Matt Tuininga, who is the son of one of the founders of the United Reformed Churches in North America and is currently doing his doctoral dissertation at Emory University on John Calvin's political views, has put up an interesting post here on how what he calls "Old Reformed" theology differs from the Escondido Two Kingdoms theology: "Yes, the two kingdoms doctrine affirms Christ’s lordship – and the authority of Scripture – over the State: But what does that mean?" Yes, the two kingdoms doctrine affirms Christ’s lordship – and the authority of Scripture – over the State: But what does that mean? « Christian in America My response is here: Yes, the two kingdoms doctrine affirms Christ’s lordship – and the authority of Scripture – over the State: But what does that mean? « Christian in America First off, I believe Matt has done the whole "Two Kingdoms" debate an important service by coining the term "Old Reformed" to describe those of us who differ from the Escondido 2K or R2K position. We need terms we can agree on and which fairly describe the difference. I'm comfortable calling myself "Old Reformed," and since both Matt Tuininga and Dr. R. Scott Clark of Westminster-West both seem to agree that older Reformed leaders in the 1500s and 1600s held views of politics which they do not hold, perhaps we now can agree to acceptable terms which define ourselves in this debate. My view is not identical to that of the earliest Reformers, but I do believe it is a line of consistent doctrinal development which includes the practices of the Dutch burghers with William of Orange, the views of Oliver Cromwell, the views of Abraham Kuyper, and the views of modern Reformed leaders who focused on political engagement such as Francis Schaeffer and D. James Kennedy. Matt has also raised an important issue. In his words: "One of the most prevalent assumptions about the two kingdoms doctrine that frequently leads individuals to criticize or reject it is that the two kingdoms doctrine teaches that the state is not under the lordship of Christ or under the authority of Scripture. This is a terrible assumption, and it is a testimony either to the failure of two kingdoms advocates clearly to communicate their position or to the slanderous way in which that position has been caricatured by some of its opponents (or perhaps a bit of both?). I’ll let you decide." I've posted my response to him at the end of this note, with some editing and additions to make sense in a different context. For now, the key thing to point out is that we need to try to understand each other. There are major issues at stake, they have major consequences for the life of our churches and our country, and we need to be clear about our differences. Clarity is not helped by slandering each other's positions, or by the actions of extremist radicals who do not fairly represent the views of the leaders of either side in this debate. I am deliberately using the terms "Escondido 2K" and "R2K" to hold open at least the possibility that there is a difference. I think the Escondido 2K people need to do a lot more work to address Matt's quite legitimate concern that the "Two Kingdoms" people have a PR problem. When we have Radical Two Kingdoms or R2K people claiming a Reformed case can be made for gay marriage, something needs to be done to drive such arguments out of conservative Reformed circles. Regards, Darrell Todd Maurina _____ Matt, this is a helpful post for at least two different reasons. One is that some of the people in the “Two Kingdoms” camp have **CLEARLY** given the impression to many of us in what you call the “Old Reformed” wing of the church that your group believes that the civil magistrate’s actions are not to be governed by Scripture, but rather by appeal to some vague and undefined principles of general revelation. You may tell me that is not what you said or meant, and you may well be right, but speaking as someone who is **NOT** trying to deliberately slander the Two Kingdoms people, some of what I read from Two Kingdoms advocates on the internet curls my toes. I know we need to judge a movement by the theology of its leaders, not its radicals, but you’ve got a real problem with wild-eyed radicals saying stuff that makes your entire group look bad, and your leaders need to write more to distance yourselves from the radicals. I am both surprised and pleased to see an explicit Two Kingdoms advocate like yourself affirm Psalm 2. If more “Two Kingdoms” people were saying what you say in this post, maybe some of us who object strongly to the Two Kingdoms position would decide we still have enough in common that we can carry on a civil conversation. A second is that you appear to acknowledge that the “Old Reformed” position is historically a legitimate understanding of what it means to be Reformed, while explicitly affirming that in some ways you are deviating from it, and that you believe most of the modern Reformed world has also deviated from it. I’m not sure if you’ve coined the word “Old Reformed” in this context, but if you did, I hope it gets picked up by others. I find that term helpful. There **ARE** important differences between the “R2K” or “Escondido 2K” position and what you’re calling the “Old Reformed” position, and we need to come up with mutually acceptable terms that describe those two positions. I’m comfortable with calling myself “Old Reformed” if you’re comfortable with calling yourself “Escondido 2K.” Though I don’t think he uses the term “Old Reformed,” I saw a similar concept in Dr. R. Scott Clark’s writings in which he said the early Reformers were theocratic but not theonomist — a point on which I agree with him, by the way — while acknowledging that he and other modern Reformed people have deviated from older Reformed views on civil government. I think this is an important point that both sides of the debate need to grant. Modern American Reformed positions are **NOT** those of the 1500s and 1600s on politics; virtually none of us, for example, want to prohibit Roman Catholics from voting or from holding civil office under the American Constitution. On the contrary, many if not most of the most politically aggressive Calvinists are happy to work with Roman Catholics in the pro-life movement, at least as a short-term step toward a longer-term vision of a Christian America. We also need to deal with the practical reality that while Reformed Christians are considerably more influential in Christian conservative political movements than our numbers would warrant, largely because of our emphasis on rigorous theological justification for our actions, the rank-and-file of the modern Christian conservative political movement is broadly evangelical and Roman Catholic. How are we, as consistent Calvinists, going to deal with working hand-in-hand with people who believe things our confessions strongly reject? We have changed, and if I can borrow a concept from John Henry Cardinal Newman, we need to show that the change is a consistent development of doctrine or we need to explain why we have deviated from what our forefathers believed by showing through good and necessary consequence why their principles were self-contradictory and could not be maintained without emendation. Matt, I know that asking “what would Calvin do” is begging the question since your doctoral dissertation seeks to prove that John Calvin held a form of “Two Kingdoms” theology, so let’s leave that question alone, at least until you’re done with your dissertation. However, can all sides of this debate at least acknowledge that a straightforward reading of the biographies and writings of John Knox and Oliver Cromwell would not logically lead us to believe they would be invited as speakers in a conference dedicated to supporting the Escondido 2K theology? Westminster-West simply cannot claim that it stands in the line of the older Reformed views of politics represented by the Scottish and English Puritans. I'm not sure the same can be said with regard to Francis Schaeffer and D. James Kennedy, though even there qualifications need to be made. I think Cromwell might like me a fair amount because of my views on political pluralism within evangelical bounds, but Knox might throw me in jail for what he might consider Anabaptist political leanings if I showed up in Scotland, or at least throw me out of the country and tell me to go over to the Netherlands where their loose views of civil toleration allowed Barrowists to have independent churches outside the Dutch Reformed synodical system. I realize that Dr. Clark grounds his deviation from older Reformed views in the American revisions to the Westminster Confession, and points to similar revisions in the Belgic Confession made by Kuyper and his followers. I don’t happen to agree with him on that point at all. I do not believe those confessional revisions lead to Escondido 2K views, though they probably do lead to views which are more in accord with Cromwell, Kuyper, Schaeffer and Kennedy than those of Knox. However, I certainly do agree that ecclesiastical pluralism in North America has led to changes in Reformed political theology. Where I disagree, I think, with both you and Dr. Clark is whether those changes are good. If it’s true that “we can think ourselves into new ways of behaving or behave ourselves into new ways of thinking,” perhaps we ought to go back and example what you call the “Old Reformed” political arguments to see whether they were bad theology or simply inconvenient and uncomfortable. I realize we are far apart in a lot of areas, and definitions need to be worked out since I’m still not convinced we’re using words in the same way, but what you say here is a good start. Now on the broader issue, I speak only for myself here, but I think my words would be affirmed by a lot of other people when I say that the Two Kingdoms theologians have a major “PR” problem. Your group — not necessarily you personally, but the group — gives the impression that you believe in appealing not to Scripture but to some vague and undefined “natural law” concept when it comes to ruling the state. Your group also seems to have a serious animosity toward Christians who believe in political engagement, an animosity which seems to have two roots: one, a historical reaction at Westminster-West against the influence of theonomy in Reformed circles in Southern California, and two, a concern that modern evangelicalism is in danger of losing its way by substituting a political agenda for the gospel. (The “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” concept being advocated by Chuck Colson, et al., is only one example of those issues; much cruder co-optings of the gospel by politics could be cited from evangelical leaders who are much less careful thinkers than Colson.) I have major sympathy for both of those concerns by Escondido Two Kingdoms people. My response is to follow Abraham Kuyper’s theological position of supporting work with Roman Catholics in the civil sphere while maintaining a strong emphasis on confessional integrity within the church sphere. Romans 13 defines the primary task of the civil magistrate, and there can be much greater room for toleration in the civil government than in church government. I believe Kuyper’s view of sphere sovereignty — that the confessions govern the church, but we can cooperate with others in the sphere of the civil magistrate who don’t affirm the confessions but do affirm a Romans 13 view of civil government — is a consistent development of the same core doctrine of political engagement held by the Dutch Reformed, who were willing to work with William of Orange despite problems with personal morality and a less-than-consistent confessional stance, I think it is also consistent with the views of Oliver Cromwell and other Puritans who understood that Calvinist Anglicans like Archbishop Ussher, the Presbyterian majority of Puritanism and Parliament, and the Congregational and Independent minority which dominated the New Model Army, were all agreed on the core of Calvinist orthodoxy but could never work together in the same church. Cromwell, unlike Knox but like the Dutch burghers who threw off the yoke of Spain, believed in a certain amount of ecclesiastical pluralism and political pluralism. I can live with the viewpoints of William of Orange, of Oliver Cromwell, and of Abraham Kuyper on civil government, all of which I believe are fundamentally consistent with each other and proceed from a similar basic principle which is close but not identical to that of Knox. I think those are valid developments of Reformed political doctrine. I think with some additional research I could say more about how the Plymouth Bay Colony had a level of toleration which would be quite compatible with the views of Francis Schaeffer and D. James Kennedy, but I don’t want to post things on the internet that I can’t back up with citations. My memory of things I read thirty years ago is not something I want to trust on something this important. What I can’t live with is the idea that civil government is to look to general revelation rather than special revelation for its rules. There are radicals in Escondido 2K circles who hold views which are (or at least ought to be) a public embarrassment for conservative Reformed thinkers. Time will tell whether those radicals are consistent with the core theology of Escondido 2K or if they are taking the E2K theology into places where it not only need not but also should not logically go.