I’ve been studying the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which has some interesting applications to our controversies today. Christian defenders of Donald Trump are saying that his sexual transgressions show that he isn’t a saint. But he is well-suited to the pragmatic, rough-and-tumble world of secular government, and that’s what we need in a presidential candidate.
Well, according to the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, God’s spiritual Kingdom is ruled by the Gospel, but His earthly Kingdom is ruled by the Law. That is to say, morality does apply precisely to secular government.
UPDATE: Specifically, the first use of the Law, the civil use, which curbs external vices. Though it cannot justify or get at our internal sinfulness, it restrains the outward expression of that sinfulness. Such restraint and self-control can be practiced, to a certain extent, by all members of society, which depends on some kind of moral order.
Today many people assume that morality is the same thing as religion, but it isn’t. Christianity cares about morality, but its essence as a religion is about how to be forgiven for not being moral.
Saints are such because of their faith in Jesus Christ who forgives their sin. They then live out their faith in their vocations; that is, in love and service to their neighbors in the world, which is the realm of moral struggle.
Donald Trump isn’t a saint because of his immorality, but because he does not think he has done anything wrong so that he needs forgiveness. But he remains morally accountable for his actions in the secular arena and will be all the more if he becomes head of state.
Yes, whichever of these two is elected, we citizens must obey the office, unless we are commanded to sin (Augsburg Confession, Article XVI), which could happen. But even then, the ruler is answerable to a higher King.
Luther often criticized wicked rulers and called them God’s punishment upon a nation. Here is a good Luther quote that he actually said: “God punishes wicked subjects by wicked rulers” (Treatise on the Ban). So, whoever gets elected, we’d better brace ourselves.