Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Classic Anabaptism: Two Kingdoms Theology

By William Higgins

idea of two orders – comes out of the tension between

 the ethics of the sword required to run a worldly government – force, coercion, violence
 and the ethics of Jesus the sermon on the mount – loving enemies and not resisting evildoers

In a Christendom model of Christianity you have to deal with this tension because when church and state are fused together – you have Christians running the State - using the sword – ‘How can this be?’

Catholics – two realms within one society

 lay realm that can use the lower righteousness the sword
 and the monastic, priestly realm that holds to the way of Jesus

Luther – two realms in each person’s life

 public realm where you use the sword – if you are in office
 private realm where you are to hold to the way of Jesus


Anabaptists – two separate realms: the church and the world

The church is a separate social entity from the rest of society which is “the world.”

This is not a Christendom model so they don’t have to be fused together.

 the world lives by the lower standard of the sword (given by God to order the realm “outside the perfection of Christ” as Schleitheim famously says)

 all Christians live by the way of Jesus no matter what position they might have

favorite text here - John 18:36 - "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."

Christendom models try to reduce the tension between the sword and the way of Jesus to allow for Christians to take up the sword

But for Anabaptists - The two orders cannot be combined, they are different

awkward relationship: Christians are to respect and submit to governments . . . (in as much as this doesn’t require what is contrary to Jesus), but they cannot themselves take part in what involves the ethics of the sword.

some vagueness in the early Dutch here – some saw some possibilities for a Christian to be in government – but this faded over time – in terms of the confessional tradition.

Note: This is not the same as our Separation of church and state – which seems to mean:

the political part of society is kept separate from the religious part of society, but they are really just two parts of one society – its just best practically, legally to keep them separate

Anabaptist view: The church is a complete social unit – spiritual and political - not the spiritual part of secular or civic society

two halves of a whole // or two separate wholes that coexist in the same place.

church has its own leader – Jesus, elders, own justice system – discipline process etc.

Summary: The world lives by the lower standard of the sword. Christians are to live by the standard of the way of Jesus in all situations.

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