These Are Not Exceptional Times For The Two Kingdoms

This is a guest article written by Rev. Scott Adle, associate pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Collinsville, IL.


Woman in uniform sea captain with rifle, isolated on white backgOver the last few decades (at least) Christians in America have lamented that the notion of a “separation of church and state,” based in Jefferson’s understanding of the 1st Amendment, has resulted in the marginalization of anything that smacks of Christianity appearing in the public sphere – prayers at graduations abolished, schools not allowing bible studies, the 10 Commandments being removed, etc.  Exactly what Jefferson meant has long been debated, but it was certainly not the case that he believed the church could or should not tell the state and politicians what to do.  (They may be ignored, but that’s another thing.)

And while we lament this marginalization, there may be ways that we have encouraged it.  We have arrived at a time in our history as a country and denomination where the mere talk of political things in church (beyond abortion) raises eyebrows, and gets feathers ruffled.  Somehow we in the church have internalized this wall of separation idea whereby we compartmentalize our lives as Christians and citizens, as if one should not inform the other.[1]

This is perfectly in line with the secular culture around us.  But it’s not what we find in Scripture.  It’s not what we find in Luther.  In various times and circumstances, both the prophets and Luther had plenty to tell to their king/prince/emperor.  (Many times they were ignored, but that’s another thing.)

Ask yourself a question: How would you react if your pastor made a “political” statement from the pulpit?  Would you automatically feel uneasy, whether or not you agreed with him (the abortion issue excepted)?  Why is that?  Now I know that we don’t want to mix opinions and the traditions of men with the commands of God, but are all political statements opinions?  No.

No, not all political statements are opinion, although I think we as modern Americans generally place them in that realm.  Taxes, welfare, military action, euthanasia law, marriage law – we have debates with family and neighbors about these all the time.  Everyone has an opinion.  But are these all simply matters of opinion, or could one course of action be wrong (and sinful), while the other be righteous?  And if so, should a pastor and church in some way address those topics?

I’m not saying that a pastor should just get up and say every thought he has that falls in the political spectrum.  But it is our responsibility as Christians to have our minds shaped by the Scriptures.  And that should definitely reflect in how we live our lives in every way – spiritual, familial, political, etc.

The Scriptures point out several times when the prophets addressed kings and rulers in regard to a number of political questions: military actions, religious tolerance, calls to repentance, taking a census, care of the poor, and many other things.  Luther also addressed his princes on a variety of matters not limited to personal spiritual care.

As always, the criteria should be: Do we have a word from the Lord on this?  And if we do, woe to us if we hold back.  The Lutheran idea of the two kingdoms recognizes that both God’s left and right hands are His right and left hands, and that therefore both should listen to Him and do what He wills.

So, do the Scriptures say anything in regard to the role of women and men in regard to warfare?  Well, if you are looking for something as specific as, “In the 21st century, women should not be drafted into the United States military for combat duty.” – it is true that you won’t find that verse in either the Old or New Testaments.  But that is an absurd standard.  Many of our applications of Scripture fall by that standard.  Do the Scriptures have broad outlines as to the roles of men and women?  Yes.  Among the pertinent ones are Deut 22:5, the fact that men (not women) are counted as warriors for battle in ancient Israel, the image of “fighting like women” as a sneer (Jer 50:37, 51:30), and especially Ephesians 5:22ff, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . .”

“But, but, but!!!” I hear you panting, “What about Deborah?!”  Well, exceptions to the rule are exactly that – exceptions.  Even Deborah noted to Barack that he would not gain honor for forcing a woman into a man’s position.[2]  Did she do the job?  Yes.  And in bad circumstances women are forced at times to perform the duties of men.  There are times when a mother may have to use violence to protect her family.  But everyone would rightly consider the man a coward who stood by not helping his wife fend off the intruder.

Drafting women alongside men into combat positions is not an exception, it’s an attempt at making the unnatural to be the rule.  Even in Deborah’s time, they did not draft women to fight alongside the men of the army.  Should we speak out?  Yes.  Whether our leaders listen is another matter.

Rev Scott Adle is an associate pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Collinsville, IL.

[1] How we got here is another discussion, but it shouldn’t surprise us that the more we let the state educate us, the more we think like the current state.  One of the reasons Lutheran schools exist is because our forefathers wanted to create a certain culture – that we were in the world, but not of it.  That our children poll like the general population in a number of ways may be because they are constantly surrounded and inculcated by that general population.  (No, I’m not advocating becoming like the Amish.)

[2] Besides Deborah’s own objection, we see that the very method Jael used to defeat the enemy was to act like a loving and caring mother to trick Sisera into napping.  Anyone who reads this story should be ill at ease about the whole thing.  Roles are bent in creepy ways.


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These Are Not Exceptional Times For The Two Kingdoms — 10 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. Well said! I only have one point to make. Deborah ended up not going into battle. She, as a helper, helped Barak be a man, and in the end he went into battle without her. And as you alluded to this, Jael was protecting her tent just like any woman should do when necessity trumps the rule.

    Thank you for speaking on this. We need more of these!

  2. “The Lutheran idea of the two kingdoms recognizes that both God’s left and right hands are His right and left hands, and that therefore both should listen to Him and do what He wills.”

    Perhaps the pastors of the Lutheran Church-Canada (a partner church of the LCMS) will use their pulpits to get both kingdoms to listen. The regime of Alberta, Canada, has issued Guidelines for Best Practices, which mandate LGBTQ policies for all Alberta schools, public, private, and parochial.

    These Guidelines include policies that allow staff and/or students:

    – to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression;
    – to use washroom (restrooms) and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity or gender expression;
    – if sports teams are divided by gender, to have the opportunity to participate on the team that reflects their gender identity and expression;
    – to express an interest in and support the establishment and naming of Gay-Straight Alliances or Queer-Straight Alliances, or similar student leadership and support groups;
    – to be addressed by their chosen name and to choose pronouns that align with their gender identity and/or gender expression. This includes the alternate pronouns, such as “ze,” “zir,” “hir,” “they” or “them,” or self-identification in other ways (e.g., Mx. instead or Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss, or no prefix at all);
    – to reduce or eliminate segregating students by gender in courses or activities based on gender-specific roles such as “boys” versus “girls” in academic, athletic or talent competitions;
    – if a human sexuality class is organized by gender, to choose which class they participate in;
    – to identify and use learning resources and instructional approaches that are inclusive and respectful of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

    The Rev. Dr. Glenn E. Schaeffer, President of the Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Church–Canada, has issued a February 3, 2016, letter, “Response to Alberta Government’s Proposed Gender Guidelines,” which encourages LC-C members to read the Guidelines, pray, “voice your opinion,” and

    If you are inclined, please take a moment to sign a [Roman Catholic Church] petition at Life Petitions that expresses your concern over the implementation of the proposed guidelines.

    BTW, the Edmonton Alberta RCC Archbishop Richard Smith has publicly stated:

    “The principles underlying and informing the guidelines offered by the Government are not congruent with fundamental Catholic doctrine pertaining to the meaning of the human person as created by God.

    “Therefore, we cannot adopt them as guidelines for the formulation of policy; to do so would be inconsistent with our very Catholic identity, which permeates all aspects of the life of a Catholic school.”

    So far no comments have been seen from the Purple Palace, which in the past has openly commented on tribulations facing other partner (or other Christian) churches in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere.

  3. @Carl Vehse #3

    I hope our Christian friends up north are successful in getting that rolled back. South of the 49th parallel, I hope that the lobby shop we recently set up in DC will pursue topics in addition to the usual abortion/euthanasia ones. Don’t get me wrong, those are extremely important. However, they are relatively safe things for us to be saying. Pushing back on other issues should be able to fit into our schedule too.

  4. “Now I know that we don’t want to mix opinions and the traditions of men with the commands of God”

    This is what has been done.

    I would suggest that the problem isn’t a failure to discuss politics in the church enough. Rather the issue is a failure to actually be grounded and united in the underlying beliefs. I have, like a broken record, commented here and elsewhere that the basis for unity in most of the church (including most of the allegedly Confessional Lutheran church) is not really the things we’re told. I believe the last year has made that clear to anyone with eyes to see.

    Supposedly conservative churches, the Republican Party, and all sorts of other organizations, groups, and populations that identify as “traditional” or “conservative” or “libertarian” have been clearly exposed as being defined by identity politics, ethnicity, personal relationships, emotions, tribalism, and barely submerged ideologies that are not even close to their alleged beliefs. Worth thinking about during this season of Lent and elections.

  5. Rev. Adle: “Drafting women alongside men into combat positions is not an exception, it’s an attempt at making the unnatural to be the rule. Even in Deborah’s time, they did not draft women to fight alongside the men of the army. Should we speak out? Yes. Whether our leaders listen is another matter.”

    First, we don’t have a military draft anymore, even though there is still selective service registration for men.

    Second, as noted here and here, the synodical convention tried to speak out three times (2007, 2010, and 2013) in overtures and resolution mandates, and the CTCR has repeatedly not established a LCMS position opposing the military’s use of women in combat roles.

    The only thing the CTCR has done on this issue was a point/counterpoint (i.e., yes-if-not-no) article, “Women in Combat: Two Views,” in the May 2003 issue of the Lutheran Witness.”

    If that is what the LCMS officially is saying, then our political leaders have little need to listen.

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