A Lutheran critique of Escondido theology

Westminster Seminary in Escondido, California, has some impressive theologians–Michael Horton, David Van Drunen, and other Calvinists of the sort who appear on White Horse Inn.  I know some of these guys, think highly of them, and appreciate how some of them are being influenced by Luther and Lutheran theology.  But though they speak of the distinction between Law and Gospel, have a stronger influence on the Sacraments, and teach about vocation, they are still Calvinists and their use of Luther is still within a Calvinist context.

A controversy has broken out in Reformed circles about the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, as formulated by these Escondido theologians, particularly David Van Drunen in his book Living in Two Kingdoms:  A Biblical Vision of Christ and Culture.  He is developing an alternative to the “one kingdom” model of the Dominionists and to the Abraham Kuyper’s “neocalvinism” with its notion of “sphere sovereignty” over every dimension of life.

This is a worthy project, but Van Drunen’s version of the Two Kingdoms is NOT the same as the Lutheran view.  Yet the two are being confused.  As other Reformed theologians push back against this so-called “Escondido theology,” they are saying that Van Drunen’s view is the official position of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  I’ve heard that Dr. Van Drunen’s book is being taught in courses on Lutheran theology.  And, to top it off, I’m told that I am even mentioned in at least one book on the subject as advocating this Escondido theology!

At that Two Kingdoms conference I participated in, Jordan Cooper gave an important presentation entitled “Escondido Theology: An Evaluation and Critique.”

After the jump, I’ll sum up some of the differences and post the video of Jordan’s presentation. [Read more…]

Conference on Christ, Culture, and the Two Kingdoms

I’ll be speaking at the 2016 Just and Sinner Conference this Thursday through Saturday.  The conference topic will be “Christ, Culture, and the Two Kingdoms.”  I’ll be joining my friend Eric Phillips and fellow Patheos blogger Jordan Cooper (who is organizing the conference at the congregation he pastors).

We’ll be unlocking a concept that I think gives clear and helpful guidance for Christians trying to sort out the relationship between the spiritual realm and the secular realm.

The conference will be at Faith Lutheran Church in Watseka Illinois, not far from Chicago.  For more information, including the schedule and the topics of the various presentations, go here.  For registration information go here:

Christ, Culture, and the Two Kingdoms (2016 Just and Sinner Conference) @ Faith Lutheran Church Watseka Illinois (Thu 19:00, 2016-10-27) | etrigg.com

Luther on politicians

The conventional wisdom is that Luther taught total submission to government authorities.  But you’ve got to read what he actually wrote about those government authorities.  Dr. Matthew Phillips usefully quotes from Luther’s most important treatise on earthly government and the Two Kingdoms, in which he makes the Tea Partiers sound mild. [Read more…]

“Conscientious objection against the state”?

LCMS president Matthew Harrison has issued a response to the Supreme Court marriage ruling.  It’s a strong statement, but what’s most striking and surprising, coming from a Lutheran with a Two Kingdoms theology, is his quotation of the anti-Nazi theologian Hermann Sasse on signs that the state has lost its Romans 13 legitimacy.  President Harrison concludes that “Christians will now begin to learn what it means to be in a state of solemn conscientious objection against the state.”

Is he saying that the United States government is no longer legitimate?  Wouldn’t that mean we don’t have to follow any of the laws it passes?  The Lutheran theology of culture, the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, has sometimes been interpreted to mean that God rules through the state, so that we need to submit to the secular authorities no matter what.  But I think the Two Kingdoms offers a mechanism for critiquing the state.  If God is the King, hidden in secular institutions and vocations but working through them with His moral law, then states and rulers who repudiate that moral law are in rebellion against His kingship.  Right?  But presumably He would still be working through them, despite themselves, in other ways, so that Christians would still be obliged to submit to their authority where it doesn’t conflict with God’s Word.

How else might a Two Kingdoms approach to the gay marriage decision help us navigate these controversies?  Read President Harrison’s statement, after the jump.  What do you think about it?  What else might be said?

[Read more…]

The Benedict Option

The outrage from big business (even Walmart!), the media, and the culture at large over Indiana’s Religious Freedom bill has many Christians thinking that America is a lost cause.  The dominant culture is so fixated on gay marriage and sexual permissiveness that it will not tolerate dissenters.  Even religious liberty, in the court of public opinion and likely legal opinion, will have to give way, and conservative believers will increasingly be demonized and punished.

Whether we are actually at that point or not, a number of thinkers–mostly of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox persuasion–are raising the possibility of what they call  The Benedict Option.

After Rome fell to moral chaos and then to the barbarians, St. Benedict formed distinct Christian communities where believers could practice their faith separated from the world.  Similarly, mainstream American culture may become so hostile to Christianity, so the reasoning goes, that Christians must form alternative communities, carrying on an alternative culture, until, as with Benedict, the barbarians are converted.

Rick Strickert posted some powerful quotations on this subject on Lutheran Forum, which I give after the jump.  And then I want to pose a question:  Can there be a Lutheran version of the Benedict Option, and, if so, how would it be different from the Roman Catholic and Fundamentalist versions? [Read more…]

Luther, Madison, and the Two Kingdoms

Rev. Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, discusses a letter President James Madison sent to a Lutheran pastor in 1821 upon reading one of his sermons:

It is a pleasing and persuasive example of pious zeal, united with pure benevolence and of a cordial attachment to a particular creed, untinctured with sectarian illiberality. It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Caesar and what is due God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations. The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

 President Harrison then goes on to give a very clear and perceptive explanation of the Doctrine of the  Two Kingdoms, which Madison was picking up on, which gives an alternative both to the view that the church should try to rule the world and the view that Christians should withdraw from that world. [Read more…]