Two Kingdoms

posted Jun 8, 2012, 6:27 PM by Hector Falcon   [ updated Jul 30, 2014, 9:17 PM ]

While there is a valid view of two kingdoms which addresses the distinction between the jurisdictions of the church and the state, there is another view that also takes on this same name.This erroneous view is taught at Westminster Seminary in California primarily. However, it has not been refuted by Westminster in Philadelphia. This view generally teaches that God rules the church kingdom and that men rules the earthly kingdom. This sets up a dualistic split between two jurisdictions in which God has traditionally ruled over both. While he allows people to act as his representatives in these jurisdictions, they are ultimately accountable to Him for how they rule.

Martin Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms (or two reigns) of God teaches that God is the ruler of the whole world and that he rules in two ways.

He rules the earth through both secular and church governments by means of law. In the secular kingdom men rule with the law of biblically revealed law and in the spiritual kingdom, that is, Christians He rules through the gospel or grace. The Two Kingdoms (2K) advocates teach that Christians have no dealings with regard to how the secular ruler governs. This leaves the secular rulers to rule as they see fit or under a form of law known as natural law. In natural law people supposedly have enough knowledge by what they know or what they observe in nature to rule effectively. Secular rulers have no obligation to submit to God and His moral expectations with regard to how he or she rules.

The Issue

A major issues associated with a distorted understanding of the 2K theology is the way that it leaves government rulers unaccountable for how they rule. Since they are not under God's authority this can lead to the rise of tyrants that abuse their power over the people. One example of this can be seen when the German church leaders were helpless to stop the takeover of Germany and the churches by the Nazis. According to Erwin W. Lutzer,

The Germans had become accustomed to the doctrine of the "two spheres," which was interpreted to mean that Christ is Lord of the church, but the Kaiser (or Caesar) is, after a manner of speaking, lord over the political sphere...They witnessed to the saving grace of Christ but believed that the church's mission was only to preach Christ. Pietism, with its emphasis on personal devotion to Christ, was used to inject spiritual life into the mainstream Lutheran church. But by insisting that their faith was private and should not be brought into the political sphere, pietism had scant influence in stemming the Nazi tide...Those pious Christians thought that if they left Hitler alone, he would leave them alone. But many discovered that was not possible. Hitler also put pressure on them to have their children indoctrinated in the state schools and, thanks to the cultural pressure, their churches were not equipping members to stand against the abuses that were developing around them. (Erwin W. Lutzer, 2010, p. 17, 18).

In light of the lack of influence by the Christianity within our culture, scholars are making the case that we have a similar situation in the United States with regard to a false view of the two kingdoms. They argue that a false pietism based on a distorted "two kingdoms" theology has resulted in impotent American churches. They point out that we currently have a repeat of the same church conditions that allowed the unopposed takeover of the German culture by the Nazis. This is an important issue in light of our nation's growing love affair with socialism and big government. The following links provide some good resources to learn more about this issue.

Critique of Two Kingdoms:

Critique of 2 Kingdoms

Interview by John Frame:

Lecture by George Harinck on Barmen Declaration:

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