"The church is the bride of Christ, called to be a help suitable to the second Adam as He fulfills the dominion mandate, bringing all things under submission. She is not confined to the garden, but goes forth into the jungle, wherever He goes to glorify His name, to make visible His reign. She speaks what He speaks, to all who would stand against Him. She speaks for the downtrodden, for those unable to speak for themselves. May we who are Reformed ever affirm this radical truth—there is one King, and one Kingdom."The answer is troubling to me because the implication is that 2kers are adhering to an non-Biblical position because it attributes the notion that God is not the one King over all things to 2kers. As someone who sees himself as a 2ker to the extent that I understand it, I take issue with such implications. In response, I provide a brief synopsis of what I understand to be 2k theology and my basis for holding such a position.
A couple of qualifications are in order before I begin. First, I still wrestle with this issue. I don't have it all figured out, and I'm not sure I ever will have a clear and absolute certain answer, but it is the best way I understand these kinds of issues right now. Second, this is a blog post, not an academic paper, so I won't take time to proof-text every comment made, but I will try to avoid mere assertions as much as I can.
2k or Not 2k
The Reformed worldview is summarized in creation, fall, and redemption categories (see Ryken). God created the world "very good" (Genesis 1:31), but man fell into sin, corrupting human nature and the world in which we live. Since the fall, God began to redeem His people and the world (Genesis 3:15; Romans 8:21-25).
As I understand it, where 2k and non-2kers differ is in this final category--redemption. For 2k, God accomplished redemption at the cross in the second Adam: Jesus. This work has not come to full fruition, for we live in a fallen world. Currently, we live in-between the times--between Christ's redeeming work and the fulfillment and full realization or consummation of His Kingdom. During this in-between time, then, 2k asserts that Christians hold a duel citizenship, one in the Redemptive Kingdom (that is currently manifested in the Church) and one in the Common Kingdom (e.g., the U.S.), which is made up of believers and unbelievers). This duel-citizenship is seen Biblically in Daniel, for example, who was an exile and an Israelite (of God's chosen people) at the same time. This duel-membership plays a significant role in framing 2ker's understanding of the Christ and culture issue. In the Daniel example, it is clear that 2k does not see God as holding a co-King relationship with the authority(ies) of the Common Kingdom. Just as God was the supreme authority over the the ruler of Babylon and His redeemed people, Israel (Daniel 4: 34-37), He remains the supreme ruler over both the Redemptive and Common Kingdoms today, even while these are ruled in different ways.
In more practical terms, 2k asserts that we are not working to transform this world into a heaven on earth, but instead, wait for the reality of the new heavens and new earth that Christ is building--an act He will bring about (not us). For those interested, representative works to understand this position can be found by David Vandrunen's work (here and here, the last of which I have not read) and Darryl Hart.
Non-2kers, on the other hand, as illustrated in R. C. Sproul Jr's comments, see Christians working along side God, fulfilling the creation mandate that was originally given to the first Adam. For those interested, representatives of this position can most clearly be seen by N. T. Wright (although, he's not reformed), Phillip Ryken, and Tim Keller.
Theologically, both of these positions are trying to be faithful to God's Word. Where 2k makes a good theological case is in its emphasis on the completeness of the cross and the juxtaposition of the first to the second Adam.
What's the Difference?
In one sense, this debate seems esoteric and theoretical, not practical at all. For me, there are some clear examples or cases where 2k makes most sense in that I see it's value for practical daily living a Christian life, and there are other places where the distinction is lost on me. First, let me explain where it is clearest.
Two-Kingdom Theology is practical and important when thinking about the categories of Church and State. Two-kingdoms sees these institutions as holding different and separate functions, emphasizing the latter as a distinctive feature. Two-kingdoms holds a high view of the church, in that it sees the Church holding the keys to the (Redemptive) Kingdom. The role of the church is to worship God rightly, administer the Sacraments, and to preach the gospel. The role of the State is to exercise its authority over the secular or Common Kingdom that includes Christians and non-Christians.
Since these are separate spheres with distinct roles, the Church as an institution does not speak to political issues as a part of the political process; likewise, the State does not speak to Church polity or the administration of the sacraments. In short and most clearly stated, the Church is not a political or social institution. It speaks the whole counsel of God, even in those areas that have political implications (e.g., abortion), but it does not speak as a political activity. Recent comments by Bishop, N. T. Wright, speaking about the rightness of a universal healthcare system and the Pope's criticism of the free market are good illustrations of where the Church as an institution should not speak. The Bible does not say whether the insurance market should be regulated or whether gov't should provide universal healthcare, whether a nation should be a democracy or a monarchy, etc. If one cannot say "thus saith the Lord," the Church should remain silent and leave the liberty of conscious to its parishioners, who should seek over-arching Biblical principles in their voting practices and understanding of gov't.
Where 2kers differ from their non-2k counterparts is in the latter's enthusiasm to apply God's commands to the Common Kingdom. The non-2ker might advocate, for example, for prayer in school or the ten commandments to be posted in the court house, where the 2ker would not. I see the value in the 2k perspective here because (a) God, not the sword of the State, changes hearts (i.e., laws enacting prayer in school are not a means of grace) and (b) prayers offered by those that despise Him are not honoring. Two-Kingdoms is often criticized for being disengaged from the world outside the Church. I see that as a temptation, but that is an innaccurate caricature of what 2k is. Two-kingdoms, as Darryl Hart notes in his response to RC, Jr., emphasizes what the Church should say, as opposed to what it is not saying.
Where the distinction gets fuzzy for me is in the nitty-gritty of my daily life. When a Christian seeks to honor God in how they do their job, are they simply trying to serve the Lord and not men (Colossians 3:23-24), or are they engaging in transforming/redeeming work? Is this a matter of motivation? Does it matter?
In short, where it makes most sense is in understanding the categories of Church and State. In my practical daily life, it gets less clear. Both 2k and non-2k Reformed social thinkers believe that work should honor God. Both camps look forward to the final and full consummation of Jesus' reign in its fully realized form. Indeed, as I study this issue more and get lost in its nuance, I wonder if the distinction is less than what appears on first glance, and in part, this is due to misunderstandings and mis-characterizations on both sides. My purpose here was to clarify how I currently understand 2k and use it.