Why the family & the church are prior to the state

Why the family & the church are prior to the state February 18, 2014

In the context of a discussion of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street,  Dr. Jack Kilcrease discusses Luther’s concept of the “Orders of Creation” (in each of which we have vocations).  God established the family (the marriage of Adam & Eve) and the church (ordering His relationship with Adam & Eve) BEFORE the Fall.  God established the state AFTER the Fall, as a response to human sin, which now needs to be restrained for society to be possible.   Thus, the church and the family are more basic to human existence in God’s design than the state.  When these orders get confused–as when the state takes the place of the church and the family–trouble ensues.

From Dr. Jack Kilcrease, at Theologia Crusis:

In our current political discourse the State is meant to bear weight that as an Order of Creation that it wasn’t established by God to bear. In other words, the assumption is that human flourishing happens if we get politics right. In fact, not just human flourishing happens but maybe even the Kingdom of God happens- witness the strange messianic projects that both liberal and conservative Presidents have wanted to take up in recent decades. It’s just the matter of invading one more country and converting it to democracy, or it’s a matter of inventing just one more social program- and “Bam!” the kingdom has come!

From the perspective of Luther’s Genesis commentary, this is all wrong. In his commentary on the primal narrative of human life before the Fall, Luther shows that God established first the Family and then the Church as the original and most authentic setting of human existence. They were created before the Fall into sin and therefore are not necessarily a response to the condition of human sin. Rather, they are a natural setting for human life on earth. They only become unworkable on their own when sin comes in. Therefore after the Flood, in Genesis 9 God promulgates the new law of retribution, thereby implying the establishment of the Order of the State as Paul confirms in Romans 13. Hence, the State and its coercion are not meant as a means of the fulfillment of human life. It is, unlike the other Orders, something created in order to counteract human sin and therefore make up for the failures of the first two Orders. Nevertheless, it cannot replace these other Orders. . . .

The State must either remain impotent in the face of a corrupt culture where the Orders of the Church and Family are non-functional, or it must actually take over those functions and become more and more intrusive, totalizing, and, indeed, tyrannical.  And this latter course more often than not happens.  And so there comes about a kind of symbiotic effect.  The more the Church and the Family deteriorate as Orders, so the Order of the State takes over their functions.  And the State feeds children and supports families because there is no father.  The State teaches “virtue” (after a fashion) in public schools.  And the State becomes a kind of religion and now brings the kingdom.  Nevertheless, it is likewise the case, that as the State takes over these functions and becomes more and more totalizing, it also accelerates the deterioration of the Orders of the Family and the Church as well.


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