In his very fine piece Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, Dr. VanDrunen writes:
Christians should always be distinguished from unbelievers subjectively: they do all things by faith in Christ and for his glory. But as an objective matter, the standards of morality and excellence in the common kingdom are ordinarily the same for believers and unbelievers: they share these standards in common under God’s authority in the covenant with Noah (p. 31).
So far, for me, the book was reading along quite nicely. I was fully on board. In fact, I still find myself immensely appreciative of a 2K perspective, especially where they emphasize the spirituality of the Church and her status as a pilgrim people, sojourning and exiled on the earth. Furthermore, I have read Kline’s writings and am in general agreement with the way he relates the Noahic and Abrahamic covenants and covenants of common grace and special grace, respectively. Furthermore, I still have much more of DVD’s works which I need to read before offering a fuller and fairer assessment.
However, I am afraid that the above quote may prove to be an Achilles heel for his otherwise sound biblical-theological project. If by “objective standards” under which both believer and unbeliever stand, DVD means God’s natural law, or general revelation, then I cannot sign on to his claim. Allow me to give an example.
Let’s say I am a scientist at a pharmaceutical company (our gracious God knows we have plenty of those here in New Jersey!). Furthermore, there is another scientist in my lab as well, but she is not a believer. To be sure, as DVD points out, we will engage our cultural—common realm—work of performing experiments to find a drug for (let’s say) the common cold (suffered by both believers and unbelievers!) in radically different ways subjectively. Perhaps she will be work at her experiments so that she can receive a patent and score some big bucks. Or, maybe she wants to be famous. Or maybe she has a genuine love for humanity and is really sick (!) and tired of seeing humans suffer terribly from head colds and related diseases. But the Christian’s standard is not those things, subjectively. His standard, first and foremost, is to Glorify God in his work.
But objectively, can we say they both have the same standard? To be sure, God’s law written on their hearts is binding on the both of them. God’s created laws of physics and chemistry bind them both to do good and proper science. God’s moral law on their hearts and his image in them dictates how it is wrong to steal other people’s ideas and claim them as their own. But are there not also laws which are not given in natural law which are objective that also cause an antithesis between them in the lab? Take for instance the Christian Sabbath. It is an objective dividing marker which is not contained in general revelation or natural law (while the idea of Sabbath observance is, the Christian Sabbath on Sunday which is due to the resurrection of Christ is contained only in special revelation). The unbeliever in the lab should be resting on Sunday in worship of God, but she is at the lab ambitiously pursuing her patent. The Christian is at church. As an objective matter, their standards of morality are not the same. In other words, natural revelation/law alone is not always sufficient for morality in the public sphere.
That is only one example. What about family life? At best, natural revelation/law tells us in our conscience to be sexually faithful to our spouses. While that is necessary for both scientists (me and the unbeliever), it is not sufficient. There is more to marriage than sexual fidelity. The Bible (an objective form of morality) tells us that a husband is to love his wife, seeking to be tender to her. Furthermore, the wife is to be submissive to the husband as the church is to Christ. Now, that commandment is not in general revelation. And to be sure, the indicative which grounds these imperatives is redemptive. And the unbeliever knows nothing of redemption in Christ. Yet, would we say that the unbelieving scientist is not to be submissive to her husband because she is not a believer? Is she really guilt free for being at the lab advancing her career when her husband needs her back at home to take care of whatever it is that need taking care of? Would I be wrong to correct my fellow scientist telling her (in a loving and godly way) that she should not work on Sunday and that she should be submissive to her husband? Yeah, I know, in today’s world that would go over like a lead balloon. But the point is this: Does not God’s special revelation bind the unbeliever morally as much as does natural revelation? Is there really such thing as a common objective morality alone in the public sphere? Or, must special revelation always accompany it? Can we really make objective verses subjective distinctions in this way without compromising the antithesis which exists—objectively!— in the common realm between believer and unbeliever? The Bible does, will, and should make a visible, objective difference in the common pursuits of the believer.
For this reason, I am skeptical of DVD’s project at this point. Again, that is not to say he and the 2KT position in general are not making valid points. They are. And the church needs to hear them. But I do think this bifurcation of special and general revelation in the common realm unnecessarily throws a monkey wrench into the 2K works.