Sometimes the "Two Kingdoms" Ethic is Really Useful

As in this case. Christians need to stop speaking nonsense, especially to those whom we seek to win for Christ. It’s not a binary choice. In the civil kingdom, a kingdom of law and justice, where grace and love, to quote John Cleese, “don’t enter into it.” Terrorists ought to receive a full and just punishment.

Christians, however, live simultaneously in another kingdom and we may speak of grace and love in that kingdom. We should preach the law and the gospel to terrorists and to all other sinners and, should they turn from sin and embrace Christ heartily, we should embrace them and forgive them, entrance into that kingdom doesn’t change their civil obligations. 

It’s not an “either/or” question. It’s a “both/and” question.

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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. I’m certainly no defender of grace and mercy having any play in the civil sphere (I never compute how believers plead with judges to suspend justice against those who have harmed them, and Karla Faye Tucker, anyone?).

    Even so, I have a hard time shaking the sense that when it is said in these kinds of conversations “we ought to work and pray for justice” it can have a decidedly more American tone than Christian, an ideological feel over against a theological one. Maybe that just comes with the territory of being hyphenated. But just so I can say I said it.

  2. I never compute how believers plead with judges to suspend justice against those who have harmed them

    Yep. I was on the receiving end of an assault a couple of years ago. Did I forgive the lads who, fuelled up with a Saturday night’s drinking, decided that a fight was the best way finish off the evening? To my surprise, yes. Did I expect them to be dealt with justly and firmly, within the law? You betcha. I wanted them to know what they’d done was wrong; the difference was that I wasn’t gunning for revenge. I wanted them to know what they’d done was wrong, so that others and perhaps they might be deterred from going down the same path, and so that justice would be seen to be done.

  3. What is the best book out there covering the doctrine of “two-kingdom” theology? Any recommendations?


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