Theological critique of Escondido Two Kingdoms Theology (VII): Civil magistrates are elders and they need a pastor, too...

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(NOTE: This post is part of a series showing the errors of so-called Two-Kingdom Theology. We refer to it as "so-called" Two-Kingdom Theology because what the church historically has meant by "Two-Kingdoms" bears little resemblance to what Escondido Theology men mean when they write it today. Thus sometimes we write "Two-Kingdom Theology," but more often we write "Radical Two Kingdom," "Rigid Two Kingdom," or "R2K.")

So with many other exhortations (John the Baptist) preached the gospel to the people. But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done... - Luke 3:18, 19

Engineers rock when it comes to bridges, elevators, and making sure the van is ready for the family vacation. But pastoral care and the application of God's Word to the messies of life? Not so much; the boy needs help. They can be so fixated on specifics that there's no broader picture. Once I served a church with a session of engineers. One of them wasn't just an engineer, but his company had him engineering halfway between quality control and customer service. We loved one another but sometimes he drove us crazy.

With engineers, the work is always definition, demarcation, and proper process towards the single goal of perfection. There's nothing in between right and wrong, risk is always to be avoided, and that's that. So a helpful way to understand the error of R2K is to think of it as an engineer's hat chart for Christian witness. There's this but absolutely not that for now (but not then) when A and B have both occurred within three days of C and Person Number One is wearing his tall hat. If it's a short squat hat, though, that changes everything.

So, for instance, here's how a Radical Two Kingdom church officer (pastor) tries to explain to the public why he went ahead and accepted an invitation to open the U.S. House of Representatives in prayer...

as their Guest Chaplain:

Membership in Congress is explicitly not subject to a religious test; it is in this sense an anti-creedal body. It is therefore impossible for me to pray before Congress as I pray in church, *on behalf of* the assembled body, for Congress does not have an agreed-upon God. However, while I may not be able to pray *on behalf of* people who don’t share my faith, I can certainly pray *for* them... (emphasis in original)

When I pray publicly, as a Christian minister in church, I pray with this confidence on behalf of all the baptized members of that church, all who have professed faith in the work of Christ alone, and trust on him alone. I pray for their salvation...

It is not only unchristian, but rude, to offer such a prayer publicly on behalf of people who don’t claim Christ. Therefore, I explicitly limited the scope of my House prayer. While I invoked the name of Christ that my prayer might be answered, my prayer was not...redemptive. Rather I prayed for those blessings which the Lord is pleased to give to all men in common.

Maybe I'm obtuse, but the brother's explanation seemed to have a little of that "methinks the lady doth protest too much" tone to it and I found myself wondering what the point of R2K is if a church officer goes and preaches common grace to civil magistrates on their turf, doing so under the guise of prayer? I mean they're listening, right? But not praying. So what's he preaching to them through that mic?

I can imagine something like this: "May You lead our civil servants to exercise their authority in such a way that good vibes come to fall alike on the just and the unjust..."

We know he couldn't allow himself to call them to exercise their authority to protect the unborn because that would be sectarian. He couldn't pray for an end to the perversion of sodomite marriage because that would be impolite when he's on their turf at their kind invitation, and not in the privacy of his own living room or sanctuary. He couldn't call for an end to the molestation of little boys and girls because such a prayer is a naked appeal to the Second Table of God's Law—specifically the Seventh Commandment—and if he exhorted those civil magistrates to end child molestation, consistency would require him to go on and pray for an end to blashemy against the Name of Jesus Christ. Every R2K man assures us this is so.

Once Christian witness has come under the engineers' rules and we wait for them to issue their ruling concerning which hat worn by whom using either the first-person plural or singular pronoun, it's easier to just stay home and let the experts handle it.

At one point in his explanation of why and how he, an ecclesiastical officer, exercised his ecclesiastical authority over civil magistrates calling them to acknowledge and obey God's Law, our brother writes, "I speak from the perspective that the Bible is the very Word of God." This is what passes for the confession of Jesus Christ, today. "Uh. Umm. Err. Ahem. You see, I myself speak from the perspective of... Umm. Err. Ahem. Like, you know?"

Answers the pagan: "Very helpful to know your own personal perspective, but as you yourself admitted, it's only your perspective. Live and let live, I say. We're melting pot, we is. Pluralistic. Can't we all get along? You have your perspective, I have mine. You have your values, I have mine. You have your belief system, I have mine. You have your god, I have mine. Ya know?"

As our brother shows in this article which stops just short of mea culpa, R2k doesn't work out so well in Washington D.C. because life is messy. Sin does that to life—it mixes things up, particularly spheres of authority and leadership.

If the civil magistrate calls on me to give an invocation or pray, should I submit to him or not? If my denomination has gone on record in support of chaplains, do I have a right to refuse to be Chaplain for a Day when ordered to do so my my civil magistrate? What if it's worded as an invitation? Is an "invitation" by the civil magistrate really a command performance? But say my session has forbidden me to pray or preach outside the privacy of my home and sanctuary—they're hard-core R2K men—which authority do I obey? My denomination? My own conscience? My session? Or my civil magistrate? And if I decide to obey my own conscience and give the civil magistrate his command performance, should I allow them to identify me as "Pastor of Third Presbyterian Church" when my session asked me not to participate?

Across time, Christian men gifted for leadership have worn a variety of hats at the same time—including many, many men who have worn paterfamilia in their household, civil magistrate in their state or nation, and teaching or ruling elder in their congregation, all at the same time. Are we to fault them for not keeping their fences in repair? For allowing the Word of God to encroach on the text or exposition or application of their civil law?

Stop and consider how many lawyers are ordained to the eldership in Presbyterian churches and govern sessions, presbyteries, and general assemblies as they govern their city, state, and nation. If a man has a gift of leadership, does it not make sense that he's called by his congregation to exercise that gift for the blessing of the People of God by leading? Ruling? Governing? Is this not why a man like Rev. John Witherspoon led the College of New Jersey at Princeton while founding New Jersey's Nassau Presbyterian Church, signing the Declaration of Independence, and serving in Congress from 1776 to 1782?

I've often thought that what R2K fails to keep in mind is that, like most pastors, I preach to civil magistrates. They're not "out there;" they're here in our congregation looking to their shepherd to give them guidance, instruction, admonishment, correction, and encouragement in their life and work just as the doctor and car repairman and long-haul truck driver and salesman and mother and grad student and dairy farmer does.

County supervisors, judges, state executives, university administrators and professors, the superintendent of schools, and on the list goes—these are our brothers and sisters in Christ sitting there under the preaching of God's Word with their hearts desiring to be fed the pure milk in which they may grow up into the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus to the farmer you preach the texts telling him not to be cruel to his animals, to the long-haul trucker you preach the texts warning against adultery, to the judge you preach the texts that condemn sodomy and abortion, and to those serving in the executive branches of government you preach the texts forbidding the king stealing from his subjects by corrupt weights and measures. Is it really meddling to preach and pastor in such a way? Is it failing to observe the proper boundaries between the two kingdoms?

Are we not allowed to preach against taking bribes from Planned Parenthood to cover up the slaughter of little babies. Are we prohibited from preaching that God hates the shedding of the blood of innocents and commands civil magistrates to execute abortionists and other murderers? How about the text "blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord?" May we preach that declaration of the Word of God?

I'm being only slightly facetious. Really, it's hard to imagine an R2K man beong faithful in his pulpit to apply the Word of God to specific sins of specific souls under his watch-care. Reformed men act as if lectio continua prevents a pastor from doing so, but of course it most certainly doesn't. Scripture hasn't changed:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12

The Word of God is still able to keep a young man's way pure. It's still a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. It's still a hammer. A fire. A rock. It remains sweet as honey and never ever returns to God void. It's profitable—all of it.

You see, if the hat trick is to keep the Word of God silent in the public square, then for your pastor to give it legs by proclaiming its application to the work of the civil magistrate is so very close to the Word of God itself being proclaimed in the public square that it must not happen. Too risky. Too easily misunderstood. Too political. Too dangerous. Before you know it, judges might begin to rule against abortion and sodomy and theft-by-inflation and Plan B. And in their rulings, they might go so far as to cite Scripture in their opinions. Then where would we run and hide?

All across Reformed history, men gifted by God for leadership have led their homes, cities, and churches. They've been blessed by God to be husbands and fathers, and have ruled in their households; and those who have proven their gifting for ruling at home have been promoted to ecclesiastical and civil office just like John Witherspoon and a host of others across the centuries. I mean, think about it: chaplains are military officers and ecclesiastical officers. Policemen are deacons and elders. Pastors are voices for morality seeking to clothe their city's naked public square. Lawyers vote in session meetings all over the country every night. In Orthodox Presbyterian churches, no less.

But beyond men of God wearing the hats of multiple offices, I leave you with this question that burns in my conscience year after year: how can I be faithful in my preaching if I gag God's Word in its application to those with a calling to public service when I regularly apply the Word to every other calling, including mothers, salesmen, professors, carpenters, and network administrators? What sort of pastor would cower before Ceasar while admonishing and exhorting mothers and long-haul truckers?

The theologian who has patented a new hat chart might give us some help thinking about the similarities and differences of mediating institutions and spheres of responsibility and authority, but don't let them get on their high horses and start cracking the whip intimidating pastors and elders and simple Christians who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus are irrepressible witnesses to God's Word, Law, and Redemption everywhere they go. Don't let the hat chart men suppress these saints.

This is the seventh in a (so far) eleven-part series opposing the liberal theology called "Two Kingdom," "Radical Two-Kingdom," "Rigid Two Kingdom," or "Revisionist Two Kingdom," and abbreviated here simply as "R2K." Here's the first in this series, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth, the ninth, the tenth, and the eleventhAnd here's a post subjecting R2K to an historical critique.

A change to the title has reset the social networking stats at zero.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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