Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Biblical Defense of the Two Kingdoms: Part One - Theocracy

The doctrine of the two kingdoms has been defined, but now it must be biblically defended. Our next few posts will be an attempt to do this.

Crucial in this connection is the fact that, throughout redemptive history, God's people find themselves in one of two conditions, generally speaking. The one is theocracy, and the other is exile.

A “theocracy,” as its name suggests, has to do with the rule of God over a people. But there is more to a theocracy than the bare fact that God is exercising control over his children (which is always the case). A true theocracy exists when God’s dominion is coupled with a domain, when his rule is connected to a realm—an actual piece of real estate within the borders of which God rules his people in a special and unique way.

Though other examples exist, Israel’s situation in the Promised Land is perhaps the most obvious example of a theocracy in the Bible: God had given the land of Canaan to his people and charged them with the task of subduing and exercising dominion over his enemies.

Moreover, when God's people are in a theocratic situation, all of life is holy. There is no distinction between the religious and the everyday, the cultic and the cultural, or the sacred and the secular. It was for this reason that when Israel was in the land of Canaan, their uniqueness and peculiarity extended to both the "religious" and the "non-religious" realms. They were forbidden from marrying foreigners (Ezra 9:1ff), from entering into covenants with other nations (Ex. 23:20-33; cf. Josh. 9:1-15), and even from sharing the diets of the surrounding pagan peoples (Dan. 1:8-16).

In a word, when God's people are in a theocratic context enjoying a God-given land, their uniqueness extends to all areas of life, both civil and spiritual. Or to put it more simply, in a theocracy there are not two kingdoms, but one.

The question arises, then, "What about us? Are we in a theocracy?" Though we often act as though we are, the answer to this question is no. The Church in this present age is in exile.

More on this in my next post....