A tale of two kingdoms

Michael Horton writes: DVD Pop 2K

“When Jesus Christ arrived, He did not revive the Sinai theocracy as His contemporaries had hoped. Instead of driving out the Romans, He commanded love for our enemies. Gathering the new Israel — Jew and Gentile — around Himself, by His Spirit, through Word and sacrament, Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of grace that will be manifested one day as a kingdom of glory. In this time between His two comings the wheat grows together with the weeds, the sons of thunder are rebuked for calling down judgment here and now on those who reject their message, and the faithful gather regularly for the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42). Through its administration of Gospel preaching, baptism, the Supper, prayer, and discipline, the church is God’s new society inserted into the heart of the secular city as a witness to Christ and the age to come when He will be all in all.

In our Christian circles in the United States today, we can discern a “Christendom” view, where some imagine America to be a Christian nation invested with a divine commission to bring freedom to the ends of the earth. Of course, Christians have an obligation both to proclaim the heavenly and everlasting freedom of the Gospel and the earthly and temporal freedom from injustice. But they are different. When we confuse them, we take the kingdom into our own hands, transforming it from a kingdom of grace into a kingdom of glory and power.”

For the rest of the essay, go here.

For a fine introduction to the contemporary Reformed recovery of the doctrine of two kingdoms, see David VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms.

Faith and mental illness

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By Michael Horton

According to a 2013 survey by LifeWay Research, one-third of Americans agree that “prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness.” Nearly half (48 percent) of evangelicals agree. (1)

Why on earth would Modern Reformation imagine that it had something important to say, from a distinctly Reformation perspective, on mental illness? That was a big question we discussed in our editorial meeting. By the end, though, after sharing our own experiences, the answer became clear. To the extent that evangelical attitudes reflect theological imbalances—and even errors—we think we have something indeed to contribute.

Like their neighbors, Christians acknowledge that people suffering from cancer, AIDS, migraines, or cerebral palsy are still responsible for their actions. Their suffering does not entitle them to hatred, self-loathing, or the mistreatment of others. And yet, we allow room. With even a modicum of sympathy, we recognize they are miserable in ways that are not just limited to their physical distress. First, we want to relieve their immediate pain and, as much as possible, the effects of their disease; we seek every possible medical treatment for them. If a brother or sister has cancer, diabetes, or a stroke, we pray that God will give the doctors and nurses wisdom and skill to relieve their suffering. We realize there is an important place for caring for their bodies and souls, for their medical needs—which are beyond the church’s competence—and for their relationship with God.

And yet, when it comes to mental illness, we still don’t really believe that it is a medical problem. Many of us were raised in an era when “it’s all in your head” meant that mental illnesses weren’t real—at least not as real as a broken arm. This tendency reflects not only a lack of appreciation for the rapid growth in medical diagnosis and treatment of such disorders, but a cluster of theological misunderstandings. So here are a few introductory theses to consider.

For the rest of the essay, please go here.