In a recent blog post, “The Sole Un-lordhip of Christ,” Brad Littlejohn offers some provocative analysis of the discouraging academic proposal to restrict the church’s activity in the world, known as NL2K (“Natural Law + Two Kingdoms”), being sponsored by people alleging this to be the route to recovering the “spirituality” of the church.
He summarizes with five syllogistic thesis statements the theological line of argument being defended as NL2K:
1) Christ has fulfilled Adam’s original task.
2) Therefore [Latin, ergo], Christians are not called to fulfil that task.
3) Christians do not need to earn eternal life by cultural labours; they already possess the eternal life that Christ has won for them.
4) Our work does not participate in the coming of the new creation–it has already been attained once and for all by Christ.
5) Our cultural activity is important but temporary, since it will all be wiped away when Christ returns to destroy this present world.
As he explains these summary claims, Mr. Littlejohn does a fine job of identifying the pernicious implications of that prominent “Therefore” in Claim 2). Along the way, he correctly notes how this novel doctrine is a pastiche (“an incongruous combination of materials, forms, motifs, etc., taken from different sources; hodgepodge”), a composite of half-truths.
To whet your appetite for reading his entire post, consider these money quotes:
[For one NL2K advocate], since the kingdom Christ has gained has nothing to do with this world, the story is basically over, and all we’re waiting for is the opportunity to join him in his completed kingdom.
[For this same NL2K advocate], the suggestion that we are called to participate with Christ in restoring the world suggests synergism, suggests that Christ is not all-sufficient—if we have something to contribute to the work of redemption, then this is something subtracted from Christ, something of our own that we bring apart from him. Solus Christus and sola fide must therefore entail that there is nothing left to do in the working out of Christ’s accomplishment in his death and resurrection, that we must be nothing but passive recipients.
Here we find, then, that Puritan spirit at the heart of [the NL2K] project–the idea that God can only be glorified at man’s expense, that it’s a zero-sum game, and that thus to attribute something to us is to take it away from Christ, and to attribute something to Christ is to take it away from us. If Christ redeems the world, then necessarily, we must have nothing to do with the process. But this is not how the Bible speaks. He is the head, and we are the body. We are united to him. He looks on us, and what we do, and says, “That is me.” We look on him, and what he does, and say, “That is us.” He invites us to take part in his work—this is what is so glorious about redemption, that we are not simply left as passive recipients, but raised up to be Christ-bearers in the world.
Very perceptive, and therefore very helpful!