Horton’s “Contrived Empire”

It can be rather difficult to sift through the various political theologies in reformed circles, largely because so much of it involves understanding the views of reformed theologians of the past. While I agree with some of the aspects of the “Radical” Two Kingdoms theology from men like VanDrunen and Horton (I strongly reject their use of natural law), I often find their analysis of history to be rather frustrating. For example, the following is an excellent statement from Horton:

When Jesus Christ arrived, He did not revive the Sinai theocracy as His contemporaries had hoped. Instead of driving out the Romans, He commanded love for our enemies. Gathering the new Israel — Jew and Gentile — around Himself, by His Spirit, through Word and sacrament, Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of grace that will be manifested one day as a kingdom of glory. In this time between His two comings the wheat grows together with the weeds, the sons of thunder are rebuked for calling down judgment here and now on those who reject their message, and the faithful gather regularly for the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42). Through its administration of Gospel preaching, baptism, the Supper, prayer, and discipline, the church is God’s new society inserted into the heart of the secular city as a witness to Christ and the age to come when He will be all in all.

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

The problem, however, is that he wants to attribute that view to Calvin, Luther, and all of the reformed tradition. In reality, however, Horton is echoing Roger Williams’ view (and arguments). Williams was a Separatist Puritan who wrote an anonymous pamphlet in 1644 titled “Queries of Highest Consideration,’ presented to the Dissenting Brethren, and the Westminster Assembly“. William Orme, in his Memoirs of life, writings, and religious connections of John Owen, notes

The great body of the British Puritans, after all they had suffered from it, were far from seeing the evil of persecution. Most of them appear to have believed in the lawfulness of supporting the true religion by coercive and restraining measures. To the Brownists [Separatists] are to be ascribed the first correct views of religious liberty; and from them, and the Baptist and Paedo-baptist Independents who sprung from them, every thing that appeared on this topic for many years came. (99)

Queries of Highest Consideration

Orme notes that Williams’ pamphlet “contains the most accurate statements on the distinct provinces of civil and spiritual authority” (100). In the tract, Williams said to Parliament

[C]oncerning souls, we will not (as most do) charge you with the loads of all the souls in England, Scotland, Ireland: we shall humbly affirm, and (by the help of Christ) maintain, that the bodies and goods of the subject is your charge… You will please to say: ‘We are constantly told and we believe it, that religion is our first care, and reformation of that our greatest task.’…

We shall in all humble reverence suggest our fears [doubts] that for the very laws and statutes of England’s Parliaments concerning religion… the Lord Jesus hath drawn this sword, that’s daily drunk with English blood.

It shall never be your honor to this or future ages, to be confined to the patterns of either French, Dutch, Scotch, or New-English Churches. We humbly conceive some higher act concerning religion attends and becomes your consultations. If he whose name is Wonderful Counselor be consulted and obeyed according to his last will and testament we are confident you shall exceed the acts and patterns of all neighbor nations; highly exalt the name of the Son of God; provide for the peace of this distressed state, engage the souls of all that fear God, to give thanks and supplicate for you; further the salvation of thousands, and leave the sweet perfume of your names, precious to all succeeding generations. (14-16)

In other words: you’ve misunderstood the kingdom of Christ according to the New Covenant. Don’t be like the other nations. Put away the sword, or history (and Michael Horton) will look down upon your mistake. Moving on to address the “Assembly of Divines” he questions

[I]f the honorable Houses (the representatives of the Common-weale) shall erect a spiritual court, for the judging of spiritual men and spiritual causes (although a new name be put upon it) whether or no such a court is not in the true nature and kind of it, an High Commission? And is not this a reviving of Moses and the sanctifying of a new land of Canaan, of which we hear nothing in the Testament of Christ Jesus, nor of any other holy nations, but the particular church of Christ? (1 Pet 2:9)

Is not this to subject this holy nation, this heavenly Jerusalem, the wife and spouse of Jesus, the pillar and ground of truth, to the vain uncertain and changeable mutations of this present evil world? (Querie II)…

Since the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, by whom (though God spake diverse times and diverse ways to the Fathers) he hath now revealed his counsel in these last times, Heb 1. We Querie, where you now find one footstep, print or pattern in this doctrine of the Son of God for a national holy covenant, and so consequently (though we conceive the one of you stumble at it) a national church? Where find you evidence of a whole nation, country, or kingdom converted to the faith and of Christ’s appointing of a whole nation or kingdom to walk in one way of religion?

If you repaire to Moses, consult with Moses and the old covenant or testament, we ask, are you Moses or Christ’s followers? Or do you yet expect the coming of the Son of God to set up the Christian Israel, the holy nation, the particular congregation of Christian worshippers, in all parts of the world? (1 Pet 2. Heb 12, etc)… The doctrine of Christ Jesus tells us that, Acts 10:35 That in every nation he that fears God, etc, not every nation that fears God. Christ Jesus tells us that his church may come together to break bread in one place, 1 Cor 11. which nations and countries cannot possibly do: Christ Jesus tells us that his congregation is now the common-weale of Israel, invested with the true Kingly power of the Lord Jesus to put forth every wicked person (though King or Keysar) from amongst them. (Querie VII)…

Whether, although (as is expressed) the godly in the 3 kingdoms [England, Scotland, Ireland] desire a Reformation: yet since the Lamb of God and Prince of Peace hath not in his testament given us a pattern, precept, or promise for the undertaking of a civil war for his sake: we querie how with comfort to your souls you may encourage the English treasure to be exhausted and the English blood to be spilt for the cause of Christ? We readily grant the civil magistrate armed by God with a civil sword (Rom 13) to execute vengeance against robbers, murderers, tyrants, etc. Yet where it merely concerns Christ we find when his disciples desire vengeance upon offenders, Luke 9, he meekly answers “You know not what spirit you are of. I came now to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” If ever there were cause for the servants of Christ Jesus to fight it was then when (not his truth or servants or ordinances, but) his own most holy person was in danger, Matt 26, yet then, that Lamb of God checks Peter beginning to fight for him, telling him “that all that take the sword shall perish by the sword” for with one request to his Father he could have been rescued by more than 12 legions of angels: He renders the reason of his unwillingness to have fighting for his sake, which was his Father’s good pleasure in the fulfilling of Scripture: Unto which also may be added John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world, if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered”.

If it be said his kingdom then was not of this world, but now it is or shall be: then was the hour of his suffering, but now of his servants reigning: we querie, what filling up of the sufferings of Christ Paul speaks of, Col 1. when he mentioneth that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ? What means that general rule of the Lord Jesus, Luke 9 “If any man will follow me, let him take up his cross or gibbet” and that of Paul, 2 Tim 4 “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution?” (Querie VIII)…

Sounds pretty two kingdoms to me. It sounds a lot like Horton. But it was written against the Westminster Assembly.

The Wheat and the Tares

Note Horton’s appeal to the parable of the wheat and the tares and Jesus’ rebuke of the sons of thunder. Williams’ short pamphlet in 1644 was followed by a very lengthy exchange with John Cotton, spanning several books back and forth. A central focus of Williams’ rebuke of Cotton (and by implication the Assembly) was an appeal to this parable. In fact, Williams’ first book “The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussedbegins with this:

Whether persecution for cause of conscience be not against the doctrine of Jesus Christ, the King of kings. The scriptures and reasons are these:

1. Because Christ commandeth that the tares and the wheat, which some understand are those that walk in the truth and those that walk in lies, should be let alone in the world and not plucked up until the harvest, which is the end of the world. Matt xiii. 30, 38, etc…

3. Again, Luke ix. 54, 55, he reproved his disciples who would have had fire come down from heaven and devour these Samaritans who would not receive Him, in these words: “Ye know not of what Spirit ye are; the son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (10)

John Cotton’s response was representative of the reformed tradition Williams was arguing against.

Object 1. Because Christ commandeth to let alone the tares and wheat to grow together unto the harvest, Matt xiii. 30, 38.

Answ. Tares are not brairs and thorns, but partly hypocrites, like unto the godly, but indeed carnal, as the tares are like to wheat, but are not wheat; or partly such corrupt doctrines or practices as are indeed unsound, but yet such as come very near the truth (as tares do to the wheat), and so near, that good men may be taken with them; and so the persons in whom they grow cannot be rooted out but good will be rooted up with them. And in such a case Christ calleth for toleration, not for penal prosecution, according to the third conclusion.

Object. 3 In Luke ix. 54, 55 Christ reproveth his disciples, who would have had fire come down from heaven to consume the Samaritans, who refused to receive Him.

Object 4. And Paul And Paul teacheth Timothy, not to strive, but to be gentle towards all men, suffering evil patiently.

Answ. Both these are directions to ministers of the gospel, how to deal, not with obstinate offenders in the church that sin against conscience [which was Cotton’s view of the civil magistrate’s duty in England and New-England], but either with men without, as the Samaritans were, and many unconverted Christians in Crete, whom Titus, as an evangelist, was to seek to convert : or at best with some Jews or Gentiles in the church, who, though carnal, yet were not convinced of the error of their way. And it is true, it became not the spirit of the gospel to convert aliens to the faith of Christ, such as the Samaritans were, by fire and brimstone ; nor to deal harshly in public ministry, or private conference, with all such contrary-minded men, as either had not yet entered into church-fellowship, or if they had, yet did hitherto sin of ignorance, not against conscience.

But neither of both these texts do hinder the ministers of the gospel to proceed in a church-way against church- members, when they become scandalous offenders either in life or doctrine; much less do they speak at all to civil magistrates. (21)

Williams and Cotton went back and forth on this text several times. Williams summarized the disagreement in his “Queries…” by querying “Whether those tares can possibly be taken for hypocrites in the church, or scandalous persons in the common weal, but are most properly false worshippers and in especial and punctually intended by the Lord Jesus antichristians, the children of the wicked one, opposite the true Christians, the children of the kingdom?” (Querie XII).

George Gillespie chimed in:

III. … I come next to answer the material objections which I have either read or heard (to my best remembrance) alleged against this coercive power of the Magistrate in matters of religion.

1. OBJECTION ONE. First, the parable of the tares is objected:15 Christ will not have the tares to be plucked up, but to grow together with the wheat until the harvest (Matt. 13:29-30). In this argument Mr. Williams in his Bloody Tenet puts a great deal of confidence. But I am as confident to discover the strength of it to be less than nothing. For first he takes the tares to be meant neither of hypocrites in the Church, whether discovered or undiscovered; nor yet of those who are scandalous offenders in their life and conversation, but only of Antichristian idolaters and false worshippers, which is a most false interpretation. Christ himself expounds it generally (v. 38). The good seed are the children of the kingdom: but the tares are the children of the wicked one. And (v. 41), the tares are expounded to be all that offend, and which do iniquity. This being the clear meaning, it will follow undeniably, that if the Magistrate must spare those who are meant by the tares in the parable, then he must spare and let alone all scandalous offenders, murderers, adulterers, drunkards, thieves, etc., when any such are discovered in the visible Church. But this cannot be the meaning of the tares in the parable, says Mr. Williams (ch. 24), that wicked livers, opposite the children of God, should be understood. For then, he says, when Christ says, “Let the tares alone,” he should contradict other ordinances for the punishment of evil doers by the Magistrate.16 But this is a base begging of the question; for he well knew that those against whom he disputes hold that his exposition of the parable contradicts the ordinance of God for punishing idolaters and heretics, the question being whether or not this is not an ordinance as well as the punishment of scandalous livers. Besides, if the tares are Antichristian idolaters, and they must not be plucked up, but suffered to grow till the harvest, as he expounds, this contradicts other Scriptures, which say that the sword must be drawn against Antichristian idolaters, and they thereby cut off (Rev. 13:10 and 17:16).

But I proceed to a second answer. If by tares I should suppose only to be meant idolaters, heretics, and false worshippers (which is a gloss contrary to the text, as I have demonstrated), yet their argument will not conclude their forbearing or sparing of such, except only in such cases, and so far as the true worshippers of God cannot be certainly and infallibly diagnosed from the false worshippers, as the wheat from the tares: as Jehu would not destroy the worshippers of Baal, till he was sure that none of the servants of the Lord were among them (2 Kings 10:23). The reason why the tares are not to be plucked up, is, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them (v. 29). Now when a man is sure that he plucks up nothing but tares, or rather thorns, without the least danger to the wheat, how does the parable strike against his so doing? If M.S. will not believe me, let him believe himself (p. 50), “For my part,” he says, “when the civil Magistrate shall be far enough out of this danger of fighting against God, I have nothing to say against his fighting with superstition, heresy, schism,” etc.

Thirdly, what if I shape yet another answer to the argument out of Mr. Williams’ own words? [In] chap. 27, “I acknowledge,” he says, “this command (Let them alone) was expressly spoken to the messengers or ministers of the gospel, who have not civil power or authority in their hand, and therefore not to the civil Magistrate, King, or Governor.” Now therefore what a blockish argument it is, to reason from this parable against the coercive power of the magistrate in matters of religion? If there must be a forbearance of any severity, we must forbear Church censures and excommunications, a way of rooting out the tares, which Mr. Williams himself justifies as much as we do.

Fourthly, and if the utter extirpation and plucking up of heretics by capital punishments, should be understood to be forbidden in the parable (as it is not), yet the stopping of their mouths, the dissipating and suppressing of them, some other coercive way, is not forbidden, as Chrysostom notes upon the place, whom Euthymius and Theophylactus do follow in this, allowing of coercive, though not capital punishments.

Fifthly, Calvin, Beza, and our best interpreters, take the scope and intent of that parable, not to be against the immoderate severity of Magistrates, but against the immoderate zeal of those who imagine to have the Church rid of all scandalous and wicked persons, as wheat without tares, corn without chaff, a flock of sheep without goats, which has been the fancy of Novatians, Donatists, and Anabaptists. The parable therefore intimates unto us (as Bucerus upon the place expounds it) that when the Magistrate has done all his duty in exercising his coercive power, yet to the world’s end there will be in the Church a mixture of good and bad. So that it is the universal and perfect purging of the Church, which is put off to the last judgment, not the punishment of particular persons. Neither do the servants in the parables ask whether they should pluck up this or that visible tare, but whether they should go and make the whole field rid of them; which field is the general visible Church sowed with the seed of the gospel; and so much for that argument.

Williams’ defense was not the final word (seeing as he was among the first to chart these waters in his day), and Gillespie has some correct nitpicks with it (see Keach for a more thorough treatment). But in general, Williams’ appeal to this text was correct, and so is Horton’s.

But getting back to the original point of all of this, note Gillespie’s appeal to Calvin. Horton said “the church is God’s new society inserted into the heart of the secular city as a witness to Christ” which sounds an awful lot like George Eldon Ladd (baptist), who said:

The meaning of the parable is clear when interpreted in terms of the mystery of the Kingdom: its present but secret working in the world. The Kingdom has come into history but in such a way that society is not disrupted. The sons of the Kingdom have received God’s reign and entered into its blessings. Yet they must continue to live in this age, intermingled with the wicked in a mixed society. Only at the eschatological coming of the Kingdom will the separation take place.

But Calvin, and the reformed tradition following him, disagrees. This passage is frequently quoted by paedobaptists as an argument against credobaptism. According to Calvin, the field is not the world, but the church:

[A]s soon as Christ has gathered a small flock for himself, many hypocrites mingle with it, persons of immoral lives creep in, nay, many wicked men insinuate themselves; in consequence of which, numerous stains pollute that holy assembly, which Christ has separated for himself… In my opinion, the design of the parable is simply this: So long as the pilgrimage of the Church in this world continues, bad men and hypocrites will mingle in it with those who are good and upright, that the children of God may be armed with patience and, in the midst of offenses which are fitted to disturb them, may preserve unbroken stedfastness of faith. It is an appropriate comparison, when the Lord calls the Church his field, for believers are the seed of it; and though Christ afterwards adds that the field is the world, yet he undoubtedly intended to apply this designation, in a peculiar manner, to the Church…

And more directly to our focus:

This passage has been most improperly abused by the Anabaptists, and by others like them, Et semblables reveurs;” — “and similar dreamers.” to take from the Church the power of the sword. But it is easy to refute them; for since they approve of excommunication, which cuts off, at least for a time, the bad and reprobate, why may not godly magistrates, when necessity calls for it, use the sword against wicked men?

That certainly doesn’t sound like Horton’s two kingdoms.


Returning to Horton’s piece, he notes:

Throughout the Middle Ages, the national covenant that Israel made with God at Sinai was regularly invoked as an allegory for Christendom. Crusades against “the infidel” (often Muslims) were declared by popes with the promise of immediate entrance into paradise for martyrs. Kings fancied themselves as king David, leading the armies of the Lord in cleansing the Holy Land. The very idea of a Christian empire or a Christian nation was a serious confusion of these two cities. It was against this confusion of Christ’s kingdom with Israel’s theocracy that Luther and Calvin launched their retrieval of Augustine’s “two kingdoms.”

Recall Williams’ words to the reformed Westminster Assembly (not Rome):

Since the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ…We Querie, where you now find one footstep, print or pattern in this doctrine of the Son of God for a national holy covenant… If you repaire to Moses… we ask, are you Moses or Christ’s followers? Or do you yet expect the coming of the Son of God to set up the Christian Israel, the holy nation, the particular congregation of Christian worshippers, in all parts of the world? (1 Pet 2. Heb 12, etc) (Querie VII)

In regards to holy war, consider the original WCF’s proof text for just war:

Another example comes from the same paragraph, which states that the civil magistrate may “wage war upon just and necessary occasions.” The original divines cited Rev. 17:14, 16, where the “ten kings” turn against the harlot that had ruled her and destroy her and burn her flesh with fire. Notice that this proof text appeared at several key points in the original Confession as justification for the civil magistrate to enforce true worship and to remove idolatry – see proof texts at WCF XX:4 and WLC # 109.

At the time of the English Civil War, the book of Revelation was interpreted by many Puritans as holding the key to church history. Puritan exegesis of Revelation at this time was influenced to a large degree by Joseph Mead’s Clavis Apocalyptica, or The Key of the Revelation, originally published in 1627. Mead’s volume was republished in 1643 with a preface by “Dr. Twisse now prolocutor in the present Assembly of Divines” (so states the advertisement on the front page). Although widely known today for his premillennial/chiliastic exegesis of Revelation 20, the popularity of Mead’s work in the seventeenth century is to be attributed, not primarily to Mead’s minority position on the millennium, but to his setting forth a coherent system of interpretation that enabled a religio-political application of the book of Revelation in support of the progress of the Protestant Reformation in both the ecclesiastical and civil arena.

Michael Walzer describes the political implications of Mead’s interpretation of Revelation for the Puritan Revolution:

What finally made men revolutionaries, however, was not only this secret preparation, but an increasingly secure feeling that the saints did know the purposes of God, a more open and direct reinforcement of their pride and contentiousness. This new, aggressive, and self-confident mood took hold of Puritan ministers and gentlemen only when the idea of warfare was brought into a fairly specific system of historical reference and prophecy. Beginning at some point before 1640, a group of writers, including Joseph Mead of Cambridge University, began the work of integrating the spiritual warfare of the preachers with the apocalyptic history of Daniel and Revelations [sic]. The religious wars on the continent and then the struggle against the English king were seen by these men as parts of the ancient warfare of Satan and the elect, which had begun with Jews and Philistines and would continue until Armageddon …

The shift to a more optimistic and historical theory of Christian warfare can probably be dated from the appearance of Mead’s Clavis Apocalyptica in 1627. This long and scholarly work was translated in 1643 by order of Parliament, with a “compendium” of world history added at the end for the use of less educated enthusiasts. It thus became the chief authority for the apocalyptic writers of the revolutionary period …

Thus the Presbyterian minister Francis Cheynell, speaking before the House of Commons in 1643: “… when the kings of the earth have given their power to the beast, these choice-soldiers [that is, the elect] will be so faithful to the King of kings, as to oppose the beast, though armed with kinglike power.” …

Stephen Marshall, the greatest of the parliamentary preachers, described the transition from just war to revolution in a sermon delivered before both houses in 1644. Abruptly turning to the soldiers present, he said, “Go now and fight the battles of the Lord … for so I will not now fear to call them … although indeed at the first nothing clearly appeared but only that you were compelled to take up arms for the defense of your liberties … all Christendom … do now see that the question of England is whether Christ or Anti-Christ shall be lord or king.”…

As satanic lust was overcome in their inner wars, so in the revolution, as one of them said, “the Whore of Babylon shall be destroyed with fire and sword. (Michael Walzer, The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics (New York: Athaneum, 1968), pp. 291-96.)

The reference to the whore of Babylon being destroyed is taken from Revelation 17:14-16, one of the proof texts cited by the Westminster divines as biblical justification for the civil magistrate’s duty of waging war “upon just and necessary occasions.” Revelation 17 was thus interpreted as a prophetic mandate for godly magistrates of properly constituted Reformed nations to wage war on behalf of the cause of the Protestant Reformation.

In the 1788 revision, this proof text was removed from the Scriptural basis of just war, while the other texts from the NT were retained. Yet the Confession itself remains unchanged at this point, because American presbyterians also affirmed that civil authorities may “wage war upon just and necessary occasions.” What has changed is that now American Presbyterians do not include religious war for the sake of advancing the Protestant faith to be one of the just and necessary occasions. Were we bound to follow the original intent of the Westminster divines at this point, the amended Confession would contradict itself.

Lee Irons, Theonomy and the 1788 American Revision of the Westminster Standards

“The very idea of a Christian empire or a Christian nation was a serious confusion of these two cities.” Agreed. “It was against this confusion of Christ’s kingdom with Israel’s theocracy that Luther and Calvin launched their retrieval of Augustine’s ‘two kingdoms.'” Really?

Like Augustine, Luther emphasized the distinction between “things heavenly” and “things earthly,” righteousness before God and righteousness before fellow humans. On one hand, the Reformers were rejecting Rome’s confusion of Christ’s kingdom, which is extended by the proclamation of the Word, and earthly kingdoms.

As has been demonstrated, Horton has simply misunderstood what Luther meant by two kingdoms. Recall this diagram from Sam Waldron’s history of the relation of church and state:


Horton’s error can be clearly seen by the fact that Luther’s To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate was an appeal to the civil government to reform the church! Far from rejecting Rome’s sacralism (Christendom), Luther thoroughly embraced it. Luther’s invisible kingdom was an inward kingdom of the conscience. His temporal kingdom included both church and state. William J. Wright, in his recent monograph Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms (Baker Academic, 2010), has succinctly explained Luther’s thought in this way:

Luther would explain that God ruled the invisible kingdom with His Word through faith and that God’s realm was not comprehensible through human reason. Moreover, in the worldly kingdom, Luther later distinguished three orders of rule comprised of human institutions: the orders of daily life (home and livlihood), the state, and the church.
p. 117

His disagreement with Rome was about which institution was superior in the temporal kingdom.

Since then the temporal power is baptized as we are, and has the same faith and gospel, we must allow it to be priest and bishop, and account its office an office that is proper and useful to the Christian community. . . .

It follows then, that between layman and priests, princes and bishops, or as they call it, between spiritual and temporal persons, the only real difference is one of office and function…

forasmuch as the temporal power has been ordained by God for the punishment of the bad, and the protection of the good, therefore we must let it do its duty throughout the whole Christian body, without respect of persons: whether it strike popes, bishops, priests, monks, or nuns…

the temporal power has become a member of the Christian body, and although its work relates to the body, yet does it belong to the spiritual estate. Therefore it must do its duty without let or hindrance upon all members of the whole body, to punish or urge, as guilt may deserve…

Luther, in no uncertain terms, retained the medieval concept of Christendom, he simply quibbled over authority within Christendom.

Continuing with Horton:

Opposing what he called the “contrived empire” of Christendom, Calvin says that we must recognize that we are “under a two-fold government…so that we do not (as commonly happens) unwisely mingle these two, which have a completely different nature.” Just as the body and spirit are distinct without being intrinsically opposed, “Christ’s spiritual kingdom and the civil jurisdiction are things completely distinct. …Yet this distinction does not lead us to consider the whole nature of government a thing polluted, which has nothing to do with Christian men.” These two kingdoms are “distinct,” yet “they are not at variance” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.20.1–2).

Calvin’s “two kingdoms” was the same as Luther’s (see Calvin’s Two-Fold Government). His two kingdoms are not directly mapped to two institutions: church and state. Calvin differs from Luther in that where Luther elevated the state above the Church in order to combat Rome, Calvin attempted to coordinate them as much as possible in an attempt to prevent the state from interfering in the Church’s discipline, granting them each their distinct areas of operation, yet he placed them both within the “external forum”.


But what of Calvin’s reference to Christendom as the “contrived empire”? Was he disagreeing with Luther on this point? Hardly. Joel McDurmon has done an excellent job showing just how blatantly Horton mis-read Calvin. If anyone bothers to dig up the reference, Calvin was referring to the Donation of Constantine, not to the concept of Christendom, which he fully agreed with.

The phrase “contrived empire” is indeed used by Calvin: in his Institutes, 4.11.13, in Battles’ translation. But Horton is quite wrong: Calvin in no sense applies this to “Christendom,” and certainly not to the broader sense of the term. Rather, Calvin’s argument in both the immediate and larger context actually supports, rather strongly, a view of Christendom.

Calvin says “a good emperor is within the church, not over the church” and “it is the duty of godly kings and princes to sustain religion by law, edicts, and judgments.”

Recall once again Williams’ words from above:

If it be said his kingdom then was not of this world, but now it is or shall be: then was the hour of his suffering, but now of his servants reigning: we querie, what filling up of the sufferings of Christ Paul speaks of, Col 1. when he mentioneth that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ? What means that general rule of the Lord Jesus, Luke 9 “If any man will follow me, let him take up his cross or gibbet” and that of Paul, 2 Tim 4 “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution?” (Querie VIII)…

Williams was directly responding to Calvin’s interpretation of Christ’s words:

But it is questioned whether the law pertains to the kingdom of Christ, which is spiritual and distinct from all earthly dominion; and there are some men, not otherwise ill-disposed, to whom it appears that our condition under the Gospel is different from that of the ancient people under the law; not only because the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but because Christ was unwilling that the beginnings of His kingdom should be aided by the sword. But, when human judges consecrate their work to the promotion of Christ’s kingdom, I deny that on that account its nature is changed. For, although it was Christ’s will that His Gospel should be proclaimed by His disciples in opposition to the power of the whole world, and He exposed them armed with the Word alone like sheep amongst wolves, He did not impose on Himself an eternal law that He should never bring kings under His subjection, nor tame their violence, nor change them from being cruel persecutors into the patrons and guardians of His Church. Magistrates at first exercised tyranny against the Church, because the time had not yet come when they should “kiss the Son” of God, and, laying aside their violence, should become the nursing fathers of the Church, which they had assailed according to Isaiah’s prophecy, that undoubtedly refers to the coming of Christ. (Isaiah xlix:6, 23.)

-Commentary on Deuteronomy 13:5

John Cotton, who frequently appealed to Calvin’s Geneva in his defense, stated:

The Theocracy, that is, God’s government, is to be established as the best form of government. Here the people, who chooses its civil rulers, is God’s people, and, equally with those they choose, in covenant with him; they are members of the churches; God’s laws and God’s servants arc enquired of for counsel.

The New England Theocracy

By this he meant that only those who profess saving faith were to be granted freemanship (the ability to vote and hold civil office). An example of one law in New England was “1. (Deut. 13. 6, 10. Deut. 17. 2, 6. Ex. 22.20) If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death” which they carried out in several instances.


With all of that being said, let me re-iterate that I agree with Horton’s position. He has the right doctrine, just the wrong tradition. Perhaps that is why “Radical” Natural Law Two Kingdoms have discarded special revelation and thrust themselves upon the Enlightenment as saving Protestantism from itself. So long as Horton is unwilling to honestly assess his tradition’s history, people will continue to be confused by his writings. He should be bold enough to state clearly where his tradition erred and where it needs to be departed from. Likewise, baptists should not blindly follow Horton and VanDrunen and others. Instead, we must fully understand the history of this debate and the important contribution that Congregationalists made to the doctrine of two kingdoms and the nature of the church.

We pray you to consider, if the golden image be not a type and figure of the several national and state religions, which all nations set up and ours hath done, for which the wrath of God is now upon us? (Querie 1, 18)


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