And second, He rules over those who willingly subject themselves to Him [the inner Kingdom]. But He is also my Master whenever I, as a grateful servant, fulfil His will by working to keep the commandments. Divine Providence uses the whole of nature, rational and irrational, to attain Its ends. So the kingdom of this world can be said to embrace the whole of nature. The State is that part of the outer kingdom that is organized by human beings and has the highest degree of organization. The Church is the inner kingdom on earth. Although having a visible presence and organization on earth, its essence is not of this world, being the Kingdom of Grace.
The inner Kingdom of the Church ministers to the inner needs of man, his salvation for eternity. The outer kingdom of the State ministers to his external needs - food and shelter and security from external enemies. In the first case the kingdom of Christ is without end and all three Persons of the All-Holy Trinity participate in Providence. In the second it will end with the leading of all the true believers to salvation, when Jesus Christ hands over the Kingdom to God and the Father, when He will annul every authority and force, that God may be all in all I Corinthians He remains the Highest Teacher Matthew It is a special sphere in which the relationship of man with God is developed Matthew He rules in this world, takes providential care for it and administers everything according to His will.
The Lord speaks of His enduring Kingdom, independent of time and of decay, unrighteousness, illusion and death. Is not gold as paper? The Lord, then, does not say to Pilate that He is not a king, but, on the contrary, says that He is a higher king than all kings, and His Kingdom is greater and stronger and more enduring than all earthly kingdoms.
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In order to move beyond the limitations of each we will do well to retrieve the strengths of both. As we do so, the contours may emerge of a deep paradigm upon which our two dominant fragments rest. Strengths : First, Anabaptist-Mennonite two-kingdom theology at its best has differed from the dualism within much Christian theology in a crucial way: it is not content with a cosmological construct alone but instead presses for a difference in visible social reality.
So two-kingdom theology has insisted rightly on a distinct community, on a living expression of the social reality of the Gospel. This is the essential insight of any Anabaptist social view and any authentically Mennonite church life.
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Third, two-kingdom theology has helped Christians engaging in social action keep means and ends in order. If we believe God to be working diffusely in the world we are tempted to use power vested in the present system for Kingdom ends. Two-kingdom theology has reminded Christians that to follow Jesus they must operate by a logic different from the power calculations of human politics, economics, and systems of status.
Limitations : As already noted, two-kingdom theology has been the idea system that initially helped the Anabaptist church make sense of persecution and that later justified rural Mennonite sociology. But in many parts of the world persecution is rare or at most subtle, while in Europe and North America, rural Mennonitism is in retreat. An ideological superstructure rarely survives long or offers meaning without a sociological substructure.
Second, two-kingdom theology can be in tension with its own gospel of shalom. After all, shalom is all-inclusive and beckons Christians to a universal hope for a redeemed, re-integrated creation.
Biblically this tension should only be transitional. Yet many who affirm it become mired in a complacent social fatalism, expecting peace for themselves and their Christian communities, but inevitable conflict for the world.
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Third, Anabaptist two-kingdom theology becomes confused with other dualisms. Most dangerous are those whose metaphysical assumptions verge on Manichaeism, the syncretistic religion of antiquity that incorporated Christian motifs into its radically dualistic mythology of an eternal struggle between good and evil, spirit and matter.
One can interpret article IV of the Schleitheim Confession as Manichaean in spirit if not in tone; whenever Mennonites have confused their two-kingdom theology with Fundamentalist otherworldliness, or doubted the fundamental goodness of body and matter, they have again run this risk. Fourth, in Mennonite communities themselves, two-kingdom categories have so easily become static. Pauline literature speaks of all creation groaning for redemption Romans 8 and of Christ as the one who holds all things together Colossians 2.
Paradoxically perhaps, some of the same themes that give precedent for two-kingdom theology undergird one-kingdom theology as well. Shalom is the biblical vision for all of creation. The kingdom we suppose God to be bringing tends to be a merely reformed version of the present systems of power in which we have a stake. Second, one-kingdom theology also tends to underestimate the need for community. Yet anyone who really expects to bring fundamental social change needs a support group to sustain the struggle. Still more important, if the program of social change in question is original enough to be worth the bother, those working for change must offer a living model of what that change would mean.
Agents of Two Kingdoms
Finally, we cannot understand the world, let alone act in it, without some kind of dualities to help us, at the very least, make analytical distinctions. We too, like they, may reject dualism but still need dualities. Without some duality, the rejection of dualism confuses as much as it clarifies. Most fundamentally, we need some duality in our language to keep our allegiance to Jesus Christ clear. Self-interest inherently dominates the structures of the world.
But Jesus calls those who would enter the Kingdom to relativize their own self-interests and put themselves at service to others. Consciousness of this fundamental ethical conflict should make Christians better activists as they engage in tasks of social change; we need not fear that it will cloister us. In sum, the language of two kingdoms is an accurate descriptive image of what is, yet one Kingdom is the promise for which we hope. This leaves two-kingdom language with a much humbler role in the formation of Christian community. That two kingdoms are in conflict is the problem, not the solution.
We never dare become complacent, much less satisfied, over the fact that there are two kingdoms. Yes, to retain the temporal element here is not only biblical but commonsensical. No, there is disobedience among those who claim Jesus as Lord. And there is a certain amount of obedience among some who do not. The chronology is rather that of allegiance: those who claim Jesus as Lord are not always obedient to his way, but they know which direction they want to go.
In reminding ourselves that where we want to be is not where we fully are, we release the power of an eschatological vision — power to orient our present according to the end, power to orient our means with its shalom ends, and power to nurture the hope that it is worthwhile to live here-and-now, according to the still-coming-Kingdom, as best we can. Kingdom models project in our minds a map.
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But borders should sometimes change. And itineraries, whether from snags or offers of hospitality, are delayed. Furthermore, neither map nor itinerary offers adequate information about the people who might guide us along our journey. What we need is a travelogue. For even when we enter completely uncharted territory, a well-written travelogue continues to offer tips from previous travelers on how to find the way. What we need, in other words, is a paradigmatic story. Of course we already have one, if we retell it carefully.
The major biblical image is neither a cosmology nor a chronology alone, but a story. Only a story can convey spatial and temporal dimensions at once — setting us into communities and evoking loyalty through its own characters, while plotting to open our communities and hearts outward into hospitality for all other communities. This is, after all, the story that has been playing itself out ever since God called Abraham and Sarah out of Ur and promised to bless them so that they and their people might be a blessing to all nations.
Realistically, many people have yet to acknowledge the source of that blessing which falls on just and unjust alike, as two-kingdom theology insists. But the invitation is open to all, as one-kingdom theology reminds. They do this through service to all peoples. And when they fail? Ah, but that is the biblical drama! Not everything he and his clan did is paradigmatic for us, but rather what God initiated through him.
From the Archives: The Two Kingdoms
What God began there was a social strategy of blessing, saving, and transforming the majority through the minority, the universal through the particular, through blessings that are lost if not shared, through lives gained truly in the laying down of life. The path to cross and resurrection began in Ur. Finally Isaiah and his disciples saw that, in effect, the only way forward was back to the call of Abraham.
But now the language had to be even more pointed. It had to be the language of suffering service, not just blessing.
For election and peoplehood are a gift, not just to the people whom God calls but to the world to whom he gives that people. If the people of God had failed to be a servant people-for-other-peoples, then another Servant of Yahweh would have to come, living and dying supremely for others.
From the Archives: The Two Kingdoms | Christian History | Christianity Today
Yet even as Jesus Christ fulfilled the messianic vision of Isaiah, he called his disciples to form a new servant community — a new people-for-other-peoples sent into all the world. They too struggled with how to be an inclusive community of Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, and yet not dissipate their distinct identity. And so do we. Meanwhile, like the Hebrews and the early Christians, we lose our real distinctiveness when we live merely to preserve our own self-interests. It clarifies why it is so important to be a distinct community — yet it does not relegate all that happens outside the community to hell, irrelevance or worldliness.
It transcends the static qualities of two-kingdom theology without indiscriminately embracing present fallen reality as though God can call it all good in quite the same way. It reminds us that our spiritual parents left Ur, an action that speaks of repentance, turning, and a proper separation.