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.


American Hebraism

My panel is called “People of God? The Role of Political Hebraism in America.”  The initial inspiration was Eric Nelson’s book The Hebrew Republic, but the papers are all broader, looking at the ways in which the Bible was used in and Israel was taken as a model for American politics.  Here’s the info:

Schedule Information:

Scheduled Time: Thu, Jan 12 – 3:00pm – 4:30pm  Building/Room: Hotel InterContinental, Pelican I
Title Displayed in Event Calendar: People of God? The Role of Political Hebraism in America

Session Participants:
Chair: Glenn Moots (Northwood University)
Our Providential Mission: The Shifting of America’s Hebraic Narrative

Glenn Moots (Northwood University)

Can All Christians be Good Americans? 19th Century Roman Catholics and Presbyterians in Doubt

Steven Phillip Wedgeworth (Immanuel Presbyterian Church)

Lincoln’s Biblical Oratory and the Coming of the Civil War

Danilo Petranovich (Yale University)

Political Hebraism in the American Twentieth Century: Exodus, the Kingdom of God, and the Return from Exile

James Patterson (University of Virginia)

Discussant: Chris Beneke (Bentley University)
Discussant: Thomas Raymond Laehn (McNeese State University)

SPSA 2012

So I’ve been gone a long time again.  What can I say?  I’ve been busy and having fun.  However, I do have news that might be of interest to some of you.

Next Thursday, Jan. 12th, I will be presenting a paper for the Southern Political Science Association in New Orleans, LA.  My panel is called “People of God? The Role of Political Hebraism in America,” and it meets from 3:00 to 4:30pm.  I’m presenting on the 19th cent. Presbyterian-Catholic debates of John Breckinridge and John Hughes.  Here’s an abstract:

The notion of religious tolerance in early 19th century America was hotly contested, and perhaps nowhere do we see how hot that contest could get as in the debates between John Breckinridge and John Hughes over religious principles and American liberty. Their political dialogue reveals a mixture of Enlightenment ideals and specifically theological convictions, and as it was in early 19th century America that the new religious tolerance was most clearly put to the test, an examination of the intellectual assumptions involved is helpful in locating the distinctive contours of the new Liberal settlement. There was not an easy or obvious settlement, as the history of anti-Catholicism in America has shown. Although anti-Catholic bigotry was involved in some of the controversies of the time, it is also the case that some of the specific arguments of the anti-Catholics reflected the matrix of political, philosophical, and religious ideals upon which the American settlement was founded, claiming a specifically Protestant foundation for Liberal religious toleration. The Catholics, on their part, pointed to aspects of the Protestants’ own history which contradicted their new sentiment. My investigation will seek to highlight the conflicting demands of religious communities and American civic liberty, identifying the basic principles and the rhetoric of ecclesiastical self-representation. It will also illustrate that certain theories of natural rights were themselves dependent upon religious or transcendental commitments, a fact which Revolutionary secularity did not always aim to highlight, but which became obvious in debates such as the one between Breckinridge and Hughes.

I would also like to compare the intellectual features of Breckinridge and Hughes’ arguments with the claims about developing secularity made by the contemporary writers Philip Hamburger and Eric Nelson. While the relevance to Hamburger’s work on the American notion of separation of church and state is obvious, Nelson’s treatment of the 16th and 17th century Hebraicists might seem much more remotely pertinent. In many ways, however, John Breckinridge’s Protestant version of religious tolerance directly mirrors the early modern moves highlighted by Nelson, and his own religious tradition was an heir of that earlier British thought. In this respect, it may be possible to show that the American development of secularity was a continuation of and not a departure from earlier modern Liberal views.