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Two Kingdoms Theory, Bullinger-Style

April 30, 2010
At the risk of sounding like Puddleglum in my continued negativity, I note that Vermigli and Bullinger’s political theology seems to combine the worst of both worlds.  They insist on a tremendous continuity between the civil and ecclesial realms when it comes to establishing the prince’s authority to manage the Church and its ministers, but they insist on tremendous discontinuity when it comes to any of the influence or authority going the other way.  We hear that Christ’s kingdom is a purely spiritual kingdom, and so all the things that he tells his disciples to do and how to live, etc., are only intended to ministers in the Church, not to any other authorities; in fact, when he tells them things like “You are not to lord it over one another as the Gentiles do”; far from calling into question the power-arrangements in the empire, he intends to reinforce them.
Consider the following passages from Bullinger's Confutation of the Pope's Bull Against Queen Elizabeth

“Therefore although our Lord Jesus Christ was by his almighty father ordained both king and priest in his kingdom, and that he manifestly avouched himself to be a king; yet notwithstanding he laid aside the government of temporal and worldly things, and too himself to the charge only of spiritual things.  By reason whereof when Pilate asked him whether he were the king of Israel or no, He denied not himself to be a king, but he addeth an exposition and meekly answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’  Whereupon in another place of the Gospel he said, he came not to be served (that is to wit as a worldly prince) but to serve or to do service himself, and to give his life for the ransom of the whole multitude.  For that cause, he utterly refused the judging or dividing of the heritage that was desired at his hand, and put it over from himself to the lawful judges, not without displeasure saying, ‘Man, who hath made me a judge over you?’  And therefore when the people were purposed to have made him a temporal king, he fled, and by that flight of his showed that those his ministers must not seek for worldly sovereignty in the Church, and much less possess it or by any means claim it, not nor receive it or take it upon them if it be offered.  Besides this, he not only commanded to give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but also furthermore when the tribute that was wont to be paid to the Magistrate was demanded of him, he commanded a penny that was taken out of a fishes mouth, to be paid for him, lest he might be an offence unto others.”
“Most trimly and effectually hath the Lord herein severed the ecclesiastical ministry from the civil authority.  And justly doth he challenge and yield to the magistrate, that which belongeth to the magistrate, without derogating or taking any thing from him, and conveying it to himself and his, and likewise show the ministers what they also ought to do.  ‘Ye know,’ saith he, ‘that there be Princes or Magistrates ordained among people, and among the Gentiles, so as there is no need that you also should be made rulers over nations.  I mind not to make wars with the Romans, and to put down their presidents and Tetrarchs, to set you by in their rooms (which thing, notwithstanding the Jews believed that Christ should have done, and therefore when he answered not their expectation, they acknowledged him not to be the Messiah.)  Princes have their power given them of God.  Whereby you understand, that there is no cause why you should strive among yourselves for sovereignty.  For you see that those which are in office already, shall continue still in their charge.  Thus much said the Lord concerning civil government.”
“He repeateth the same argument, which he had objected against them in the 20th chapter of Matthew, saying, ‘There is no reason why you should strive for superiority.  For the Princes that reign at this time in the world, neither are now nor shall hereafter be put down for me.  For the Magistrate continueth still in his former state and dignity.  He shall reign, but so shall not you reign.’  By the way also and as it were glancingly, he shadoweth out the office of princes, saying, ‘And they which have power over them are called Good and Gracious,’ that is to say, they be ordained of God, to the end that they should do good to their subjects.  For the Apostle saith: ‘The Magistrate is God’s minister, for thy welfare.  For princes are not a terror to such as do well, but to such as do ill.  And what could be said more pithily and strongly in this case, that which is said already, or rather now twice repeateth, ‘but so shall not you.’  By and by he addeth an ordinance after what sort the Ministers must behave themselves in their ecclesiastical charge, saying: ‘He that is an elder among you, let him become fellow to the younger.’”
“‘After that the holy Ghost is come down into you, you shall receive power, and you shall bear witness of me, not only at Jerusalem, but even to the uttermost coasts of the earth also.’  And what else is this, than if he had said, ‘The holy Ghost shall teach you to understand, what manner of kingdom mine shall be, doubtless spiritual, and not worldly, wherein I shall sit and reign the chief and only sovereign.  And in this my kingdom, that is to wit, in the very Church of the saints, you shall be witnesses and not kings, preachers and not princes.  For by preaching of the Gospel you shall gather me a Church out of the whole world.  This I say is Christ’s doctrine concerning supremacy and reigning, and concerning the ministry of Christ in the Church, more lightsome than the sun.”
We should note, for future references of reviewing VanDrunen, that these Reformers do seem to have a pretty strong two kingdoms doctrine when it comes to restricting the scope of Church authority, but it starts looking quite different when it comes to articulating the scope of civil authority, as Torrance Kirby notes.  I’ll be interested to see how VanDrunen deals with this.


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