Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts on Two Kingdom Theology vs. Neo-Kuyperism

I have been reading a biography of Abraham Kuyper and digging deeper into his theology and philosophy. The more I read the more I like what he has to say and what he did.

Recently, Kevin DeYoung and some of the guys at the White Horse Inn debated the appeal of the Two Kingdom world view versus the Neo-Kuperian world view. Both views have value and biblical merit. See Justin Taylor's discussion for a good exchange among commentators.

I can't promise to add anything to their discussion. But, with the hope of helping us think a little more through these important ideas....my thoughts.

While I like aspects of the Two Kingdom approach I believe it has some serious drawbacks. Here are some thoughts on the advantages and drawbacks of the Two Kingdom view:

Advantages:
  1. It is a good understanding in wrestling with the reality that the elect are also exiles living in a world largely opposed to the reign of God.
  2. It helps protect the church from forgetting its chief priority of proclaiming Christ and displaying the fruit of the gospel first and foremost.
  3. It allows for participation in the realm of the world, where we often see the work of common grace that is distinct from true kingdom work (it lacks true acknowledgment of Christ as King ie. good government, friendly neighbors, public charities etc.).
  4. It keeps a healthy tension between the already and the not yet in our eschatology.

Drawbacks:
  1. It can lend itself to a neo-Gnosticism where our spirituality can be disconnected with the nitty-gritty of life lived in a body that dwells in a world that has cultural, economic, social, civic and relational realities that are intimately related to the spiritual.
  2. It can lend itself to an apathetic view of the world and the isolation of the Church from society. Christianity is a comprehensive worldview that is centered on Christ but finds application in every nook and cranny of life, both in a fallen world and in the future re-created world.
  3. It can seem to excuse Christians and Christian leaders from thinking through the particulars of how a Christian is to live in the world because of the inherent difficulty in applying gospel truth to the complexities of life and culture. While there are inherent dangers with any church advocating how to shop or how to invest in stocks or which political party to support or what art forms to promote, this is no reason for separating the realm of the church and the world in this way. We do not wash our hands of the application of the reign of Christ to the nitty-gritty because the issues can become too complicated. We must think biblically about every arena of life. Certainly we must be humble and admit we are culturally biased in our applications, but this is no reason for neglect. "There is a lion in the streets" is the excuse of the sluggard. The reign of Christ extends to all things. We must humbly and diligently seek to apply His truth in all arenas of life even if it means coming up with some messy answers at times.
  4. It seems where it has been embraced it has evidenced, to some degree, the negative effects of the previous three tendencies (ie. Lutheran & Mennonite vs. much of English, Dutch and American evangelicalism). Certainly Neo-Kuyperism has its drawbacks (a subject of a future post) but humble truthful comprehensive Gospel-centered activism, even with its misapplications and messiness seems to have a healthier legacy than the Two Kingdoms approach.

I am eager to think more through this more and hear your perspectives. What do you think?

1 comment:

Dan said...

Was Kuyper a postmillenialist? It is hard to walk the line between health and wealth/ emergent church gospel/ social change-centered gospel (which seems close to postmillenialism) and gnosticism/ new heavens and earth focus. The biggest problem is that both sides demonize the other, instead of realizing the Gospel is powerful enough to change this world entirely as well as secure us in the next one.