John Murray on the Christian State
Some readers will be aware that I have criticized the Two Kingdoms (2K) view of Christianity and culture in a few places. In 2019, I gave a lecture in which I argued that three distinctive tenets of a Reformed worldview (a biblical revelational epistemology, the absoluteness of God, and the lordship of Christ) point us away from a “Two Kingdoms” paradigm and toward a “One Kingdom with Different Administrations” paradigm — basically a Kuyperian “sphere sovereignty” paradigm but expressed in terms of Christ’s kingship.
Brandon Smith, archival editor at Westminster Magazine, recently brought to my attention a 1943 article by John Murray entitled “The Christian World Order” (originally published in The Presbyterian Guardian).1 Murray is best known for his deeply exegetical approach to systematic theology, with a particular focus on Christology and soteriology, and not often as someone who pronounced on matters of political theory and contemporary cultural engagement. But in this remarkably forthright and lucid article, Murray sets forth an indisputably Kuyperian vision of the three societal institutions of family, church, and state. The entire article is worth your time, but I was particularly struck by the section on the state, which makes essentially the same argument I made in my 2019 lecture, albeit with Murray’s characteristic elegance and economy of words. I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing that section here (but read the whole thing).
Everything below the line is from Murray’s article, although I’ve emboldened parts of the text for emphasis.2
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- The article can also be found in Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume 1: The Claims of Truth (Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), pp. 356-66. ↩
- Note that Murray’s position should not be confused with “Christian nationalism” as the term is commonly used today (whether by its defenders or its detractors). There is nothing ‘nationalist’ about Murray’s view of the state. ↩