Arguably the one of the greatest challenges that the church has faced has been how to relate to the prevailing culture. This was true before Christendom, when Christians were mostly ignored. It was true when we were being actively persecuted and martyred in the mid-3rd century and it was perhaps and even more pressing problem under Christendom, when Christian orthodoxy was enforced with civil power. Now, after Christendom, we face the challenge of losing our favored status, renewed hostility, and ignorance from the neo-pagans.
The Reformed tradition has long taught what Calvin called God’s “twofold government” among men, namely the secular civil government and the sacred spiritual government in the church. It would be a great boon to Christians and to the visible church to rediscover this distinction and apply it our own age, after Christendom.
This distinction was largely ignored in the Modern period and its rediscovery has caused a certain amount of angst in some quarters, e.g., among those who favor the various neo-Kuyperian/transformationalist approaches—even though Kuyper himself made a threefold distinction between the spheres of church, state, and family—including those evangelicals outside the Reformed Churches who seek to appropriate a popular evangelical version of neo-Kuyperianism without the underlying Reformed theology, piety, and practice that informed Kuyper. It has also been criticized by theonomists and Reconstructionists, who rightly see this distinction as an alternative to their ethics and eschatology.
Here is a new resource page with resources on the twofold kingdom.
Some of these essays and sources go back several years. Originally, on the HB, I wrote and spoke about the “two kingdoms.” That is a fine way to speak but when I discovered that the Latin text of the Institutes used ‘twofold government” or “twofold kingdom” (duplex regimen) I adopted that expression as a way of signaling more clearly God’s sovereign government over all things.