The latest chapter of The Spirituality of the Cross deals with the Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms. This affirms God works in two different ways and that the Christian is a citizen of two different kingdoms. The author (Vieth) states that this is just another in a long line of paradoxical truths (sin & grace, Law & Gospel, the Sacrament as the bread & wine & also the body and blood of Christ, etc…)
According to the author, this doctrine affirms a Christians ability to engage the world without making more of it than what it is, which is simply the actions of a Christian working in this world in a way that honors God and helps or serves his neighbors. He (Veith) sums it up by saying, “the Christian lives in the world through vocation and lives in Heaven through faith.”
The author fleshed out how we deal with our worldly involvement in a wrong fashion, whether believing the church should be a cultural model in keeping up with the world or that we were placed here in order to change the world (which was a direct quote from a will remain nameless Christian movie now playing in theaters). I address this in an upcoming post, “Don’t Be So Heavenly Mindeded?”
Another way Christians deal with the world is by “circling the wagons” and not engaging it at all. While there might be some positive things we can pull out of any of these methods, any extreme leads us to putting ourselves on a pedestal. Any of these things will be horribly tainted with sin and therefore bound for failure. We forget that ultimately this is about God’s generous work of grace in our lives and the lives of others. Whether we like it our not we are here and we will engage in the everyday workings of life with people. It’s inevitable.
I am thankful for God’s sovereign work in all of life. The use of law in our society, in our very consciences are readily apparent in the overall restraint of greater evils. God’s providential care is also working through believers and unbelievers via the doctrine of vocation. I am also thankful for God’s law of love and grace that operates in the spiritual realm through Christ Jesus.
I like that this doctrine of the two kingdoms, for me, deconstructs the concept of doing “big things for God”. This kingdom work agenda is scary to me. I never felt like I did enough. For a time I worked and then ran a food pantry at a church and the majority of my work was keeping the shelves stocked and the place staffed and things like that. I felt like what I did was of little “spiritual” significance because I wasn’t the one praying with people and leading people to Christ and let’s face it, people tend to put a premium on things of that nature. In hindsight, I missed that work. I felt like I was doing the things nobody else wanted to do and I wasn’t really angry or bothered by it, I just did it. This doctrine allows us to see the spiritual work of God in the everyday mundane things. It’s not any better or worse.
I realize now whatever work I do, I do as a part of the kingdom of God and it doesn’t have to be overtly and specifically christian. I can be collecting shopping carts for a supermarket or be a clerk for a judge and I am doing my vocation and providing service for someone, whether shoppers, clients or judge.
I feel free to just be a Christian in culture wherever I am. This doctrine, the doctrine of the two kingdoms, is another one not taught in the mainstream of Christianity. But it should be. It might encourage more people to engage people in everyday situations, even if it means the church organization itself trims down its evangelistic focus. It might have the odd effect of doing even more.
This doctrine frees us to be active in culture, whether from the perspective of work or even in moral situations. we are free to say something is morally wrong instead of invoking God’s name, which quickly puts people on the defensive.
I know I’m not explaining this with 100% clarity. I’m at the beginning of my understanding of these doctrines. I appreciate what they say and what they represent. I continue to encourage anyone interested to read this book for themselves.