Creaturely Agency and the Two Kingdoms

At the Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference last month, Michael Horton delivered a fascinating paper entitled, “Let the Earth Bring Forth: The Spirit and Human Agency in Sanctification.”  Really, though, he could have left off “in Sanctification” from the title, since his wide-ranging paper explored many different loci of dogmatics, and indeed, ran out of time to even properly address sanctification.  The goal of the paper was to challenge the kind of hyper-Calvinistic thinking that has often crept into the Reformed tradition, suggesting that divine and human agency is a zero-sum game, and that the omnipotence of God must be matched by the impotence of his creatures.  In place of this paradigm of Creator-creature relations that threatens to cripple human agency, Horton wanted to offer a more robustly Trinitarian account in which the Spirit functions as the mode of divine agency which creates, animates, and enhances human agency, instead of simply trumping it.  

“Some defences of divine sovereignty,” Horton laments, “share with Arminianism a tendency toward a univocity of being between God and humans…both assume that divine and human agency are quantitatively rather than qualitatively distinguished.  Like a pie divided unequally between the host and guests, free agency is something to be negotiated or rationed between God and human persons….

In an analogical perspective, however, God is qualitatively distinct from creation, and so too is our agency distinct from though dependent upon God’s.  There is no freedom pie to divide….God alone is sovereign, but that is the source of rather than threat to creaturely liberty.  God does not make space for us by restricting his agency, but rather gives us our own creaturely space precisely by creating, governing, sustaining, and saving us.  Unlike the tyrants of history who stalk the earth extinguishing the voice and power of subjects, God’s sovereign presence animates and liberates human agency.”


Horton roots this paradigm in the doctrine of creation, by noting how, although we often draw attention to the omnipotent divine fiat in the creation narrative–“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”–there is another grammar operative in this narrative as well: “And God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed’…And the earth brought forth vegetation.”  This construction, which appears several times in the creation account, shows God calling upon the creation to act according to its own created agency; creaturely media are not mere dead instruments in the hand of God, but have their own integrity; have, as Hooker would put it, “laws” of their own beings, according to which God has called upon them to function.  This is not true only for creation, but for redemption as well.  Creaturely media, while retaining their own distance, are sanctified for service to the divine work, through which they are not only themselves renewed, but take part in the renewal of the whole of creation.  


All of this, needless to say, is immensely fascinating, and resonates deeply with so much of what I have been discovering in Hooker as a corrective to some of the distortions in the Reformed tradition, which i have characterised as the product of the “Puritan mindset”–the zero-sum game between Creator and creatures.*  


Ironically, though, as regular readers will know, I have deployed this Hookerian account of divine and human agency against, among other things, the modern Reformed two kingdoms theory that fails to satisfactorily integrate natural and supernatural law, human and divine authority, but has to play them off against one another or insulate them from one another.  Reformed two kingdoms theorists like VanDrunen and Hart have been quite intent on radically distinguishing creation from redemption, and denying to the institutions of creation any role as means in God’s redemptive work.  Natural structures must remain outside the supernatural work of God, neither renewed nor renewing.  I say “ironically,” of course, because Horton is, at least as I understand it, generally identified as one of the leaders of the R2K school of thought that VanDrunen has so aggressively developed.  And yet Horton could enthusiastically quote John Murray toward the end of his paper, employing the language of transformation which VanDrunen reflexively rejects:

“Special grace does not annihilate but rather brings its redemptive, regenerative, and sanctifying influence to bear on every natural or common gift; it transforms all activities and departments of life; it brings every good gift into the service of the kingdom of God.  Christianity is not a flight from nature; it is the renewal and sanctification of nature.”

All this suggests, once again, that the instincts of the R2Kers are considerably closer to the heart of the tradition than the conceptual apparatus on which they have sought to graft those instincts.  It is as if they have set their eyes upon the right summit (the Reformed reconciliation of divine and natural law), but were so concerned to avoid the pitfalls and crevasses right in front of them (“transformationalism,” theonomy, etc.) that they set off up the wrong peak altogether, and now find themselves vainly gesturing at their goal across a wide gulf.  

*See here for the initial development of some of these thoughts.

Two Kingdoms in the Old Testament

(Continuing at last with my review of Living in God’s Two Kingdoms

One of the greatest weakness of the theological paradigm that VanDrunen advances as a basis for his Reformed two kingdoms theology, is that it leaves him ill-equipped to make sense of the Biblical narrative.  The dogmatic theology, as discussed in the previous post, is problematic enough, but at least there VanDrunen can tie it all together into a coherent, though perhaps not persuasive, package.  But when it comes to the Biblical theology, he is essentially forced to openly excise large portions of Scripture as having little or no meaning for us today, renouncing any aspiration to a unified Biblical narrative.  

Although the New Testament certainly provides plenty of narrative, and offers, I think, glimpses of a prospective narrative, whereby we may understand the Church age and the eschaton, the lion’s share of Biblical narrative of course falls in the Old Testament, and it is here that VanDrunen’s most obvious problems appear.  After all, 90% of the Old Testament narrative tells the story of Israel, a covenanted people who receive laws from God to regulate every area of their religious, social, economic, and civil life, who exist as a holy nation, a priestly kingdom, under their King Yahweh and those whom he appoints.  This is hardly a promising place to look for a two-kingdoms paradigm, in which divine law addresses only otherworldly matters, and affairs of this life are part of the “common kingdom,” ruled by natural law.  And so, VanDrunen sheepishly admits, this whole section of the story (90% of it) is just an interlude–a side-show–not something we should rest too much weight on.


But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Let’s look back at how VanDrunen sets up the Old Testament narrative in terms of his two-kingdoms theology.  After his somewhat idiosyncratic account of Adam’s commission (covered in the previous post), he begins with the Noahic covenant, which, he tells us, establishes the “common kingdom”:

“Several important features characterise this common kingdom established by the Noahic covenant: it concerns ordinary cultural activities (rather than special acts of worship or religious devotion), it embraces the human race in common (rather than a holy people that are distinguished from the rest of the human race), it ensures the preservation of the natural and social order (rather than the redemption of this order), and it is established temporarily (rather than permanently)” (79).  

With this, he contrasts the redemptive Abrahamic covenant:

“it concerns religious faith and worship (rather than ordinary cultural activities), it embraces a holy people that is distinguished from the rest of the human race (rather than the human race in common), it bestows the benefits of salvation upon this holy people (rather than preserving the natural and social order), and it is established forever and ever” (82-3) 

Now this kind of distinction is nothing terribly novel, and thus far, I’m more or less fine with it.  But two covenants do not equal two kingdoms, in VanDrunen’s sense; rather, I would suggest that the Biblical picture is one in which the Abrahamic covenant is the means to the realisation of the Noahic covenant.  The Noahic covenant is, after all, a reaffirmation of the Adamic covenant–that much is clear (it begins with “Be fruitful and multiply”).  After Adam’s failure to carry out his God-ordained task, the world was plunged into the chaos of sin and required devastating divine judgment.  After this judgment, God confronts Noah as the new Adam, reaffirming his task, and pledging that this time, the world will not have to be destroyed again.  Now, why not?  How is the fallen earth and the fallen race to be prevented from requiring judgment again?  Already within two chapters, things seem to be going to pot again.  The Abrahamic covenant is the answer.  God covenants with Israel as the representative of the human race, called upon to be the bearers of his promises and the witnesses to him in a fallen world, so that through them, the earth might be preserved and the race redeemed.  In other words, redemption and preservation are not so separate as VanDrunen suggests, but are interdependent.  

Now, as VanDrunen continues, his categories begin to look increasingly strained: “Here [in the Abrahamic covenant] God sets apart a people who, because of their faith and obedience toward him, are radically distinguished from their neighbours and given a different eternal destiny (life with Christ in the world-to-come).  Genesis teaches these things about the Abrahamic covenant” (83)  What?  Genesis teaches that Abraham is going to be given life with Christ in the world-to-come?  Hardly.  Dogmatic theology might teach that on the basis of the whole Scriptural revelation, but Genesis says no such thing.  VanDrunen’s insistence on supplanting biblical theology with systematic theology (on the next page, VanDrunen says “Unlike the Noahic covenant, this covenant is not about preserving this present world but about opening up the gates of the world-to-come” and then goes on to read the imputation of Christ’s righteousness into the passage!) blinds him to the incongruities in the categories he is applying to the text.  The promise to Abraham is first and foremost for a people, and for a land–for this-worldly benefits.  Now, we might want to jump forward to the New Testament and spiritualize all this, but the very this-worldly nature of these promises means that, in the Old Testament at least, this “spiritual kingdom” seems to transgress a lot on the territory assigned to the “civil kingdom.”  

But there’s a more serious incongruity.  What does God say to Abraham about the purpose of the covenant? “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  As VanDrunen has described it, the purpose of the covenant is to separate out a people for a different eternal destiny, to bracket them off from their neighbours and save them out of the world, giving them blessings in the world to come.  But as God describes it, the purpose is to commission a people to bless the whole rest of the world.  Needless to say, this difference has huge ramifications, since, as N.T. Wright never tires of pointing out, this is Paul’s whole point in Romans–Israel has failed to be the blessing to the world, and so God has fulfilled Israel’s task himself through the faithful Israel Christ, in whom we all are called to be the new Israel, bringing God’s blessing to the world.  

VanDrunen goes on to explain how Abraham, while covenanted to dwell in the spiritual kingdom by faith, simultaneously lived in the common kingdom: “As he sojourned in the land, Abraham did not set up his own cultural ghetto but freely participated in his neighbours’ cultural activities” (86).  There is a little problem with this picture, though–this land is the very thing that Abraham is going to acquire according to the terms of the redemptive covenant–this is the inheritance of his “spiritual kingdom”!  His “sojourning” in it is a temporary matter, as he patiently waits on God for the day when he and his descendants can take it over, at which time these “neighbours” will be killed, expelled, or converted.  This is hardly the kind of two-kingdoms mentality VanDrunen wants to recommend–one in which we inhabit the common kingdom only as long as we have to, waiting until we can take it over and make it into the spiritual kingdom–indeed, it sounds more like the theonomic mindset VanDrunen is keen to oppose.  


So how does VanDrunen get around this?  Apparently, by deftly inverting the narrative of the Old Testament so that the inheritance of the Promised Land is, ironically, not the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham, but a weird, 800-year-long hiatus in the Biblical narrative: “For present purposes it is also crucial to note that Israel’s experience under the law of Moses in the Promised Land of Canaan was not meant to exemplify life under the two kingdoms.  The cultural commonality among believers and unbelievers ordained in the Noahic covenant was suspended for Israel within the borders of the Promised Land” (90).  After describing the many ways in which the Mosaic law violates the two-kingdoms paradigm, he concludes, “Under the Mosaic covenant God evidently suspended the provisions of the Noahic covenant that ordained that ordinary cultural activities should be a common enterprise among believers and unbelievers alike.”  So in the Mosaic covenant–the covenant that dominates the Old Testament, we have a covenant that doesn’t really fit with either of the two previous covenants that are supposed to provide a blueprint for the life of God’s people.  In another strange inversion, it is not until things go horribly wrong, and God’s people are completely unfaithful, that they are again given the opportunity to live according to the original blueprint: “In Israel’s long history between the giving of the law to Moses and the coming of Christ, they nevertheless had one corporate experience which did exemplify the life of the two kingdoms: the Babylonian exile” (91).  But before moving on to the end of the narrative, let’s pause and look at a couple other remarks about the period in the Promised Land.

While admitting that the two-kingdoms principle seems basically suspended during this time, VanDrunen argues that it did still apply “outside the borders of the Promised Land”–here, Israelites were still supposed to live as citizens of a common kingdom, free to “make alliances and trade in common with the world.”  This claim is problematic because, in fact, Israel is condemned by God for pretty much every alliance they make with another kingdom, and the Solomonic period, to which VanDrunen appeals for his proof-texts, is the time when Israel is shown to have be violating God’s commands not to be like other kingdoms–the multiplying wives, horses, chariots, etc.  The trading alliance with Hiram is not explicitly condemned, but in context, it is hardly warmly affirmed.  In any case, again, this paradigm would underwrite a kind of two-kingdoms relationship that VanDrunen eschews–one in which Christians hang out in their “spiritual kingdom” ghetto of the Church, living isolated lives and only venturing out to mingle with unbelievers when pragmatic necessity calls for it.  


Now what about the Babylonian captivity?  Sure.  Here we do have a “two-kingdoms” relationship, in which faithful Jews are supposed to serve God as he requires, while also serving Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon.  But without delving into the details of how VanDrunen explicates this phase, we must note, as VanDrunen himself is forced to, that this is a temporary anomaly.  The Israelites are waiting for Babylon’s destruction; they are longing to get back to the Promised Land.  And as soon as they can, they do.  


VanDrunen’s entire retelling of the Old Testament, then, inverts its own self-presentation.  The state of affairs it envisions as proper for God’s people, which all of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are dedicated to laying the groundwork for, is one that he considers an anomaly, not to be followed, not to be used as an example.  But whenever things are not as they should be in the Old Testament, whenever they are out of whack, then, on VanDrunen’s reading, they are just as they should be–because they’re exhibiting a two-kingdoms paradigm.

Now of course, VanDrunen will retort that we are not living in a state of fulfilment, but we’re living in a time out of joint.  We have not received our Promised Land, and so the state of Abrahamic sojourn or of exile is the fitting image.  Unsurprisingly, he lays great stress on the New Testament language of “sojourners” and “exiles.”  However, obviously, this is not the only New Testament language.  The Church is the New Israel, the New Jerusalem.  We have already “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God” (Heb. 13:22).  Redemption is already taking hold.  The New Testament church is in a state of already/not yet, of partial fulfilment, but also expectation, of being sojourners but also citizens.  This means that we must hold in balance both Old Testament paradigms as offering a valuable hermeneutic for our own situation.  We cannot simply choose the one and chuck the other.  Especially, we cannot choose the one that is minimised in the Old Testament and chuck the one that is at the centre of the Old Testament vision.  Otherwise, Marcionism is lurking at the door, as I’m afraid it is in VanDrunen’s wholesale dismissal of the Mosaic covenant.

A Two Kingdoms Hart Attack

Over at Old Life Theological Society, Darryl Hart has been vigilantly policing the web for any criticism of Reformed two kingdoms theology, so I knew it was only a matter of time before my incessant provocations warranted a full-post response.  That response came on Monday, and although I hate the petty squabbling that so often characterizes blog debates, this may be a useful opportunity to clarify some of my critiques of VanDrunen and get a better idea of where R2K folks are coming from.  My main reply proved rather bulky for the comments section, so I’ve opted to post it here–Darryl’s excerpts in italics, mine in regular font:

“1) Christ has fulfilled Adam’s original task.

2) Therefore [Latin, ergo], Christians are not called to fulfil that task.

3) Christians do not need to earn eternal life by cultural labours; they already possess the eternal life that Christ has won for them.

4) Our work does not participate in the coming of the new creation–it has already been attained once and for all by Christ.

5) Our cultural activity is important but temporary, since it will all be wiped away when Christ returns to destroy this present world.”

Sounds pretty good to me (except for number 5 which is a bit of a caricature), but it also makes sense theologically since you wouldn’t want to argue the opposite of these deductions, would you? Do you really want to be on the side of affirming that Christians earn eternal life through cultural labours? 

First, I would ask how #5 a caricature?  This is certainly what VanDrunen appears to be saying in LGTK, but if not, I am glad to hear that, and would like to get a clearer explanation of what R2K eschatology looks like.

Second, why wouldn’t some want to argue the opposite of these deductions?  I would certainly dispute 2, as well as, in certain important senses at any rate, 4 and 5.  The only one that you really wouldn’t want to dispute is 3.  

But more fundamentally, my objection was that these do not constitute “deductions” but a string of assertions.  (3) simply does not follow from (1) and (2)–except on an idiosyncratic and unbiblical understanding of “Adam’s original task”, nor do any of the others follow from (3).  (3) is the odd man out here.   How does the statement “we do not merit redemption by our cultural labours” entail “redemption has nothing to do with our cultural labours”?  We are not justified by our cultural labours, of course.  But our sanctification does flow over into those cultural labours, as I will get to in a moment. 


We are united with Christ, ergo, we take part in redeeming the world? How exactly does that follow?

How does it not follow? We are united with Christ, therefore we reign even now with with him; we are made kings and priests, sharing in his dominion and intercession over all creation.  He is even now putting all his enemies under his feet, thus redeeming the world from the bondage of sin.  And by our union with him, we are made sharers in this task.  Lest this sound too triumphalistic, we must of course remember that we are united with him in his death, and called to share in his cross, which is how he overcomes the world.  I suppose it does not follow for the R2Ker because they insist that Christ is not enthroned over creation, but only over the Church; therefore, even if we do somehow share in his kingship, this means nothing for redeeming the world.  This is a whole ‘nother discussion, I suppose, though I have touched on it in previous posts on R2K Christology.


But to turn cultural activity into a part of redemption does take away from the all sufficiency of Christ or misunderstands the nature of his redeeming work.  You may understand the sole sufficiency of the work of Christ for saving sinners, but if you then add redeeming culture or word and deed ministries to the mix of redemption, you are taking away from Christ’s sufficiency, both for the salvation of sinners and to determine what his kingdom is going to be and how it will be established. Maybe you could possibly think about cultural activity as a part of sanctification where God works and we work when creating a pot of clay.

There’s vagueness going on here in the term “redemption.”  Redemption involves, if I learned my ordo salutis correctly in Catechism class, both justification and sanctification…not to mention glorification.  So yes, cultural activity is a part of sanctification–and therefore it is a part of redemption.  Redemption takes effect in a sanctification which lays hold of our entire lives, including culture.  Now here’s the cool part.  Although this cultural activity is an effect, not a cause, of our own personal redemption, it is a cause of the redemption of the world more broadly.  This of course gives VanDrunen and Hart the heebie-jeebies, so let me explain.  The fall, by warping our relationship with God, also warped our relationships to one another.  As we are sanctified, we are again enabled to live out these relationships rightly.  Our redemption thus takes effect (slow and ambiguous effect, to be sure) in the healing of distorted social structures, and indeed of creation itself (Romans 8:20-23).  And here is where my “not a zero-sum game” comes in.  Christ is the sole lord of the universe, the sole captain of salvation, the only one with power to redeem.  But he accomplishes the redemption of his creation through his people–by his grace, he redeems for himself a people, and in transforming them, enables them to work together with him in accomplishing the healing of his world.

But as I’ve said before, the fruit of the Spirit is not Bach, Shakespeare, or Sargent; if you turn cultural activity into redeemed work you need to account for the superior cultural products of non-believers compared to believers.

There are actually three categories to be considered, and you and VanDrunen collapse the latter two. First, there are actions carried out in relation to God–here, obviously, only believers saved by grace through faith are able to do what is good.  Then there are actions carried out in relation to other humans–this is the domain of ethics and politics.  Then there are actions carried out in relation to the creation–this is the domain of art, mathematics, technology, etc.   These are of course not iron-clad spheres (at least not the latter two), but useful distinctions.  Now, while in the third category, natural reason is sufficient for unbelievers to discover the laws of geometry or write glorious symphonies just as well as believers (although it is probably not a coincidence that music has developed so much further in the Christian West than anywhere else; if we were being really precise, we would treat humane arts here differently than physical sciences), it’s not quite this simple in the second category.  Unbelievers are not going to have the same insight into justice, into how husbands and wives should treat one another, how rulers should treat their subjects, how economic exchange should be carried out justly, as Christians.  They will have a lot of insight, sure (this is natural law, common grace, etc.), but do we really want to say that salvation doesn’t affect how you treat other people, and the Bible gives no instruction on how to treat other people?  I think not.  It is careless to lump together politics and music as “culture” and say that in all “cultural activities” believers have nothing distinctive to offer, and that the Bible doesn’t give us instruction about cultural activities.


Actually, VanDrunen supplies plenty of theological justification for his view of Christ and culture since he sees important layers of discontinuity between Israel and the church 

Sure, of course there are important layers of discontinuity, but there are also important layers of continuity, and I can’t find those in his account (more on this in an upcoming post).

It does not take much imagination to see that the Israelites, even the ones who trusted in Christ during his earthly ministry, were completely unprepared for the new order that was going to emerge after the resurrection…. But the new order of the church was completely unprecedented in the history of redemption to that point in time.

Well, yes and no.  I think N.T. Wright supplies very helpful categories for understanding this.  The gospel only makes sense as an unforeseen fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel.  It is unforeseen in advance, but it is a fulfilment, and thus is in continuity that can be readily traced in hindsight.  I don’t see where those points of continuity are for VanDrunen–the history of Israel remains isolated and unintegrated into the sequence of redemptive history (again, more on this in an upcoming post). 

I see no reason why the next age of redemptive history will [not] similarly exceed any expectation that we have based on our experience of this world.

Absolutely.  But it will nonetheless be in continuity.  When I was a young child, I couldn’t begin to imagine what I would be like as a fully grown man (heh, I still can’t :-p)… but this is different from not being able to imagine what it would be like to be a peacock.  Again, I’m sure VanDrunen would claim that there is some kind of continuity between this creation and the new creation, but I’m not sure where it is, and his theology appears to repeatedly undermine it.

Nestorian or Universalist? Hart on Two Kingdoms

Although Darryl Hart, the stalwart and combative online defender of VanDrunen’s “Reformed two kingdoms” paradigm, has thus far (remarkably) left me almost entirely alone, my recent post on VanDrunen, Hooker, and Christology was brought to his attention via Nelson Kloostermann and elicited an interesting response:

Criticisms of 2k theology keep coming and a major source of opposition is the distinction between Christ’s rule as redeemer in distinction from his rule as creator. For some, this kind of division within Christ could wind up in the error of Nestorianism. And yet, I wonder how you avoid Rob Bell’s error of universalism without this distinction.” 

Now, oddly enough, nowhere in this post does Hart seek to confront or deflect the charge of Nestorianism, or of Christological confusions more generally.  Instead, the apparent logic of the post is “Well, Nestorian or not, it doesn’t matter, because it’s necessary, by golly!”  I could, in other words, triumphantly take this as a tacit acknowledgment of the basically Nestorian posture of the R2K movement.  Now, I daresay Dr. Hart would disclaim this interpretation; indeed, he would probably say that the reason he didn’t address the charge was that it was so patently absurd as not to warrant engagement.  However, as I did offer some rather detailed engagement with VanDrunen’s own words in several posts, and some careful analysis of their Christological implications, and as this is a very serious issue, I think some engagement or attempt at rebuttal is necessary.  

In any case, it’s worth pausing to try and see what is behind Hart’s somewhat perplexing counter-charge of universalism, and why the R2K Christology does rather more than guarding against this error.

 Hart says,

“This is what I have in mind. Most Reformed Protestants would likely admit that Glenn Beck and I have different relationships with Jesus Christ as savior and lord…In other words, when I pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come,” I am praying with regard to Beck that he become part of the kingdom, not that Christ would defend Beck and the rest of the church as part of the kingdom of grace’s battle with the kingdom of Satan….

 …if the kingdom is so broadened to include unbelievers and believers in it, then you seem to enter the ballpark of universalism where all God’s children are God’s children – you know, the fatherhood of God and the siblinghood of all people.

We do have, however, an easy way around the problem. It is to distinguish between Christ’s rule over Glenn Beck as creator, and his rule over me as creator and redeemer. I don’t know of any other way to avoid the problems of Anabaptism or Constantinianism than by affirming this distinction. Without it, Glenn Beck is not my worldly foe, but my brother in Christ. (If only.)”

In other words, clearly we must distinguish between the way Christ exercises his lordship over his saints, and the way he exercises lordship over unbelievers.  We must say that he does the former as redeemer, and the latter as creator.  And therefore, we must say the whole VanDrunenian nine yards–that there are two kingdoms, a spiritual which Christ rules as incarnate God-man, and a civil which he rules as eternal divine Son.


Now first of all, it’s worth noting that the “universalism” issue is a red herring.  There are all kinds of ways to avoid universalism, to distinguish between Christ’s rule over believers and over unbelievers.  For instance, one could give a Van Tillian antithesis account of how Christ relates to the two, an account that would not at all distinguish between “civil” and “spiritual” kingdoms.  But of course, Hart wants not only to assert the difference between me and Glenn Beck, but a sense in which we are precisely the same.  Therefore, he wants to say that Christ (or, if we are to be all precise and VanDrunenian about it, “the Son”) relates to Glenn Beck only civilly, whereas he relates to me both civilly and spiritually.  The distinction, in short, is not between the believer living in one relation to Christ and the unbeliever in another relation, but is in fact that the believer himself lives in two totally different relations to Christ.  This is what he’s really after–avoiding universalism without being an Anabaptist or Constantinian–which is, I must say, a rather different claim than the one he makes at the outset.


Now, my problem with the R2Ks is not that they distinguish between different aspects of Christ’s work, or different “offices” of Christ, or different relations in which Christ exists toward different people.  Everyone can acknowledge that.  But that isn’t, I don’t think, sufficient for what VanDrunen and Co. want to do.  (This replies also, by the way, to an unanswered comment on my original post, that suggested that the “Nestorian” tendencies were perhaps just careless language, and that the language of distinct “offices” of the one person Christ Jesus could serve the same purpose.)  For what they are seeking is an account of two different relations of Christ that are not complementary.  Christ’s work of redemption does not complement his work of creation, but stands completely unrelated to it.  Christ’s work of creation does not undergird his work of redemption, either, except in the purely formal sense that only beings that first exist can be redeemed.  This is what they want in their political theology: a civil sphere that is not oriented toward Christ’s work of redemption–that makes no claims about it, that is not affected by it, to which redemption is quite irrelevant.  It carries on its work in its own terms, without need of Christ’s revelation or redemption, and without contribution to the ongoing work of redemption; and an ecclesial sphere that is not concerned with matters relating to the creation, or of trying to influence any human social realities other than those called into being by Christ’s redeeming work.  These two realms have different subject matters, different ends, different standards, different ethical postures, etc.  

So, can we really say that Jesus Christ created the world without a view toward his intended work of redemption and new creation?  Can we really say that he came to redeem us without respect to our relation to him as his creatures?  No.  If so, there is really no reason why it had to be the same person; God might as well have sent the Spirit to do the work of redemption.  It is no surprise, in view of this, that VanDrunen denies that we should really call the creator of the world “Christ”–he is for all practical purposes a different person, carrying on an unrelated task.  On the contrary, to be orthodox we must affirm that these two works were completely complementary–they have no meaning without one another.  Creation can only be understood in terms of new creation, and new creation can only be understood in terms of the original creation.  How are Christ’s works to have meaning except in light of one another?  Redemption is the undoing of sin, and sin is the undoing of the original creation–therefore, creation provides the categories for understanding redemption, and vice versa.  


And this being so, it has political-theological consequences.  It means that Christ’s redemptive work in the Church always challenges the fallenness and incompleteness of the creation that this work enters into, giving us ethical imperatives that do not leave surrounding social structures or practices unaffected.  It means that the created structures that Christ governs as creator are to be redirected in light of redemption, and must serve Christ’s redemptive work in the Church.  They may, of course, in many cases not do so, may merely serve to perpetuate the structures of fallen creation.  This is of course not wholly bad, inasmuch as creation, however fallen, is still good, but it is not sufficient.  Christians will insist that the imperfect structures of creation be re-ordered in service to Christ’s redeeming purpose.  Which is, of course, precisely what Calvin and the Reformers said, I have to add.