Tuesday, August 28, 2007

W2K Part Five: Biblical Dualism

As D.G. Hart has recently pointed out, "dualism" has become a modern-day theological expletive for most transformationists of a neo-Calvinist stripe. The argument seems to be (1) Gnostics are dualists; (2) Proponents of two kingdoms theology are dualists; therefore (3) Proponents of two kingdoms theology are Gnostics.

(Yes, I realize their argument is more sophisticated than that, but brevity is a necessary bedfellow of the blog.)

Listen to this passage from the Westminster Confession:
"Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate (xxxi.4)."
Please notice that there are two distinct spheres of authority mentioned: the Church (which is concerned with spiritual matters), and the State (which is concerned with civil affairs). I pointed out in my last post (half in jest) that there must be some "bracketing" of one's faith involved when one's duties in one sphere are in tension with one's duties in another (such as a civil magistrate who is called to execute justice and to turn the other cheek).

In response to the challenge of reconciling killing people with the sword and killing people with kindness, one anti-W2K commenter argued that, while the State must be merciless, the individual Christian is called to be forgiving (sounds like two kingdoms to me).

The real issue, then, is not dualism at all, but the nature of one's dualism. Sure, if I pit the physical against the spiritual, I am a Gnostic. But if I pit the spiritual against the temporal, or this passing age against the eternal age to come, I am Pauline (Eph. 1:21; cf. Matt. 12:32).

Two kingdoms, two swords, two cities -- however you describe the dynamic, the fact is that though both are intrinsically good and ruled by God, one is fleeting while the other endures forever.