Bill Chellis has pointed out that according to St. Paul, ecclesiastical courts should ideally arbitrate disputes between Christians (I Cor. 6:1-11). At the very least we should conclude from this that the sacred/secular dichotomy is an insufficient method for determining what is proper to church versus state oversight. However, Darryl Hart explains that â€œmatters pertaining to this lifeâ€ really means matters pertaining to the community of faith.
Darryl holds that matters inherently secular attain the quality of spirituality when more than one Christian is concerned. However, this is to involve himself in an experience of cognitive dissonance. For, according to his thinking, Christians are to play by the rules of the City of Man when moving in the secular sphere: that is, the three-dimensional world outside the walls of our churches he identifies as the present age. Much less should ecclesiastical judges be carried away with any thoughts of their competence to decide matters pertaining to this life!
As a spiritualizer of our religion, Darryl has no substantive objection to Christians hashing out their secular concerns in secular courts. Why not let the courts decide if a matter concerns temporal justice? After all, theyâ€™re the expertsâ€¦
Really, it may be demonstrated ad nauseam that the two categories (sacred/secular) describe different experiences of the same life and often pertain to identical subjects. Subjectively, it is true that â€œto the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and those who do not believe, nothing is pureâ€ (Titus 1:15). However, there is an underlying objective truth about the sanctity of the world: â€œDo not call unclean what I have made clean!â€ (Acts 10:15).
Those of us who have tendencies “prematurely immanentizing the eschaton” fail to understand the necessity of Darrylâ€™s precise formulation of the opposition between the two ages, which are both essentially spiritual, not temporal, spheres. Manâ€™s city and Godâ€™s city cannot be absolutely separated by the discrete temporal moment of the final judgment. The Kingdom of God is now fully established in principle (Matt. 28:18ff; Eph. 1:20-23), and competitively coexists with the Kingdom of Satan in the present era. Furthermore, the City of Man will continue to exist after the Judgment: it will then be called Hell.
From this we are situated to understand that the Westminster Two Kingdom (W2K) School is guilty of attempting to combine temporal and moral categories in such a way as to engender fuzzy conceptual thought. It is not possible to split off an opposite from one dichotomic duality (old creation/new creation) and identify it with an opposite from another duality (love of self/love of God). This is because both loves equally persist through both phases of history.
The old creation, even in its fallen state, is still fundamentally good, and is now purified by the blood of Christ. Though temporarily subject to futility, creation remains oriented to its original telos (Rom. 8:19ff.). The fallen ethic of â€œthe self for its own sakeâ€ cannot be identified with the old creation in its essence without fatally compromising creation’s goodness. Such is to identify the laws and principles of the created order with evil.
The purpose for which W2K combines ethical and temporal-eschatological categories is not merely to steer theological discourse away from metaphysical speculation. It actually serves to surreptitiously introduce a contrary metaphysic, one that not only divorces being from goodness but positively attributes evil to being. Of course, this is the essential principle of gnosticism.
To develop the critique further: W2K theory effectively attributes evil to creation when it attributes common culture with the fallen ethic of self love, and calls it the City of Man. Human culture has been relieved of its chief task to fulfill the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28-30; 9:1ff.) and now serves to maximize comfort and pleasure in this life. Here, collective human activity has been diverted from its original purpose to glorify God and pressed into a different service circumscribed by the limits of â€œthis world,â€ the world treated as an end-in-itself. Here we see that W2K provides theological justification for idolatry in principle. The end result can only be an abandonment of human society to demonic domination.
A pernicious confusion of categories has led Michael Horton and his disciples to deny the possibility of Christian culture. Only the institutional church may have a transcendent â€œpoliticsâ€ and â€œcultureâ€ of sorts. The W2Kâ€™s particular emphasis on the Calvinist antithesis has led to a denial of the fundamental unity of the race that underlies and is presupposed by the antithesis. It rejects any possibility that the reprobate can positively contribute to or even cooperate with the construction of the City of God. Such possibilities are deemed by W2K men as illegitimate attempts at salvation by works. Yet another example of W2Kâ€™s confusion of ethical and eschatological categories.
Darryl Hart thinks that Christian politics is as nonsensical as Christian plumbing or Christian auto mechanics. When he speaks in this way he betrays a confusion of proximate utilitarian ends with ultimate ends. Darryl concedes only practical value to cultural activity in the world and rules out the possibility that culture has reference to the higher purpose of mankind: to glorify God and fully enjoy him forever. But the practical science of plumbing is not the same as the art of politics. Christian architecture is not so silly an idea as Christian plumbing. And if there can be Christian architecture there can be Christian city planning.
W2K is skeptical that creation retains any intrinsic purpose that complements Godâ€™s will, but affirms only an extrinsic teleology imposed by sovereign divine determination. Concomitant with this doctrine is the unwarranted assumption that human authority and government came about as a result of the Fall. This theory of political origins implies an unlikely proposition: that Adam was not to administrate the collective activity of the race in its fulfillment of the cultural mandate.
My analysis of W2K is also sufficient to explain the schoolâ€™s antagonism toward any “grace perfecting nature” language. As shown, W2K attributes only a â€œgood of utilityâ€ to created being and specifically denies an intrinsic telos in it complementary to Godâ€™s ultimate eschatological purpose. In Klinean terms, there is really no Megapolis to be transformed into the glory-filled Metapolis. Created being exists therefore to be entirely obliterated by the eschaton.
The W2K common grace city can never be Megapolis. Any attempt by â€œtransformationalistsâ€ to preserve some semblance of Megapolis in the common grace city is bound to be continually opposed by partisans of W2K. Such partisans prefer any and all forms of polity to Christendom, even sacral pagan, fascist, and communist social orders. This one-sidedness is indistinguishable from the toxic animus that inspires the political left. And so, W2K is finally exposed as a theologically sophisticated form of the same radicalism that inspired Anabaptism, Enlightenment republicanism, and modern (political) liberalism.
W2K proponents share a wholesale repudiation of Christendomâ€™s legacy with their radical brethren. Driven by madness over the sins of Christian civilization, W2K men fail to compare on balance its relative achievements and failings with other civilizations that have actually existed. Apparently, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem witch trials are enough to indict a 1500 year old civilization. But contrary to one-sided historical accounts, the Crusades were a response to the aggression of another civilization with theocratic aspirations, the intent of the Inquisition was to counter arch-heretics who threatened social order, and black witchcraft was practiced in colonial Massachusetts. Though excesses were certainly perpetrated during those events, a civilization as old as ours ought not be judged only by its sins but by its ideals and accomplishments as well.
The essential error of W2K is that the created order has not retained an intrinsic transcendent purpose. The effect is to re-orient humanityâ€™s collective teleological ethical imperative to serve this-worldly ends. W2K renders itself more destructive when it associates created being with the fallen ethic of â€œself love to the exclusion of God.â€ W2K theology holds that the Incarnation served no other purpose than as a means to the end of delivering the elect from the evil world. The world itself, abandoned to the demonic, will not be redeemed; it will be destroyed. This theology is an expression of profound existential alienation from Godâ€™s good world.