Part 2 on the Two Kingdoms at Reformation 21
Posted by Matthew Tuininga
In the various political theological debates that have raged across the Reformed tradition over the centuries, virtually every group and every theologian has claimed the support of the legacy of John Calvin. When English Puritans and Elizabethan bishops clashed over the royal supremacy in sixteenth century England both sides claimed the support of John Calvin’s two kingdoms doctrine for their position. In the early twentieth century it became fashionable for liberal scholars to claim that Calvin’s theology of culture was one of “Christ transforming culture,” claiming that theology as a precedent for the social gospel. Resisting this emphasis were those theologians and pastors who picked up on Calvin’s repeated contrast between earthly things and the heavenly life to argue for radical discontinuity between the coming kingdom and life in this world. In the debates regarding theonomy both those who supported the continuing relevance of the Torah’s penal code and those who rejected it found support for their positions in Calvin’s various arguments on civil punishment and natural law.
Given this background, it is no wonder that Calvin has become a battleground in the controversy over the two kingdoms. Yet, as with so many of these controversies, it is both anachronistic and impossible to try to fit Calvin into the contemporary two kingdoms debate. The best we can do is to understand what the reformer himself taught about the two kingdoms, how he fit the doctrine into his broader theology, and to what extent we find it helpful to us today.
Read the whole thing here.