The state is like food, drink, & air

The post about God & the State led to even more discussion of a previous post regarding whether marriage is primarily the business of the church or of the state. I wonder if we could set aside the topic of marriage for awhile and just consider the teaching that God works through the state and the civil order in general.

I don’t expect non-Lutherans to believe what Lutherans do. After Manxman and Webmonk are finished mocking and deriding Lutheran theology, they are welcome to explain how they view the relationship between God and the state. But some of you Lutherans are sounding like anabaptist separatists, whether Amish pacifists or Muntzerian revolutionaries, as if the state were at best a necessary evil, but an intrinsic evil nonetheless.

The force of the article by Cameron MacKenzie (a board member of the Cranach Institute!) is that Walther’s view that the state can have no authority over the church is not necessarily the full summation of Two Kingdoms theology. If anything, Walther underplayed state authority compared to Luther and the Confessors. Recall that Luther called on the secular arm (the German princes) to reform the church (over the authority of the Pope). And certainly Lutheranism has existed in state churches. I remain a Waltherian opposed to state churches, but we are confessionally obliged to see the state, in principle, as a positive good.

It remains under the moral law and the authority of God and His created order, so that we can indeed criticize its evils, work for its reform, and watch it come to ruin when it violates what God has ordained. Just writing it off will mean, in practice, passively accepting its dysfunctions.

Also, I don’t recall anyone in the comments relating the state to vocation; that is, to how God is present in and works through the state to care for His creatures.

This is from Article XVI of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

The Sixteenth Article the adversaries receive without any exception, in which we have confessed that it is lawful for the Christian to bear civil office, sit in judgment, determine matters by the imperial laws, and other laws in present force, appoint just punishments, engage in just wars, act as a soldier, make legal contracts, hold property, take an oath, when magistrates require it, contract marriage; finally, that legitimate civil ordinances are good creatures of God and divine ordinances, which a Christian can use with safety. . . .

Meanwhile it permits us outwardly to use legitimate political ordinances of every nation in which we live, just as it permits us to use medicine or the art of building, or food, drink, air. Neither does the Gospel bring new laws concerning the civil state, but commands that we obey present laws, whether they have been framed by heathen or by others, and that in this obedience we should exercise love.

All of these civil and even secular matters are “good creatures of God.” They are “divine ordinances” in the created order. They are ours to use just as we make use of medicine, buildings, food, drink, and air.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    A “state church” is not as clear a designation as might first appear.

    One meaning is that the church receives tax support. This was basically what was meant by “religious establishment” among the U.S. states early on. Thus, e.g., in its 1780 constitution, Massachusetts required tax support for chuches, but also recognized religious liberty by not requiring people to attend the tax-supported churches.

    Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry argued against Thomas Jefferson in support of continuing religious establishment in Virginia.

    Or, the state can directly regulate churches without funding them by, e.g., requiring certain practices or the profession of certain articles of faith.

    Or the state may constitutionally endorse one or more doctrines without touching directly on what churches do. U.S. state constitutions still have a remnant of that practice, with all but one (at last count) starting off with some nod to “the blessing of God” or something similar. In the past, constitutional confessionalism was more specific — extending to the trinity, to Jesus, etc.

    Often, civil positions in these states were limited to individuals making at least a minimal profession of belief in God, or belief in the Trinity. In the past, you needed to be a Protestant, or whatever. (The remnant of these were struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1960, when it prohibited Maryland from requiring that civil office holders believe in God.)

    Then, we can turn the relationship around, and look at states run by churches. Vatican City is of course the most obvious examples, but in the past bishops had considerable civil power (which the Augsburg discusses at greater length than state control over the church). In the U.S., early Mormonism in Utah saw the conjoining of church leadership with civil leadership.

    The broadest, though, is specific “ethical” principles that can inform what laws are enacted and enforced. This, too, is a form of religious establishment, although it’s difficult to see how to avoid it. After all, even most atheists have some sort of ethical principle (although not coherently, in my opinion). Why should non-theistic ethical belief be an appropriate basis for legislation, but not theistic ethical belief? To what extent is non-theistic ethical belief an unacknowledged remnant of centuries of of theism? To what extent are intuitions about “natural law” a function of unacknowledged religious formation?

    FWIW.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    The key word is “legitimate.” Apology XVI was written to distinguish Lutherans from the more radical elements of the reformation.

    The Lutheran view of the two kingdoms is a distinction not a division. It arises from the problems created when bishops hold secular authority (AC 28). It is not the same as the legal doctrine of the “separation of church and state.” Luther certainly advised the prince in matters of government and called upon the government to defend the church. He even called upon the Christian prince to serve as “emergency bishop” (Notbischof), a move that paved the way for the state church.

    While certainly a vocational “good,” and a “mask of God,” the sword of government must be watched very closely and never trusted. The power of the sword, while necessary and even good in a fallen world, is always dangerous. “Trust not in princes, in mortal men who cannot save.” (Psalm 146:3)

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Well – I hope I did not give the appearance of an anabaptist separatist. What I was trying to do is to demonstrate what the historical place of the marriage covenant is. That does not mean I support anabaptist anarchy.

    But what I do find inexpicable is that many folks want the state to regulate, even control marriage, but at the same time stay out of maintaining economic law and order in any event (I did not say control), and view taxes as evil. It looks more like a specific ideology than anything else. The inconsistency is rather glaring… at least our friend Webmonk is consistent in his version of libertarianism, and can be respected for that.

    For the record: I’m not a libertarian, or a laissez faire capitalist, or a socialist. I’m an Ordoliberal (google that) with some distributivist tendencies, and tend to Constitutional Monarchism, with modified agrarian predilections. I don’t think that violates any Two Kingdom interpretations. I don’t think I’m always right though, and have changed my mind on many occasions. But enough about me…

  • Pingback: Topics about Food and Recipes » Archive » Comment on The state is like Bfood/B, drink, #038; air by Jim

  • WebMonk

    Manx, for some reason I thought you were a Lutheran!

    I wasn’t mocking the Lutheran theology per se, but rather the opinion that there is such a thing as “THE” Lutheran position which says the State (in the full sense) is in authority over Marriage.

    It seems that your post above demonstrates that there isn’t a settled “THE” Lutheran position even on the relationship between the Church and State, much less one about the relation between State and Marriage.

    Bror and wcwirla, both Lutheran (LCMS?) pastors who are uncompromising in their Lutheran understanding (even when Bror is wrong *grin*), differ with the stated “THE” Lutheran position as stated. May I suggest “THE” Lutheran position on the relation between State and Marriage as stated by Veith is more Veith’s understanding rather than truly “THE” Lutheran position?

  • Manxman

    I am not mocking or deriding Lutheran theology. I AM saying it is not infallible and its apprehension of the truth is not exhaustive.

    Gene Veith writes -

    “Also, I don’t recall anyone in the comments relating the state to vocation; that is, to how God is present in and works through the state to care for His creatures.”

    There are those of us who recognize that despite being God-given, the power of the State is a two-edged sword. God does indeed intend that the power of the State be used for our good by its PROPER use of properly-administered retribution as described in Romans 13. HOWEVER – it is just as possible for Satan to be present in and work through the power of the State to DESTROY God’s creation. If you can’t see that happening in America and in governments around the world today, I think there is something seriously wrong with you. In fact, people with various agendas are deliberately using the power of the State to tear down everything good and holy, and this marriage/family issue is a perfect example of that. It is why I absolutely refuse to render this matter unto Caesar. It is a fatal mistake to give the State authority and jurisdiction it ought not to have.

    Francis Schaeffer writes in the Great Evangelical Disaster -

    “The primary emphasis of biblical Christianity is the teaching that the infinite-personal God is the final reality, the Creator of all else, and that an individual can come openly to the holy God upon the basis of the finished work of Christ and that alone. Nothing needs to be added to Christ’s finished work, and nothing can be added to Christ’s finished work. But at the same time where Christianity provides the consensus, as it did in the Reformation countries (and did in the United States up to a relatively few years ago), Christianity also brings with it many secondary blessings. One of these has been titanic freedoms, yet without those freedoms leading to chaos, because the Bible’s absolutes provide a consensus within which freedom can operate. But once the Christian consensus has been removed, as it has been today, then the very freedoms which have come out of the Reformation become a destructive force leading to chaos in society. This is why we see the breakdown of morality everywhere in our society today — the complete devaluation of human life, a total moral relativism, and a thoroughgoing hedonism.”

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Well, let me explain: In the debate over marriage, I attempted to show that input of the State and the Church into the marriage covenant can best be explained as a development of doctrine (in the case of the Church), and a very late development in the case of the State. Also, as I clearly stated, my remarks were aimed primarily against the seeming requirement that the State define marriage as such, and all the spin-off debates. This does not mean I support Anabaptist anarchy, but it does mean that I question the assumptions prevalent in these debates on historical grounds.

    At the same time I find the inconsistency between demanding a State control over marriage, vs. requiring the State to stay out of economic matters, quite incongruous. To me, it indicates that there might be other ideological motivations at play here – iow, the inconsistency is telling. Our friend Webmonk, however, is at least attempting a consistent libertarian critique, or so it seems.

    But for the record, less anybody might think me a Anabaptist in Lutheran guise, let me briefly state my political/economic views: I’m an Ordoliberal (google that), as opposed to both socialist and laissez-faire / anarcho-captilaist AND Neoliberal ideologies. I do modify my views with some distributivist ideas, though. As to the specific structure of government, I tend towards Constitutional Monarchism. I also have some agrarian affinities.

    I do not find inconsistencies with Lutheran Views in any of these choices, though I deny that any specific economic or political theory will or can be the de facto Lutheran view.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    My comments onthis thread seem to continue to disappear. If this one posts, I’ll try again.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Ok, here goes:

    Well, let me explain: In the debate over marriage, I attempted to show that input of the State and the Church into the marriage covenant can best be explained as a development of doctrine (in the case of the Church), and a very late development in the case of the State. Also, as I clearly stated, my remarks were aimed primarily against the seeming requirement that the State define marriage as such, and all the spin-off debates. This does not mean I support Anabaptist anarchy, but it does mean that I question the assumptions prevalent in these debates on historical grounds.

    At the same time I find the inconsistency between demanding a State control over marriage, vs. requiring the State to stay out of economic matters, quite incongruous. To me, it indicates that there might be other ideological motivations at play here – iow, the inconsistency is telling. Our friend Webmonk, however, is at least attempting a consistent libertarian critique, or so it seems.

    But for the record, less anybody might think me a Anabaptist in Lutheran guise, let me briefly state my political/economic views: I’m an Ordoliberal (google that), as opposed to both socialist and laissez-faire / anarcho-captilaist AND Neoliberal ideologies. I do modify my views with some distributivist ideas, though. As to the specific structure of government, I tend towards Constitutional Monarchism. I also have some agrarian affinities.

    I do not find inconsistencies with Lutheran Views in any of these choices, though I deny that any specific economic or political theory will be the de facto Lutheran view.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Let me try again:
    Well, let me explain: In the debate over marriage, I attempted to show that input of the State and the Church into the marriage covenant can best be explained as a development of doctrine (in the case of the Church), and a very late development in the case of the State. Also, as I clearly stated, my remarks were aimed primarily against the requirement that the State define marriage as such, and all the spin-off debates. This does not mean I support Anabaptist anarchy, but it does mean that I question the assumptions prevalent in these debates on historical grounds. At the same time I find the inconsistency between demanding State control over marriage, vs. requiring the State to stay out of economic matters, quite incongruous. To me, it indicates that there might be other ideological motivations at play here – iow, the inconsistency is telling.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Part 2:

    Our friend Webmonk, however, is at least attempting a consistent libertarian critique, or so it seems. But for the record, less anybody might think me a Anabaptist in Lutheran guise, let me briefly state my political/economic views: I’m an Ordoliberal (google that), as opposed to both socialist and laissez-faire / anarcho-captilaist AND Neoliberal ideologies. I do modify my views with some distributivist ideas, though. As to the specific structure of government, I tend towards Constitutional Monarchism. I also have some agrarian affinities. I do not find inconsistencies with Lutheran Views in any of these choices, though I deny that any specific economic or political theory will be the de facto Lutheran view.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Our friend Webmonk, however, is at least attempting a consistent libertarian critique, or so it seems. But for the record, less anybody might think me a Anabaptist in Lutheran guise, let me briefly state my political/economic views: I’m an Ordoliberal (google that), as opposed to both socialist and laissez-faire / anarcho-capitalist AND Neoliberal ideologies. I do modify my views with some distributivist and agrarian ideas, though. As to the specific structure of government, I tend towards Constitutional Monarchism. I do not find inconsistencies with Lutheran Views in any of these choices, though I deny that any specific economic or political theory will be the de facto Lutheran view.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    For the record, less anybody might think me a Anabaptist in Lutheran guise, let me briefly state my political/economic views: I’m an Ordoliberal (google that), as opposed to socialism, laissez-faire capitalism and Neoliberalism. I modify my views with some distributivist & agrarian ideas, though. I tend towards Constitutional Monarchism. I do not find inconsistencies with Lutheranism in any of these choices, though I deny that any specific economic or political theory will be the de facto Lutheran view.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Our friend Webmonk, however, is at least attempting a consistent libertarian critique, or so it seems. But for the record, less anybody might think me a Anabaptist in Lutheran guise, let me briefly state my political/economic views: I’m an Ordoliberal (google that), as opposed to both socialism, laissez-faire capitalism and neoliberalism. I do modify my views with some distributivist and agrarian ideas, though. I tend towards Constitutional Monarchism. I do not find inconsistencies with Lutheran Views in any of these choices, though I deny that any specific economic or political theory will be the de facto Lutheran view.

  • Mary

    I appreciate this chance to contemplate the goodness of God’s worldly/secular gifts. Any other commenters willing to “set aside the topic of marriage for awhile and just consider the teaching that God works through the state and the civil order in general” without presuming that means one no longer sees sin permeating the world?

    “THE Lutheran position” is what the Lutheran Confessions say it is, regardless of what blogger or commenters may say on any given topic.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    This was the second half of my comment above that kept on dissapearing: Our friend Webmonk, is at least attempting a consistent libertarian critique, or so it seems. But for the record, less anybody might think me a Anabaptist in Lutheran guise, let me briefly state my political/economic views: I’m an Ordoliberal (google that), as opposed to both socialism, laissez-faire capitalism and neoliberalism. I do modify my views with some distributivist and agrarian ideas, though. I tend towards Constitutional Monarchism. I do not find inconsistencies with Lutheran Views in any of these choices, though I deny that any specific economic or political theory will be the de facto Lutheran view.

    But enough of me. I think we also need to aplit the issues of modus with the issue of vocation. In not denying the State its vocation, in principle, I’m with Veith.

  • WebMonk

    To Mary – then what exactly does the Lutheran position mean? Does it mean what Bror describes? What wcwirla describes? What Veith describes? Something else?

    It’s like saying “I believe what the Bible says” when asked about the interaction between free will and God’s sovereignty. It is so non-specific that it is of almost no use when getting down to details.

  • Mary

    In addition to the Apology that Dr. Veith cited (and it’s corresponding section in the Augsburg Confession) the Apology: On Marriage of Priests says:

    11] Therefore let this remain in the case which both Scripture teaches and the jurist says wisely, namely, that the union of male and female belongs to natural right. 12] Moreover, a natural right is truly a divine right, because it is an ordinance divinely impressed upon nature.

    It goes on to talk about how this is marriage & not a sinful sexual relationship, but the initial point is that marriage is in the realm of nature & natural law. Maybe natural law talk could have diverted some of the comments torn between meanings of “state” or “civil.”

  • WebMonk

    Mary, allow me to paraphrase that great book and movie, “The Princess Bride”, in my best Inigo Montoya voice – I do not think that means what you think it means.

    “… the union of male and female belongs to natural right.”

    This isn’t a statement that marriage belongs to the power of the left hand, but that it is a God-given right of all people.

    His entire thrust is to show that priests should be allowed to marry. It would make no sense to say that priests have a right to be married because the State has authority over marriage. Priests, primarily, are not part of the left hand, so who cares what the left-hand kingdom says about what priests are or aren’t allowed to do. (as far as the Church’s prohibition upon priests)

    Then, to further drive home the point:

    “Moreover, a natural right is truly a divine right, because it is an ordinance divinely impressed upon nature.”

    And where do you get the idea that this somehow means that the left-hand kingdom has authority over marriage??? He’s stating quite the opposite – that no one has authority over marriage because it is given directly by God. A divine right is not something over which the State or Church have authority.

    (just an aside, natural right doesn’t equal natural law)

  • Peter Leavitt

    There are those of us who recognize that despite being God-given, the power of the State is a two-edged sword. God does indeed intend that the power of the State be used for our good by its PROPER use of properly-administered retribution as described in Romans 13. HOWEVER – it is just as possible for Satan to be present in and work through the power of the State to DESTROY God’s creation. If you can’t see that happening in America and in governments around the world today, I think there is something seriously wrong with you.

    For all their problems and absurdities, the American and other Western governments are far from being in the power of Satan and about destroying God’s creation.

    Luther in his time well understood the negatives of Charles V’s rule, though he, also, knew that the solution was not to reject legitimate civil authority, which logically and practically would lead to anarchy. He, also, knew that it would be wrong for individuals and civil authorities, except for extreme cases of conscience, to decide for themselves what was “legitimate” civil authority or not. Paul, also, quite understood this. Christ Himself granted Caesar his legitimate authority.

    Americans, especially, often get carried away with the concept of “liberty.” The southern states did so when they seceded from the Union, for which the nation ended up with rivers of American blood. Our problems with marriage and ther civil laws are hardly a sign that the nation hs gone over to Satan’s will.

    In my view devout American Christians need to get more involved with their vocation as citizens in a way that is unafraid to curb their vocation for Christian witness. For me this is not idle rhetoric in that I served a medium-sized Massachusetts town for six years on
    the School Committee and nineteen years as Town Moderator.

    Too bad that we Protestant Christians today lack a serious national Christian leader, like Reinhold Niebuhr, during the Thirties through Sixties, who understood the realities of both Christian and political/economic life. Meanwhile for Christians to whine and complain about the assorted evils in our fallen world without doing anything about it leaves the field wide open for the secularists whose devout wish is for Christians to fold their tents and keep their religion to themselves.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “I remain a Waltherian opposed to state churches, but we are confessionally obliged to see the state, in principle, as a positive good.”
    I would agree with you Veith. Far from seeing the state as a necessary evil, I see it as a necessary good in an evil world. But not necessary in the Garden of Eden.
    As necessary and as good as it is for us though in this evil world that we live in. It does need to be watched. Because it can turn into an evil state itself.

  • Mary

    Marriage belongs to the natural, the earthly, and not to the supernatural, the eternal. God governs both, yet one can speak of His rule in temporary matters as kingdom of the left and eternal matters as kingdom of the right.

    No one has authority except offices that have received that authority from God. Yet God can and does give authority, even regarding marriage.

    You may not believe that God can work through the authority of the state regarding marriage because government is fallen. Fine. I agree that government isn’t able to change what marriage is or make marriage into something it isn’t. Yet kingdom of the left authorities impact marriage. They have authority from God, though their specific authority over marriage hasn’t been detailed to your liking.

    You wrote, “A divine right is not something over which the State or Church have authority.” Is that because God no longer works through means? There is a third kingdom, apart from the authorities He establishes? Some detached bill of rights?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “You wrote, “A divine right is not something over which the State or Church have authority.” Is that because God no longer works through means? There is a third kingdom, apart from the authorities He establishes? Some detached bill of rights?’
    Mary,
    No the contention would be there is a fourth estate. God has ordained 3, 2 before the fall, one after. The ecclesial, and marriage, before, the state, or kingdom of the left, of which the modern “state” is a manifestation, afterward. But I thought we were just going to talk about the state and leave marriage out of it for awhile.

  • kerner

    As for the distinctions between “Lutheran thought” on any subject and “American Protestant thought” on the same subject, I think context and first assumptions make a lot of difference. A discussion of the proper relationship between Christians and their government is no exception to this.

    For example, when I read or listen to non-Lutheran, self identified “Bible believing” Christians, the line of reasoning goes somethin like this:

    “The United States was founded by Christians who wanted to Glorify God and based its foundation on Biblical principles (much like the Israelites leaving Egypt and creating the kingdom of Israel in the promised land). Therefore, God has raised up the United States and made it a great civilization (also like Israel). Therefore, if the United States ceases as a culture to be a God glorifying culture, God will withdraw His blessing from the United States and it will fall (again, like Ancient Israel). Furthermore, most of the founding fathers really didn’t believe in a ‘separation of church and state’. So, if Christianity is seen as distinct from the United States government to the extent that the government is not based on Biblical principles, the United States is doomed to suffer God’s wrath.”

    I think the logic of Lutheran theology is similar, but distinguishable from the above. First of all, Luther and the other reformers wrote in the context of their own form of government and relied heavily on the book of Romans, which was, at least, written in the context of the Government(s) that existed in the first century. With the possible exception of Roman occupied Israel, there was no government that even remotely acklowledged God (the real God) as its foundation. The governments under which of the overwhelming majority of people lived were based on unbiblical, or anti-biblical foundations. But is in this context that St. Paul wrote that Christians should be subject to the higher powers that exist to protect the weak and punish the evil doers, and that all power comes from God (presumably whether those wielding it knew it or not). To those reading St. Paul’s epistle, it would have seemed absurd to suggest that God would shortly (by which I mean soon, not eventually at judgment day) topple any government that didn’t honor Him, because none of them did so, and that fact did not seem to have much effect; and even when a government DID fall, the replacement government was no different in that respect.

  • WebMonk

    kerner, you need to remember that you’re describing MODERN, AMERICAN generic EVANGELICAL thought in your third paragraph. There are enough caveats in those words that most things they are attached to can be dismissed as hopelessly bastardized.

    Some see beginning hints in the roots of American history, but even those beginning hints have been wildly modernized, Americanized, and American-style evangelicalized.

    I agree that it is being stated loudly and obnoxiously in Christian circles today, but I wouldn’t attribute that view to historic, Protestant thought on government.

  • kerner

    continued:

    The Lutheran reformers had lived under a “Holy” Roman Empire, which was expected to be Christian, but often did not behave as though it were. But when the grip of the Empire and the Roman Catholic Church was weakened by the Reformation, some of the results were the peasants’ revolt and the 30 years war, and a lot of suffering and anarchy that didn’t seem to result in the decisive downfall of God’s enemies within or without Christendom. Also, the 16th century was not a time when the concept of “inalienable” human rights was well developed.

    IMHO, this has caused Lutheran theology to be more heavily weighted toward subservience to an oppressive or Anti-Christian government that it needs to be. After the peasants’ revolt, Luther spoke strongly against rebellion. My experience with 20th-21st century Lutheran clergymen is that their default position is that any armed resistance to government is wrong, even to the extent of condemning the American Revolution. I mean, they acknowledge that Christians ought to obey God rather than man, but they certainly take this “be subservient to the higher powers” stuff very seriously.

    Now, I am a LCMS Lutheran, but I am convinced that the strain of Lutheran theology that condemns resistance to an oppressive government so strictly is an overreaction to the excesses of the peasants’ revolt and the 30 years war. But, I digress.

    I guess the point I was trying to make is that we should all evaluate (an perhaps re-evaluate) our positions on the relationship between the Church and the government in light of the contexts in which our respective positions developed. Even the best (and best intended) theologians have difficulty separating their conclusions about the meaning of God’s Word from their own priorities.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “Now, I am a LCMS Lutheran, but I am convinced that the strain of Lutheran theology that condemns resistance to an oppressive government so strictly is an overreaction to the excesses of the peasants’ revolt and the 30 years war. But, I digress.”
    Kerner,
    you need to read Tyranny and Resistance by Mark Whitford, you would love it. I normally find that those that condemn resistance really do not have a grip on the two kingdom’s theory.

  • WebMonk

    Mary: huh?

    “You may not believe that God can work through the authority of the state regarding marriage because government is fallen.”

    Where are you pulling that from? Nothing could be further from the truth! I’ve never said anything that could even vaguely be construed as saying such.

    The State ought not have power over marriage because there’s nothing in scripture that suggests it should, quite the opposite.

    Government is instituted as a sword and protection, and insofar as marriage impacts those areas, marriage is under government’s authority. But that’s not an authority over marriage as a whole, but marriage acting in government’s sphere of influence. Marriage is a part of family. (Government isn’t the same as State, and I’ll get back to that. Just mentioning now to avoid any “yeah buts”.)

    Read Veith’s previous post on this general topic, God & the State. He talks about God establishing Church, Family, and State.

    In spite of practices to the contrary, even among Lutherans, we all seem to agree that Church is not universally dominant over Family or State, nor Family over Church or State, nor State over Family or Church.

    But then, for some reason that as far as I can tell is unsupported by scripture and I haven’t seen to be supported by historic Lutheran thought, Veith (and you, Mary) said the State is dominant over the marriage portion of Family.

    Again, I’ll make my oft-repeated statement. Where does that come from? So far nothing has been brought up from scriptures. You mentioned a part of the Augsburg Confession, but that doesn’t say the State (as represented by the government in the excerpt) is in charge of marriage either.

    I’m in pretty good agreement with this blog post, that civil government is a good thing, though it can be easily abused. I’ve just never seen anything that says marriage is a valid area over which government (good or bad) should have authority over except in those places where marriage acts upon the realms of government/state and church.

    (Government is a part of State, or at least extends from State, but didn’t have expression before the Fall. Government tends to be the enforcement of State, so I may speak of “government” when talking about the enforcement of the laws.)

  • kerner

    One more thing. I think one reason that Walther was so against the melding the Church with the government was that this concept had been tried in Europe and had not served the Church well. German-American Lutherans in Walther’s day were in the United States primarily because of the “Prussian Union” which was the King of Prussia’s attempt to merge the state sponsored Lutheran and Reformed churches, which of course involved compromising the doctrine of each. I think this is one reason why the Lutheran Synods founded by German Americans (LCMS, WELS) are generally far more likely to favor church sponsored schools and other institutions while the synods founded by Scandinavians (LCA and ALC, now merged into ELCA)were a lot less suspicious of the government.

    So, you’re right, WebMonk, my earlier characterization of American Protestant thought on this point is something of a generalization best applied to modern evangelical Christians. And your point that there are different “Lutheran” positions on this subject is well taken.

    Personally, I think that governmental authority, like a father’s authority in his home, is given to it/him by God, but it is always subject to God’s commandments to the authority figure. At what point, and under what conditions, the one under authority has a right to resist the one over him is subject to debate.

    But the authority itself seems to be given to parents and governments outside the Church as well as to those within it. So, on some level non-Christian governments rightfully have the authority whether they acknowledge its source or not. And Christians are bound to respect that so-called left hand kingdom authority.

    I think this rule applies to the concept of marriage. It is one of those things that all people have the right (and if they want to have sex and/or children, the duty) to do whether they are Christians or not. Accordingly, there is a “left-hand kingdom” nature of the institution of marriage. But at the same time, just like every other institution in the left hand kingdom, the authority comes from God, so Christians have to respect the institution at least to the extent that it fulfills God’s purpose in instituting it.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    The Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms is a theological distinction of authorities (temporal vs eternal), based on the distinction of the Law and the Gospel, and not a comprehensive, systematic treatment of the relationship between church and civil authority.

    For this reason, Lutherans can and do differ in the application of this distinction in various circumstances. One need look no further than the contrast of Werner Elert and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, two Lutherans on opposite sides of how best to respond to the Nazi government. These days Lutherans with libertarian political leanings tend to take a more negative view of government than do Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, which are generally quite positive toward government.

    A few salient quotes:

    57] For the Gospel does not destroy the State or the family [buying, selling, and other civil regulations], but much rather approves them, and bids us obey them as a divine ordinance, not only on account of punishment, but also on account of conscience. (Ap 16.57)

    Therefore our teachers, for the comforting of men’s consciences, were constrained to show the difference between the power of the Church and the power of the sword, and taught that both of them, because of God’s commandment, are to be held in reverence and honor, as the chief blessings of God on earth. (AC 28.4)

    10] Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government. 11] For civil government deals with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers defend not minds, but bodies and bodily things against manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace. (AC 28.10-11)

    In the background of all this is the fact that bishops often held the authority of temporal government as well as church authority. Interestingly, Melanchthon in the Treatise wishes that the magistrate would appoint an alternative matrimonial court and take it away from the papal bishops. (Treastise, 77-78)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    WebMonk, I guarantee you that Bror Erickson and wccwirla do NOT disagree with the Augsburg Confession. Yes, God alone is the only true authority, and He exercises that authority through particular vocations, which was Mary’s point.

    If the church determines what marriage can be, then the priests could never marry. Luther appealed to the civil authority to legalize priestly marriage, since the established church refused to.

    Pastor Cwirla, you suggested looking at marriage in terms of the estate of the family, as distinguished both from the estate of the church and the estate of the state. So families constitute themselves? Families determine who is married? That’s interesting and I can see its cultural precedent, though I’m not sure how it would work in practice or in terms of our confessional commitments. Please elaborate. Also, is WebMonk correct to say that we are exhibiting different Lutheran theologies about the state and marriage?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I’m really enjoying these “state” discussions. Is it okay if I believe both of these at the same time? That the family is the basic building block of the state. And that the state is the God-given arbiter of disputes between individuals and families. Isn’t both the problem and the solution of the state the family?

    That’s why I think it is impossible to keep marriage and family (and other relationships) out of an honest discussion of the foundations and ramifications of the state.

    And what about individual rights? Those need defended too, but no individual can build a state. Perhaps this very reason is enough to view the role of the state (the community) as to most importantly defending those who are without the blessings of marriage and family.

    I think this squares well with a Biblical view of the usefulness of the Law as protecting the weak against the strong whether or not either or both are right or wrong. The state must take seriously both the blessings and dangers of community.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    I agree with this statement:

    “Government is instituted as a sword and protection, and insofar as marriage impacts those areas, marriage is under government’s authority. But that’s not an authority over marriage as a whole, but marriage acting in government’s sphere of influence. Marriage is a part of family. (Government isn’t the same as State, and I’ll get back to that. Just mentioning now to avoid any “yeah buts”.)”

    This is why I find the three ordos (society, family, church) to be more helpful in the marriage discussion than the distinction of two kingdoms or authorities. While marriage does not have eternal implications, for “in the resurrection they neither marry nor given in marriage,” nevertheless the church certainly blesses, prays for, and expounds on the meaning of marriage, including its Christological typology (Eph 5).

    Likewise, the government deals with the legal, contractual aspects of marriage (and the undoing of the legal, contractual elements in divorce), though in former times this task was handled by the church (much to Melanchthon’s objection). The role of government is to protect and defend marriage as a legal-juridical institution. This is the direct consequence of family being the foundation of civil society.

    Marriage has its proper place in the ordo of the household/family. “A man leaves father and mother and clings to his wife….” Families don’t “constitute themselves,” but they do propagate other families. The approval of father and mother establishes the continuity.

    One of the problems we face when we try to discuss “marriage” in a biblical context is that the Scriptures don’t deal with “marriage” in the abstract, but only in terms of men and women marrying, the essence being the lifelong sexual union of male and female as “one flesh.” The Bible gives no marriage rite nor does it spell out the details of who ought to govern it. It simply begins with Adam and Eve as the proto-family and then moves on from there in continuum.

  • S. Bauer

    I find Pastor Cwirla’s explanation to be a felicitous summary of what I have been trying to express.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    If the state has a divine origin that can be found in Scripture, I think it is found in Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed;
    for in the image of God
    has God made man.”
    If that is the seat of this doctrine, then any other teaching is derivative. When Jesus or St. Paul speak of the sword, they are updating the teaching of Moses to their own day. We might do the same and talk about “the gun.” We come face to face with that if we are pulled over by a cop.

    But I don’t think that the choice is between either putting a stamp of approval on the state as such or becoming an Anabaptist. Even before Luther we see better choices. Thomas Aquinas agreed with St. Augusting that an unjust law was no law at all. And St. Augustine himself said the following: “Without justice, what are kingdoms but great robber bands? What are robber bands but small kingdoms? The band is itself made up of men, is ruled by the command of a leader, and is held together by a social pact. Plunder is divided in accordance with an agreed upon law. If this evil increases by the inclusion of dissolute men to the extent that it takes over territory, establishes headquarters, occupies cities, and subdues peoples, it publicly assumes the title of kingdom! This title is manifestly conferred on it, not because greed has been removed, but because impunity has been added. A fitting and true response was once given to Alexander the Great by an apprehended pirate. When asked by the king what he thought he was doing by infesting the sea, he replied with noble insolence, ‘What do you think you are doing by infesting the whole world? Because I do it with one puny boat, I am called a pirate; because you do it with a great fleet, you are called an emperor’.”
    (St. Augustine, The City of God, Book IV, Chapter 4.) I don’t see St. Augustine as an Anabaptist.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    “If the state has a divine origin that can be found in Scripture, I think it is found in Genesis 9:6….”

    This would suggest that there was no “state” prior to the Flood. The Lutheran Confessions derive the authority of government from parental authority under the 4th commandment:

    “In this commandment [4th] belongs a further statement regarding all kinds of obedience to persons in authority who have to command and to govern. For all authority flows and is propagated from the authority of parents.” (Large Catechism I.141)

    People may, and have, questioned this derivation and its implications for government. I cite it here only to be clear what the confessional Lutheran teaching is.

  • WebMonk

    “WebMonk, I guarantee you that Bror Erickson and wccwirla [sic] do NOT disagree with the Augsburg Confession.”

    I’ll call that nonsense too. As far as I can tell, they both DO agree with the Augsburg Confession. You’re the one with the odd interpretation that I can’t see where it’s coming from.

    But no one should let a difference of interpretation stop them from fearlessly declaring others to be less faithful Lutherans/Christians than oneself.

  • WebMonk

    Wait. Never mind. I misread the “disagree” as “agree”.

    I apologize.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X