"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Recently the Russian parliament passed a bill against the public promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships and a blasphemy bill against insulting religions. It seems therefore an opportune time to revisit once more the question of the relationship between the two realms, the world and the Church, and to make some observations about recent trends in ecclessiological discussions in Christian circles especially as it relates to the interaction between the two realms.
Two Types of Ecclesiology
It seems that there are predominantly two trends in ecclessiological thinking in recent years whereby curiously enough, even though both may have as different a conception of the Church as there can possibly be, however, they both still do postulate a form of dualism with regards to the Church-World interaction.
The first tradition I would call the “High Church” tradition, the other I would call the “Low Church” tradition. What is the distinguishing point between the two traditions? They have to do with the extent to which the Church is an embodied, empirical and visible reality. Thus, for the “High Church” tradition, the Church is essentially visibly and empirically identifiable, you can point to certain aspects of our spatio-temporal history and identify those aspects with the Church. While for the “Low Church” tradition, the Church is essentially invisible and hidden and as such, cannot be identified, only certain “signs” or “marks” of the Church exists, but the marks merely gestures or points towards the Church, but is not to be confused with the Church itself.
High Church Ecclesiology or Theocracy
The most interesting thing about high church ecclesiology is simply that it conceives of the division between the Church-World as essentially an empirical and communal division. The Kingdom of God, or the Church, is an empirical communal entity among other empirical communal entities such as nations, societies, communities. They both are located upon the same plane, constituted by the same sort of “stuff”, empirical and physical stufg, the church being an embodied empirical and physical community jostling amongst other empirical and physical communities.
It is important to understand that a high church ecclesiology does not require a “sacerdotal” clergy or rigid institutional or authoritarian structures, although they are often accompanied by it. The Roman Catholic Church, with its Pope and highly visible ecclesiological structures and well defined canon laws, maybe the exemplar of high churchiness, however, high churchiness is also as much applicable to highly “radical Protestant” denominations as well, denominations such as some baptists or congregationalists. The latter examples as much as the former identifies the Church with some visible empirical instantiation, in the Roman Catholic case, with the Pope and the episcopate in communion with him, in the baptist or congregationist case, the “local” church, with its board of elders and deacons, who regulates and polices the behaviour and movements of their congregation with as much rigor and discipline as any Roman Catholic canon law. With good reason did the Magisterial Protestants considered both anabaptists and Roman Catholics birds of the same feather.
Of course there are other denominations, while balking at authorities, both in chasubles and in suits, would nevertheless still be “high church” in the sense in which I’ve defined it here. While not identifying the Church with some institutional or authority structure, they would identify the Church with some form of communal disciplines, practices or “holy” behaviour. The Methodists, the Anglosphere Evangelicals (in the Great Awakening sense), and some anabaptist or mennonites, would fall under these examples. Thus, the Church is empirically visible and to be identified with these communal good works or practices, accompanied often by a very high doctrine or notion of sanctification or holiness of life, etc. (The Methodists of old, for example, were identified by their abstinence from alcohol, their ban of dancing, etc, highly visible forms of “holy” behaviour which distinguished them from their “worldly” Christian counterparts.)
Of course there is no real separation between the “authoritarian” high church types and the “holiness” high church types. The “authoritarian” high church types would naturally identify the Church with those who submit or obey the “sanctified” or “holy” authority structures of the church, and conform their lives to the dictates of “Holy Mother Church”. The “holiness” high church types necessarily will require some form of authority system to enforce those communal practices and disciplines necessary for the “sanctification” or holiness of its members.
But no matter where they locate the instantiation of the Church in the world, both share a fundamental premise, that is, the Church is visibly and empirically instantiated in the world. The Kingdom of God is incarnate, the eschaton is “realised” (or some might say, “overrealised”!). Thus according to this conception, the division between the Church and the World is essentially an empirical and communal division. The Church exists on the same plane as other nations, societies and communities, it is a “community” amongst communities, it necessarily has a civic and political form in competition with other civic and political entities.
Of course some might object that high churchiness, in the sense in which I’ve identified here, does not necessarily have to take a political or civic form. It is ridiculous to say that the Church for example has a police or military, etc. However, the high church conception does and will take political civic form simply because it necessarily asserts authority, and divine authority at that, to directly rule and govern the physical and empirical realm. For example, Roman Catholic ecclesiastical tribunals do judge cases of matrimony and annualments, to this very day, and decide whether a couple’s marriage is or is not a valid marriage. Sure, they may not get the police or civil courts to enforce their decision, but nevertheless, they still do claim to directly govern the empirical, civic and physical aspects of their member’s lives. Certain baptists and congregationalist groups are even more “detailed” in their governance of their members behaviour, ranging from telling you what sort of company you can keep to what you can wear, etc. Social justice Evangelicals, such as N.T. Wright and “leftist” Roman Catholics, believe that the Church possesses, if not actual authority, then a special priviledge by virtue of divine revelation, to speak on social-political issues like immigration, welfare, etc, and other socio-political issues, etc, and more importantly, they believe that Church resources and efforts should go towards the lobbying of such ends in the public sphere.
The fact that high churchiness will necessarily take political and civic form can be easily seen from this dictum of Magaret Thatcher:
No-one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.
Thus, for the Church to be “visibily” and “empirically” embodied, it requires empirical and visible material resources. Highly visible good works and charity are not free, for the Church to be able to perform its “good work” of feeding the hungry, alleviating poverty, healing the sick, speaking up for the oppressed, etc, it requires substantial financial, political and social capital. The Church cannot feed people with good intentions; they need funds to buy food and capital to give to the poor; to heal the sick, one also need capital to buy medicines, pay doctors and purchase expansive medical equipment, etc. In order to be able to “speak up for the oppressed”, one needs social status, political influence, social networking with powerful friends, currying favour with the people and powers to gain their ear and attention to listen to your “speaking up”. In short, according to the high church conception, the Church must necessarily be financially, materially and even politically robust, able to marshal considerable material and political resources to “realise” their eschaton, to “make” empirically visible their Church. Thus the Church exists in essential competition with the other politic and civic communities, competing for the the same limited material and political resources in aid of their realised eschaton, and they do so claiming a divine mandate and legitimacy. It is interesting to observe the change of economic strategy and policy which has come over conservative Roman Catholics. Before they were staunch supporters of the democrats, believing in the role of the government in charity and welfare, but now that the government is hostile and no funds are forthcoming from that source to fund the Catholic’s welfare initiative, they now instead baptise the capitalistic and free market system to create an alternative source of funds for the Catholic welfare system (via its hardworking and rich communicant’s donations) since the government stream has effectively dried up. Thus, in short, the civic and political realm doesn’t possess any inherent order, but shifts according to the divine mandate and requirements of the Church.
Thus, the high church conception is in the true sense of the word, a “theocracy”, whereby the “Holy” and “Divine” Church directly rules and governs the empirical and material universe and claims a divine right and authority to be able to do so. Thus on the high church conception, the “Two Kingdoms” splits the spatio-temporal universe into two, there is the pure, holy and divine Church, the redeemed community, who has received a Gospel which not only announces the hope of the resurrection future and grants eternal righteousness, but also provides spiritual power and authority concerning temporal and empirical righteousness and justice. Thus, they alone being in possession of the fullness of empirical and temporal righteousness and knowledge concerning true civic righteousness and the ordering of the spatio-temporal world, are contrasted with the nations of the “world”, who are deprived of such knowledge and thus living in both civic and political corruption and chaos. Thus, the Church, by virtue of the spiritual authority to which she has been entrusted by divine revelation, also claims an authority over the temporal realm, the spiritual exists on the same plane as the temporal empirical plane, they are part of the same contiuum, the spiritual being on the top of the “great chain of being”, the temporal at the bottom, and the spiritual lording over the temporal.
Totalitarian Lordship or Ghetto Retreat; The Two Strategies of the High Church
For the high church conception, the Church is an empirical visible community jostling side by side with other empirical visible communities and nations, yet at the same time claiming that ultimate authority over all empirical and temporal realms resides within her, by virtue of the divine revelation which she has received. Thus, it is interesting that this has lead to two “strategies” or ways in which high church denominations has interacted with the world.
In societies and nations where the Church is dominant, the Church will attempt to subject the temporal authorities directly to herself. This can be seen in the papal bull Unam Sanctum by Pope Boniface VIII which directly declares that,
We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal…
Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: ‘Put up thy sword into thy scabbard’ [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest. However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: ‘There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God’ [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.
Thus, the Church possesses both spiritual and temporal power or authority, but because the spiritual is on the same plane, on the same continuum or chain of being as the temporal, thus, the spiritual is above the temporal, and the temporal is derived from the spiritual and is so subordinated. The Church thus attemps to control the entire commonwealth.
But when the Church is in the minority or defeated, their strategy would be that of retreat and entrenchment into their ghettos, which is transformed into a mini-state or civic community unto itself, in contrast to the “corrupted” and “fallen” world out there which are not only ignorant concerning the resurrection future and the Gospel message, but also dysfunctional with regards to temporal and civic matters. This is pretty much the strategy of most “radical” Protestants, anabaptists, mennonites and congregationalists, whereby their churches or communities takes over many “civic” functions which the secular state or society no longer performs, such as charity, distribution of funds, moral discipline, etc.
Again, we can draw an example from the Roman Catholic Church which in the decline of their temporal power has began to adopt the “ghetto” retreat strategy. George Weigel, a famous Catholic theologian and public scholar, anticipating the expansion of gay marriage in the USA, recommends that the Church completely withdraw from performing any civic marriages, and conduct only ecclesiastical marriages. The Church itself will therefore manage all matrimonial affairs via their ecclesiastical courts, since the state is no longer competent.
While the Roman Catholic Church does have a long history and tradition of managing even “civic” and temporal affairs “internally” via their ecclesiastical courts, thus already possessing the structures in place for taking over the functions of the civic realm, very few “High Church” Protestants and Evangelicals today possess the same ecclesiastical machinery, yet they have also started to advocate for such a likewise “withdrawal” from the civic realm with regards to the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage. They imagine that a “secular” world, because they are deprived of divine revelation or the Christian Gospel, are irredeemably corrupt and unable to arrive at the proper order and understanding of marriage. Therefore true marriages can now only be known and practiced within the Church, which alone possesses not only knowledge of the resurrection future but also the proper ordering of the spatio-temporal realm, the Church should therefore simply “retreat” from the “corrupt” state and society and mind their own business, and they would ask the state to mind theirs and keep their hands off the Church.
There are of course two essential problems with this response. First, it somehow assumes that an irredeemably corrupt and evil secular state/society which cannot recognise what true marriages are, would somehow miraclously possess sufficient goodness, decency and knowledge of civic order to respect the civic space of the Church and not interfere with her. The Church surrenders with regards to the issue of gay marriages, and now merely pleads with a secular state/society to leave her alone and mind their own business. But why should such an “evil” and “corrupted” state/society do so? If they are truly so irredeemably corrupt and evil, utterly incapable of recognising true civic or temporal ordering, then they wouldn’t be able to recognise or accept the civic space of the Church as well. Why should they not force church buildings to be made available for gay marriages, force Catholic adoption agencies to allow gay couples to adopt (as is the upcoming issue in the UK), and forbid all Church schools from condemning homosexuality or forcing them to teach contraceptives (as our very own MOE has managed to compelled Catholic schools to do)? If there is a true conflict between the “Two Kingdoms”, between that of an visible empirical Church, being a civic political entity jostling on the same plane as the secular state and community, then the conflict must go all the way, not only in that the secular state and society would conflict with the Church with regards to gay marriage, but also with regards all the rest of the civic political space, with regards to its hospitals, its schools, its physical and empirical charitable institutions, even unto the very church building they occupy. For high church social justice Evangelicals, it remains baffling that they believe that the secular state/society is too corrupt and irredeemable with regards to gay marriage, but yet sufficiently redeemed and sound for other aspects of “Christian social justice” such as in welfare and immigration, etc. One cannot help noticing that both the rhetoric of retreat and the rhetoric of social justice issues bears a suspicious correspondence to the latest fad of secular political activists, the retreat rhetoric finding a home in the libertarian philosophy that the state should be minimal and mind its own business, the social justice rhetoric finding a home in the latest leftist agenda.
The second problem with this response pertains more to Protestants and especially Evangelicals. Even as some Protestants wants to remove the civic functions of the state unto the church, however, as already noted, the church lacks the ecclesiastical machinery to properly take over such civic functions. There is very little will or desire for churches, no matter how high church, to actually revive the practice of ecclesiastical tribunal or courts to adjudicate matrimonial matters, parallel to that of Sharia courts or Jewish courts in Western nations which exercises an authority over their respective community, which decision the civil court respects.
An interesting example of this is that of Stanley Hauerwas, a self-identified “High Church Mennonite”. He speaks approvingly of a fundamentalist congregation which pastor ordered a husband to forgive his adulterous wife, as was decided by the congregation, or face excommunication. Hauerwas commends this example as a Church taking responsibility for the civic and moral practices and ideals of the Church, instead of simply subscontracting it to the state. But the thing of course is that he does not belong to this fundamentalist church, his own ecclesiastical loyalty is suspect and ambiguous, he himself is not subject to any such all encompassing ecclesiastical authority, willing to police his life to such a level of detail. Instead, he continues to float freely around various Protestant churches (the last I heard was that he is seeking to become an episcopalian).
Thus while most high church Evangelicals or Protestants who are tempted into retreat by arguing that the Church should take over the civic functions which they judge the state or broader society unwilling to perform, would however likewise be unwilling to grant the Church so much temporal power. They advocate for true marriages in the Church, and let the civic realm go to the dogs, but are yet unwilling to submit to the judgment of the Church in matrimonal affairs with all the authority of an ecclesiastical court. They want to withdraw from public education and services, yet are not willing to fork out the cash to run their schools independently. (In this, perhaps the homeschoolers are more consistent). For the Church to take over civic functions which they judge the state or society now incapable of performing, the Church needs civic and temporal power over its members, and a considerable amount of it. Few Evangelicals are however willing to grant it.
Low Church Ecclesiology or the True Two Kingdoms
After an excursion into the high church conception, we now turn to the “low church” conception or ecclesiology. While the high church conceives of the church as visible and empirically identifiable, the low church conception in contrast sees the Church as essentially invisible or hidden and cannot be empirically or visibly identified. Whether one conceives of the invisible church as the sum of the elect (Reformed), or of the hidden church as a matter of faith hidden in the hearts of man (Lutheran), the point is, only God alone knows who are his. At most certain “marks” or “signs” (such as the preaching of the Word), gestures or points towards the reality of this eschatological community which shall only be revealed at the end of time.
Thus in answer to both the “authority” high church advocates, the “low church” conception asserts that the Word of God alone is the divine and infallible authority of God in the Church, and as such, no institution, office, or body of clergy can identify themselves with the divine authority of God, there is no hypostatic union between the Church and the Word of God. The Word of God stands above and supreme over the Church, the Church is merely the creation and product of the Word (Luther).
Against the “holiness” high church advocates, the “low church” conception argues that (1) the “righteousness” of the Christian is not an external righteousness which is empirically visible and identifiable, but is an “internal righteousness”, a righteousness of faith in the heart; good works as Christ says in the Gospel, whether of prayer, fasting or giving alms, are to be done in secret, not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing, etc, our only “audience” before whom such works are done is God our Father, who watches in secret and will reward us. Only good works done before the Father grasped by faith is commended before God in the Christian religion. But works which can be seen by man is not approved or rewarded by the Father, for by the praises of man have they received their reward. Furthermore, we must leave all judgement to God alone, who alone knows and can reveal the motives of the heart at the Day of Judgement. (2) As far as civic or political matters are concerned, the Gospel does not give us any new information or special insights into civic or political righteousness beyond that which has already been given to the common reason and moral capacity of mankind, and as such, the Kingdom of God or the Church is not “realised” in such public or “external” righteousness, which non-Christians are perfectly capable of without divine revelation or the Gospel.
Thus, we come to the proper and true “Two Kingdoms” doctrine as explained by the Magisterial Protestants with its roots in St Augustine’s “Two Cities of God” conception. The division between the “Two Kingdoms” is not between that of some empirical visible community against other empirical visible communities, but rather, it is a cosmic-eschatological division. The “Two Kingdoms” do not occupy the same plane nor are they located upon the same continuum or chain of being, etc. Rather, the difference between the Two Kingdoms are essentially qualitative concerning different spheres of the cosmos. The Church is located in the “spiritual” realm, “spiritual” in the old sense of the word as opposed to the visible empirical “material” realm. The ministry of the Church concerns itself with “spiritual” matters, faith in the heart, truth in the conscience, eternal righteousness, everlasting life, the resurrection future, true worship, etc. The civic or political order is located in the “material” realm, “material” in the old sense of the world, to do with external, material and the visible world. The civic authorities, whether of judge, kings, or even fathers or head of households, concerns itself with material matters, management of resources, distribution of wealth, bodily discipline and moral governance, etc.
Thus the division finds its cue from this passage of St Paul,
This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Family, marriage, commercial and economic affairs are “worldly” affairs, which is not the prerogative of the Christian Gospel which has to do with eternal salvation and the resurrection future, and as such, not the direct business of the Church.
Under this conception, Jesus Christ the Lord is alone the direct ruler and King over both “kingdoms”, he alone exercises direct authority and rulership over both the civic and ecclesiastical realms. However, Christ rules over the two realms by two very different means. He rules over the civic realm via Reason and the conscience which he has implanted into the souls of all mankind. He rules over the ecclesiastical realm via his Word and his Holy Spirit which he has entrusted and bestowed unto the apostles and which has been since passed on from them unto all his disciples unto this day via the ministry of preaching.
Thus, the Magisterial Protestants had a higher view of natural reason and civic righteousness than does the “high church” advocates. While agreeing that because of Original Sin and the corruption of the flesh, mankind are unable to attain unto salvation and eternal life and true love and faith in God without the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, but yet they still possess some measure of freewill and even moral capacity and knowledge concerning the “worldly” or external realm, such as political and civic morals and virtues. Thus, they believed that mankind by the proper use of their natural reason and without divine revelation, are able to attain unto knowledge of just economic distribution, proper civic ordering, proper morals, of familial piety, compassion, charity, and yes, even sexuality. They even believed that it is possible via reason to arrive at a knowledge of God and a conception of the divine underlying the civic order which is to be honoured and respected, although to justify that would require quite a bit of argumentation. But in passing, we can note that John Locke, the great Father of Anglosphere liberal democracy and as tolerant as might be concerning different faiths and confessions, did still believe that atheism should be criminalised.
Christendom or the Cooperation of the Civic Order and the Ecclesiastical Order
Thus now we come to understand what is “Christendom” as opposed to a theocracy. According to theocracy, the Divine is fully immanised or realised within a specific spatio-temporal location, which empirical entity claims a divine right over the the spatio-temporal universe. Thus the Church not only possesses “spiritual authority”, but that spiritual authority also claims authority over the temporal realm. They may delegate the functions of temporal authority to kings, deacons, or ecclesiastical courts, but they maintain that ultimately all authority, both spiritual and the temporal, which is derived from the spiritual, are found in the Church. Thus, the spiritual and the temporal realm are hierarchically arranged, both are located upon the same chain of being or continuum, with the spiritual at the top and the temporal below. The Kingdom of God or the Church is visibly and empirically realised precisely in its exercise of power and influence over the temporal or material realm, it is part of its “Gospel” to be able to re-order civic society and the material realm according to its spiritual vision.
This is in stark contrast to what we shall call “Christendom”. In Christendom, Christ alone is divine and his divine authority is not “immanised” in anyway. Retaining alone all divine authority in heaven and on earth, he instead merely appoints “ministers” and servants to rule over both thr spiritual and temporal. This delegation of power is a direct delegation by virtue of his divine authority, not mediated through the Church, thus, he remains the true “King” over both realms, it is a “Christendom”, both are part of Christ’s Kingdom. Thus, we recognise that there are two realms, the spiritual, to do with the heart, the conscience and faith, and the temporal, to do with the material, the economic and the empirical world. Jesus Christ as King and God exercises a direct authority over both realms, He directly appoints the “minister” or “authorities” in both realms. The spiritual and the temporal authority do not occupy the same plane nor are they part of the same continuum, but they both have their own sphere and their own place in the cosmos, thus, neither authority is derived from the other, the temporal authority is not derived from the spiritual authority as the high church claims, but neither is the spiritual authority derived from the temporal authority as per the claims of the Erastians, but both maintain their independence, deriving their authority directly from God. They also do not conflict with each other because they both have different ends. The temporal authorities seeks to maintain bodily peace, order and external justice, the spiritual authorities seeks to preach the Gospel of Christ and use persuasion and the Word alone to induce faith, refusing the worldly and material means, whether coercive, social, political or economic, to do so.
Thus in a Christendom, the entire body of believers, not just a group of spiritual elites, whether identified by institutional authority or special holiness, is the Church. A Christendom then recognises that there are in fact two realms, and accordingly appoints and recognises representatives of the Two Kingdoms. They create the magistrate, the civic authorities for the one realm, to govern the temporal world via reason, and they create the ministry, the ecclesiastical realm, to govern the spiritual world via the Word. But even here we must realise that whatever “authority” the ministry has over the ecclesiastical or spiritual realm is essentially a spiritual authority, it does not and employ any material or political/social means to persuade, but “simply by the Word” as Melanchthon once puts it whereby the Holy Spirit alone through the Word alone is the true minister and agent in bringing about faith and conviction in the hearts and consciences of man. Excommunication as it is used by ministers is not a tool of coercion or of judgement, but simply a practical pastoral tool, to avoid scandal to consciences and to discourage and censure sin. But it ultimately cannot persuade or force anyone to change their minds. The Word alone is here authoritative, and it rules directly the consciences of man via the Holy Spirit; ministers are but witnesses to the Word, appointed for the sake of order and pastoral work, but they themselves never do possess the authority of the Word nor can they ever induce conviction or faith, that work belongs to the Holy Spirit alone.
Thus in a Christendom, the temporal authorities recognise that only the Word and Holy Spirit alone can convict consciences and minds, and as such, they do not concern themselves with hearts or beliefs of their subjects, leaving it free for the conscience; they concern themselves with “external” bodily and worldly matters, which are governed by their God given reason, a reason given to all mankind as man, not just to Christians. Therefore non-believers can participate in a “Christendom” as well, as long as they recognise the “Two Kingdoms” distinction, and respect that the temporal authorities cannot induce faith or belief or trespass upon the conscience. Otherwise, their belief, or lack thereof, does not in the least impair their reason and capacity to participate in the civic order and realm of Christendom, which realm anyway concerns external bodily things, and not the heart, even for believers themselves. Thus, this conception is perfectly consistent with the public, political and even civic recognition and establishment of the Christian faith, even an established national Church, from which the Two Kingdoms divisions is recognised. However, precisely because of the Two Kingdoms divisions, the political authorities, although recognising the Lordship of Christ over their authority, nevertheless does not use force or material means to force a individuals to convert to Christianity or enforce doctrinal orthodoxy or even uniformity (i.e. such as special taxes upon non-believers, special material or economic subsidies for believers, etc), the sufficient content of the Christian faith for political establishment is simply the recognition of the Two Kingdoms divisions, but beyond that a politically established Christian faith can tolerate a broad range of denominations, even of religions, as long as they recognise the Two Kingdoms distinction. This is also compatible with the civic sphere providing special funds for the maintenance of those Christian institutions which are part of the civic order, e.g. schools, hospitals, etc, as long as the burden of funding is equally shared amongst all.
Some Concluding Practical Observations
It is important to note that I am using the term “civic order” loosely, but civic order does not for me refer exclusively to the state, but the household and other corporations as well are as much a part of the civic order as is the state, and furthermore, the authority of the father in the household is not derived from the state but is in fact derived directly from God himself. Thus, God in a sense “directly” ordains the various “orders” within the civic realm, he does not ordain one “order”, such as the state, and let then let the state delegate the various orders of the civic realm. The father of course has authority over the household concerning domestic affairs, while other material affairs belongs to the state, etc. What are the spheres of influence of the household against that of the state is a matter of civic negotiation and rational discussion.
Secondly, we have to realise of course that while via natural reason, it is possible for non-Christian societies or those which are not “Christendoms” to be able to create a sufficient just and proper civic order, respecting the Two Kingdoms distinction and being able to exercise their reason properly, but there do exist extraordinary moments in history, especially in times of persecution, whereby the civic order is in the midst of collapse or decay and extreme corruption, and has even pretended to intrude into the spiritual realm. In such extraordinary moments, it is entirely right and proper for the body of believers, who are living in such a corrupt and hostile commonwealth, to create alternative civic structures and systems for themselves since the present system of civic structures are in the midst of collapse or under radical corruption. But this must be recognised to be essentially a pastoral move. Each believing household or individual, when deprived of civic facilities, has the right to establish their own, but this right comes directly from God as part of his providential order for mankind and is not an exercise of the spiritual authority of the Church, nor is it an instrinsic part of the Gospel or witness of the faith. Thus, St Paul for example in 1 Corinthians tells the Corinthians to appoint judges among themselves to adjudicate lawsuits between themselves. This is simply a practical, pastoral move, to avoid public scandal and the scorn and offense of the unbelievers who would scoff at the lack of public charity and virtue among them. But judges to be appointed does not possess any intrinsic spiritual authority, nor are they part of the Gospel imperative commission, but are simply appointed for a specific work and task within the church.
Thus, such establishment of civic facilities within the Church must be considered at most to be emergency measures, deviations from the norm of a proper functioning civic order. It is also vital to note that a Christendom is strictly not necessary for a functioning civic order, even an enlightened Islamic rule like those of the past have granted Christians considerable civic facilities and freedoms surpassing that of our modern secular “liberal” democratic states.
For further reading, check out the Calvinist International many posts on the topic of the Two Kingdoms here.