A two kingdoms approach in practice
Thursday 28 May 2015 by Ad Taylor-Weekes
In the last blog post I set out a Biblical perspective on engaging with politics as delineated in David van Drunen's book, "Living in God's Two Kingdoms." In this post I want to suggest some implications that flow out of this perspective for our situation in the UK firstly in terms of what we should expect from the state and, secondly, what responsibilities we have towards the state as citizens of God's two kingdoms. I'll then offer some ways that we can get involved and keep informed.
What should we expect?
1) If, as part of His common grace to all people, civil magistrates have been given authority by God to keep order and to enforce justice, then these authorities will work best when they exercise their authority according to His values:
- it's good for us to point out biblical perspectives on how things work best and to ask questions like: what's the economy for? What's immigration for? What's welfare for? (see Votewise 2015 for a helpful perspective.)
2) If we should expect to be able to live lives that honour God without fear then it should never be a crime to live a godly life according to godly principles:
- the recent Asher's Bakery ruling makes it clear that this is under threat and we should be willing to speak out against it.
3) If we believe that governments are responsible for the welfare of the poor in society then we will support their efforts to do this:
- interest in maintaining the NHS.
- concern as to whether cuts in benefits are adversely affecting those who can't help themselves etc.
4) If we believe in "limited authority" for governments, in that it has not authority to make laws that operate contrary to God's law, then we should hold our government to account when this doesn't happen:
- For example when our government attempts to redefine marriage in a way that contradicts God's own definition then we are right to protest.
- Of course there are many other examples.
If we believe in "limited authority" in that it should operate alongside other divinely appointed institutions (e.g. the family) then we should hold the government to account when we see it transgressing.
- For example in the discussions around whether to ban smacking, or the Named Persons scheme we need to at least be asking the question as to whether the government is overstretching it's God-given authority
What responsibilities do we have?
1) Our submission to Christ works out in our submission to the authorities we are under. Whether it's filing self-assessment tax forms or tax credit forms honestly, keeping to speed limits or clearing up after our dog we have a duty to submit to the rules we are under.
2) We should pay our taxes happily!
3) We should pray for those in authority over us. Our local MP needs to feature regularly in our prayers, as does our local council, our Prime Minister, the cabinet and the Houses of Parliament etc.
4 We have a responsibility to get involved (this deserves a list of its own - see the next heading) Living in a democracy puts us in a privileged position - fewer than 13% of the world's population does. We have a voice and we have God's voice, so let's use it while we can.
5) We should hold the government to account. We can remind them of their God-given authority. We can point out to them when they abuse it by over-stepping their jurisdiction or by giving approval to what is wrong.
- We can write to our MP. Let him know you are praying for him. Remind him of the authority that has been delegated to him by God.
- Some may get involved in a political party.
- Some may become school governors.
- Some may become local councillors.
- We can all pray, of course.
- Subscribe to the Christian Institute.
- The Jubilee Centre has several interesting papers.
- Subscribe to emails from Christians in Parliament...
- ...as well as Christian Fellowships from across the political spectrum.
Joyful, detached and modest
In all of this, of course, it's important to be joyful, detached and modest. Joyful because God is a God of order and this pleases Him. Detached because however well-ordered and well-functioning our government becomes it is nothing compared to the future joy of being part of God's fully-realised, eschatological kingdom and under His unchallenged rule. And modest because our goal is not to usher in the redemptive rule of God. This we await with eager expectation and patience.