“…everyone believes in two kingdoms: everyone recognizes that what makes one first spiritually does not necessarily make one qualified to be first civilly. That is, a lowly uneducated, illiterate maid could be first in the kingdom of God and yet has no qualifications to be a civil leader. Her spiritual merit does not translate into civil merit. There are two different (though not incompatible) principles of order each determined by a different type of merit. Civil and spiritual merit are compatible but having one does not necessarily entail possessing the other.”
There are a few contested ideas here I do not intend to make the point of this post, starting with the idea that there are two kingdoms, an assumption which has no place in a Christian’s mind. This has, of course, occupied a large portion of Reformed political thought, but the concepts and the verbiage ought to be revisited. By language alone, this suggests there are two equal and opposite ruling realms, two mutually exclusive domains in which two “kings” cannot and do not wish to rule the other. Within a Christian framework, if there is a difference between the theological and the political it will not be found in the men who inhabit both or the questions and answers each provides; the difference in the political and theological is in the realm of execution and institution, but only if the theological says so. While I do not intend to make this the point of the post, it must be seen that it is precisely because there are not two kingdoms that the main point does not hold, the main point being that the merits of the lowly maid are not qualifications, and the best ones at that, for being a civil leader. But I intend to come at it from the other side, particularly if we put it in the form of a modus ponens: if there are two kingdoms, then the lowly maid has no place in civil leadership. She indeed has a place in civil leadership. Let us then begin with the lowly maid.
What has our friend told us about her? She is lowly; she is a maid; she is illiterate and uneducated. And from there we can surmise she is old. We can then determine because she does not hold those most obvious virtues of beauty, charm, eloquence, youthfulness, and smarts, that she has now been relegated to a part of society which is close to the political fringes. She, it appears, belongs as far away from elected public office as possible, for, as my friend suggests, she belongs to the kingdom of one kind of merit and principle of order which has nothing to do with the other. I do not here intend to speak of women’s suffrage as such, for our case study could just as easily be that of a lowly, uneducated, and illiterate man. I only intend here to speak of the idea that spiritual merit has nothing whatsoever to do with civil merit. I, however, intend to say it much stronger than that. Spiritual merit is the most important qualification for civil merit, and therefore the lowly, illiterate, and uneducated maid may have the most important qualifications for that of a civil leader.
To point out, it is curious that my friend did not tell us where the lowly maid was from or to what era she belongs, for that may have caused a radical shake-up in the assumption that she therefore has no place in civil leadership. How often have we seen orderly and happy civilizations being led by the elders, those who are the least academic, least literate, least Enlightened? It is therefore quite a construct of modern politics, and a kind of national political structure at that, which assumes the lowly maid has no qualifications for public office. Similarly, my friend’s position has assumed too narrow of a public ideal, that the civil sphere ought to be led by those who are most formed in the academic competencies of literacy and education—education I assume also taking too narrow of a definition here, for in the best cases education means not only the academic competencies but also the spiritual and moral competencies.
Therefore, in some ways, and it is the point here to show, the lowly maid may be more fit for office because, while she may not possess the ability to read law, she can, by her spiritual merit, read herself, read others, and read the divine. She possesses the most basic kind of wisdom that is required for respectable civil leadership. This wisdom of the lowly maid has only been acquired because the she has followed every respectable protagonist in Scripture, as well as those two explicit teachings:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” (Psalm 111:10)
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10)
This wisdom, among other things, is the paradox upon which all civil servants exist: that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The lowly maid has assumed once again a child’s faith, and there is reason to believe that politicians and political theorists would take this as a great threat to their pride. It is quite likely the case that the politician has reached his zenith by adopting not a child’s faith, a spirit of lowliness, but a tyrant’s mind, a spirit of imperialism.
Even still, if we kick out the lowly maid from public office because of her lack of academic competency, we should at least hope she is the grandmother of that civil servant, that the elected civil servant is her neighbor or is in her church and is required to love, serve, and learn from her, that the longer he is in his public office the more his posture would look like the lowly maid, a posture which looks less like the high-chinned, tenured professor.
Therefore, civil and spiritual merits are not only compatible, the latter is necessary for the former, and the former, when taken seriously, will lead to a deep care for the latter. If a man does not have a healthy degree of spiritual merit, he indeed does not have the very foundation of what it will mean for him to live in societal health, holding an office which will require him to put forth the ideal for his constituents. If we take the spiritual merits from the civil merits, we will adopt civil merits which are not merits at all; untethered and ungrounded in anything but secular humanism, they fly about randomly and unravel into ambiguity and obscurity.
I would like to return now to agreeing with my friend, that the illiterate, lowly, and uneducated maid has no place in public office, but only because the public office has become something other than the ideal. If in a society we do not find the lowly maid in public office, it may be for reasons my friend has not considered. If the lowly maid by her spiritual merit is unfit for public office, it is quite likely because she was unwilling, unlike the politician, to capitulate to another kingdom, for a man cannot serve both God and money. If the lowly maid by virtue of her spiritual merit is not good enough for public office, we will find it the case that the public office is not good enough for her. It's not that she does not fit into public office, it's that public office does not fit into her. There are camels that cannot go through they eye of the needle, like there are rich men who cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Indeed there are public offices that cannot enter the heart of a lowly, uneducated, and illiterate maid.