charge that 2K leads to indifference and societal silence is wrong.

So to say that Bill Evans’ uses a straw man to knock down his opponent is not ungrounded. This does not prove that 2K is a correct theology derived from Scripture or history, but it certainly shows that Bill Evans and those who agree with him on his post do not understand 2K Theology.

[1] David VanDrunen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, (2010) footnote 3 of the Introduction;

[2] ibid, chapter 5. Emphasis added

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