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Many Western Christians on both sides of the political spectrum feel called to ‘biblically transform’ society. How much should we do in this regard?

R Scott Clark has many resources on the Reformation concept of two kingdoms (2K), divine and civil, which Lutherans and Calvinists largely adhere to, although there are exceptions. Many Catholics also separate their church and civic lives.

In an April 2010 Heidelblog post, Dr Clark discussed the 2K concept with one of his readers, Tim. Tim asks the following by way of explanation (emphases mine):

I just returned from a weekend visiting friends and their emergent church that they go to. The person, “the grassroots pastor”, who leads this emergent community reads a lot of Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Brian Mc[L]aren, especially Greg Boyd, and surprisingly N.T. Wright. In fact, almost every spiritually conversation I had, someone mentioned something about N.T.Wright. And in those same conversations the favorite phrase that always jumped out most was “the kingdom of God”. Now here is a reactionary community that is rebelling from pietistic fundamentalism which taught them their Christian lives are only as meaningful as their involvement in evangelism. This same emergent community now seeks to justify all their lives in terms of the service and being “agents of the new creation” to spread the “kingdom of God.” On Sunday morning the “grassroots pastor” said “the kingdom of God” essentially means everybody doing their share and “serving their brains out”. At the end of the service, the pastor pointed to the table in the back where United Way provided hundreds of ways to volunteer in their local city. And he encouraged everyone to sign up for at least one volunteer organization. The “grassroots pastor” said Christians are in the business of serving people, of volunteering, of ushering in the kingdom of God, of being conduits of the new creation. He said Christians are to be “ministers of the reconciliation.” This was a sermon full of imperatives. And I left feeling condemned especially because I am not “serving my brains out.” So my questions are:

1.To what extent does God call us to be agents of new creation involved in spreading the kingdom of God?
2.Does preaching like this, with emphasis on “serving our brains out”, fall under preaching Law and not Gospel?
3.Does serving the poor or doing other charitable work means someone is being a “minister of reconciliation” or does this phrase have a different meaning in the Bible?
4. What would you add to better explain what Guy Waters meant with his quote above?

To which Dr Clark replies:

… This is a category of analysis that the emergent guys, who are really just pietists with hip glasses, don’t have. They assume a transformationalist model of social engagement. My question is this: where in the NT is social transformation unequivocally taught? I can show where we are clearly and unequivocally taught to do our work in this world quietly but I’m hard pressed to find a single, clear, unequivocal command to transform society.

No question whether God is sovereign over all things. The question is: how has God willed to administer his sovereignty over all things? I would say that he has willed to do so in two distinct spheres. The KOG [Kingdom of God] is primarily (solely?) manifested in the visible, institutional church to which he has given the keys of the kingdom. Christians also live in what we may call the common realm or which Zacharias Ursinus called the kingdom of God most broadly considered — that is the realm of his general providence. In that realm Christians serve Christ but not by “transforming” the common but by being faithful in the common realm to their vocations and to the Lordship of Christ. Christians are Christians 7 days a week but not everything they do is under the Kingdom narrowly considered

Tim seeks clarification:

So McLaren insists we are to seek justice. Or as N.T.Wright would say, ” putting the world back to rights.” Furthermore, emergent types will go to passsages like Mat[t]hew 25:31-46 and say, “Look there, Jesus says “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” So they will say helping the poor, the powerless, the widows, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned is a major part of spreading the KOG. Another words as the “grassroots pastor” mentioned, “serving our brains out” is the way the KOG spreads. How would you respond to these issues I raised above? Thanks.

Dr Clark responds:

I wouldn’t trust Brian McLaren to help me understand anything let alone God’s Word … The truth is that the whole over-realized eschatology proposed by BM is no more than modern day revival of the Anabaptist eschatology [‘end times’ study].

Show me one concrete, unequivocal, passage where were are called to transform society. I didn’t ask for a deduction or an inference. It can’t be done because it doesn’t exist. The NT never once called Christians to transform anything. They are called to be transformed. The church as such is called to be transformed and Christians are called to fulfill their vocations in the world before God under his Lordship.

And this is but one of the exchanges and blog posts from Dr Clark — as well as his colleagues at Westminster Seminary California and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia — which got me interested in Calvinism.

Now, there are derivatives of John Knox (Calvin asked him to dial down the rhetoric and persecution) as well as Cromwell, not to mention today’s American Evangelicals in strange attire who are well meaning but are largely agenda-driven. They are derivatives of Christianity to such an extent that they are unbiblical.

And this is where we find ourselves today.

We Christians must choose our battles wisely.

This is what makes many wary of so-called ‘prophets’ and ‘believers’ of the past few decades who dishonour Christ and His redemptive power with their efforts to transform society through legalism, whether Left or Right.

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