Below you will find the text of my presentation given to the men of the Wyoming District a couple weeks ago in beautiful Sheridan, Wyoming. The man also enjoyed once again the fun of having range time with their choice of weapons. This year’s theme was focused on some church and state issues as well as firearms in the sanctuary. Here is my presentation on the Two Kingdoms in relation to Church and State.
TWO KINGDOMS AND CHURCH AND STATE
Two Kingdoms in a nutshell
Kingdom of God (Right Hand Kingdom)
– All believers in Christ (the baptized)
– Rule is by the Gospel
– Kingdom of Grace (and Glory)
– Souls (First Table of the Law)
– Second and Third Articles of the Creed
– Baptism, Confession, Lord’s Supper
Kingdom of the world (Left Hand Kingdom)
– Still created and ordained by God (4th Commandment; Romans 13; 1 Peter 2)
o Necessary in fallen world to restrain evil and preserve some peace and quietness for believers (note the point and purpose)
– Temporal (New heaven and new earth)
– Rule is by the Law (note not some sort of Jewish Theocracy)
– Curbs the rule of the devil
– Kingdom of Power
– Body and Property (Second Table of the Law)
– Works [good according to worlds definition] [good before God only if done in faith]
– Head of the Household
– Fourth Commandment as foundational (explain)
– First Article of the Creed
– Table of Duties
Both are necessary in this world but must be kept distinct lest confusion results (see “problems”).
God is behind both Kingdoms.
The Kingdom of God is found in the Kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of the world exists to serve the Kingdom of God (in providing peace and order). The Church being made up of true believers and hypocrites in this life is also intertwined with the Kingdom of the world. The Kingdom of God provides good citizens to the Kingdom of the World and is beneficial that way (note the presence of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives doing good for the neighbor). This is why Western civilization has been more “humanitarian” in history, it has largely been populated with Christians who care for the neighbor.
The Christian as Saint and Sinner needs both. As a Saint he doesn’t need the kingdom of the world, but as a Sinner he does to help curb him and his neighbor.
Luther believed that the ruler had an obligation by his office to acknowledge his Divine master by the very witness of nature and conscience. These things leave no one off the hook for the knowledge of God in general (not salviffic knowledge and trust, which comes from the revealed Word alone).
What happens when the Kingdom of God rules by the Law?
We end up with a Lawful (FULL OF LAW) Church.
What happens when the Kingdom of the World rules by the Gospel?
Luther’s parable – Rancher putting wolves, lions, eagles, and sheep all together in the same flock.
What happens when the Kingdoms are combined and one authority claims authority over both (for example the Pope). The Lutheran Confessions address this several times. History bears out that much of the Reformation could not have happened if the Popes were not so disinterested in religious matters. Theocracy and a confusion of Law/Gospel in the two kingdoms (like the first two problems) will always result.
What happens when authority is thought of not being ordained by God but being derived from the people? (United States “democracy” view; Declaration of Independence “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”; U.S. Constitution “We the People”). Please note the Declaration of Independence mentions the unalienable rights coming from the Creator. The Constitution is less clear. What happens when the statements about the people ASSUME a vast majority is Christian and understand the role of God vs. when a minority is Christian and forget the role of God (the rule of a godless majority).
What happens when authorities do not have the recognition of God being their master? This happened in history during Roman times and also really during the Pope’s rule in Europe. In fact, with the Pope, there was not only a lack of recognition but also a deification of the Pope himself (AntiChrist).
Scripture and the Two Kingdoms (by all means not exhaustive)
Matthew 22:16-21 (parallels in Mark 12 and Luke 20) And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
John 18:33-38 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.
Please note that Jesus submits to the earthly authorities, even to the point of enduring execution, a punishment which He Himself ordained in Genesis 9 in His words to Noah. In this way, every crucifixion account teaches the two kingdoms. Paul’s being subject to imprisonments also is an example of this.
In the Old Testament this division can be seen in the relationship between kings and prophets as the two are very distinct. For example in 2 Kings 5 Naaman comes to the King of Israel looking for cleansing from God (the King laments that he cannot do this and fears retribution) and ends up being healed by the prophet Elisha.
Are the Two Kingdoms distinctions the same as the Separation of Church and State?
The singlehandedly most-common mistake people make about Two Kingdoms theology is that it equates to the Separation of Church and State. This is a grave error which has led to many problems in the church and in the state. To drive a wedge of separation between these two is to in fact divide God where His rule need only be distinct rather than divided. Each work together and God is at work behind both.
This plays out in the individual Christian’s life by compartmentalizing the faith to a segment and other segments (like political views and such) can coexist alongside of the faith segment. This is sinful and wrong. If the Faith (that which is believed, the content and teachings of the Scriptures) can speak to a topic or even render judgment on it, then the Christian is bound (and joyously willing like a little child) to accept it. Inconsistencies (cognitive dissonance) brought on by compartmentalizing the Faith bring conflicts of conscience which unless dealt with in a “care of souls” manner will eat and devour a Christian and his faith.
Two Kingdoms theology is meant to work in and with a person in their vocations. These are the various callings that God has given you in your life. It includes your callings within a family/household, a church, a government, and even in employment (formerly of the household). You can have many vocations, and many of them relate to the Kingdom of the World in that they are stations for you to do works for the good of your neighbor. They are under the rule of God in that Kingdom through Laws (and all of the “nicer” terms for this like regulations, codes, etc.). Your status in the Kingdom of God is chiefly seen in your churchly vocations, but even there some Laws are made to keep good order in the Church (since it exists as the Church Militant in [not of] the world).
History and the Two Kingdoms, some samplings…
Paul’s Roman Citizenship is used to benefit the Church.
Note Nicene Creed (Council of Nicea was called by Roman Emperor)
At the outset, the Lutheran Reformation was dependant on the good will of rulers. Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast both were extremely important figures in protecting the young Lutheran church but also in promoting it across the many varied rulers in Germany. This is the true use of the Kingdom of the World in Luther’s eyes – maintaining order but also promoting the Kingdom of God. The signers of the Augsburg Confession were not pastors or theologians but Princes and Mayors; and the confession was made in front of the Emperor, not the Pope. This is why the Two Kingdoms is not exactly the Separation of Church and State because Lutherans would have no problem with Lutheran Princes promoting Lutheran teachings and confessing them in front of other rulers. Religious beliefs were not a private thing for the Lutheran rulers, but public and very much defining them and their lands.
Luther and the Lutherans would leave room for resistance to the ruler when the ruler went beyond his office and tried to rule over souls instead of just bodies and property. This would be the error of the pope who tried to force conversion using the secular sword (note Muslims today). This would also be why the LCMS fathers left Europe to avoid a ruler who was abusing his office and going way beyond his authority by requiring faithful Lutherans and erring Reformed to worship together and receive the Lord’s Supper together (note Closed Communion caused our church body to exist!).
This would become very tested in the years following Luther and the Emperor’s invasion of the German states. Especially noteworthy here is the resistance of the free city of Magdeburg. This city became known as the bastion of Lutheranism as armed soldiers and residents of the city defended its walls while singing Lutheran hymns against the onslaught of the Roman Catholic Emperor’s forces (and a few German traitors as well). Here is the idea of the Lesser Magistrate (or authority) having the right of resistance, a topic that is very interesting and worth looking into.
Lutheran history is ripe with examples of earthly authorities ruling for the sake of the Church and then mistakenly ruling over the church (note “For the sake of” vs. “over”). Even a Christian ruler wanting to rule for the sake of the Church may err if he himself has an erring view of the Church (or its teachings). This is one of the greatest problems we face in the view of Two Kingdoms and their distinction. The proper relationship and balance between the two kingdoms is a messy beast when trying to work with sinners. The simple solution is to plain divorce the two that they never meet again, but that is not how God has instituted them.
C.F.W. Walther believed that the religious freedom found in the United States was one of its greatest blessings. Here churches lived or died by the Gospel he thought (taxes were not collected here to pay for church matters, instead only free will offerings). This is understandable given the confusion of kingdoms going on in Europe during his time with rulers requiring errors to be held and taught in the church. The problem Walther soon found in America of course was that the government also didn’t stop the erring sects from doing their thing (example of Mega Churches today) and leading many astray. Luther would have thought it a duty of a faithful Christian prince to make sure that the Gospel is being preached purely. He didn’t advocate severe punishments on false teachings (like burning at the stake) but instead forbidding the teachings or even banishment as appropriate punishments.
This is why the Visitation performed right around the time of the Catechisms being produced is a good picture of how Luther thought the secular realm could support the spiritual one. The visitation articles not only looked out for the parish and preacher’s living conditions and provision, but also the preacher’s teachings. Some visitations became problematic as the number of “secular” officials (read: Lawyers) involved started to take over. All of this was conditioned upon the rulers being involved being “Christian”. If they were not Christian, they could not be expected to help.
A further note on this – Luther firmly believed that right-believing (orthodox) Lutheranism produced the best citizens and subjects and therefore the best society. He believed that false teachings not only destroyed the soul but eventually would destroy the society as well. We need only look to our own country today for confirmation of his beliefs. Examples during Luther’s time would be the efforts of the Anabaptists at Munster, the Peasants War, the excesses of the Papacy and even Calvin’s attempt at a theocracy.
In the United States the Separation of Church and State officially finds its legal standing in the First Amendment of the Constitution (that the State cannot declare an official Church or forbid someone from exercising his religion). The result was “freedom of religion”. Instead many today have taken it to mean “freedom from religion” which is in the end a denial of the fact that God even ordains and orders this earthly life (not just spiritual). Some of the current anti-religion things going on in our society today are fruits of religion overstepping its bounds as well (when the Kingdom of God tries to rule over the Kingdom of the world). Churches were heavily involved in the writing of the tax code and gladly submitted to it (example – Minister of Religion – Ordained vs. Minister of Religion – Commissioned; 501c3 status requires not endorsing political candidates). Initially preachers were exempted from Social Security but churches demanded that they be included. Much of this was the sinful handing over of responsibilities of the Church to the State (perceived by unbelievers as the push towards theocracy). Think also of the welfare state which has replaced the Church’s care of human beings. Now, the government has the right to change laws according to the ruler of the land (U.S. Constitution). This cannot be denied (either by citizens or elected officials whose oath of office is to the Constitution). Violations of this ought to be dealt with also as rebellion against the ruler of the land (again the U.S. Constitution).
Back to the point, the Two Kingdoms theology of Lutherans allows for interaction between Church and State. Because our country is officially and legally bound to not embrace a certain religion, we need not look to form a Lutheran United States, but instead view our task more locally, specifically in our own actions as citizens of this country.
We have the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution (our God-ordained ruler). This permits us to not only believe whatever we want but also to exercise our religion (let our beliefs affect our actions). This should not become compartmentalized. You are a Lutheran and that means something for every vocation God gives you, including the vocation of Citizen. Your votes, communications with elected/appointed officials, and exercising of your citizenship is never to be divorced from your beliefs as a Lutheran. Your citizenship should serve both the world and the Church. This means that Lutheran beliefs provide the proper view of mankind, of the rule of law, the care of the neighbor and so forth
Two Kingdoms theology also prevents us from erring in that we have to use “Christian” businesses and such. As a matter of the Kingdom of the World, what business I choose to use does not necessarily have to be Christian. There is some things to consider as even businesses get wrapped up in our country in the movements that definitely come from Christian teachings (ex. Chick-fil-A; Hobby Lobby). Using such business has an important “confessing” before the world aspect. As our country forgets the First Amendment and punishes business owners for the exercise of their religion within their own (owned) business, we may want to consider standing firm to support and defend not only our neighbor in those cases, but also the ruler (U.S. Constitution). But in matters where society has not pushed things to the need to confess, we are also free to consider businesses and services on the basis of the law of merit (Are they good at this).
What can Christians do?
Preachers – have duty and right to remind rulers of their duty and obligation to God. (On Secular Authority; Expositions of Ps 82 and 101). I know the old rule is that you don’t talk about religion and politics. God forbid a preacher (automatically dripping with “religion”) start talking politics. Two Kingdoms theology demands that preachers remind the servants of the Constitution of their solemn duty toward the Constitution but also where their authority ultimately comes from, God Himself. They are to be called to account for their votes, their works, their words to see if they fit in with what God has given them to do in their vocation. Preachers need to teach the issues and inform hearers of what the Scripture says concerning issues of our days (ex. Life, Marriage, even the rule of Law in our country). In a country where a good amount of authority is given to citizens, the preacher has the duty to remind them of their vocation as well.
Prayers- by far the most powerful tool we have is the power of prayer. For every letter/email you write to your elected officials you ought to be praying even more. God’s ear must echo our concerns for our nation and world. As the society falls, our voices must turn to the only One who can rescue and deliver us. We can pray for evil men to be restrained or converted. We can pray for elected officials to conduct themselves in a way that is God-pleasing. We can pray for those neighbors who are affected by the sins that occur in the two kingdoms, that good order would be maintained in the Kingdom of the World and that faith in Christ and the forgiveness of sins would rule in the Kingdom of God as we are a part of it here on earth.
Citizens – As a U.S. Citizen you have immense power. You can call/email/write your elected officials at all levels. You can vote for or against candidates. You can run for office. You will inevitably have to cast a vote for the lesser of two evils since in the Kingdom of the World it is a very likely occurrence. All of this however should be done with your theology front and center, that on many issues you are bound to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures and cannot change them. The Scriptures teach us what is best for our neighbor and our citizenship exists to serve our neighbor, so let the two work together. When the matter of Separation of Church and State comes up, it should be noted that a) the First Amendment establishes this and b) the way that phrase is used today is almost the opposite of how it was first used with Thomas Jefferson (note freedom of religion instead of freedom from religion).