What is the Reformed Two Kingdoms perspective? It largely focuses on how we conceive of the relationship between Christ and culture. It is also notably critical of Kuyperian neo-Calvinism. What is VanDrunen against? He makes it clear: North American neo-Calvinists have become far too optimistic about “transforming culture,” thus earning the title “transformationists.” Represented by figures like Al Wolters, Neal Plantinga, Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, the transformationist vision goes something like this: just as creation and human culture was God’s kingdom before the fall, so redemption entails Christ claiming every square inch of human cultural life for his own. So all cultural labor is kingdom work. All cultural labor aims to advance the full realization of the kingdom in light of the new creation. The transformationist perspective rejects any strict sacred/secular dualism as a type of gnosticism that fails to acknowledge God as Creator and Redeemer of all of life.
In contrast, VanDrunen draws a sharp distinction between the civil and the spiritual kingdom. The civil kingdom pertains to penultimate matters and includes matters of law, justice, procreation, education, culture, politics, and matters of vocation. Appealing to Genesis 9 and the covenant with Noah, VanDrunen argues that this common realm includes all, regardless of religious orientation. This realm has to do with the cultural mandate that all human beings share by virtue of being human. The spiritual kingdom pertains to things that are ultimate and spiritual, such as salvation and eternal life. Appealing to Genesis 12 and the covenant with Abraham, VanDrunen emphasizes that this realm includes only those who recognize God as God and who worship him as they ought.
My essay explores what I take to be shortcomings both of VanDrunen and Abraham Kuyper, and I then appeal to Augustine and the Dutch theologian Klaas Schilder as helpful remedies to those shortcomings. In brief, the question is this: —Can we be disordered toward our ultimate end (God) but still be properly ordered toward penultimate ends (things like the cultural mandate, economics, politics, etc.)? The short answer is no. The full answer is contained in my article in the book. If you're interested in buying the book, click here.
Endorsements of the book
- Gideon Strauss, Executive Director, Max De Pree Center for Leadership, Fuller Theology Seminary; Senior Fellow, Center for Public Justice
"This is a very fine collection of essays on the issues surrounding Christ and culture, marked by careful scholarship, an irenic spirit, and a deep commitment to a Reformed understanding of the gospel...[These essays] represent creative theologizing that not only is rooted in Scripture and the classical Augustinian and Reformed tradition, but also is actively engaged in the philosophical and theological currents of the twenty-first century...What I find particularly attractive in this volume is its tone. Though in some ways a work of polemical theology, it avoids the rhetorical excess and partisan characterizations that so often mar this genre of discourse. Instead, it freely acknowledges that there are unresolved tensions in the work of such Reformed giants as Calvin, Kuyper, and Bavinck, and at the same time is animated by a quiet passion for the comprehensive claims of Christ's rule."
- Al Wolters, Professor of Religion and Theology/Classical Languages, Redeemer University College
"Too many Christians, especially in the American evangelical Reformed renaissance, speak as though one must choose between Christ and culture, gospel and kingdom, salvation and justice. The Kuyperian tradition, with its rich, multiform, and I believe biblical vision, provides a counterweight to all that reductionism. This book engages this conversation and deserves a careful hearing by all who believe God has made Jesus of Nazareth the rightful and ultimate king of everything."
- Russell D. Moore, Dean, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary