The Mainstream Two Kingdoms Doctrine: Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition
In a thoughtful blog post at the Gospel Coalition (HT: Darryl Hart) Justin Taylor describes the appropriate Christian attitude towards culture and politics in terms of the two kingdoms doctrine:
We are dual citizens, responsible and active members of both God’s spiritual kingdom and earthly kingdom. And if we seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength—and to love our neighbor as ourselves—then we should care to some degree about politics and elections and the role of government in our land.
Taylor reminds his readers of the way in which the two kingdoms tension runs throughout the Scriptural record.
The apostle Paul once warned that “no soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits” (2 Tim. 2:4), and he insisted that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). This sounds like a single citizenship with only a heavenly zip code.
However, the same apostle Paul also declared that he was “a citizen of no obscure city” (that is, Tarsus) and avoided torture by appealing to his Roman citizenship, which gave him certain rights and prevented certain actions from the Roman authorities (Acts 21:39; 22:25-29). Paul knew that his fundamental identity was “hidden with God in Christ” and that he was to set his mind on “things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-3), but he also knew that he had earthly obligations and rights and that they were not insignificant.
Or, we can ask: Which city should we care about?
And so the paradox goes.
Taylor helpfully points out that ultimately evangelism is more important than politics, the spiritual kingdom more important than the earthly. But he notes that most Christians do and should care about both. In fact, Darryl Hart’s fair quibbles about priorities aside, I find that Taylor may overemphasize the call on Christians to evangelize. Taylor writes, “If you have to choose between evangelism and politics, choose evangelism. Saving an eternal soul is more important than fixing a temporal need.” I think it would be better for Taylor to put the Christian call to evangelism in the context of vocation. For some Christians politics is a calling of God, and they ought to do their best to remain faithful in that vocation, mindful that their politics should be an occasion for others to ask them for a reason for the hope that is within them.
I think Taylor gets the formulation quite right in his closing paragraph. If only in the sense that his very concept of the secular is shaped by his understanding of the gospel and of the word of God, even Darryl should agree with this statement:
There are more important things in life than politics. It’s easy to become an idolatry. But it’s also easy to be too apathetic. As the Lord leads, let us commit to letting our politics be shaped by the gospel and informed by the word of God as we prayerfully work to become informed and to fulfill our roles, seeking the good of the city even as we wait for the city to come.