Kingdoms Apart, Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective

How to review this book which I believe is so strategically critical to its topic will not be an easy task. Believing that the Bible message is about the Kingdom of God, the one kingdom of God vs. a two kingdom concept, it behooves us to be familiar with this topic. The King and the Kingdom are one but with many different facets. Failing to understand this has resulted in fragmenting a theology of the Kingdom. It has created a dichotomy that weakens one’s view of the sovereignty of God over all things. It has caused confusion regarding nature and grace, the Church and the Kingdom, the Church and State, common grace and special grace, grace and the law or the law and the gospel.

James W. Skillen in his Foreword has written that “the spirit of this book, it seems to me, is one of seeking both to appreciate and to develop further Abraham Kuiper’s emphasis that the whole creation belongs to Christ and that in Christ believers should be seeking to develop all of their talents and capabilities in every sphere of life to the glory of God.”

While this book will deal with some extremely important theology, it does so in a way that helps the reader to understand that what it is saying really helps one focus on how Christians should live in the world from day to day. What does God require of us? What is the church’s role within the Kingdom? What is the relation of common and special grace and what difference does that make in our Christian lives and finally more broadly, how does Christianity relate to the culture? Following the emphasis of Kuyper, the book deals with and explains what this topic means for believing in the absolute sovereignty of God and his ultimate triumph over all of life. Where does faith come into the picture in the public square, we ask. Practically understanding the “one kingdom perspective” enables Christians to understand how God would have us act as a witness of the Gospel of the Kingdom or a minister of reconciliation in the world. Failing to understand the wholistic concept of the Kingdom has resulted in a weakening of Christianity’s influence in our western world.

Each of the nine contributors builds on the “one Kingdom” theme both expanding and deepening our understanding of the topic. I confess I have to be careful because I see most all of the major problems within Christianity stemming from a misunderstanding of the Kingdom, things such as the Gospel and law or nature and grace conflict, or dispensational theology where the church and kingdom are viewed separately and antithetical to each other, and consequently the silencing of the Christian influence in today’s world.

Martin Luther was definitely the chief proponent of a two kingdom view which is illustrated by the notion that the church functions in the spiritual realm while the civil government (state) functions in the natural. However, though John Calvin used, on several occasions, the terms two kingdom, he actually concludes the two realms answer to the one King Jesus.

Many the contributors to this book may not be known to you at this point. Each has made an invaluable contribution to this volume and will significantly enhance one’s understanding of the Kingdom of God. And if it is true that the Church is to preach and teach the good news of the Kingdom, then we must understand what that good news entails. We must also understand that because of the fall into sin we cannot simply be satisfied in applying redemption to the spirituality of the Church. Redemption belongs to all of creation because its goal is the recovering all of life as God intended it to be. The “one Kingdom” adheres to both the cultural mandates and the Great Commission and they are yet to be completed when the Kingdom comes in its fullness at the end of the age. This means that the truth contained in Christianity is not simply for the church but the world as well; therefore Christians are to live in the world and be salt and light, ambassadors for Christ in all areas of life. Christians must be equipped to serve Christ in all of life, not simply in the church realm. I appreciated for example, Cornel Venema’s clarification of the difference between Luther’s two kingdom concept and John Calvin’s.

Though some of the chapter titles may not encourage one to want to read this book, granted, it is not light reading, but I believe we have a “light Christianity” a shallow Christianity, because we have not been discipled to think more deeply and strategically about God’s plan for the world, including us.

Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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