Calvin A Cousin To Dispensationalism?

This striking passage occurs in an essay published on the Aquila Report today:

Now, I understand that dispensationalism, and its reformed cousin–Two Kingdoms (R2K) theology, don’t use the term, “abandon the culture.” And both still embrace the importance of evangelicalism. However, neither actually expects significant results. Oh sure, the “frozen chosen” will be sought out and discovered this way, but most of the world and its cultural institutions will continue heading toward hell in a handbasket.

The essay is concerned about the state and future of the PCA. Is the two-kingdom analysis of Christ and culture a major force in the PCA? If it is I am unaware of it. The doctrine of the spirituality of the church, however, is reflected in the constitutional documents of the church he purports to be defending. E.g., The PCA Book of Church Order says,

Since ecclesiastical discipline must be purely moral or spiritual in its object, and not attended with any civil effects, it can derive no force whatever, but from its own justice, the approbation of an impartial public, and the countenance and blessing of the great Head of the Church (BCO, Pref, p. 9).

Apparently the PCA itself is also a cousin to Dispensationalism since it is constitutionally forbidden to pursue, as a denomination, the sort of cultural engagement the author believes to be essential to the future of the PCA.

Could it be that the author is unacquainted with the historic Reformed doctrine of the twofold kingdom (duplex regimen)? Just in case, it was Calvin himself who wrote,

Therefore, in order that none of us may stumble on that stone, let us first consider that there is a twofold government in man (duplex esse in homine regimen): one aspect is spiritual, whereby the conscience is instructed in piety and in reverencing God; the second is political, whereby man is educated for the duties of humanity and citizenship that must be maintained among men. These are usually called the “spiritual” and the “temporal” jurisdiction (not improper terms) by which is meant that the former sort of government pertains to the life of the soul, while the latter has to do with the concerns of the present life—not only with food and clothing but with laying down laws whereby a man may live his life among other men holily, honorably, and temperately. For the former resides in the inner mind, while the latter regulates only outward behavior. The one we may call the spiritual kingdom, the other, the political kingdom. Now these two, as we have divided them, must always be examined separately; and while one is being considered, we must call away and turn aside the mind from thinking about the other. There are in man, so to speak, two worlds, over which different kings and different laws have authority (Institutes, 3.19.15).

Who knew that Calvin was a secret advocate of world-flight?

“Neither expects significant results”?

Here I was, just this morning, meditating with my students on Belgic Confession art. 37, which says, in part,

Finally, we believe, according to God’s Word, that when the time appointed by the Lord is come (which is unknown to all creatures) and the number of the elect is complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty, to declare himself the judge of the living and the dead. He will burn this old world, in fire and flame, in order to cleanse it.

We were marveling over the fact that God the Spirit uses the preaching of the Gospel (Belgic Confession art. 35; Heidelberg Catechism 65) to bring all his elect to new life (regeneration) and to true faith in the Savior. I was encouraging them to understand that they are about to embark on the most important work in the world. I am sorry to read that this work is apparently insignificant.

Shall we call a Synod to revise the Belgic and the Heidelberg?

From where would one get the idea that to distinguish between two spheres in God’s sovereign administration of all things or between two kingdoms means that Christians are not to engage the culture? Could it be from the HB resource page on abortion, the HB resource page on Christ and culture, the HB resource page on racism and social justice, the resources on religious liberty, the HB resources on critical theory, political correctness, and free speech, the HB resources on the social gospel, the HB resources on Covid and religious liberty? the HB resources on the LGBTQ movement(s)? Could it be my essay, “We Are Not Polishing Brass On A Sinking Ship“? Could it be Dave VanDrunen’s books on Bioethics and the Christian Life (2009), Living in God’s Two Kingdoms (2010), or perhaps Politics After Christendom? (2020)? Are these are all examples of world-flight?

Or could it be that there is nothing about distinguishing between the two spheres of God’s Kingdom (as the Belgic Confession does in art. 35, between the “common” and the sacred) that has anything to do whatever with Dispensationalism?

I know nothing about the “frozen chosen” but I do know what God’s Word says:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

Perhaps it is not we “R2K”ers who need the eschatological adjustment?

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. I read that article, too, and as a joyful Calvinist, I was and am in violent disagreement, but I am not clear on how to tell Aquila so. I sense a different perspective guiding the material for the weekly assortment, and perhaps even a diminished standard of quality – even though articles from Dear Blogger Clark appear from time to time. In a spy novel, the appearance of an opinion as jarring as this would motivate the protagonist to begin to look for a double agent.

  2. This view of cultural transformation is alive, well and growing within the PCA. It is not seen as a problem because today’s PCA is only nominally Reformed so few see this theology as any kind of a problem. The problem is that rather than the PCA transforming culture, there is ample evidence that the culture is transforming the PCA. The Westminster Standards as well as its own BCO are not really relevant to today’s PCA.

    • I don’t agree with much of the kind of cultural transformation that is being attempted by many PCA TEs and congregations, but the ideas of cultural transformation have existed in reformed churches long before the PCA even existed.

Comments are closed.