27 Propositions and Counter Points Concerning Two Kingdom Theology

Counterpoints in the “two kingdoms” theology discussion

4. The Decalogue was given for the covenant community only.

The Reformed confessions testify the Decalogue was given “to” the covenant community, but is given “for” all men.

5. The provisional and ceremonial aspects of the Decalogue were binding on the O.T. covenant community only.

Generally agreeable, except that the Reformed confessions also testify that the “truth and substance” of the law and prophets and ceremonial law remain today.

 

As a result of discussions on the Puritanboard on recent developments on the nature of the Two Kingdom Theology, Mark Van Der Molen worked out a series of “two kingdoms” propositions drawn in response primarily from the teachings of Dr. David Van Drunen. Van Der Molen is an Indiana lawyer and former elder in the United Reformed Church of North America (URCNA) who has studied the topic for some years.

The development of the propositions arose in Van Der Molen’s discussion with Matthew Tuininga on his blog  Christian in America in May 2012.  The 27 Propositions were developed, refined, and agreed upon by both Van Der Molen and Tuininga as a starting point to discuss the topic. You can read the back and forth discussion from the comments section here to see how they worked the propositions out.

These propositions are certainly open to further clarification and. of course, do not represent every facet or the complete picture of two kingdom theology. Furthermore, Mr. Tuininga indicates his own position is distinct from these “Van Drunen” propositions, and you can find his version on his blog. You can also read Tuininga’s article on natural law here.

In response to some questions, Mark provided an updated series of responses/counter points to the propositions. This list of propositions appeared on the RPCNA Covenanter where the discussion has continued, and is used with permission.  While it is readily acknowledged that some two kingdom proponents may have some disagreements in their exact formulation, this list of propositions, responses, and counterpoints could be beneficial in bringing some clarity to this ongoing discussion.

 

Here are 27 propositions and counter points.

Two kingdoms” propositions with some responses or counterpoints:

1. The moral law is binding on all men everywhere.

No disagreement on this.

2. Natural law is the basic moral standard in the common kingdom.

The Reformed confessions recognize that natural law exists and is a standard, but it is insufficient to order the common kingdom aright independently of special revelation.

3. Natural law is the standard for the civil government’s use of the sword.

The Reformed confessions testify that natural law is a standard, but is insufficient to order the government’s use of the sword aright.

4. The Decalogue was given for the covenant community only.

The Reformed confessions testify the Decalogue was given “to” the covenant community, but is given “for” all men.

5. The provisional and ceremonial aspects of the Decalogue were binding on the O.T. covenant community only.

Generally agreeable, except that the Reformed confessions also testify that the “truth and substance” of the law and prophets and ceremonial law remain today.

6. The moral law as expressed in the Decalogue is binding on all men everywhere.

Generally agreeable, except to the extent this formulation is sometimes used to sever the moral law from its written expression in the Decalogue

7. Scripture is not given as a common moral standard that provides ethical imperatives to all people regardless of their religious standing.

The Reformed confessions testify that the moral imperatives of Scripture are binding on all men everywhere.

8. As an expression of the natural law, the Noahic Covenant’s principle of lex talionis retributive justice governs use of the sword in the common kingdom.

Reformed theology has typically not limited the use of the sword to simply the lex talinios principle, but recognizes that the use of the sword includes justice tempered by mercy.

9. The lex talionis principle is not exact but is approximate, flexible, imprecise, and tempered by forbearance according the wise judgment of those in authority.

This proposition suggests agreement with the counterpoint to #8, but the term “forbearance” does not appear to equate with term “mercy” by two kingdoms proponents. 

10. Principles of mercy and forgiveness do not govern the common kingdom.

Principles of mercy and forgiveness do operate in the common kingdom, if one understands the common kingdom to include families, personal relationships, etc.

11. Principles of mercy and forgiveness govern Christ’s spiritual kingdom.

The Reformed would agree, but add that principles of justice also operate in the spiritual kingdom. 

12. The civil magistrate is to enforce the natural law duties of men toward one another as expressed in the Second Table of the Decalogue, but is not to enforce any natural law duties of men toward God as expressed in the First Table of the Decalogue.

The Reformed confessions testify that the written expression of the Second Table itself is enforced in some respects (not just the natural law represented by the Second table) and further, testify that there are aspects of the First Table that are within the proper sphere of the magistrate.

13. As the Noahic Covenant makes no distinction between believers and unbelievers, the state should not require nor promote any particular religious commitment to norm participation in the social order in the common kingdom.

Reformed theologians have also recognized that the Noahic Covenant did make distinctions between believers and unbelievers (commands and gracious promises to Noah and his family vs. mankind in general) and have denied that the Noahic is strictly a “common grace” covenant with no particular religious commitment to be promoted in the common kingdom.

14. The church is the present institutional manifestation of Christ’s redemptive kingdom.

The Reformed confessions testify that the church is the “chief” manifestation, but not the sole present manifestation of the kingdom.

15. Natural law alone is the sufficient standard for ordering the common kingdom aright.

The Canons of Dort and Belgic Confessions testify that natural law is insufficient to order things civil and natural “aright” due to the noetic effects of sin.

16. The Law delivered at Sinai under the Mosaic Covenant was a republication of the Covenant of Works in effect only during the time of the Israel theocracy.

The Mosaic covenant is in substance and essence an administration of the one covenant of grace. The idea of the Mosaic as a republished covenant of works with a “works principle” actually operating in some mixed or subservient fashion, was an historically minority opinion not codified in of our confessions.

17. The principles embedded in the judicial laws of the Mosaic Covenant are not normative for public policy today, except to the extent they reflect the general equity of natural law.

Generally agreed, except that it would be better to substitute or at least include the word “moral law” for “natural law” for clarity’s sake.

18. The state has no duty or goal to aid the advancement of the spiritual kingdom.

The Reformed confessions testify to the contrary, in that the magistrate is ordained to restrain evil, to promote good, to protect the church, and aid the advance of the gospel. 

19. It is illegitimate to change the institutions of the common kingdom (e.g., the state) to make them conform to distinctively Christian principles (e.g., turn the other cheek).

The Reformed confessions and scripture testify that all men, in whatever station, are to submit to the Lordship of Christ, tearing down strongholds and taking every thought captive to the Lordship of Christ.

20. It is inappropriate to seek the gospel’s transformation of culture into a Christian culture.

See response to #19.

21. Our resurrected body is the only element of creation that will be carried over into the eschatological kingdom.

Reformed theologians have also said that our sanctified/perfected works and the renewed heavens and earth will be part of the eschatological kingdom.

22. The family is part of the common kingdom.

The institution of the family is formed by God and is to be directed to the glory of God. It is agreed that it is an institution shared by unbelievers, but unbelievers misdirect or suppress the direction the institution should take.

23. The Christian is a dual citizen, as a citizen of both the spiritual kingdom and a citizen of the common kingdom.

It is agreeable that we share and interact with unbelievers but the term “kingdom” could confuse if such activities are thought in spatial terms as some “realm” governed by some different king or different ethic. 

24. The unbeliever is a citizen only of the common kingdom.

This is generally agreeable, but with same caveat as #23 on the definition of “kingdom.” 

25. The Christian lives under a dual ethic, namely, the natural law-justice ethic governing life in the common kingdom and the grace-mercy ethic governing life in the spiritual kingdom.

The Reformed confessions and scripture testify we live under a unified Biblical Christian ethic, not a dual- antithetical ethic that depends on which “kingdom” we are operating in. Thus, for example, the Christian family is not guided solely by an ethic of lex talionis justice, but also an ethic of mercy and forgiveness. 

26. The common kingdom pertains to temporal, earthly, provisional matters, not matters of ultimate and spiritual importance. It includes matters of politics, law, and cultural life more generally.

The Reformed confessions do not exclude the kingdom of God as being manifest in these earthly matters of law, politics, and cultural life more generally.

27. The spiritual kingdom pertains to things that are of ultimate and spiritual importance. Insofar as this spiritual kingdom has earthly existence, it is found in the church and not in the state or other temporal institutions.

See comment on #26.

 

You can read the back and forth discussion from the comments section here to see how they worked the propositions out.