Defining the Two Kingdoms (Updated)


At stake in distinguishing the two kingdoms is the distinction between law and Gospel. Those who confuse civil righteousness with righteousness before God will be likely to confuse moral reform in society with the kingdom of God.

One of Luther and Calvin’s Great Recoveries
by Michael S. Horton
From Modern Reformation issue: “Why Two Kingdoms?: Dual Citizenship On the Eve of the Election” Sept./Oct. 2000 Vol. 9 No. 5. Pages 21-25, 28.

ModRef Sept_Oct_2000

The current discussion about the relationship between church and culture is sure to get heated up as John Frame’s book Escondido Theology came out of the press a few days ago. He attacks the Reformed “two-kingdom view,” along with the Regulative Principle of Worship and other Reformed distinctives, that Michael Horton and other professors at Westminster Seminary in California affirm. Just last month, I received a comment from a missionary here in the Philippines who called Horton and others who espouse the two-kingdom view as heretics.

Horton’s article “Defining the Two Kingdoms,” written just before the American presidential elections in 2000, is very helpful, so I’m reproducing the first 300 words below. The folks at White Horse Inn were gracious to make the article available for the next 30 days.

Two eschatologies, or views of history and creation’s destiny, clashed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. One was rooted in the triumphalism that marked Anglo-American Protestantism since the Spanish Armada’s defeat in 1588 and produced the courageous confidence of the New England Puritans. The other was rooted in the disillusionment with society’s gradual improvement that so characterized nineteenth-century Evangelicalism. Postmillennialism and premillennialism (see definitions on page 46) are the terms most commonly used now to delineate those two distinct approaches.Evangelicalism.

Millennialism, whatever the prefix, concerns the triumph of “Christendom” from the conversion of Constantine the Great in 313 to the Great War (World War I). In the fifth century, St. Augustine sharply distinguished the “two cities,” with their own special origin, purpose, destiny, message, and methods. And yet, Augustine reluctantly conceded to the use of the secular sword in suppressing the Donatists, a schismatic group similar to the radical Anabaptists known to the reformers. Like Augustine, both Luther and Calvin defended in theory a two kingdoms approach that they did not always follow in practice. While Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were “amillennial” in their eschatology (i.e., non-millenarian), they were still under the sway of the Christendom model. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire often played out its identity as the fulfillment of the Old Testament theocracy, the true Israel of God. The emperor was a blend of King David (hence, the Holy part of the name) and Caesar (hence, the Roman part). The whole empire and, in fact, all Christian states, composed the corpus Christianum, the body of Christ. And this “one kingdom” of God would grow and spread its unified cult and culture, its worship and its civilization, to the ends of the earth.

This is the myth behind the crusades, the Inquisition, and such American institutions as slavery and the doctrine of manifest destiny…

Read the full article here.

UPDATE: The following are responses to John Frame’s accusations against “Escondido Theology”:

“Westminster Seminary California Faculty Response to John Frame”

“A Response to John Frame’s The Escondido Theology by Michael Horton at White Horse Inn

“Faint Resemblance” by D. G. Hart at Old Life

“Frame, Escondido, and Worship” by D. G. Hart at Old Life

“Horton on Frame’s New Book” by Kim Riddlebarger at Riddleblog

“Two Kingdom Theology and Neo-Kuyperians” by Kevin DeYoung (comparing pluses and minuses of Two Kingdom View)

Other useful articles:

“Horton’s Response to Two Kingdom Questions” by White Horse Inn (downloadable PDF file)
“Natural Law and Christians in the Public Square” by David VanDrunen
“Augustine’s City of God” by Modern Reformation


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