Justin’s #26 – Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture, David VanDrunen, 200 pages

This past winter, I made a pilgrimage out to Escondido, California to check out Westminster Seminary, California. I thought they might have some night classes I could attend part time.. They didn’t. Needless to say, on my tour of the campus, I was invited to a “convocation” which I suppose you might describe it as a debate. Dr. David Vandrunen and Dr. Godfrey presented arguments based on the topic, “Kuyper and Two Kingdom Theology.” After I finished at the presentation, I made my way to Dr. Vandrunen’s Christian worldview class which I was able to sit in on. He discussed Two Kingdom theology again here. Needless to say, I was intrigued and I wanted to pick up this book, but the book store didn’t seem to have it. I saw it at my own church’s bookstore and made a grab for it.

I read it in 2 days.

The premise of the book rests on the idea first of Adam: Adam had a very particular task when God set him and Eve up in the garden. Adam was given a cultural mandate for the common kingdom. Now, his particular job was in the absence of sin. When sin entered in the world, everything was tainted, even human culture. This is important to understand because as Dr. Vandrunen points out in the beginning of this book, there has been a cry from neo-orthodox and emergent theologians that are calling for a reformation of culture. They argue that we are to set right every wrong that is committed in this world by infiltrating the government and other man-made institutions to change the culture. The argument that Dr. Vandrunen makes is a call back to a biblical understanding of culture and worldview.. and it’s very intriguing.

Dr. Vandrunen argues that God made a covenant with Noah that formally began the idea of man-made institutions: the institution of man or the common kingdom. This includes the government, the family, etc. With the covenant with Abraham, God formally began the institution of what would later become known as the Church, or the redemptive kingdom. You can see the dichotomy of the “two kingdoms”: the institutions of man and the institutions of God. This two tiered system is very helpful when looking at the claims of the neo-orthodox and emergent theologians. We are not here to continue Adam’s work: it ended with Adam and the rise of sin in a fallen world. Today, the institutions of man are very important. They are the basis of civilization in government and the basis of the nuclear family. With government comes certain conditions that direct behavior and condemns injustice among other things. In the Church, we understand that there are restrictions on what we can and cannot do not just from government, but also from the moral law of God. For instance, there is no law for prohibiting the definition Jesus gives us of what adultery is; in the Church, this is considered a sin that needs to be repented of. Also within the Church, we understand that if one were to break a law that the government has instituted, after repentance and paying your due diligence to the state (in the form of a fee, prison/jail time, etc.), there is forgiveness and grace in that. While the state says “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” the Church signals that grand refrain, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” The redemptive kingdom is also unique in that it is the only kingdom in where salvation is offered. The state can’t save you; neither can the family. Only through the atoning work of Jesus Christ can save and therefore, the sound of the “redemptive kingdom” becomes so much more clear.

Dr. Vandrunen makes 3 points at the very end of his book about how this affects our relationship with education, vocation, and politics. I liked the chapter on politics best. I think as Americans, we’ve been inundated with this idea that we need to change the political landscape to a “Christian nation.” The political landscape is important and I believe Christians have a duty to vote and elect (and even run for office) people who agree with the Christian worldview and on issues that are important to Christians (like religious liberty). But at the same time, we can’t go too far to claim that we are or were ever a “Christian nation”; to say this would be to impose the redemptive kingdom onto the common kingdom, something that really hasn’t been done since the theocracy of Israel. We are not a theocracy, nor will we ever be. Does that mean we don’t elect Christians or that we abstain from the voting process altogether? Certainly not. What it does mean is that the cultural mandate given to Adam was fulfilled in Christ and until He sets up His kingdom, the world will never be right.

A word of caution to those with a theological background.. this is a reformed look at culture and worldview, and it comes from a covenant/amillennial position. While I am grateful for Dr. Vandrunen producing this work, I do not entirely agree with him on all points. I do like the idea and I’ll be looking forward to studying it more in the coming days.

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