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Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought (Emory University Studies in Law and Religion) Paperback – December 30, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

John Bolt 
— Calvin Theological Seminary
“The strength of this book is the overwhelming amount of historical evidence, judiciously analyzed and assessed, that positions the Reformed tradition clearly in the natural law, two kingdoms camp. This valuable contribution to our understanding of the Christian life cannot and should not be ignored or overlooked. The growing acceptance of the social gospel among evangelicals puts us in jeopardy of losing the gospel itself; the hostility to natural law and concomitant love affair with messianic ethics opens us up to tyranny. This is a much needed and indispensable ally in the battle for the life of the Christian community in North America.” 

About the Author

David VanDrunen is the Robert B. Strimple Professor ofSystematic Theology and Christian Ethics at WestminsterSeminary California, an ordained minister, and an attorney.
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Product Details

  • Series: Emory University Studies in Law and Religion
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans (December 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802864430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802864437
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
David VanDrunen has made an invaluable contribution to historical theology with his exhaustive treatment of Reformed Social Thought, focusing specifically on the Two Kingdoms and Natural Law doctrines. With incredible precision, Vandrunen surveys history of Reformed Theology from Calvin up to contemporary thinkers such as Cornelius Van Til, Meredith Kline, and North American Neo-Calvinism. VanDrunen structures his arguments well, with each paragraph defending a contained thesis. He begins with an introduction of his thesis, defense of his thesis, and a summary conclusion. Each chapter is densely argued with extensive evidence from primary sources. His writing style exudes scholarly coolness and objectivity rather than a polemical agenda (though he certainly has a point to argue and defend). As a result, VanDrunen has crafted strong arguments for his claim that the Two Kingdoms and Natural Law are integral ideas to Reformed theology that have largely been lost in contemporary expositions.

VanDrunen's best and most original contribution comes when he turns to the early American developments in Reformed social thought (Ch.6). Here VanDrunen focuses on a rather neglected aspect of the Reformed tradition. He shows the difference between the Puritan traditions with subsequent disestablishment traditions in Southern Presbyterianism, with particular focus on the much-maligned doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church. What makes this chapter so valuable is that VanDrunen argues that here the Two Kingdoms and Natural Law traditions finally receive their most consistent expositions. For those wondering how Two Kingdoms proponents can have diverted from Calvin, Turretin, the Puritans, etc...
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Format: Paperback
During the last few years a new controversy has come to conservative Reformed circles. Historically Reformed and Presbyterian writers believed that secular nations should be ruled by natural law, which people can derive from nature, history, and conscience. This law is basically the same as the "moral law," the Ten Commandments, especially those commands regarding our duty to our fellow human beings. According to these early writers, God rules over the nations of the world in his sovereignty, and holds them responsible to obey and uphold this natural law with the power of the sword. Jesus, as the Son of God, is sovereign in this way, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, earlier Reformed writers recognized Jesus Christ as sovereign over his special kingdom, the church. The church is guided by the Bible as a whole, and enforces the will of Christ by its spiritual authority, not by physical force. Jesus, as Messiah and Mediator of the new covenant, is sovereign over this second kingdom.

According to this traditional understanding, the civil laws of the Old Testament were directed to national Israel under the theocracy. They were not intended for the other nations, nor are they applicable today, except as they are tied to natural law.

David VanDrunen believes that this traditional scheme is biblical and correct. He further demonstrates in this book that this was the view of mainstream theology in the church, from the times of the church fathers, through the Middle Ages, through the Reformation times, and since then through the nineteenth century.

However, in the last century many Reformed writers have attacked this position, and have taught in a single kingdom of Christ, denying the two kingdom and natural law teachings.
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Author David VanDrunen proposes that natural law, and not Scripture, provides the ground on which Christians should interact with the secular world in the areas of morals, ethics and public policy. According to the author, God ordained two separate kingdoms that are to be governed by two different sets of ordinances. The spiritual kingdom, which includes the church, is under Scripture while the civil kingdom, which includes the government and other secular institutions, is under natural law. To the extent that Christians participate in the civil kingdom, they must acknowledge natural law as the kingdom's ultimate authority. Scripture is not persuasive authority in the civil kingdom, says VanDrunen. But as a practical matter, neither is natural law and therein lies the rub.

Following the end of Scholasticism and subsequent demise of Modernism, natural law lost its street cred. Once upon a time the secular man on the street, as well as the ivory tower philosopher, assumed the existence of an objective natural order inherent in the universe and human nature that man could discover through the exercise of right reason, if not good conscience. Then along came the skepticism of David Hume and the hyper-skepticism of postmodernism, and the concept of an objective, discoverable, universal natural law became as outdated as phlogiston and spontaneous generation.

VanDrunen acknowledges the decline of natural law since its Scholastic heydays. He admits that "appeals to natural law actually made more sense in a pre-Enlightenment, pre-liberal Christendom context" and that "the present social context surely exacerbates the difficulty of constructing good natural law appeals." (Location 7134, 7141.
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