Musings On My Study Of The One Kingdom vs Two Kingdom Debate

I must first start out saying that I am ignorant of every nuance and implication of this debate. I have barely studied the subject as to now. Therefore I will write down my impressions and thinking as to this point in time, wherefore I do not suggest that they will be the same at a later date. My mind is not made up, but my mind is neither changed from what it is currently.

As a short background I grew up Dispensational, which tends to have Christians living in their own little ghettos. Later on I became mentored by two theologians who seem to be on the 2K side, but attend a church that leans towards the 1K side (at least that is my guess about the founding pastor although I haven’t asked him directly). So my own views are probably confused between having so many different areas talking at me, but here goes my confused thoughts anyways.

I will from henceforth refer to the 1 Kingdom position as 1K and the two Kingdom as 2K.  First I want to start off attempting to say what I think the position of each is (although I am probably wrong) and a few thoughts I have had studying this debate.

Let me start with the 1K position. As far as I can tell this position believes that Christians are called by the Great Commission to not only spread the Gospel and make disciples of individuals, but also to redeem the culture as well since it also commands them to finish what Adam failed to do: create a Godly culture that glorifies God while subduing the earth. To them this means creating a Christian culture and having that culture take over the world. I am most curious how they come to this view since I have yet to see any of them use scripture to defend it, nor do I understand how they get this view from the passages of the Great Commission.

Contrary to this the 2K position seems to be one that Christians are called by the Great Commission to spread the Gospel and make disciples of all the nations. To them this means starting churches and bringing people into the church. Although they believe that Christians are to live and participate in the culture around them (and make it better by being salt and light), they do not see cultural transformation as the main goal of the Christian, but mainly a by-product of the conversion and transformation of individuals (who will then live faithful Christian lives in the culture).  They see Christ as fulfilling all of Adam’s obligations, and now our main role is to obey God by preaching the Gospel to the world so that the entire world may hear of Christ. To me this view seems more biblical, and a straight forward reading of the texts, although I am sure the 1K people would say I have a wrong interpretation of Scripture (well show me your interpretation so that I am wrestle with it).

Although I have heard each side appeal to a specific eschatology that supports their view, I am not convinced this has to be true for at least the 2K position. 1K seem to lean towards a Postmillennial view, that is that the world will be slowly transformed into God’s kingdom by the work of the Church (by creating culture) and the Spirit (in converting the world). Although I am confused because I thought some of those who are 1K are also amillennialists, but perhaps I am mistaken. It seems that 2Kers seem to be Amil, although I am not convinced it has to be that way.

My point is this: it seems to me that the 1K people believe that God’s kingdom is going to come through the work of the Church and the Spirit slowly transforming the world. And I don’t think they have any other choice. However, the 2K people believe that God is ultimately the one who is going to make the world into His kingdom (they seem to stress the already and not yet aspects of God’s kingdom). Now whether Christians actually make the world better or not isn’t the end goal of the 2Kers but rather to be faithful to God’s call on their lives, and no matter if they do make it better, their hope is that Christ will return and make the transformation final.

A few challenges for the positions. My initial response to the 1K view is: do you want to make Christendom again? It seems to me that they want to create a Christian culture that takes over the world. But what does that look like? Hasn’t it been tried before and severely failed? What am I missing here? Where are the verses that say the Church’s job is to create a Christian culture? What about the verses that say that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, that we are to lay up treasures in heaven, to submit to the governing authorities (not take them over) and that this world will be destroyed by fire? Why should we think that heaven isn’t a different location, but just a different reality of this world when Jesus was clearly taken into a different location, not just reality or dimension? Or was he?

To the 2K: how do you keep a Christian from just joining a Christian ghetto? How do Christians live in the overlap of being a citizen of both kingdoms?

But this problem isn’t unique to the 2K positions: 1K how do Christians live as a citizen of a culture that isn’t “Christian” yet? Also both sides must explain if there is any differences in importance in the jobs people do in this world. 1K seem to make every job equal: to preach the gospel to a poor sinner is as important to God’s kingdom as shoveling elephant dung in the zoo. While the 2K have the problem that seems to make preaching the Gospel the job of greater importance while shoveling dung the lesser one. So should all Christians in the 2K world strive to only be “Ministers”? Or should no Christian strive to be a pastor in the 1K view because they can do anything and it be just as noble and God honoring?

Luther’s hangman seems to be a problem that the 1K position puts forward to the 2K position, as if it would be hard for a Christian to be a hangman and a Christian. However, this problem seems to go over my head, or it isn’t a problem like they think (or is it?). To be a hangman in the 2K position, is a necessary job because it is apart of God’s direction for the state (to carry the sword), and therefore someone should carry out what this means. For a Christian to be a hangman is no different than being in any other job as I see it. It simply means he acknowledges the states right to execute judgment on “evil” doers. It doesn’t affect his ability to do his job, he shouldn’t gossip, he shouldn’t take bribes, and he shouldn’t do anything that would pervert justice. However, if he worked for a state that was corrupt and had him execute innocent people, he can step down or protest his position and appeal to their conscience (and standing up for righteousness might just get him killed, but if done in the correct God honoring way would make him a martyr for his faith).

However, the same example is also a problem for the 1K position, for how should a 1K Christian be a hangman? It seems to me that he should be one just like the 2K Christian would. But then it raises the question if there should even be hangmen in the 1K Christian culture? I am sure they would hope not. After all if God’s kingdom is here like they believe and they are creating a Christian culture, what place in God’s kingdom is there for hangmen? Is not God judge, jury, and executioner in his Kingdom? But if the 1K says that God’s kingdom isn’t fully here yet, then he agrees with the 2Ker, so again the question is asked then how should the 1K Christian be a hangman, and the answer seems to be just like the 2Ker. Then again I don’t see the problem. For if the answer is the same then the problem is the same for both or it is not a problem for either. And so it seems to me that in any example that is given as to how the Christian is to behave in the culture (if it isn’t God’s yet) the answer must be the same for both sides. Or the 1K might say that they see the Christian being different in the culture than the 2Ker, but again I ask what scripture are they reading that informs them of the Christians behavior in culture that the 2Ker isn’t reading as well? Surely both are Christians seeking to glorify God in their actions, so how can their actions differ if they are getting their rules from the same place? Surely their hopes and goals may different, but how can their application of God’s rules and laws differ? And if they do, please will each side explain to me how?

My last point is simply to give each side something to think about, a caution if you will. I have little (and yet enough) experience with debate to have started to notice many of the pitfalls that befall it. Both sides make errors and misjudge the other side, and therefor invalidate the whole attempt at coming to the truth and correcting error.

I ask both sides to consider these points I have come up with as guidelines to healthy debate and critical thinking:

1)   Scripture trumps everything and should only be appealed to as far as it allows (Scripture is purposefully not equally clear on all subjects)

2)   Do everything from love and respect (you have been wrong before too)

3)   To understand is better than to agree (you might have to live with this person for eternity)

4)   Do not misrepresent the other position, and accept their complaint that you have (ends do not justify the means, even if there view is wrong)

5)   There is a difference between misrepresenting a view, and explaining its logical consequence (in both the opponent will complain, but only in one does he need to respond).

6)   Be careful of reasoning from assumptions for often they are rooted on a weak or rotting foundation (to assert isn’t to prove, and many views were built on false assumptions like “there is no God”)

7)   The other view should only be attacked on two fronts:

  1. It is contradictory with itself
  2. It is contradictory to the external evidence (or in the rare case where 2 views do not contradict the evidence, the one with the most comprehensive and reasonable explanation should be accepted)

8)   A view isn’t wrong just because it doesn’t agree with your view (your view may be wrong!)

9)   Try to understand the other view from the vantage point of its world view (of course their view isn’t going to fit in your world view, or else it would be your view)

10) Try to understand the concerns about your world view from an outside vantage point (we often are blind to how others see our view and what their concerns really are)

11)  Be careful that your criticism isn’t you placing your world view upon the other view and having it fail

12)  Contradictions can be apparent but not real due to misunderstanding or mistranslation (many concerns about a view stem from a misunderstanding of that view and are not really products of the view)

13)  Try not to generalize too much (although a person may fit under a specific world view, his specific view may not be exactly like another that you know, let each man speak for himself).

My last thought is this. If I understand Scripture correctly then the main purpose of the Church (and Christians) is to spread the Gospel and make disciples. If any activity most pleases God it is this activity. However, not every person is called to participate in this activity in the same way. Just as every person is not a hand, or a foot, so each person is not called to the same “vocation”, although they are called to live out their vocation with the same faithfulness.

Surely the servant who was given 5 talents and earned 5 more, did a greater work than he who had 3 and earned 3 (obviously if the goal of the master was to earn money, earning 5 more talents better achieved this goal), and yet the master was equally pleased with them because they both equally performed within the responsibilities that the master gave them. So likewise, although it seems that working towards fulfillment of the Great Commission is the most noble of occupations (since it seems to be Jesus’ greatest goal and we are Jesus’ disciples), not all jobs equally work towards its fulfillment; yet God seems pleased with any Christian who performs his work according to his ability and calling. This means that God is equally pleased with the faithful preacher as he is with the faithful plumber, even though the preacher more clearly and obviously works towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and is therefore more like the 5 talent job, however, God is equally pleased by the faithfulness of all his people.

This means a Christian shouldn’t covet the calling of another, or even treat him any different (to respect persons) if they both are serving God faithfully. God doesn’t call everyone to the same level of responsibility or to the same callings, but he does call everyone to faithfully perform what God asks of him (no matter how small or big it seems).  Therefore my view is that not all jobs are equal, but all jobs can be equally pleasing to God if done faithfully.

Perhaps this thinking is helpful to the debate, because ultimately to me the real importance is how this debate shapes Christian thought and action (and faithfulness) towards God.

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