Luther on politicians

The conventional wisdom is that Luther taught total submission to government authorities.  But you’ve got to read what he actually wrote about those government authorities.  Dr. Matthew Phillips usefully quotes from Luther’s most important treatise on earthly government and the Two Kingdoms, in which he makes the Tea Partiers sound mild. [Read more...]

“Conscientious objection against the state”?

LCMS president Matthew Harrison has issued a response to the Supreme Court marriage ruling.  It’s a strong statement, but what’s most striking and surprising, coming from a Lutheran with a Two Kingdoms theology, is his quotation of the anti-Nazi theologian Hermann Sasse on signs that the state has lost its Romans 13 legitimacy.  President Harrison concludes that “Christians will now begin to learn what it means to be in a state of solemn conscientious objection against the state.”

Is he saying that the United States government is no longer legitimate?  Wouldn’t that mean we don’t have to follow any of the laws it passes?  The Lutheran theology of culture, the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, has sometimes been interpreted to mean that God rules through the state, so that we need to submit to the secular authorities no matter what.  But I think the Two Kingdoms offers a mechanism for critiquing the state.  If God is the King, hidden in secular institutions and vocations but working through them with His moral law, then states and rulers who repudiate that moral law are in rebellion against His kingship.  Right?  But presumably He would still be working through them, despite themselves, in other ways, so that Christians would still be obliged to submit to their authority where it doesn’t conflict with God’s Word.

How else might a Two Kingdoms approach to the gay marriage decision help us navigate these controversies?  Read President Harrison’s statement, after the jump.  What do you think about it?  What else might be said?

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The Benedict Option

The outrage from big business (even Walmart!), the media, and the culture at large over Indiana’s Religious Freedom bill has many Christians thinking that America is a lost cause.  The dominant culture is so fixated on gay marriage and sexual permissiveness that it will not tolerate dissenters.  Even religious liberty, in the court of public opinion and likely legal opinion, will have to give way, and conservative believers will increasingly be demonized and punished.

Whether we are actually at that point or not, a number of thinkers–mostly of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox persuasion–are raising the possibility of what they call  The Benedict Option.

After Rome fell to moral chaos and then to the barbarians, St. Benedict formed distinct Christian communities where believers could practice their faith separated from the world.  Similarly, mainstream American culture may become so hostile to Christianity, so the reasoning goes, that Christians must form alternative communities, carrying on an alternative culture, until, as with Benedict, the barbarians are converted.

Rick Strickert posted some powerful quotations on this subject on Lutheran Forum, which I give after the jump.  And then I want to pose a question:  Can there be a Lutheran version of the Benedict Option, and, if so, how would it be different from the Roman Catholic and Fundamentalist versions? [Read more...]

Luther, Madison, and the Two Kingdoms

Rev. Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, discusses a letter President James Madison sent to a Lutheran pastor in 1821 upon reading one of his sermons:

It is a pleasing and persuasive example of pious zeal, united with pure benevolence and of a cordial attachment to a particular creed, untinctured with sectarian illiberality. It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Caesar and what is due God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations. The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

 President Harrison then goes on to give a very clear and perceptive explanation of the Doctrine of the  Two Kingdoms, which Madison was picking up on, which gives an alternative both to the view that the church should try to rule the world and the view that Christians should withdraw from that world. [Read more...]

“Two Kingdoms” from another Lutheran at Patheos

Another Lutheran joins me here at Patheos, Rebecca Florence Miller.   She has made a splash already with her post Why Christians Should Stand Up for Atheists,  which makes the case that religious liberty is for everyone, including those who reject religion.   (Atheists are reportedly astounded that a conservative Christians is standing up for them, but that should happen more than it usually does on an issue like this.)  But I leave you, after the jump, with a post that explains very well the Lutheran doctrine of culture and social engagement:  The Two Kingdoms. [Read more...]

Imagination, Christian sub-cultures, & the Two Kingdoms

More from my interview with Mathew Block, in which a question about Christians refusing to attend to music, movies, books, or the like unless they are explicitly Christian, leads to a digression on the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. [Read more...]


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