Friday, August 14, 2009

DeYoung and Two Kingdom Theology

Kevin DeYoung just posted an article on his blog titled "Two Kingdom Theology and Neo-Kuyperians." His post is, on the whole, a helpful summary of these two views of the way Christians relate to culture and the government. In summarizing the Two Kingdom Theology DeYoung says the following.
In broad strokes, the two kingdom folks believe in a kingdom of this world and a kingdom of Christ. We have a dual citizenship as Christians. Further, the realm of nature should not be expected to function and look like the realm of grace. Living in the tension of two kingdoms we should stop trying to transform the culture of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and instead focus on the church being the church, led by it duly ordained officers and ministering through the ordinary means of grace.

This is a very good short summary of my view on the way Christians should relate to the secular world around them. The two kingdoms approach is one that takes into account of the different ways Christ is lord over all, but more on that below. In addition, I liked what DeYoung said about his reasons for finding some fondness with this view. "The two kingdom theology has better biblical support in my opinion. It seems to me we are more like the Israelites in exile in Babylon than we are the Israelites in the promised land."

In summarizing the other view, sometimes refered to as "redeeming culture," DeYoung says this.
On the other hand, neo-Kupyerianism (intellectual descendants of the Dutch theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper) argue that every square inch of this world belongs to Christ. Therefore, his Lordship should be felt and manifested in politics, in the arts, in education, in short, everywhere. Because the work of Christ was not just to save sinners but also to renew the whole cosmos, we should be at work to change the world and transform the culture.

On the whole, this is a good summary. However, DeYoung says that this view holds "that every square inch of this world belongs to Christ," which it does. But this seems to imply that the two-kingdoms approach does not believe this, which is not accurate. Two Kingdom Theology does hold that Christ is lord over every inch of the universe. This is not at issue in the debate between these two views. But what is at issue is how Christ is lord over both kingdoms. In other words, Two Kingdom Theology holds that Christ rules the church in a different way then he rules the secular kingdom. Christ rules the church with special revelation and Christ rules the secular realm with general revelation. But are given by God to mankind but for different spheres of existence. The neo-Kupyerian view seems to make no distinction in the way Christ rules. For them, Christ rules the church and culture in the exact same way.

To DeYoung's credit, he knows he is painting with a broad brush and in his conclusion he says so. He also invites his readers to continue the conversation, which I am doing here on Bring the Books.


  1. Josh, you highlight well what is often missing (if not misunderstood) from most summaries of 2K theology: the triune God is Lord over all, yet both kingdoms are distinct, fulfilling as they do two distinct roles in this time between the times.

    The question I often wonder about is, given that we Christians are called to live in light of "God's future" (our future, resurrected hope), how does that affect individual Christians' lives and the "transformative" effect such a life would seem to have upon culture (institutions, neighborhoods, families, relationships, governments, and yes, churches, etc.)? Or is it simply that living such a life in the here and now will always get us killed?

  2. Could it be that there's an important distinction between over-emphasized eschatology and anticipatory living, even in a corporate setting?

    I generally consider myself a 2Ker, but if the church I'm a member at starts organizing community service projects in addition to its focus on Word and Sacrament, I'm sure I'll participate without complaint.


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