Thanks to Frank Sonnek in a comment yesterday for alerting me, via Cyberbrethren, to Charles Arand’s article in “Lutheran Quarterly” a few years ago entitled Two Kinds of Righteousness as a Framework for Law and Gospel in the Apology. A sample:
What is meant by two kinds of human righteousness? Theologically, to be
righteous is to be human as God envisioned in creation, and again in redemption. One might modify the Athanasian dictum to say, ‘‘God became fully human that we might become fully
human.’’ The distinction between two kinds of r ighteousness rests upon the observation that there are two dimensions to being a human creature. One dimension involves our life with God, especially in the matters of death and salvation. The other dimension involves our life with God’s creatures and our activity in this world. In the for mer we receive righteousness before God through faith on account of Chr ist. In the latter, we achieve righteousness in the
eyes of the world by works when we carry out our God-given responsibilities.
This concept of two kinds of righteousness, sometimes called among other terms “civil righteousness” and “inner righteousness,” is closely related to the doctrines of the Two Kingdoms and Vocation. Lutheranism has much to say about “civil righteousness,” and it is not just do whatever your government says; rather, it is a critical and positive concept about what life in the civil sphere must be. Not just that, these teachings are enshrined in our confessional documents, which are authoritative for all Lutherans, specifically, in Melanchthon’s “Apology to the Augsburg Confession,” the often-neglected sections XXII-XXVIII.
Civil righteousness has to do with God’s created order in all spheres of life (so ideologies that deny God’s creation and its objective order, whether in the realms of the true, the good, the beautiful, or the political are in violation of this teaching). Melanchthon’s doctrine of civil virtue is Aristotelian; he affirms reason; he insists on cultural engagement; he establishes the basis for classical education; and he even affirms cultural differences. His treatment is remarkably sophisticated and relevant for the issues Christians are struggling with today. I don’t know of any other theological tradition that has such a thorough and positive theology of culture than confessional Lutheranism, and I think it is something that all Christians can draw from.