Posted by: gmscan | December 20, 2011

Two Kingdoms?

First, let me share with you a Christmas gift. You have probably seen this before (7 million people have), but just in case, this is a link to the Celtic Women performing “O Holy Night.”

Next, Michael Horton of the White Horse Inn had a blog post that helped me put names on something I have been wrestling with.

He is having a disagreement with Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City over the division among evangelicals between “Cultural Transformation” and “Two Kingdoms” views of the work of the church.

Very simplistically, the Cultural Transformationists believe in changing the culture along Christian lines, while the Two Kingdoms think the secular culture cannot be fundamentally transformed and Christians need to build the church as a counter culture and a witness to Christ’s lordship

Horton and Keller both suggest a number of books to explore this question, and I am looking forward to getting into them. But in the meantime, Horton’s brief descriptions help me identify what I have been feeling instinctively and the conflict I feel inside myself.

Making the world a better place through politics and policy has long been my secular vocation. It is what I do for a living. But part of what has brought me to Christ is the realization that the world can never be healed. We may relieve some suffering at the margins but very often our efforts to reduce suffering in one place results in greater suffering someplace else – and too often we pat ourselves on the back for the good we’ve done while ignoring the damage we created.

We humans don’t do Utopia very well. Scripture has taught me that only God can do Utopia. The world suffers because it is still the domain of Satan and Satan loves misery.

I’ve been surprised by how many Christians don’t get that. They think that Christ calls them to heal the world. Here is a video of James Chuong explaining just that – that Christians are empowered by Christ to heal the world.

I don’t think so. Only God can heal the world. As believers we are still in sin. Even our mission work is supposed to have the ultimate purpose of proclaiming the Gospel.

Horton also discusses a little bit what the different views means for how we interact with the secular world. This gets interesting. I would assume the Cultural Transformationists would be busy-bodies, telling other people what they should do to be more Christian-like (even if they are not actual Christians.) That is the last thing I would want to do. I have never appreciated people trying to force their life style on me and I don’t try to force mine on anyone else.

I expect the Two Kingdoms viewpoint would result in people of faith living according to Christ’s commands as best they can, and thereby be witnesses to a Christian life that people may or may not want to emulate.

If this rudimentary understanding is correct, I guess I am pretty solidly in the Two Kingdoms camp. But I’m still going to try to improve the world, too.




  1. Thank you for these posts. Merry Christmas, Greg!

  2. I would recommend the Van Drunen book Horton references. I can’t remember which is the more heady. I have read them both and I would go for the layman title first. If you believe that the individual is pefectable and yet society is not as we all innately believe it should be (innately because I believe Eden is imprinted into our genetic makeup), then you are forced to look around for reasons as to why humanity’s first impulse is not to the positive. The immediate answer is education and the second is evil Republicans and Christians that won’t go along with the utopian agenda. The contradiction as to how innately good humans became evil Republicans is never quite rectified.

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