13 August 2013

Two Kingdoms Theology Meets Detroit's Bankruptcy

Few ideas have been as far from my conscious thoughts as the relationship between the "two kingdoms" flavor of Reformed, Christian theology and the bankruptcy of the city of Detroit. I've posted quite a number of times on 2K theology (check here, here, and here for samples). I've previously summarized the 2K stance as follows: "Briefly, two-kingdoms folks limit the field of distinctively Christian involvement to one kingdom, the Church. The second so-called kingdom, that of the 'world,' is not within the scope of redemption and there is nothing distinctive a Christian would have to say with respect to its issues." Of course, I've posted many times about the parlous state of municipal finances in America and the bankruptcy of several American cities. (Go here, here, and here.) And I've even posted an early draft of an article on the subject that you can download by going here. But where have the twain met?

You can go here to read a post by my favorite 2K curmudgeon, D.G. Hart, in which he quotes at length from yet another blogger on the social effects of Detroit's largely detached single-family housing arrangements. In short, the low density of Detroit's housing stock exacerbated racial fears and facilitated white flight. I have to admit I didn't see that as one of the reasons for Detroit's financial decline. And, for that matter, I still don't know if I do. I'd need to see more careful analysis before I'd commit myself to causation instead of mere correlation.

But what does this observation have to do with two-kingdoms theology? Here's Hart's take: "City planning in the name of Christ might help though it would likely add unnecessarily to too many meetings. But how about some basic city planning with or without Christ for all those pikers living this side of glory" Take my word for it, this is as close as Hart has gotten to taking seriously the value of community, which, apart from the spiritual community of the Church, doesn't figure in his libertarian politics

Clearly Hart is either unfamiliar with the New Urbanism or doesn't credit it with contemporary significance. If the latter is the case, he's flat out wrong. Folks can go here to purchase an excellent anthology from Ken Myers at Mars Hill audio on the subject. New Urbanism, while not Christian per se, owes many of its insights to Christian thought or to those steeped in the reality of natural law. In other words, there is a connection between competing views of the person and the community that come to expression in the form our cities take. It's certainly not the case that one finds a manual for urban planning in the Bible. Yet it's not happenstance that the biblical narrative begins in a garden and ends in a city.

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