We Don’t Need the Enlightenment to Know the Government Shouldn’t Enforce True Religion

Anymore than we need the Bible to know stealing is wrong. But the Bible also seems to have something to say about physically enforcing the true religion and punishing everything else. Advocates of two kingdom theology are sometimes disparaged by their critics for bending the knee to modernity. But the real problem actually has more to do with putting things back under the Mosaic economy, which has the disconcerting implication that Jesus wasn’t quite sufficient. Two kingdom advocates are also disparaged for “public square antinomianism,” but it is hard not to see how the alternative to two kingdom theology isn’t one form or another of public square Judaism.

Matthew Tuininga has a relatively new blog worth reading. In his latest post, he points out how Calvin’s exposition of Romans helps make Kuyper’s case that, as it regards the theonomic impulse, “Calvinism has never supported this untenable position but has always opposed it with might and main.” Quoth he:

In fact, early on I believe Calvin saw this more clearly, and it was only due to the influence of the powers and exigencies of his day that he changed on this point. Note what he says about government in his 1540 commentary on Romans. After explaining Romans 13 without saying a single thing about any obligation of civil government towards the true religion, he comes to Paul’s quotation of the prophecy that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess the Lord. He then writes:

But though in this passage of the Prophet the Lord in general foreshadows that his glory should be known among all nations, and that his majesty should everywhere shine forth, which was then hid among very few, and as it were in an obscure corner of the world; yet if we examine it more closely, it will be evident that its complete fulfillment is not now taking place, nor has it ever taken place, nor is it to be hoped for in future ages. God does not now rule otherwise in the world than by his gospel; nor is his majesty otherwise rightly honored but when it is adored as known from his word… It hence appears, that this prophecy is indeed begun to be fulfilled in this life, but is far from being completed, and will not be so until the day of the last resurrection shall shine forth, when Christ’s enemies shall be laid prostrate, that they may become his footstool. (commentary on Romans 14:11)

Calvin was always very clear that Christ governs and advances his kingdom by the Word and Spirit alone. It will not always be that way, he realized, but the change will come when Christ returns to judge the world, not today. Now God rules by the gospel alone.

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This entry was posted in Calvin, Church and State, Matthew Tuininga, Theonomy, Two-kingdoms. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to We Don’t Need the Enlightenment to Know the Government Shouldn’t Enforce True Religion

  1. RubeRad says:

    That quote is Amillicious! For reference, here it is in Calvin.

    Interesting the note about how Calvin developed in this idea through his life. My impression has been that Calvin was inconsistent (there are quotes on both sides; those from the other side usually coming from his sermons on Deuteronomy), but I never heard before that there was a trend as he got older.

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