Ask RC: What is R2k theology?

An aspiring theology wonk can often find himself swimming in a bewildering ocean of acronyms. Since we no longer debate our theology over the course of hours, but often do so using only our thumbs, shorthand is valuable, but challenging. Just when you realized the role of iaoc to npp and fv (that is, the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision), now comes R2k.

The acronym is short for one of two things, depending on how favorable one is to the position. Some use it for Reformed Two Kingdom, others for Radical Two Kingdom. Those who embrace the Reformed Two Kingdom view insist first that their position is the mainstream of the Reformed tradition. It affirms that God’s law and His Son rule the world in two related but distinct ways. The broader reign is over the created, or natural order. The function of the state is to support and operate under “natural law.” The Bible is of little use in this context as it was given to God’s people specifically. Natural law was given for all men everywhere.

Jesus reigns in a second kingdom as well, in the church. Here His focus is more direct- the church is to be about the business of Word and sacrament. His will is that the church proclaim the good news of Jesus. The Word of God is preached, showing us our need for a redeemer. The revealed law of God, at least insofar as the third use of the law remains on the table, is for God’s people in the church, and in the church alone. What the church is not to do, however, as the church, is speak into the first kingdom. The church, according to this view, is neither called, equipped, nor permitted to prophecy against the sins of those outside the kingdom.

At their best, those who espouse R2K theology rightly reject the common temptation among evangelicals to wrap up our theological convictions in the American flag, to confuse God’s kingdom with these United States, and the temptation common to some Reformed to insist that the tiniest detail of a given government policy debate comes equipped with a peculiarly perspicuous proof-text to tell us what to do.  Sometimes we end up saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord” when we ought to be saying, “Our understanding of the implication of this text leads us to believe option A is more wise than option B.”

At their worst, however, R2K theology can silence the prophetic voice of the church.  While many R2K advocates would be comfortable with individual Christians speaking to the great moral issues of our day, the church is forbidden to do so. When the state punishes a landlord for refusing to rent to fornicators, the church cannot speak. When the state engages in empire building, waging unjust wars across the globe, the church cannot speak. Worst of all, when the state uses its God-given sword to protect those who murder the unborn, the church cannot speak.

The church is the bride of Christ, called to be a help suitable to the second Adam as He fulfills the dominion mandate, bringing all things under submission. She is not confined to the garden, but goes forth into the jungle, wherever He goes to glorify His name, to make visible His reign. She speaks what He speaks, to all who would stand against Him. She speaks for the downtrodden, for those unable to speak for themselves.  May we who are Reformed ever affirm this radical truth- there is one King, and one Kingdom.