"Two Kingdoms" circa 115-50?

A notable early Christian apologist didn’t get the transformationalist memo. Ep. to Diognetus (5.1-11):

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. 2 For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life…4For while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. 5The live in their own countries but only as nonresidents, they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. 7They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth but their citizenship is in heaven. 10They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. 11They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Two nice quotes from a wonderful early letter.

    I’m partial to chapter 9: “O sweet exchange…”

  2. Chapter 9 is great.


    The usual response of course is that early Christians had “no real option” for another position. As Hengel puts it “the first Christians were a tiny minority, who were also politically suspect, [therefore] they could not strive in their ethical action for the social reform of the Roman empire of the time.” Theonomists and others then go on to say that this explains such apparent limitations in Paul, Ep Diog, etc. What is the response to such an assertion?

    Many thanks.

  3. Well, lots of Christians died just for being Christians. Evidently, they did have a choice – to conform or die — and many chose to die.

    It’s a little presumptuous for us to assume that “Mathetes” wasn’t writing from principle or out of a theological conviction. Could it be that he read Paul? It’s true that they were a tiny minority but “Mathetes” wasn’t a dispensationalist or Gary North. He’s not waiting for things to turn around so he can smack people around (Gary really did write something to that effect in the 80s).

    We can’t assume that they had a great transformationalist program. Further, we can’t assume that they were all part of the proletariat. It’s quite likely, judging by the style, vocabulary, rhetoric and other internal indicators, that “Mathetes” was a well placed, well-educated, social elite.

  4. Good stuff.

    The interesting thing about the “no real option for another position” is that to have one seems to demand that there is a peace made with the world. Much as I have no desire to light Caesar’s backyard and relish being left alone, is it really a good thing that we enjoy such a protection that we have time to think of how the gospel may contribute to the betterment of society, while those who went before us were made into human candles?


    One man’s pot shot is another’s well deserved criticism. Speaking of being unfair, does it count for anything that Van Til expressly denied that anything in his own work should be translated the way Rushdooney or Bahnsen (or, for that matter, North), and that even so they still crowned him patron saint?

  5. Wonderful quote, I posted some thoughts about it several month ago (http://tinyurl.com/6kkjkp).

    Let me also echo the Amens of those who also love chapter 9 (cf. http://tinyurl.com/6h6hfh):

    O the sweet exchange,
    O the incomprehensible work of God,
    O the unexpected blessings,
    that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous person,
    while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners!

    Amen and amen!

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