Bouncing off of R. Scott Clark’s excellent thoughts on the topic of asylum for refugees, I want to further explain some distinctions for the unacquainted:
Clark’s assessment is that many in the church are recovering Constantinians, whether on the left or the right, where we want “the state to act like the church, when it suits [us],” and our impulse is to use “the machinery of the state to enforce [our] eschatology upon citizens who may or may not agree with [us].”
The biblical alternative to our lingering Constantinianism is the reality that as individual Christians, we participate in two kingdoms: kingdoms of this age (earthly governments) and the kingdom of the age to come (the church). Those kingdoms inhabit and govern within separate realms: those of earth and of heaven, respectively.
Recognizing these distinctions, it may be appropriate for an individual Christian, as a citizen of an earthly government, to advocate for national policies of asylum for refugees according to the dictates of their conscience. However, it isn’t appropriate for the church to be about that same business. The role of the church is not to bring the eschatological kingdom of heaven by means of the power of the kingdom of earth. It may well invade that realm, but not by the power of that realm. The power of the kingdom of God is in the Word by the Spirit, not in the ballot.
So, while it’s the case that individual Christians in their legitimate participation as citizens of earthly governments, governing the earthly realm, can advocate what they will regarding these issues, and while the church should care for refugees and the like who are around us (that’s a fairly basic biblical principle), that doesn’t mean it is within the legitimate purview of the church to be endorsing, promoting, and pushing for the earthly government to grant refugees asylum and care for them.
It is only now, after making these distinctions, that, as Clark says, we can have “the sort of discussion we should: the proper application of wisdom and natural law to civil policy rather than a debate about who is or is not a faithful Christian using the machinery of the state to enforce their eschatology upon citizens who may or may not agree with them.”
And so, in the spirit of our current political climate:
#MCATKTA (Make the Church Acknowledge Two-Kingdoms Theology Again!)
Would love to read your thoughts.
For an application of this theology by David VanDrunen to the issue of abortion, click here. On the page press the “clear search” button to view the whole section.