When To Get All Political And When Not To Do That

So politics, however messy things get in real life, is a legitimate topic of conversation, specialization, and even vocation.  There is nothing necessarily immoral or even undignified about the art of statecraft.  And politics are necessary.  Whenever you hear a politician deriding politics, as when our President says that we shouldn’t let “politics” prevent Washington from “getting things done,” you should ask the very basic question– “What ever else are they supposed to be doing?”  It’s a silly rhetorical conceit, designed to capitalize on and manipulate the common man’s cynicism.  And sometimes politics directly affects people’s lives and livelihoods.  So it matters, and people should care about it.

On the other hand, the old Southern rule of etiquette still holds true.  Politics really isn’t a good subject to discuss over dinner.  It can be alienating and off-putting in a number of ways.  First, it can quickly become a specialized topic, leaving out those people who have not been keeping up with the latest news.  It can also be divisive, in that not everyone is going to agree (surprise!).  And as much as we like to assume that politics is about good and evil or absolute justice vs. absolute injustice, this is actually irregularly the case.  More often it is about efficiency and prudence, what will work and what won’t work, or perhaps, what will kinda work and what won’t work so well.  People often don’t admit it, but their political thinking is biased, formed by sociology and personal history as much or more than by objective positions and principled argumentation.  In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, so let’s consider ourselves and our neighbor and extend an extra dose of charity to political conversation, even if that means not having it right now.

And so there’s nothing terribly profound in this post.  Rather, I just want to give some good pastoral advice, otherwise known as common courtesy.  Politics is not always awful, but neither is it always awesome.  Keep it in perspective.  Also, for those Calvinists out there who claim to believe in divine sovereignty and that there is “no power but of God,” does your rhetoric and ordinary anxiety level line up with your claim?  If you are always worried about politics, always talking about it, letting it actually get you down- well, might that not mean that “where your treasure is, there your heart is also”?  Are you trusting in chariots, after all?

Politics can be good, but it is always earthly.  The heavenly king is King Jesus, and his throne is forever.  Let your light shine before men, starting with a sunny disposition.  Trust in him, let your hearts not be troubled, and tone it down a notch at the table.

Quick Post on Calvin and 2 Kingdoms

I don’t have time for much today, as I’m about to head to New Orleans, but I couldn’t help but put this little bit from Calvin out there.  A smidge of context is needed first.

Many of the proponents of the “two kingdoms” theology in the Reformed world read Calvin as teaching that the “spiritual kingdom” is the church, and the “temporal kingdom” is the rest of the outside world.  This is incorrect and actually approximates the old Roman Catholic position.  For Calvin, the spiritual kingdom is the invisible church, and the temporal kingdom is the entire external realm- visible church, state, and family.  Here’s a short quote that gets right to the point.  From Calvin’s commentary on 1 Cor. 11:1-16:

There is somewhat more of difficulty in what follows. Here the man is placed in an intermediate position between Christ and the woman, so that Christ is not the head of the woman. Yet the same Apostle teaches us elsewhere, (Galatians 3:28,) that in Christ there is neither male nor female. Why then does he make a distinction here, which in that passage he does away with? I answer, that the solution of this depends on the connection in which the passages occur. When he says that there is no difference between the man and the woman, he is treating of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, in which individual distinctions [“External qualities” -ed.] are not regarded, or made any account of; for it has nothing to do with the body, and has nothing to do with the outward relationships of mankind, but has to do solely with the mind — on which account he declares that there is no difference, even between bond and free. In the meantime, however, he does not disturb civil order or honorary distinctions, which cannot be dispensed with in ordinary life. Here, on the other hand, he reasons respecting outward propriety and decorum — which is a part of ecclesiastical polity. Hence, as regards spiritual connection in the sight of God, and inwardly in the conscience, Christ is the head of the man and of the woman without any distinction, because, as to that, there is no regard paid to male or female; but as regards external arrangement and political decorum, the man follows Christ and the woman the man, so that they are not upon the same footing, but, on the contrary, this inequality exists.

Notice here that Calvin says Christ’s kingdom does not concern the body or any external relations.  It is wholly inward and has to do with conscience.  Thus there is total equality and immediate relationship between Christ and all believers in the spiritual kingdom.

The temporal kingdom is different.  It has to do with the body and all external conditions.  It still has mediation and hierarchy.  This is how Calvin defends against forms of egalitarianism which would stem from certain Pauline texts.  All of the “spiritual kingdom” truths have to do with the life of the soul.  Notice also that Calvin says “ecclesiastical polity” is a part of the external realm, civil order, and ordinary life.

Much follows from this, but I’ll have to leave that for another time.

Two Kingdoms and Political Theology

I thought it would be helpful to have a sort of index to the political theology discussions we had on this blog last Fall.

1. Darryl Hart’s Response to My 2 Kingdoms Essay

2. Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 1)

3. Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 2)

4. Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 3)

5. Neo-Anabaptism and the Kingdom (pt. 1)

6. Neo-Anabaptism and the Kingdom (pt. 2)

7. Neo-Anabaptism and the Kingdom (pt. 3)