When the Protestant Reformation occurred, (I’m simplifying here) Luther needed an explanation for why the Pope need not wield the power of the sword. He focused on the idea of the two kingdoms — there is God’s kingdom in Heaven over which here on the earth the church presides and there is God’s kingdom on earth over which civil authorities preside. Calvin picked up the two kingdoms and ran with it, though it should be noted that in all cases the reformers were dealing with societies that were within Christendom.
Over time, however, the two kingdoms doctrine has become corrupted and many protestant pastors now hide cowardly behind a bastardized version of the two kingdoms doctrine. This corrupted form insists that pastors should make no commentary about civil society. In other words, pastors should not be political and should steer clear of anything bordering politics.
I think we can agree that pastors should not be political in the pulpit. But this view has allowed pastors to become cowards. If any subject, no matter how much it encroaches on the church, should be a subject within politics, too many pastors will steer clear of it — even if those issues are, at their core, cultural and not political.
In preparing a sermon, most pastors attempt to end the sermon with life application for the lesson learned. The sermon should, in some way, affect your life. But too often pastors think life should not affect the sermon. But it should. Pastors should not shy away from why the concept of the imago dei affects the Christian view of life and abortion. Pastors should also not shy away from God creating man as male and female and only male and female can be in a marital union.
There are relevant discussions going on in families, communities, schools, and Sunday School classrooms about what is happening in culture. We are all aware of a great shift happening. But too many preachers are hiding behind the two kingdoms doctrine willing themselves to avoid talking about anything in play within secular society even though those issues will directly impact the church.
Families within churches need to remember that come Monday morning they are still Christians. They need to start fostering community amongst each other to bolster each other and affirm each other’s faith in the face of the fury and howl of the winds of secularism. They need their pastors’ voices too. Christians right now need moral clarity. They need to know what Christian love is and is not. They need to know that being liked by the world is not the goal for the church.
Pastors need to stop being cowards, stop being obtuse, and engage their congregations on the present age. The world is at war with the things of God. Because we wrestle “against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, [and] against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” we need to “take up the whole armor of God.” That armor includes truth and the gospel. That truth, as much as it gives application to our lives, must also counter the lies.
It is time for Christians to rededicate themselves to Christian community building. And it is past time for their pastors to lead with some moral clarity and stop hiding behind some bastardized version of the two kingdoms doctrine to avoid grappling with the present age.