June 26, 2014

The Role Of The Church In Cultural Transformation (4)

The following will be a series of posts based on the MA thesis of David Nixon. David is a good friend and has graciously allowed us to publish his work in order to educate us about this important topic.

Two Mediatorships of Christ: Creation and Redemption

Two Kingdoms theology has the distinctive concept of Christ’s “two mediatorships”. VanDrunen traces it back to Calvin and Turretin, before defining it:“God rules the Spiritual Kingdom as its redeemer and the Civil Kingdom as its creator and sustainer but not as its redeemer”. Horton also distinguishes between these two aspects of Christ’s lordship in creation and redemption.

This idea is controversial and VanDrunen concedes it requires further study. Although such is outside the scope of this thesis, it is valuable to contrast it with the Transformationalist interpretation to better understand this Two Kingdoms distinctive.

Palmer argues that Calvin’s view was not dualistic. Instead he emphasised Christ’s unity as Lord of creation and redemption. Likewise, Venema argues:

Calvin explicitly emphasizes the positive and integral relation between creation and redemption. One of the principal motifs of Calvin’s theology is his insistence that Christ’s work of redemption involves the comprehensive reordering and renewing of the entire created order (italics in original).

Challenging VanDrunen’s interpretation of Bavinck, Kloostermann counters: “His concern was for the unity that integrates duality” (italics in original). Also Carson warns about this dualistic tension: “It is easy so to polarise the two kingdoms that we forget that one God stands over all”. Nonetheless, VanDrunen argues: “dualism phobia must not override our ability to make clear and necessary distinctions”.

As well as affirming these two expressions of lordship, Horton agrees that they are “distinct, but not separate”. For example, he suggests that the doctrine of the Trinity with its emphasis on “distinction without separation” shows the way forward here also. Such distinctions do not reduce or deny the sovereign lordship of Christ, although they do not resolve the tension between the two exercises of that kingship: “this is still God’s world and he rules in providence even where he does not rule as Saviour”. Myers further draws out the implications of this understanding saying that all cultural activity by Christians is based on common grace, rather than special grace. This means that Christians work in society and culture under the lordship of Christ as creator, but that work does not contribute to its redemption or Christianisation. Such work serves Christ’s independent purposes for creation, rather than the new creation.

The significance of the two mediatorships concerns how Christ exercises his lordship. VanDrunen has stated in his historical work: “the Son of God rules the temporal kingdom as an eternal member of the Divine Trinity but does not rule it in his capacity as the incarnate mediator/redeemer”. This introduces a division into Christ’s person and rule as God and as the God-Man, which is difficult to reconcile with the New Testament statements of the comprehensive lordship of the incarnate and ascended Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20–28; Matthew 28:18). Thus it is hard to say that Christ rules as redeemer in the church alone and as the creator in the rest of cultural life. Nevertheless, Tuininga and Littlejohn have each noted that VanDrunen appears to have changed his dualistic understanding of the two mediatorships. In later work he describes Christ’s rule in a more integrated manner:

The Lord Jesus Christ rules all things ... So how does Christ now rule the many institutions and communities of this world other than the church? ... God now rules them through the incarnate Jesus, the last Adam who has entered into the glory of the world-to-come.

This retains the distinction between Christ’s universal rule over all creation and his redemptive rule over his people, without the problematic division of Christ’s person. Consequently, Christ’s present rule does not necessarily involve the conversion or redemption of culture, rather his rule continues to fulfill the independent purposes set out in the Noahic Covenant. This maintains the importance of Christians being involved in culture as redeemed human beings made for creation, without encouraging a more activist agenda inspired by an eschatological vision of redeeming culture or transforming society.

Two Mandates: The Cultural and Gospel Mandates

In light of the two governments and the two-fold kingship of Christ, VanDrunen and Horton differentiate between the ways the independent purposes of the Common and the Redemptive Kingdoms are advanced through God’s two mandates, the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. Some have detected a relationship between the two mandates, for example Strange argues:

The Great Commission serves the cultural mandate by bringing together an army of believers to transform the earth; the cultural mandate serves the Great Commission by attempting to uphold and preserve an ordered environment into which the gospel can be proclaimed.

Likewise, Frame suggests that there is a“conceptual congruence between the cultural mandate and the Great Commission”. However, the Two Kingdom advocates emphasise that each mandate has their own independent purposes in this present age. The Common Kingdom was founded by the Noahic Covenant, which mostly restates the Adamic Cultural Mandate (Genesis 1:28, 2:15), and concerns “ordinary cultural activities”. The Redemptive Kingdom was founded by the Abrahamic Covenant and fulfilled in the New Covenant, with its Great Commission, and concerns “religious faith and worship”. In summary, VanDrunen states: “God is not redeeming the cultural activities and institutions of this world, but is preserving them through the covenant he made with all living creatures through Noah ... while this covenant promises the preservation of the natural and social order, it never promises its redemption(italics in original).

Both VanDrunen and Horton’s theology has been influenced by Kline’s perspective on the reformed tradition’s concept of the Covenant of Works in creation. VanDrunen argues that the first Adam had the opportunity to receive the new creation and enter into God’s rest spoken of in Hebrews 4:4-10 (represented by access to the Tree of Life, which was implied upon his obedience concerning the other Tree). The Cultural Mandate defined Adam’s task as a king and priest in God’s holy garden-temple, and God planned a probationary test to confirm Adam’s fitness to rule in the new creation. Having failing that test, VanDrunen argues “Fallen human culture cannot attain the new creation”. Instead, Christ, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), has acted in redemption to recover all that Adam lost and fulfill that mandate:

What the first Adam should have done – bring the human race to everlasting life in the world-to-come by perfectly obeying his cultural commission – the second and last Adam has accomplished. Christ has attained the original human destiny, and done so on behalf of those who trust in him.

Therefore, the Christian’s cultural task is not a resumption of Adam’s mandate: This is absolutely essential for issues of Christianity and culture! If Christ is the last Adam, then we are not new Adams” (italics in original). He concludes: “Thus redemption is not ‘creation regained’ but ‘re-creation gained’,” arguing that “Christ did not come to restore the original creation, but to win the new creation and to bestow its blessings upon his people apart from their own efforts”. In further support of this argument, he points out that the original Cultural Mandate implicitly contained an eschatological promise, which was not restated to Noah because the Common Kingdom does not progress towards the new creation.

Following Kline, they distinguish between common cultural work and holy things, so all post-lapsarian cultural work is secular (temporal rather than eternal). They would argue that this should not undermine the importance of Christians engaged in cultural work or their vocational callings, because work pursuant to the Cultural Mandate in the Noahic Covenant has a value and makes a difference in this present world, even if it is not ultimately contributing to the new creation. For example, Jesus said that to honour God in all of life and to love neighbours in society by serving them fulfils God’s Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). Insofar as this is obedience to God and fulfils his will, such social and cultural engagement should be encouraged as pleasing to God and as an end in itself apart from any eschatological significance.

Having established this theological basis, the Two Kingdoms view argues the Redemptive Kingdom is advanced solely by the Gospel Mandate (the Great Commission), through the promotion of the gospel and the making of disciples. That is because Christ’s work of redemption as the last Adam is complete and all that remains is for people to share in the benefits of the Redemptive Kingdom through faith, which is birthed by the preaching of the gospel rather than cultural labours.

This is consistent with the Two Kingdoms distinctions between grace and nature, common grace and special grace, and creation and new creation. Therefore, Christians work in the Common Kingdom alongside non-Christians on the basis of God’s common grace expressed in the Cultural Mandate and do not redeem culture by special grace: “the city of man never becomes the city of God until the end of history”. Nonetheless, as Christians work in the Common Kingdom with their distinctive ethics they are making a positive difference in temporal and penultimate matters, which neither VanDrunen nor Horton wish to discourage.

Part 5 will discuss how some of this thought works itself out in the mission of the church here on earth.

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