Two-Kingdoms Theology?

The Two-Kingdoms Theology Goes “Expert”

By Bojidar Marinov

(An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less, until he knows everything about nothing.)

These last several days many of my Reformed Baptist friends are disappointed and confused. The reason for their disappointment and confusion is Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Considered “Reformed” by many in the Baptist churches, Mohler is believed to be an authority, a great preacher and Bible teacher, and a scholar. I haven’t met a single Baptist that would venture in any way to question Mohler’s conservative Biblical commitment.

And yet, Mohler these days seems to be changing his position on a very important issue: sodomy [1], aka “homosexuality.” True, he doesn’t go so far as to openly declare that sodomy is not a sin. But many of his other statements about sodomy do contradict the unequivocal position of the Bible. He uses rhetoric borrowed from the vocabulary of the enemies of God: “homophobic.” (Would he also criticize those of us that are “cannibalophobic,” “murderophobic,” “sexual-offender-phobic,” and “thievophobic”?) He also calls it “sexual orientation.” (Theft in that case is “economic orientation,” and murder can be classified as “relational orientation.”) He uses arguments promoted by the defenders of sodomy: that “homosexuality is more than just a choice.” (Same can be said about murder, theft, kidnapping, false witness.)

And then, at the end, he says that,

…there is no way anyone in fair mindedness can be confused about what I believe about homosexuality…

He is very wrong there. It is the fair minded that will be confused. Those that uncritically accept Mohler as a theological authority won’t care. In any case, both groups will certainly be surprised at the change in Mohler’s rhetoric about sodomy. As one of the major denominations in this nation, the Southern Baptists have always maintained a very conservative, Biblical, uncompromising rejection of sin, unlike Presbyterians, Methodists, or Charismatics. The surprise and concern of so many Baptists can not be ascribed to their supposed “lies about the nature of homosexuality” and “homophobia,” as Mohler would have it. Quite the opposite. It is Mohler’s position that is unacceptable. And we should expect many of them to be surprised.

I am not surprised. For one, I have never accepted the claim that Mohler is Reformed, even if he pays lip service to Calvinism and the TULIP. Reformed Christianity is much more than TULIP [2], it is, in the words ascribed to Bucer, “the Christianization of every aspect of life”; or what was later proclaimed by Reformed Christians as “building a City on a Hill.” Reformed Christianity can not be boiled down to a few theological propositions about man’s individual salvation; it is the Gospel of the Kingdom, a comprehensive cultural, historical, economic, political, etc. change based on the Bible and its law. The Reformers didn’t simply build churches and seminaries; they built cities and cultures and nations; and their preaching was directed to changing all of life, from individual souls to government policies and economic and cultural practices. But Mohler won’t have any of that. He is one of the most vocal proponents of an ideology that limits the Gospel to a small part of man’s life and practice: the Two-Kingdoms Theology.

And my case here is that Mohler’s Two-Kingdoms Theology is the basis for his soft views on sodomy. He is consistent with his theology when he abandons the firm position of the Bible concerning sodomy; if one believes in the Two Kingdoms, he can not do anything else but have increasingly lax views on any kind of sin, not only sodomy. My Baptist friends should examine Mohler’s theological views more closely; in those views they will discover the seeds of the same theological liberalism that is plaguing other denominations, and will soon knock on the doors of the Baptist seminaries and churches too.

The Two Kingdoms theology, as explained by its own adherents, has the following tenets:

1) Every Christian in this life is a citizen of two distinct kingdoms, the Church and the state (aka “the common kingdom”).

2) The two kingdoms are under two separate systems of law. The Church is under the special revelation given in the Bible, and its main goal is personal salvation. The state is under the natural law, revealed to all men; its concern is government, not salvation, and therefore the Bible can not be its sole source of authority and legitimacy.

3) Since the church derives its authority only from the Bible, and the state doesn’t, the church should never trample on the authority of the common kingdom institutions.[1] [3]

If we ignore the fact that “nature” contains no identifiable moral or judicial law for government, this looks like a very sound system, theoretically, if both the church and the state accept the theology of the two kingdoms and act accordingly. But here is the problem for the Two-Kingdoms Theology: There has been no state in history that has subscribed to a two-kingdoms theology. Civil rulers are always one-kingdom in their ideology. That one kingdom, if they are Christian rulers, is the Kingdom of Christ, and therefore they look for the source of law and justice in the Word of God, working to submit their kingdoms to Christ. If they are pagan rulers, their laws are the laws of men, and they seek to subjugate everyone in their realms – including the Church – to those laws of men. A two-kingdoms state is a delusion, and the deluded party are the church leaders who believe that it is possible to establish boundaries for the state power once the state is declared a kingdom independent from the revelation given in the Bible. A civil power that has been given the theological endorsement to be based on the vague and undefinable notion of “natural law” will always re-define this “natural law” to mean anything necessary for the expansion of state power. Eventually even the areas that the church considers its own realm will be consumed by that ever expanding state power. And the church will have nothing to offer to oppose it.

Therefore, in a society where the church believes in a “two-kingdoms” delusion we should expect the civil government to constantly demand more and more areas to fall under its jurisdiction. Again, no civil government actually believes in a “two-kingdoms” ideology, and therefore the existence of another independent “kingdom” within its realm will always be considered a threat against the official state ideology. We should expect then the church and its teachings to be the central target for any non-Christian government; and we should expect the civil government to use its power to make laws based on the “natural law” to encroach steadily onto the moral authority and the institutional integrity of the church. We should expect the state to “politicize” and absorb areas that were formerly “moral” and therefore within the jurisdiction of the church. Family, education, religious views, sexual morality, etc. will be gradually declared by law “political” issues, or “civil rights” issues, or “practical” issues; and the state bureaucracy will use the law to advance its power over these areas, pushing the church out of them, step by step, generation after generation.

And if the church has a Two-Kingdoms Theology, it won’t have the theological tools to defend itself or to stop the civil government’s invasion. According to one of the tenets of the Two-Kingdom Theology I mentioned above, the church should not trample on the authority of the state. And since there is never a clear cut definition as to what falls under the “natural law,” the church will have to retreat every time the state claims an area of life to itself. Thus the kingdom of the church will go “expert” by the definition I gave above: It will be forced to deal with an ever shrinking jurisdiction, governing less and less, until it finally has absolute power over nothing.

And indeed, what do we see when we trace the position of the civil government on the issue of sodomy? It used to be a punishable crime in the past, as it is according to the Gospel, as Paul informs us in 1 Tim. 1:8-11. Then the civil government, abandoning its Christian roots and ideology, refused to enforce the laws against sodomy. Then sodomy was removed from the list of punishable crimes, and left to the church only, as a moral transgression to deal with. It seems that here we would have had our perfect “two-kingdoms” situation, if the civil government stopped there. But, like we saw above, no civil government is “two-kingdoms”; if it hates God, it won’t stop until all its laws reflect that hatred. Sodomy then became a “social” issue, a “civil right.” This effectively freed sodomy from the moral demands of the Law of God and moved it in the realm of “natural law.” And then, of course, since the civil government is the guardian of that “natural law,” according to the Two-Kingdom Theology, the protection of sodomy now became a political and judicial issue; and if it becomes a political and judicial issue, the government will use its power to punish those in its realm who by their convictions and sermons stand on the wrong – the “illegal” – side of that political and judicial issue. Once sodomy is a protected political issue, the church must stop preaching against it.

What can Mohler do to oppose this development? Nothing, if he wants to remain faithful to his ideology. Anything he says will fall under the heading of the church “trampling” on the authority of the common kingdom institutions. His own ideology prevents him from openly confronting the government. The only option remaining is for him to gradually abandon the field to the state, as the church has done to many other fields – family, education, economics, etc. Mohler, while claiming to be Reformed, will have to look at sodomy “through new eyes,” the eyes of the “natural law,” since it is no longer the church’s domain, and therefore the Bible can not be the only standard there. He can’t do it immediately or he would lose his credibility. He must keep saying sodomy is sin. But at least he can start sowing the seeds – by excluding the Bible from the discussions of sodomy, and introducing a humanistic, “natural law” way of looking at sodomy.

And indeed, that’s exactly what he has done when discussing the suicide of Tyler Clementi [4]. In a lengthy article where Christians are accused of not doing enough to save Clementi from his suicide, Mohler asks if there was no one – i.e. no Christian – that “could have stood between that boy and that bridge.” Very emotional; and very weak as an argument. If the argument was valid, Jesus would have asked if there was no one to stand between Judas and that rope; or between Ananias and Saphira and the Holy Spirit. Or between the Jews and the Roman legions in AD 70. Or between Paul and the man whom he delivered to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. The argument that Christians haven’t done enough to make Clementi understand that homosexuality is sin and that he has worth in Christ is a mere manipulation. People in foreign lands who never heard of Jesus before turn to Christ at one word by a missionary; Clementi lived in a land where there is an abundant number of Christian TV stations and radio stations and churches and Christian books etc. . . . How probable is it that he never heard about Jesus and God and the salvation from sin and death? How much is “enough” effort for Mohler? How much worth is his argument that Christians should feel guilty for not saving from suicide a man who knew very well he was in sin, and had ample opportunities to repent and turn to God?

What is more important, in the article full of emotional arguments and tear-jerkers Mohler never produces a single Bible verse to support his analysis of the story. Yes, you read it correctly, the president of a large seminary didn’t produce a single Bible verse to support his position on a very important issue. While the Bible is generally mentioned as “condemning homosexuality,” Mohler is silent as to what exactly that “condemnation” amounts to. Had he quoted it, he would be forced to admit that there is only one verdict in the Bible against sodomy: Death. Had he gotten that far, he would have had to admit that Clementi’s suicide was God’s direct justice in a matter where the civil government refuses to obey God. Had he admitted that, he would have had to use the Bible to tell the civil government what it is supposed to do according to the Bible. And Mohler can not afford that, unless he wants to abandon his Two-Kingdoms Theology.

And therefore Mohler had only one choice: Comment on the suicide of a sodomite without ever going to the Bible, thus following the pagan state’s agenda of freeing sodomy from the demands of the Law of God, placing it in the realm of the “natural law.” My Baptist friends shouldn’t be surprised: Mohler is only acting out in practice his theology. His theology demands that he abandons the field every time the civil government invades it and politicizes it. After surrendering so many areas of life, sodomy is the next to surrender. The task is not so difficult, given how much emotionalism can be employed in justifying the retreat and the betrayal against the Word of God.

It is time for the Southern Baptists – and for the Presbyterians as well, and every one else – to understand that the source of the theological liberalism in the church today is the Two-Kingdoms Theology. As Albert Mohler’s strange change of heart testifies, the more consistent a person is with the Two-Kingdoms Theology, the more they will have to abandon one area of life after another to the pagan state; the jurisdiction of the “kingdom of the church” will have to shrink until the church has jurisdiction over nothing because everything will be politicized and under the control of the state. If this dualistic doctrine continues in our seminaries, we should expect more and more to hear from our pulpits sermons that do not even touch the real life, that only rely on emotionalism and not on the Word of God; because every mention of the Word of God will more and more become an open challenge to the ever expanding state, a challenge that contradicts the tenets of the Two-Kingdoms Theology.

Contrary to Mohler, the two kingdoms in history are the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan. When a preacher doesn’t openly proclaim the law of Christ revealed only in the Bible over every aspect of life – including civil government, economy, justice, etc. – that preacher by default helps the expansion of the kingdom of Satan, however noble and good his intentions are. Only the Gospel of the Kingdom – one Kingdom, in every area of life – can bring righteousness and justice back to our land, and give hope to the sinners. It is time for teachers like Mohler to be confronted and forced to stop seducing the Church with another gospel.

[1] [5] I have taken the tenets of the Two-Kingdom theology from David VanDrunnen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2010). Al Mohler highly praises and advertizes VanDrunnen’s book.

 [1] seems to be changing his position on a very important issue: sodomy:

[2] Reformed Christianity is much more than TULIP:

[3] [1]: #_ftn1

[4] discussing the suicide of Tyler Clementi:

[5] [1]: #_ftnref1

[6] The Mixed Moral Landscape of the Two-Kingdoms Theology:

[7] The Two Kingdoms: Of the Ungodly Power and of the Cowardly Retreat:

[8] Expert Advice (from a Non-Expert):

[9] Missionaries and the Theology of Resistance:

[10] Has Cave Theology Captured the Church?:

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