Giving a mixed review of Bavinck on natural law and the two kingdoms, David VanDrunen recently wrote,
Though a complete account is more complex, a good general argument can be made, I believe, that his defense of the natural law and the two kingdoms categories belongs to the orthodox Bavinck and his advocacy of themes such as grace restoring nature and the kingdom as leaven belongs to the modern Bavinck. – “The Kingship of Christ is Twofold,” Calvin Theological Journal 45.1, 162 n. 75
It is somewhat shocking to see “grace restoring nature” as being labeled a “modern,” as opposed to a simply Reformed theme. Indeed, in the absence of such a theme, would not the link between creation and redemption be effectively severed? It would seem that for VanDrunen, the link is suspended by a thread. He writes elsewhere,
Our earthly bodies are the only part of the present world that Scripture says will be transformed and taken up into the world-to-come. Believers themselves are the point of continuity between this creation and the new creation. – Living in God’s Two Kingdoms (Crossway, 2010), 66
But does this small thread honor the vision of Revelation 21-22? In Scripture, “new creation” does not imply the destruction of the old, but its renewal. In 2 Peter 3:7, the apostle Peter distinguishes the “heavens and earth” that now exist from that which existed before the flood. But clearly, Peter would have understood there to be essential continuity between the earth that was before and the earth that was after the flood. As well, Jesus’ famous “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Mat. 5:5) and Paul’s extension of the promise of Abraham to include the entire earth (Rom. 4:13) all require some continuity of place. This is not to mention the typological relationship between the exiled Abraham (living on a land that he did not posses) and the believer living on a land (the earth) that has not been renewed and which both is and is not our home. And remember that when Israel actually enters the land, they receive wells they did not dig, towns they did not build, vineyards they did not plant, etc. This sounds something like “the glory of the nations.” (Rev 21:24) While certainly the New Jerusalem is the church (v.9), the new heavens and earth are more than this (cf. the similar description in Isaiah 65).
VanDrunen does qualify the above statement concerning “continuity,”
As a side note, it is important to emphasize that this conclusion is not meant to question the goodness of what is physical and visible or to deny the physical and visible character of the new creation. If there is a ‘problem’ with the things of this present creation, it does not lie with the fact that they are physical and visible, but with the fact that they belong to a present creation that was never mean to be the final home of the human race (and with the fact that they have been corrupted by sin). The new creation will be physical and visible and inhabited by the resurrected bodies of the children of the last Adam. (Ibid.)
VanDrunen has elsewhere spoken of his position as affirming the “penultimate” – in contrast to views which are anxious to baptize the good gifts of this age with “kingdom” adjectives. And so what is the problem here? Several things:
Certainly this requires further argumentation, but my goal here is simply to state an alternative to VanDrunen’s position which does not suggest some form of gradualism or nervousness about putting the adjective “kingdom” before my coffee-beans. I realize that VanDrunen has an alternative biblical-theological account of the creation commission and its significance, which he works out extensively in Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. But I must leave this and especially his treatment of the eschatological quality of the institutional church for another post.
Joseph Minich lives in Texas with his wife (Rebecca) and four children (Samuel, Truman, Felix, and Ruby). He recently graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary (D.C. Campus) and is pursuing a Ph.D in intellectual history at the University of Texas at Dallas.
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