October 27, 2014

Horton’s inglorious “two kingdoms” theology

By In Brandon Adams

An old post from Joel McDurmon Horton’s inglorious “two kingdoms” theology raises concerns about the logical consequences of what he calls “Radical Two Kingdoms theology”, which is a particular type of two kingdoms theology that incorrectly argues for an epistemological dualism: natural law for one kingdom, Scripture for the other.

The remedy: preach the whole counsel of God to every area of life.

I agree, and so does Voddie Baucham:

Either what we’re trusting in is human beings and their ability to determine what is right in and of themselves. Or we believe that there is a God. That that God has spoken. And that we are responsible to that God when it comes to every area of our life.

But as he said in his recent conference on Religion & Politics, the whole counsel of God must be properly interpreted before it can be applied. This entails (among other things):

  • Discerning the relationship between the Old and New Covenants (they are two different covenants, not two administrations of the same covenant)
  • Relationship between national Israel and the Church (can’t treat America like it’s the new Israel)
  • Relationship between the church and the state (liberty of conscience)

By which he concludes:

Jesus answered ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world my servants would have been fighting that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Folks, we are a citizen of that kingdom. That kingdom of which Jesus spoke. We are citizens of that kingdom. His kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is not America. America is not the kingdom of God. America is the whore of Babylon. Amen somebody. And every other kingdom on this earth is as well! Because when the kingdom is established, it will not be in Texas. And if it won’t be here, it won’t be anywhere, amen?”

McDurmon objects that if we believe the Bible must be the source of our civil laws, then we must look to Old Testament civil laws because only here does Scripture give such content for civil laws. But this is actually a rejection of the idea that the Bible speaks to every area of life.

Are you exempt from applying the Bible to your job if you design shoes for Nike, since there are no shoe design case studies in Scripture? No, you study God’s word to discern not just what is explicit, but what may be deduced from Scripture as well. Claiming that we may only be informed by what is explicit in Scripture is a rejection of deduction as a legitimate means of interpreting Scripture.

Bottom line: the proper interpretation of Scripture does not allow us to apply Israel’s judicial case laws today, but it does allow us to deduce the necessary foundations for civil government from Scripture.

Written by Brandon Adams

Husband, Father, Son, Saint, Sinner http://contrast2.wordpress.com
  • Steve Zrimec

    If “the proper interpretation of
    Scripture…allow[s] us to deduce the necessary foundations for civil
    government from Scripture,” then does that mean the American arrangement
    is basically founded in biblical principles, e.g. rule of law and no taxation
    without representation? It may be far easier to locate a principle for
    monarchical rule than republic in the Bible, in which case the political
    arrangement against which the founders fought might be more biblical than the
    one they constructed. None of which is to say it’s wrong, rather to wonder just
    what is meant by this sentiment when American principles of governance don’t
    exactly match up with the Bible. In fact, the former align much closer to pagan
    (read: Greco-Roman) principles of governance. And if that’s the case, is it
    sinful for Christians to adhere to American principles as either magistrates or
    ordinary citizens?

    So it
    sounds good and pious to say, but it’s not exactly obvious that Scripture
    provides what is needed to construct political society. It would seem America
    doesn’t need the Bible to found civil government any more than an ordinary
    person needs it to live his life. Of course, founding and governing churches as
    well as directing persons in the way of salvation is another matter, and for
    that the Bible alone seems fitting. For the life of me, I cannot
    fathom what is so difficult for letting natural revelation be said to govern
    civic life and special revelation religious life.

    • reformedlibertarian

      Thanks for the question Steve. There is lots to be said about your statements and questions.

      First of all, there is indeed a strong Christian case to be made on behalf of the idea that the rule of law is more important than the whim of a ruler. If you consider the structure of the Old Testament Israel government, it was far closer to a Republic and in fact, 1 Samuel 8 narrates the transition from Republic to Monarchy and all the bad things that were to take place under this new structure. I think the idea of one human man in charge of others is far less Biblical than the idea that there is a law which binds all men (even the rulers) equally.

      Which takes care of the idea that the origins of a republic are Pagan.

      But your second paragraph is more important. Our claim is not that the existence of government depends on the Bible. For truly governments have long been created without it. Rather, our claim is that only the Bible can actually define right and wrong. Natural revelation yields no statements about right and wrong. We are not against Natural Law properly defined, we just don’t think one can discover the Natural Law through Natural Theology. Rather, the Bible is basic. http://reformedlibertarian.com/blog/natural-law-a-few-comments/

  • Brian D

    I have trouble accepting a critique of two kingdoms theology from a theonomist. Frankly, I’m not sure Horton would disagree with anything written in this post. Certainly we should affirm the “Bottom line: the proper interpretation of Scripture does not allow
    us to apply Israel’s judicial case laws today, but it does allow us to
    deduce the necessary foundations for civil government from Scripture.”

    I think it really becomes a matter of whether “natural law” and the non-aggression principle is revealed in scripture. I’m open to an alternative understanding, but then maybe Brandon or CJ can point me to where that alternative is fleshed out. For example, how do you see proclaiming the truth of scripture – without a two kingdoms distinction – on gay “marriage,” if we rightly reject (reconstructionist) theonomy and political conservatism (religious right-ism)?

    • reformedlibertarian

      Thanks for the feedback Brian. I appreciate long time readers like yourself. It’s a tricky subject because both brandon and I agree with 2k over the Dominionist one kingdom structure. However, we disagree with many of the 2K folks who think that the secular kingdom should be informed by natural law. This is why we label them (actually we didn’t provide this label) NL2k and ourselves PR2k (Propositional Revelation) and hold that the only intellectually justifiable standard of right and wrong stems from the Bible.

      You are right about the question being whether natural law is revealed in scripture. in fact, I attempt to address this here: http://reformedlibertarian.com/blog/natural-law-a-few-comments/ In short, I agree that there is a natural law, and it is the moral law, but I do not think that this law can be known and intellectually justified except by scripture. I’m not convinced by Rothbard’s empiricism.

      I completely endorse the two kingdom distinction. But I think that right and wrong cannot be discovered in nature. PR2k in a nutshell. Thanks again Brian.

    • Hi Brian,

      I understand your hesitancy in accepting a theonomic critique of two kingdom theology, but I posted it because McDurmon echoes my experience with 2K over the last 5+ years. Did you read his article? The first half, talking about the endless loop, is spot on.

      I’m not sure I understand the problem/question about marriage.

      • Brian D

        Hey Brandon – thanks for the reply. I’m finally reading on a screen larger than 3 inches wide. So I’ve re-read your article, McDurmon’s, and Horton’s. Also a little dialogue with CJay on FB re: this follow-up post. http://reformedlibertarian.com/blog/why-pr2k/.

        Regarding your article (and McDurmon’s), I’m in the same place as when I wrote the comment above. I’m with you completely on PR2K and reformed libertarianism. And at the same time, I don’t see anything in Horton’s article contrary to our shared position. Maybe we could quibble about his side comment not “promoting a candidate” inside the church. On the other hand, I find much to disagree with in what McDurmon has written.

        For one, his main point: the duality of 2K logically requires a “but” if you proclaim that “scripture is necessary for the proper interpretation of natural law.” But Horton gives no “but,” and we know none is logically required. For another, his characterization of R2K as advocating a position that “The church has nothing to say to the civil government. Law is legalism. It’s not our job” (my paraphrases).” I do not see Horton saying in any sense whatsoever that “the church has nothing to say to civil government.” Maybe there’s other sources out there, but in the article linked, he neither says anything of the sorts, nor does that even seem to be his tone. I think he would fully affirm both McDurmon’s “remedy” on preaching the whole counsel of God to every area of life as well as Voddie Bauchum’s quoted statement.

        The bottom line for me, is that in the struggle for a libertarian polity, against both religious right-ism and the Christian left, I see Horton as an ally. Again, I’m very willing to admit there may be something I’m missing, but it seems to me that your critique relies far too heavily on a theonomic characterization of their position (McDurmon’s “paraphrases”), rather than the stated position itself. (And I’m not sure exactly what you mean by the “endless loop.”)

        Thanks for the dialogue! My thinking is being sharpened.

        • It’s important to recognize that McDurmon’s criticism was not limited to just this single article from Horton, but from many years and many writings on the issue. I found McDurmon’s characterization to be completely accurate in that regard, based upon my own reading and interaction for more than 5 years. Have you read any of VanDrunen’s books, or his interaction on the issue?

          If not, you could start with my review of his book on Natural Law, followed by the links I provide at the end to interaction:
          http://contrast2.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/spectacles-prescribed-a-review-of-vandrunens-a-biblical-case-for-natural-law/

          Let me know what you think.

          In regards to the endless loop, it is the question of the use of Scripture to interpret natural law. R2K will say “of course” out of one side of their mouth, and then turn around and say Scripture is only for the church, and not for all of society, out of the other side of their mouth.

          • Brian D

            I like the book review a lot – and I will have to put “Freedom and Capitalism” on my reading list. I am definitely more in the Gordon Clark/Robbins camp than WTS or WSC in general, and on this issue it would appear. Likewise, I lean more towards a “Baptist” slant of covenant theology, which probably pushes even more against the NL2K framework (though perhaps not necessarily, idk).

            I agree with your criticism of VanDrunen’s understanding of NL and implications of such. (Assuming it’s all quoted accurately and fairly in context of course — I can’t go check primary sources right now). I still think that McDurmon’s criticism is overstated, particularly in context of the Horton article it linked to.

            More significantly, I still believe that PR2K vs. NL2K, while important, is more of a intra Libertarian-Christian debate. By contrast, reconstructionist theonomy is non-libertarian in its implications if not declarations, despite the broad areas of policy agreement that many of its leading proponents share with us.

            Again, thanks for the dialogue.

  • reformedlibertarian

    Interestingly, I think that verse supports the phrase that you quoted in the first line. It shows that this “knowledge” is apriori instead of coming via natural revelation, that is, from nature around us. My claim is not that one needs to read the Bible before he has a conscience that presupposes God, my claim is that only the Bible, God’s Word, can make us aware of these things. We need the light of God to shine on our darkened, sinful minds.

    I agree with the first two sentences of your second paragraph, which is why I did not attempt to use Romans 13 to back up my assertion, which was not offered as proof. Frankly, I care more about the nature of the laws a society has than its form of government. I would rather a Monarchical King who loves liberty than a democracy in which the majority reigns supreme. The particular laws of a society are vastly more important than the structure a government happens to be. Unfortunately the State would rather us talk about the latter and swoon over democracy as it steals our liberties.