Peter Leithart mentions me in this post, and I can say that I agree with the bulk of it all. I do still think, however, that there are some terminological problems.
It is true that “secular” is time and not a space, in a way, because the term itself refers to the “temporal kingdom.” Thus even the visible church exists in the secular. But for many of these conversations we seem to let the metaphors get away from us. Secular isn’t physical space, but it does have a sort of “space” of jurisdiction. There are various “secular” laws (read: temporal kingdom laws) which have no necessary restrictions placed upon them by the spiritual kingdom of God. These would be areas of adiaphora or theologoumena, and as long as they didn’t violate the more basic law of charity, we could theoretically proclaim “to each his own” and let our neighbors do things the way that works for them. If Montana is big and flat enough to not need speed limits in rural areas, then so be it. There’s no positive Biblical command to say otherwise. And Augustine is clear that there is no set list of Christian laws that apply for all peoples in all places:
This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them, so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced.
City of God 19.17
That last line certainly seems to imply some sort of private/public or two-kingdoms distinction.
Leithart does explain the “difference” between Christian and non-Christian “secular” actions by saying:
Even when Christian and pagan rulers do the same thing, however, there are times when they do the same thing differently. Even when building roads, the pious Christian ruler would engage in the activity for the glory of God and to benefit his subjects, rather than, for instance to win fame.
I agree with this, but I’m not sure that it is really different from the classical inner/outer or private/public distinction, which is what I thought Leithart was critiquing in his previous post. We don’t want to say that the private sphere has no impact on the public, nor vice versa, but we do want to say that the distinction matters and matters greatly when it comes to law. We can judge a ruler’s road-building activity. We can decide if he does so adequately and lawfully. However, law cannot judge piety or faith. The law cannot decide whether or not a ruler was seeking to glorify God, and whenever it attempts to do so, tyranny ensues.
That’s why the distinction matters. To confuse law and grace makes grace a problem (works’ righteousness), but it also makes law a problem. You have to either not maintain order- as in the case of the Christian school where the parents ask you not to write their kid up for eating in class because they want you to “show a little grace”- or you have to attempt to legislate the heart, seeking to determine someone’s sincerity and faith by external measures. In both cases you lose both true law and true liberty.
The proper corrective, it seems to me, is not to dismiss the traditional distinctions of natural law, secular order, and public/private jurisdictions, but rather to reclaim them from their (very) recent misinterpretations. This was the attempted goal of my short paper on natural law, and I would point to the explication of A. P. d’Entreves’s work to illustrate the classic position:
A. P. d’Entreves devotes half of his Natural Law: An Historical Survey to explaining how natural law could both ground law in morality and allow for the freedom of conscience. He states that a belief in natural law requires “that the identification of law and command be overcome or abandoned.” The command is founded upon the nature, and “the fact that positive law is laid down in the form of a command and proceeds from the will of the sovereign does not mean that the holder of sovereignty is immune from all legal obligation.” There are no “absolute” rulers (only God is such), and any specific legislation is always accountable to a transcendent moral standard. This moralization of law, however, does not necessarily lead to an over-reaching state or ministerial control, but rather, in keeping with reason’s recognition of its own self-limitations, “it is possible to clearly delimit the sphere which is beyond the bounds of State action.” d’Entreves goes on to cite (you guessed it) Aquinas and Hooker:
Man, the maker of human law, can pass judgment only upon external action, because “man seeth those things that appear,” as we are told in the book of Kings. God alone, the divine Law-giver, is able to judge the inner movements of the will, as the Psalmist says, “The searcher of hearts and reins is God” (Th. Aquinas, Summa Theol., 1a 2ae, 100, 9).
Wherein appeareth also the difference between human and divine laws, the one of which two are content with opus operatum, the other require the opus operantis, the one but claims the deed, the other especially the mind (Hooker, Eccles. Pol., V, lxii, 15).
Here is the essential message of the Protestant doctrine of the two kingdoms. The jurisdiction of law is that of external affairs and not the heart and mind. The extension of the arm of the state stops prior to the internal affairs of man. A final statement from d’Entreves will do, “The lesson of natural law… would, I suppose, be simply to remind the jurist of his own limitations.”
I agree with Leithart’s penultimate paragraph, but I think his allowance of the secularists to continue to define and own the terms prevents him from consistently explaining and defending his view from those of the Anabaptists against whom he’s also seeking to correct.