Friends, in looking at the discussion about marriage, I am astonished that so many of you are willing to throw out Two Kingdoms theology, the doctrine of vocation, and the state itself just because you don’t like our current government! There are lots of misunderstandings here, but it’s important that we get this right, especially today with all of our governmental woes. Also, I realize that the Reformed, Anabaptists, and other theological traditions will have a different take on this (though I believe Calvin would agree with Luther on much of this), but here are the basics of a Lutheran theology of the state:
According to Luther, God established three “estates,” three human institutions in which we all have vocations: the church, the family, and the state.
The state in this sense is not just the local political establishment. It has something of what we today call “culture.” Luther was aware of the different kinds and qualities of human government–from the pious German prince to the tyrannical Sultan of the Turks, from the Roman Republic and the free, self-governing German cities of the Hanseatic League to the Emperor–and he knew how they could go wrong. But the state itself has more to do with community, social customs, and life in the world. Call it the “civil order.”
The family and hence marriage, which can be defined as starting a family, are certainly part of the civil order. In fact, it is the foundational vocation of the civil order and of the state itself. Marriage comes under the laws of the civil order; that is, the state.
It was objected in the discussion that God made Adam and Eve married before there was a state. First of all, Adam and Eve in Eden constituted a state! Second, it is ALWAYS God who joins men and women in holy matrimony so that, as Jesus said, no man should put them asunder. God doesn’t have to work through means. But now He has chosen to work through means, including human vocation. It’s God who gives us our daily bread through farmers, heals us through physicians, creates new life through parents, and protects us–and establishes marriage–through the authorities He has established in the state.
To make the church rule in marriage gives the church a temporal and civil authority it must not have. Yes, Christian marriages are better, just as all vocations become true callings and more than mere offices in the light of faith, but God works through the earthly realm, including the state, just as He works through the church, though in different ways.
This, at least, is the Lutheran view. Isn’t it?