I have heard and read about the Two Kingdom theology for some time now, but recently came across this interview with David VanDrunen who has written a book, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, about this aspect of Reformed Theology. I thought the interview was quite helpful and I do plan on reading the book as soon as it arrives.
Here is Chris Cooper’s question and VanDrunen’s answer and definition of the Two Kingdom theology:
Could you briefly define Two-Kingdoms Theology and explain how it differs from a transformationist approach to Christ and culture?
I like to describe the two kingdoms doctrine briefly as the conviction that God through his Son rules the whole world, but rules it in two distinct ways. As creator and sustainer, God rules the natural order and the ordinary institutions and structures of human society, and does so through his common grace, for purposes of preserving the ongoing life of this world. As redeemer, God also rules an eschatological kingdom that is already manifest in the life and ministry of the church, and he rules this kingdom through saving grace as he calls a special people to himself through the proclamation of the Scriptures.
As Christians, we participate in both kingdoms but should not confuse the purposes of one with those of the other. As a Reformed theologian devoted to a rich covenant theology, I think it helpful to see these two kingdoms in the light of the biblical covenants. In the covenant with Noah after the flood, God promised to preserve the natural order and human society (not to redeem them!), and this included all human beings and all living creatures.
But God also established special, redemptive covenant relationships with Abraham, with Israel through Moses, and now with the church under the new covenant. We Christians participate in both the Noahic and new covenants (remember that the covenant with Noah was put in place for as long as the earth endures), and through them in this twofold rule of God—or, God’s two kingdoms.
The “transformationist” approach to Christ and culture is embraced by so many people and used in so many different ways that I often wonder how useful a category it is. If by “transformation” we simply mean that we, as Christians, should strive for excellence in all areas of life and try to make a healthy impact on our workplace, neighborhood, etc., I am a transformationist.
But what people often mean by “transformationist” is that the structures and institutions of human society are being redeemed here and now, that is, that we should work to transform them according to the pattern of the redemptive kingdom of Christ. I believe the two kingdoms doctrine offers an approach that is clearly different from this.
Following the two kingdoms doctrine, a Christian politician, for example, would reject working for the redemption of the state (whatever that means) but recognize that God preserves the state for good purposes and strive to help the state operate the best it can for those temporary and provisional purposes.
If I’m understanding him correctly, then we do not vote for those who will turn the government back into the a theocracy. That should not be our goal. But that doesn’t mean that we do not work in politics as Christians. We are to be there living as Christians, seeking to serve as God calls us too, knowing that our service there may or may not lead to a more godly state. Go here to read the rest of the interview. I’m really looking forward to diving into this when the book arrives.