Dear Church Family,
This Friday and Saturday (February 20-21) is the Midland Reformed Theological Conference (MRTC) which will be held in the fellowship hall at Providence Presbyterian Church (PPC). This will be the first of what we hope to be an annual theological conference on the last weekend in February at PPC. At this first conference, we are privileged to have Dr. David VanDrunen of Westminster Seminary California who will speak on the topic: “In the World but Not of the World: A Reformed Two Kingdoms Perspective on Christianity and Culture.”
The Two Kingdoms
In preparation for this conference, I thought that it might be helpful to provide a bit of an introduction – or foretaste – of what to expect at this conference. Of course there will be much more to this conference (and better said!), but one of the major themes will be that which VanDrunen writes about in his book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture. According to the biblical two-kingdoms doctrine:
God is not redeeming the cultural activities and institutions of this world, but preserving them through the covenant he made with all living creatures through Noah in Genesis 8:20-9:17. God himself rules this ‘common kingdom,’ and thus it is not, as some writers describe it, the ‘kingdom of man.’ This kingdom is in no sense a realm of moral neutrality or autonomy. God makes institutions and activities honorable, though only for temporary and provisional purposes. Simultaneously, God is redeeming a people for himself, by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham and brought to glorious fulfillment in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has completed Adam’s original task once and for all. These redeemed people are citizens of the ‘redemptive kingdom,’ whom God is gathering now in the church and will welcome into the new heaven and new earth at Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, Christians live as members of both kingdoms, discharging their proper duties in each. They rejoice to be citizens of heaven through membership in the church, but also recognize that for the time being they are living in Babylon, striving for justice and excellence in their cultural labors, out of love for Christ and their neighbor, as sojourners and exiles in a land that is not their lasting home. (p 15)
There is a difference between the church and the world. And, there is a difference between the work of the church and the work of all other worldly institutions. Both are ruled by God and serve His purposes, but both have different purposes which work toward different ends.
Of course, this distinction between the common kingdom and the redemptive kingdom has ramifications and specific applications for the work and worship of the church, as well as for the various vocations and cultural pursuits of individual Christians. VanDrunen helps in parsing these things out be speaking in terms of how Christians have a cultural commonality with unbelievers, but at the same time maintain a spiritual antithesis with unbelievers:
[W]hile Christians are in fundamental conflict with unbelievers in regard to their basic presuppositions about God and the world (the antithesis), they find that they can often cooperate with them on a great many things when it comes to the narrower and technical aspects of their work. (p 181)
The conference this weekend will include a lecture on “The Practicality of the Two Kingdoms: Church, Vocation, and Politics.” And, our final session will provide an opportunity for questions and answers for Dr. VanDrunen, so please come and stay to the end. It will certainly prove to be a stimulating and thought-provoking series.
Well, I’ve given you some quotes from the beginning and the end of VanDrunen’s book, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms – the bookends, if you will. I invite and encourage you to come to the conference this weekend to learn the fuller explanation of the beginning, middle, and end of the Biblical Two-Kingdoms Doctrine.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch