Thursday, December 06, 2007

On Hermetic Sealing, Overlap, and Boys Who Cry "Wolf!"

I have been noticing some misunderstandings with respect to the doctrine of the two kingdoms that I'd like to try to clear up, if I may.

First, two-kingdoms theology does not teach that one may not factor in any of his Christian presuppositions when considering an a-religious topic. As some of my faithful readers have ably pointed out, no individual can seal his various viewpoints off with such hermetical precision.

While we distinguish between what the Bible clearly teaches and that to which it may be loosely applied (think the Trinity and economics respectively), we still may say that my view of the latter may be informed by certain theological presuppositions about, say, the imago Dei. But we must also allow that another who shares those presuppositions may come to a different conclusion about the issue in question.

Secondly, two-kingdoms thinking does not deny that there is cultic/cultural intersection and overlap in discussion about difficult issues. But it is crucial to remember that the tension does not lie in the kingdoms themselves. The kingdom of Christ is concerned with spiritual and eternal affairs and advances by Word and sacrament. The kingdom of man, on the other hand, is furthered by carnal weaponry for earthly and temporal ends. Both are legitimate and God-ordained, but distinct nonetheless.

I, however, happen to live in both of them, and hence the tension. Though for the most part I can distinguish a secular issue from a sacred one, that doesn't mean that I can as easily identify where my own existential lines are drawn.

Finally, we must realize that the more contemporary issues to which we seek to apply the Bible, the less authoritative the Bible will become in the eyes of the world. In the same way that paying off our nation's debts by printing a few trillion dollars will devalue our currency, so citing chapter and verse to prove both justification by faith alone and the value of laissez faire economics will only serve to lessen rather than increase its relevance. If you're going to cry "Wolf!", there'd better really be one, at least if you want the townsfolk to take you seriously.