Four Months of Silence and a Thought on Two Kingdoms

I’ve been quiet since February. Blog posts were scarce, formal articles even more so. Not only that, I turned off my Facebook notifications and was silent in the RL group, in which I’m normally quite active. I didn’t read a single book or reflect on anything of real substance. In short, it was a time of rest and recovery from a major burnout. It was very good for me and I feel refreshed. In the meantime, I focused all my energy on my business, achieved some tremendous results with that, and even moved my family a town over– which was a tremendous blessing, we are extremely happy with that.

If there was one thing that was bogging me down prior to my break, it was a growing restlessness on the question of the relationship between a Christian worldview and political/social change. In years past, I’d been clear about certain epistemological concerns with the recently popular 2 kingdoms school of thought– preferring a form of Presuppositionalism (which should never, ever, be confused with Van Tillianism, a camp I am growing increasingly tired of). At the same time, I’ve also been quite clear that I deny one-kingdom thinking and agree with the two-kingdoms folks that there is a sharp distinction between the secular and the religious; or more precisely, between the elect/church and the non-Christians. I’m not sure how many long time readers of this site realize the emphasis that I now put on the two-kingdoms view. To be certain, I still to believe that the ultimate justification for philosophical conclusions lies in the Christian system (properly defined, of course [whose Christian system?]).

My reading prior to the break consisted of a lot of DG Hart, someone who many theonomists and neoKuyperians likely can’t stand. But I’ve very much come to love the secular-Christian distinction that he puts forward, small areas of dissent (or clarification) notwithstanding. As Christians, we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, which is not to be confused with the temporary and physical “kingdoms” of the here and now. We are citizens along with other Christians in the heavenly kingdom, but we are also citizens along with Christians and non-Christians in the earthly kingdom. These are our communities, our neighborhoods and we are to participate in them with the freedom of pursuing non-religious ends. We can grow our wealth, protect the culture we love, enjoy many types of activities, without having to Christianize and spiritualize everything.

In his book Secular Faith, Hart includes a theme with which I agree more now than I did several years ago: Christianity doesn’t need to be a tool for cultural or political ends. Christianity is the philosophical framework by which we understand things and interpret the world, but it’s perfectly fine to have cultural values and goals without having to spiritualize everything. Not only is it a path to the corruption of political freedom, but it is also the path to undermining Christianity itself. Christianity certainly affects the way we live in the here and now, for all action starts in the mind. But it is not against the tenants of Christianity to have various secular (non-religious) ends: the food we like, the sports we play, the neighborhoods we build, the cultural habits we are attracted to.

And while I do think that a Christian philosophical system best supports ethical and epistemological theory, I don’t think one needs the Christian faith in order to agree on topics such as economics and political liberty. It is a matter of plain fact that there are non-Calvinists, non-Protestants, non-Christians, who hold the same conclusions regarding the free market. Perhaps the Christian system is needed to ultimately justify these things, or at least put them in a more rational context, but one doesn’t need to convert someone to Christianity before making the case for Austrian economics, property rights, or the non-aggression principle. In aiming for a better world, in aiming for a more prosperous society, there are Christians and non-Christians alike who have these goals. We are all part of the second, secular kingdom and we can all share in the fruit of the pursuit of liberty. Questions of political freedom are secular (even if their justification is Christian) because they concern members of the second kingdom which is not limited to the elect. In this way, pro-liberty secularists are more preferable than anti-liberty religionists.