Vol. 1, Issue 3
Luther’s Two Kingdoms
The Journal of St. Paul Lutheran Seminary
Volume 1, Issue 3, Spring 2022 Luther’s Two Kingdoms EDITOR
Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Di Mauro firstname.lastname@example.org ADMINSTRATOR Rev. Jon Jensen email@example.com
SIMUL is the journal of St. Paul Lutheran Seminary. Cover Photo
This issue’s cover photo is Doug Frye’s “Church and State” (2015) Disclaimer The views expressed in the articles reflect the author(s) opinions and are not necessarily the views of the publisher and editor. SIMUL cannot guarantee and accepts no liability for any loss or damage of any kind caused by the errors and for the accuracy of claims made by the authors. All rights reserved and nothing can be partially or in whole be reprinted or reproduced without written consent from the editor.
Administrative Address: St. Paul Lutheran Seminary P.O. Box 251 Midland, GA 31820 ACADEMIC DEAN Rev. Julie Smith firstname.lastname@example.org Academics/Student Affairs Address: St. Paul Lutheran Seminary P.O. Box 112 Springfield, MN 56087 BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chair: Rev. Dr. Erwin Spruth Rev. Greg Brandvold Rev. Jon Jensen Rev. Dr. Mark Menacher Steve Paula Rev. Julie Smith Charles Hunsaker Rev. Dr. James Cavanah Rev. Jeff Teeples TEACHING FACULTY Dr. James A. Nestingen Rev. Dr. Marney Fritts Rev. Dr. Dennis DiMauro Rev. Julie Smith Rev. Virgil Thompson Rev. Dr. Keith Less Rev. Brad Hales Rev. Dr. Erwin Spruth Rev. Steven King Rev. Dr. Orrey McFarland Rev. Horacio Castillo (Intl) Rev. Amanda Olson de Castillo (Intl)
SIMUL | Page 2
Contents Editor’s Note
Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Di Mauro
The Paradoxical Vision: A Lutheran Nudge for Public Theology
Dr. Robert Benne
The Eschatological Relationship of the Two Kingdoms
Rev. Dr. Marney Fritts
Toward a Conservative Lutheran Social Ethic
Rev. Dr. John King
Evangelische Politics: Tweaking
the Two Kingdoms Theology for Apostolic Ops after Christendom 56 Rev. Dr. Phil Anderas
Editor’s Note Welcome to our third issue of SIMUL, the journal of St. Paul Lutheran Seminary. This edition will discuss Luther’s two kingdoms theology, the distinction between the realms of law and gospel. In this issue, Robert Benne offers a “Paradoxical Vision” which provides a “Lutheran nudge” for correctly This edition understanding law and gospel as a framework for will discuss public theology. Marney Fritts explores the Luther’s Two eschatological relationship of the two kingdoms, Kingdoms, the plumbing Luther’s theology from his Lectures on distinction Galatians (1535) and The Bondage of the Will between Law (1525). John King proposes a multiperspectival and Gospel. approach for Christian morals using a metaethical model developed by John M. Frame. And Phil Anderas completes the discussion, tweaking the two kingdoms approach for the sake of evangelism in the twentyfirst century. Our Theological Conference This past April, we had an amazing conference in Jekyll Island, GA. For those who have never been there, Jekyll Island was a hunting and beach club for the rich and famous in the
Jekyll Island Club
late 19th and early 20th centuries, and its membership included members of the Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Pulitzer and Goodyear families. Today, the club is a beautifully renovated beach resort. This year’s conference featured Dr. Marney Fritts, who spoke on Luther’s two kingdoms theology, and Rev. Julie Smith, who explained how to read the Bible by properly distinguishing law and gospel. Mark Ryman introduced his new visual catechism, and Steve King gave a presentation on a new update of the old Crossways material. The updated Crossways resources are available from Sola Publishing, and you can contact Mark Ryman about the visual catechism at email@example.com I also provided a hands-on demonstration on how to access and read SIMUL online. So please mark your calendar for next year’s conference, also at the Jekyll Island Club, April 11-12, 2023. What’s New? SIMUL can now be downloaded to your computer. Just hit the download button at the bottom of the ISSUU page for each issue. This will allow you to obtain a full copy of the issue in pdf for free. After you are done reading it, send it to a friend! What’s Ahead? Upcoming Issues - We are so excited about this coming year. Summer 2022’s topic will be the “Uses of the Law - 2 or 3?” (we will attempt to remain civil and avoid any further schisms). Our Fall 2022 issue will cover the sacraments, a topic which has come under much discussion during the COVID-19 5
shutdowns. Our Winter 2023 issue will be on renewal in the local church, responding to Bradley Hales very successful class of the same title which had over one hundred students representing twenty-two different churches. Luther’s theology of vocation will be the subject of our Spring 2023 issue. Classes for the Laity - This fall we will be offering a class on the book of Genesis led by Dr. Henry Corcoran - stay tuned for more updates! India Classes – St. Paul Lutheran Seminary has partnered with the Lutheran School of Theology in India to provide education for the pastoral candidates – they had eleven students in their first graduating class! Unfortunately, we have no funding for our American professors, and they have been If you would providing their services pro bono. While their like to generosity has kept the classes going for the time support our being, this situation is sadly unsustainable. If you commitment would like to support our commitment to educating to educating Indian pastors for ministry, please consider making a Indian generous contribution at pastors for https://semlc.org/support-st-paul-lutheran-seminary/ I hope you enjoy this issue of SIMUL! If you have any questions about the journal or about St. Paul Lutheran Seminary, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
ministry, please consider making a generous contribution.
Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Warrenton, VA. He teaches at St. Paul Lutheran Seminary and is the editor of SIMUL. 6
THE PARADOXICAL VISION: A LUTHERAN NUDGE FOR PUBLIC THEOLOGY Dr. Robert D. Benne Introduction
Some years ago, the well-known evangelical historian, Mark Noll, noted that the reigning vision of mainline Protestantism’s public theology has been shaped by the Reformed tradition. Drawing on H. Richard Niebuhr’s famous typology, he noted that the Reformed tradition aims at transformation — "Christ transforming society.” It seeks the Kingdom of God in America. It operates with a strong notion of personal sanctification, which it then applies to society. It tends toward Christian utopianism (When this vision is secularized, it still aims dangerously at a utopian goal). Noll complained that this dominant public theology is too utopian politically and tends to distort the mission of the church, making it an instrument of social transformation. He
knew enough Lutheran theology to know that Lutherans had a different “take” on public theology, and called upon Lutheran theologians to articulate a Lutheran public theology.1 I took up his challenge and wrote The Paradoxical Vision: A Lutheran Theology for the Twenty-first Century.2 I believe that this vision is even more important today, as society has pretty much squelched transformative Christianity. It is time for a more realistic view of Christianity’s role in the public world. In order to do that, I submit the following framework. By the way, I think the most influential practitioner of the Lutheran vision was not Mark Noll himself a Lutheran, but rather the great Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard’s brother. I suspect he would agree with the following tenets. The Paradoxical Vision as a Framework for Public Theology
It is important to remember that the paradoxical vision provides a framework for public theology rather than a particular political ideology. It elaborates a set of theological assumptions that stipulate how organized religion and politics ought to be related, not so much for the sake of politics and society but primarily for the sake of the church. What is permitted ― the direct and aggressive intervention of the church in political affairs ― may well not be good for the church and its mission. Undue entanglement in politics can be the ruination of the church.
Further, the paradoxical vision sets a general direction for public policy rather than a specific set of policy injunctions. It tends toward what has been called "Christian realism," though that general tendency can be refracted into a number of different policy directions as is demonstrated by the politics of the three thinkers I have mentioned. Four main themes constitute the paradoxical vision as it applies to public life. They are: a sharp distinction between salvation offered by God in Christ and all human efforts; a focused and austere doctrine of the church that follows from the first theme; the two-fold rule of God through Law and Gospel; and a paradoxical view of human nature and history. Salvation Versus Human Effort Humans, particularly in the political sphere, are prone to claim salvatory significance for their efforts in social and\or political transformation. The twentieth century has been crammed with those blood-stained attempts. When the Godman Jesus Christ fails to save, the man-god in many different guises steps in. The good news of the Gospel is that God saves us through his gift of grace in Christ. He has chosen to reconcile us to him by sending his son, by breaking through to us from his side, as it were, and not insisting that we climb some ladder of achievement through our own efforts. We allow God to save us in Christ; we do not earn our salvation nor add something to what he has offered. It is sheer gift. We need do nothing but accept the gift with a repentant heart.
This insistence on a radical doctrine of grace puts all human efforts in proper perspective. They deal with penultimate improvements in the human condition, with relative goods and bads, not with salvation. This means that politics is desacralized and relativized. Salvation is through Christ, not through human political schemes, nor through psychological or religious efforts, for that matter. Following from this, we might appropriately speak of liberation ethics, but never of liberation theology, if that is taken to mean that revolutionary praxis is the same thing as salvation. Such a judgment provides a critical shield against the constant attempts in American Christianity to give redemptive significance to ecological, psychological, spiritualist (New Age), feminist and now multi-cultural movements. The Purpose of the Church The essential and unique mission of the church from the point of view of the paradoxical vision is its calling by God to proclaim the Gospel in word and sacrament. The Gospel of Christ is its treasure and it is the earthen vessel whose sacred obligation is to take that Gospel to every nook and cranny of the world. In response to that Gospel, the church through the Spirit forms a people into the Christian vision. No other institution has that calling; no other institution will promote the Gospel if the church fails in its task. So churches must take with utmost seriousness the terrible simplicity of their task. Of
The essential and unique mission of the church from the point of view of the paradoxical vision is its calling by God to proclaim the Gospel in word and sacrament.
course, they must be engaged in deeds of charity, and they must be concerned with justice. And naturally they must involve themselves in many other activities―liturgical, administrative, educational and organizational. But the church is not primarily a political actor, a social transformer or an enhancer of self-esteem. If it acts primarily as one of these, it will be identified and treated as one more contentious worldly group. What's more, it loses its own integrity, its own reason for being. Presently we are witnessing the sorry sight of many churches losing confidence and zeal for their essential and unique calling. They no longer believe their Gospel message is of utmost importance. They marginalize it in their own activities and institutions. How else can one account for the lack of any real margin of difference between church and secular schools, colleges, hospitals and homes for the elderly? How else can one account for the disastrous drop in home and foreign missionary activity on the part of so many languishing church bodies? The Two-fold Rule of God The paradoxical vision holds that God rules the world in two distinct ways--through the Law and the Gospel. The Law is the instrument of God to sustain and order the world. After the Fall, God did not abandon the world. He continues to sustain it through the Law, which refers to all the energies and actions of God that restrain, guide and shape the world. Since the Law must deal with human sin it must have a hard edge to it.
Indeed, God often wields the Law of judgment against nations and empires, bringing them to naught. But the Law also builds up human life, working through many agencies to create a more humane and just world.
The Law is summarized in the Ten Commandments and carried by the moral teachings of the church, but it is also discerned by human reason and experience amidst the dynamics of life.
The Law is summarized in the Ten Commandments and carried by the moral teachings of the church, but it is also discerned by human reason and experience amidst the dynamics of life. The Bible contains many signposts for recognizing the operation of God’s Law in the world, but it has no blueprint for the complexities of modern economic, political or social life. Humans have to work out what God demands anew in every generation. Secular people, since they also have the gift of reason and the benefit of experience, can contribute to this ongoing discernment of the Law, though they may not call it God's Law. Christians are obligated, not only to cooperate with secular people in discerning and doing good works of the Law, but also to imagine and initiate programs that extend human justice. They are also obligated to resist the state or society when its practices are clearly contrary to God's will. The Law of God is not salvific. All the efforts that God and humans make in the horizontal realm of the Law may lead to human betterment, but they do not save. Rather, God has chosen a particular route to reconcile humans to himself.
That route is Christ. God has reached out to call a disobedient and lost humanity to himself through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is pure gift; in the realm of salvation humans are completely receptive. Their faith in the saving act of Christ will be acted out in deeds of love, but those deeds of love are the result of faith in God's work in Christ, not a substitute for it. Christians exist at the juncture of the two ways that God reigns and must be careful not to confuse the two, i.e., to act according to Law when they are in the realm of the Gospel or to act according to Gospel when they are in the realm of the Law. They are to observe a tentative, though not a final, dualism. Making the Law into the Gospel This confusion is a favorite for those who are tempted to claim salvific effect for human effort. They mistake some ameliorative, but always ambiguous, project for the Gospel itself. There are many negative effects of this mistake, the first being a dishonoring of God's will to save through his son, the Christ. But others follow. Human efforts that are invested with salvific import are often dangerous. Niebuhr pointed out the perils of both hard and soft Utopianism. In the "hard" category, the awful legacies of Nazi and Marxist revolutions are a case in point. When humans claim to bring heaven to earth by force, they bring hell instead. Softer varieties of utopianism abound. The secular world is prone to view an
expansion of scientific knowledge as salvific. Education will save us. Or health and well-being will, or schemes of selfesteem, or new spiritual techniques. But all these things, since they are infected with human self-interest, are ambiguous at best. They are not able to reconcile us to God. Yet, depleted religious traditions often grasp at this soft utopianism, and sometimes even at the harder variety, when they lose their confidence in the Gospel. Not only the Mistaking the Law for the world mistakes the Law for the Gospel; churches Gospel also themselves do too. compromises Mistaking the Law for the Gospel also the radicality compromises the radicality and universality of and universality the Gospel. To claim salvific status for human efforts does not honor the radical decision of God of the Gospel. to give us salvation through Christ rather than to demand that we earn it through our own efforts. This mistake also destroys the universality of the Gospel. When salvation is identified with some group or movement, there is always an in-group and an-out group. You are either on the progressive side of history or you are a reactionary. Either you are enlightened, or you are not. Either you have the right ethnic or gender identification or you do not. Someone is always on the wrong side. However, in the realm of the Gospel all are on the wrong side and all are on the right side. All are equally far from God's grace, and all are equally near. The Gospel is offered to all repentant sinners, no matter what side of the earth's fault lines they inhabit. The doctrine of the two-fold rule of God helps the church maintain the radicality and
universality of the Gospel. It also enables the church to help the world caste a skeptical eye on the enthusiasms that emerge when it seeks a man-god in our image as a bogus replacement for the God-man, Christ, it has ignored. Making the Gospel into the Law Reinhold Niebuhr, though he did not put the issue in the language I am using, was a formidable opponent of this confusion. He believed that liberal Christianity had taken the radical love of the Gospel and turned that "impossible possible" into an ethical norm that could then become a "simple possibility in history." Indeed, his whole career as a public theologian could be understood as a protest against the sentimentality inherent in the liberal tendency to make the Gospel into the Law. From the early Moral Man and Immoral Society3 to the late Structure of Nations and Empires,4 Niebuhr demonstrated the folly of applying the ethic of agape love directly to the struggles for power in the world. Doing so, he Reinhold Niebuhr argued, led to political irresponsibility. In international affairs it led to pacifist tendencies and in domestic affairs it led to blindness toward the necessity of countervailing power. Niebuhr's warnings have gone unheeded in much of American Christianity. The mainline churches rushed
headlong toward sentimentalism in foreign policy debates. They demanded "nuclear freezes" even in the midst of Soviet arms build-ups. They believed that forgiving love and "turning the other cheek" were Christian responses to power politics. In domestic affairs, they commended compassion without accountability. All this is not to say that Christian love has no relevance to public life. Rather, it operates as both motivation and ideal in the Christian life, which creatively integrates the two-fold reign of God. But expressing agape love is no simple matter; it is indirectly related to the norms that govern political and economic life. As Niebuhr has it, agape love judges all lesser efforts, serves as a goad to higher achievement, helps discriminate among options and is a source for repentance and humility. Further, such love can never be triumphant in history, nor can it be totally defeated. It is instructive to remember that the one person who did live fully out of agape love ended up on a cross, crucified by the best and brightest of the time. The Paradox of Human Nature and History "All are sacred but none are good; when this paradox breaks down one gets cynicism or idealism" (Glenn Tinder). "Man stands at the juncture of nature and history." "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary" (Reinhold
Niebuhr). These insights flow from contemporary practitioners of the paradoxical vision, which has always emphasized the contradictory characteristics of human beings. "Whatever your heart fastens to, that is your god," said Luther. From the paradoxical vision's perspective, humans are irretrievably committed to finding something other than God with which to fasten their hearts. This analysis of inescapable sin, however, is not so simple. We "Whatever do not fasten to the unalluring and worthless your heart things of the world. On the contrary, we fasten fastens to, that to the things that really tempt. Highest among is your god," our temptations is devotion to ourselves. We are said Luther. obsessed with ourselves and make ourselves the center of the universe. Our attention to ourselves crowds out everything else except those things we want in order to feed the image of ourselves we have concocted. This obsession may be one of willful assertion or self-pitying negation, but in either case it makes a mockery of the divine command "to love the Lord your God with all you heart, mind and soul" (Matthew 22:37). We love ourselves, or those things that can lend ourselves some semblance of importance and immortality. Thus, none are good. All human actions are tainted with the effect of our sin, even those performed by Christians. We can never be completely free of the Old Adam in this life. This Augustinian view of human nature extends to human action in society. Human sin is particularly magnified and unrestrained in the life and action of groups. It is especially
expressed in collective situations. Niebuhr and Tinder both insist on the continuing relevance of the Christian insight into corporate sin. And yet, humans are not dirt. Even in their fallen state they possess qualities of their creation in the image of God. There is an essential self that longs for wholeness and completion, though it cannot heal or complete itself. This essential self has capacities for moral reason, what Luther called "civil righteousness." Humans have capacities for justice. Moreover, humans never lose their dignity in God's eyes. They are beloved for what God has made them to be, not what they have made of themselves. They are "exalted individuals," in Tinder's phrase, because they have been given a destiny in their creation and have been redeemed by the work of Christ. They can refuse that destiny and that redemption, but they can never lose the "alien dignity" that their creation and redemption bestows upon them. Humans find themselves in a paradoxical predicament. Created and redeemed by God, they are exalted individuals. They have a capacity for freedom, love and justice. Yet they use their freedom to fasten to lesser things, creating a hell for themselves, their fellow human beings and the world around them. They are a paradox of good and evil, manufacturing idols of the good things they are given. And they cannot solve this predicament on their own. Thus, the paradox of human nature creates the paradox of human history. "History does not solve the problems of
human nature; it cumulates them," wrote Niebuhr. The fulfillment and perfection of history are not ours to grasp; we cannot be gods in history. Indeed, as we have mentioned, great evil is done by those who try to complete history by their own powers. Rather, it is up to God to bring history to an end (its finis) and to fulfill its purpose (its telos). God has given us an anticipation of the kingdom in Christ and will bring it to fullness in his own time and by his will. We are in an interim time of struggle between Christ's first coming and the second. Given that scenario, we are freed from trying to manage history according to great schemes. Rather, we must strive for relative gains and wait on God. We must work for reform without cynicism's paralysis or idealism's false hope. Thus, the paradoxical vision leads to a non-utopian view of history that nevertheless is not cynical. It expects neither too much of history nor too little. The "Lutheran attitude" reflected in these four main themes provides a wholesome nudge to an American Christianity that is all-too prone to identify promising human achievements as the salvation of God, to make the church into anything but the proclaimer of the Gospel, to apply directly the "Gospel ethic" to the power struggles of the world, and to hope for the intractabilities of individual and corporate human sin to be overcome by some sanctified human effort. That human effort today is almost always generated in secular form, with increasing hostility to the role of orthodox religion in public life. The Lutheran vision is more likely to come to
terms with that hostility than the “transformative” type. Robert Benne is Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion Emeritus and Research Associate at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. End Notes 1Mark
Noll, “The Lutheran Difference,” First Things No. 20 (Feb. 1992), https://www.firstthings.com/article/1992/02/the-lutheran-difference 2Robert Benne, The Paradoxical Vision: A Lutheran Theology for the Twenty-first Century (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress, 1995). 3Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932). 4Reinhold Niebuhr, The Structure of Nations and Empires; a Study of the Recurring Patterns and Problems of the Political Order in Relation to the Unique Problems of the Nuclear Age (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959).
THE ESCHATOLOGICAL RELATIONSHIP OF THE TWO KINGDOMS Rev. Dr. Marney A. Fritts Introduction In this paper I will, first, describe three types of false eschatology and their presupposition of primacy of the law alone, rather than a law and gospel distinction, which ultimately results in a one-kingdom theology. Next, I will describe Luther’s present and relational eschatology, drawing attention to his teaching on relatio. Then, I will examine some of the rich fodder of Luther’s teaching on what he calls the two kingdoms distinction, as we find, for example, in his greater Lectures on Galatians (1535) and The Bondage of the Will (1525). Finally, I want to draw upon Luther’s eschatology of the two kingdoms distinction for what it means for our preaching today. My reason for setting the discussion on the two kingdoms distinction as the “eschatological relationship” between them comes from a close analysis of what Luther is doing in these writings to reform what the chief task of the church is: preaching Word and Sacrament. Initially, I want to briefly describe what we don’t mean by
the two kingdoms distinction: “The relation of the church and the world is not ontological; it is not as if the church were located in a higher sphere called ‘spirit’ and the state were located in a lower realm called ‘flesh,’ or world.”1 This is the sort of two kingdoms one might make of Plato’s allegory of the cave. Nor is the relationship between the two kingdoms a political struggle to conserve the paternal law of unchanging origin (Kant), or to move progressively in the law that adjusts to new purposes throughout history (Hegel). Nor is it the struggle of the proletariat over the bourgeoise. It is not the Old Testament God verses God in the New Testament. It is not the distinction between vices and virtues. All Plato such distinctions are based in one fashion or another on a description of kingdom of the Left Hand of God, or the old kingdom which is a shuffling around under the law, constitutions, and institutions. The two kingdoms are related, eschatologically, as this old world under the law and the new kingdom to come under the gospel without the law. Identifying Errant Eschatology Eschatology, broadly defined, is the arrival of the future, final matters (the end, death; telos) and the beginning of the new (new birth, resurrection). There are three general types of errant eschatology. The first kind is an over-realized eschatology wherein Christians in the old world believe they are no longer under the law in their flesh (antinomian) and live in this life as though they are fully in the resurrection. This first example of this in the Christian church is documented in 22
the Corinthian churches. The gospel was taken not as the end of the law for faith (Romans 10:4), but as the end the law for the flesh. The result was, for example, a variety of sexual licentiousness that Paul says would have shamed even the Pagans (2 Corinthians 5:1). In the sixteenth century, late in his life, Luther is forced to address the problem of antinomianism preached by Johann Agricola who believed that the law should not be preached to Christians, that it belongs not in the church house but in the Rathaus. All too briefly, the Antinomians argued that since Christ is the end the law, it should not be spoken anymore to Christians. Luther argued the opposite, that since the law always accuses, you must take it in your mouth and declare it’s end in Christ. The opposite of antinomianism can also result from this sort of over-realized eschatology, where the rigor of nomism in the “moral organization of humanity through loveprompted action,”2 is understood to be the manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth. This eschatology was brought to the fore by one of the chief German Lutherans of 19th century liberal theology, Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889). In Ritschl’s magnum opus, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation, justification is described as the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation is the resultant harmonious action of the individual aligning with the moral law of Albrecht Ritschl God. Put simply, the bifurcation of justification and reconciliation as two separate foci of an ellipse, advances the positivistic theological anthropology of liberal theology in which Christ issues the forgiveness of sins,
but the atonement is fulfilled through the moral influence he has on the community through his example.3 Ritschl makes extensive use of Kant’s perception of the “supreme importance for ethics of the ‘Kingdom of God’ as an association of men bound together by laws of virtue.”4 Ritschl’s understanding of the kingdom of God on earth is dripping with the ice-cold language of morality, virtue, and the law. This kingdom is not a new kingdom of the gospel, but a reorganization and rehabilitation under a higher law called love. In Ritschl’s system, Christ fulfills his vocation of sacrificial love which morally influences the community to fulfill its vocation of love. Consequently, preaching Christ is reduced to imitating Christ through the moral organization of the community towards love in order that the kingdom of God be made manifest in the activity of humans on earth. By comparison, the second kind of errant eschatology, called proleptic eschatology, was systematized by the late German Lutheran theologian, Wolfhart Pannenberg (19282014). He described his eschatology as prolepsis when the final matters of heaven and eternal life—including the unity of God himself! —are in the process of unfolding, to be revealed sometime in the future, in the “consummation.”5 The death and resurrection of Christ serves as a proleptic revelation of the unfolding of salvation history towards the future consummation of all things. Pannenberg has made use of Hegel’s dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. In the tension of events in history, the dialectic of thesis and antithesis is the process through which God’s pure thought is manifested (synthesized) in the unfolding of world events
through the world spirit (Weltgeist). Preaching of the cross is to project the gaze of faith, not in Christ who has fulfilled the law in his crucifixion, but in one whose future consummation of the kingdom is dependent upon the resolution of the dialectic of history, still unfolding. Faith is sent adrift in the suspicion that the wrath of God continues until the “consummation,” and my future is, therefore, uncertain. The eschatology seen in Corinth, in Agricola’s antinomianism, in Ritschl, and in Pannenberg face similar problems in that they are all based on a theology of the law, be it license, moral organization, or the unfolding of history, and therefore, they result in a one kingdom theology. In this theology, it is not only that the form of eschatology is the law which continues eternally (lex aeterna), for even the antinomians become a law unto themselves, but it means that the only way that God deals with the world and sinners is through the law alone. Then, Jesus Christ and his cross are the fulfillment of the law, not to cancel, remove or silence the law (lex vacua), but the law Wolfhart Pannenburg remains as an eternal guide for Christians to imitate. The broader society and activity of the community of Christ are necessary for the unfolding of the mind of God, the world spirit, which is the law alone. The key difficulty when the lawgospel distinction is confused or mixed into an eschatology of the law is that the law brings wrath (Romans 4:15) because it terrorizes by magnifying sin, which results in a kingdom of
death (Romans 5:20-21). There is a third errant eschatology that can be categorized as “two kingdoms,” or “two worlds,” which results not from scripture’s own law-gospel distinction, but is the result of the Hellenization of Christianity, in particular Plato’s division and separation of matter and spirit in the Plato’s theory of the forms.6 The infiltration of this notion into Christian thought has led to a theology of heaven that is “somewhere, up there,” a distant, spirit world, where we look to ascend by progressing up a spiritual ladder of virtue and morality so that we may finally leave this body and the created world and all the trouble with which they have saddled our souls. Preaching out of this philosophical presupposition is to encourage the contemplation of the law of God as the true will of God and in so doing, transcend the desires of the flesh and the world to ascend spirituality and grow in godliness. Luther’s Eschatology
While Luther did refer to heaven “above” on occasion, he more often preferred the “more biblical idea of the world to come, the future world. He rejected the idea of the heaven “above,” in the sense that it is supposed to be a “reward” at the top of the ladder, the prize one gets for denying this world and its pleasures. The other world in which he placed his hope was the world to come, the new heaven and earth (not heaven without earth), the new age, God’s new creation.”7 Luther’s particular understanding of eschatology comes
from what scripture says regarding the arrival of the new kingdom through the advent of Christ into this old world, “The time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14). And yet, for the time being, there is not a replacement of the old world with the new, And yet, for the but a simultaneity, an overlap8 of the two time being, kingdoms which God will eventually separate, “We there is not a know that we are from God, and the whole world replacement of lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). the old world Jesus himself prayed to his Father, “I do not ask with the new, that you take them out of this world, but that you but a keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). simultaneity, Furthermore, Luther’s understanding of an overlap8 of eschatology can be described as present and the two relational. It is a present eschatology for when kingdoms Christ arrives in the present with his which God will announcement, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” eventually it is the invasion of the new kingdom of gospel and separate. the interruption of the old world’s way of business as usual according to the law alone. That is to say, the end (goal/telos) of the old kingdom comes not in the moral organization of human communities or the unfolding of political, social, or economic realities, but when Christ arrives with his whole kingdom of heaven in tow in the present. It is relational in that Christ speaks a word of promise into the ears of those whom he comes near, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5) and “‘Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are
forgiven’’’ (Luke 7:47-48). When Christ comes near and directly addresses me with the absolution, giving me his very self, I am being made new and holy, freed from the law, sin, and death. Luther begins to establish the category of relatio in his lecture on Psalm 51:2, “the Christian is not formally righteous, he is not righteous according to substance or quality. . . He is righteous according to his relation to something: namely, only in respect to divine grace and the free forgiveness of sins, which comes to those who acknowledge their sin and believe that God is gracious and forgiving for Christ’s sake, who was delivered for our sins (Romans 4:25).”9 We can see this teaching on relatio again late in his career, “According to the category of relationship, sin is gone, and [this] through the forgiveness of sins. But not according to the category of quality. There it sticks to your flesh, and you feel a propensity to all sins.”10 One of the most insightful takeaways from Luther’s eschatology is that “the two kingdoms are not two institutions or organizations but two different relations, correlated with law and gospel.”11 Luther understood that the law-gospel distinction are the two preaching offices of God (2 Corinthians 3:6): the preaching of the law kills the old Adam and the preaching of the gospel raises up a new creature of faith with the law put behind him, in his old life under the law in the old, left-hand kingdom. Luther’s Teaching on the Two Kingdoms The seminal work on Luther’s two kingdoms distinction
comes from Gerhard Ebeling’s article, “The Necessity of the Two Kingdoms Doctrine,” in his collection of essays, Word and Faith.12 From the beginning of this writing, Ebeling insists upon showing us the relationship between the two kingdoms is not a political distinction; it is not the distinction between the church and the state. Nor is it the metaphysical ontological distinction between the spirit and the material, or even legal and moral distinction between vice and virtue. Rather the relationship between the two kingdoms is eschatological, “For when we are concerned with God, we are concerned with Gerhard Ebeling salvation and the eschaton in inseparable unity. To enquire into the necessity of the two kingdoms [distinction] is to enquire into the necessity of the theological justification of its at once soteriological and eschatological claim.”13 For where there is the unconditional promise of the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. The one regnum (kingdom) is the terrenum (earthly) and the other is coeleste (heavenly) “the one temporal, the other aeternum (eternal).”14 He describes the iustitia (righteousness) in each kingdom. In the left-hand kingdom, there is the righteousness of the law, or works, active righteousness, earthly righteousness.15 In the righthand regnum Christi (kingdom of Christ) there is righteousness of the gospel, of faith, passive righteousness, and heavenly righteousness. The Christian exists, at the same time (simul) in the left-hand kingdom under the law we exist coram mundo
(before the world) and in the right-hand kingdom we exist coram Deo (before God) by faith. What is crucial in understanding the eschatological distinction of the two kingdoms, Ebeling observes, is Luther’s teaching on the conscientia (conscience) and the reality of a sinner hearing the promise. “The conscientia is the mathematical point at which the regnum Christi becomes one with the regnum mundi stripped of its power and freed from itself in order to be mere world. But as conscience, and that means as hearer, man remains dependent on the faith creating word, whose truth is observed through the two kingdoms doctrine, and by whose act alone the distinction of the two kingdoms takes place concretely.”16 That everything, the arrival of no less than Christ himself with his kingdom, which depends on the preached word rupturing one’s conscience (what Paul calls the hearing of faith) is the language of eschatology. When God remains unpreached, then one’s conscience remains ruled by the law alone in one kingdom. But when the hearing of faith comes by the preached God, then one is ruled in both the old and the new, left and right-hand kingdoms of God at the same time. The left-hand kingdom is old because it is ruled by the law and has an end/telos: lex semper accusat. The kingdom of the right-hand of God is the new because it is ruled by the gospel, with no law in it (lex vacua) and this kingdom has no end. These two kingdoms are both God’s, though he rules each differently. They are related to each other in a very particular time and place: in the present preaching of the absolution, here and now. Therefore, to assert that there are
two distinct kingdoms, through the proclamation of “Ego te absolvo,” means that Christ has accomplished what the law, weakened through the flesh, could not do: raise the dead, in the new creature of faith, now, and in the bodily resurrection on the last day. For where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. The two kingdoms are distinguished by and derived from the distinction between the law and the gospel.17 More precisely, the law is constitutive of the kingdom on the left, the old kingdom and the gospel is constitutive to the kingdom on the right, the new kingdom.18 The law is what makes the kingdom on the left old; wherever the law rules, even and especially in one’s conscience, there is the old kingdom. For the law was given to reveal sin (Romans 3:20), the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. As shown above, Luther believes it is the preaching of Christ, not as mere example for moral rehabilitation, by specifically Christ’s absolution to actual sinners, that brings in this new kingdom to interrupt and bring an end to the tyranny of the law. This interruption in the present, old way of going about things according to the law, whether progressive or conservative, by the oral promise of absolution, is eschatological. The proclamation of the absolution in the present, from one sinner to another is and eschatological event: the accusation of the law upon the sinner’s conscience is quelled and a new creature, free from the law, arises in Christ by faith now, then bodily in the world to come.
The Bondage of the Will (1525) One of the most important places we find Luther’s discussion of the two kingdoms is in his 1525 writing, The Bondage of the Will. He notes that where there is no proclamation of the absolution, Satan will reign (though through deception) the kingdom on the left. “Satan reigns (which is why Christ calls him the ‘prince of this world’ (John 12:31), and Paul ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4)). He . . . holds captive at his will all that are not wrest from him by the Spirit of Christ,”19 as in the parable of the strong man armed, in Mark 3:23-27. Christ plunders the palace of Satan in which he has enslaved the sinner Bondage of the Will by the seduction and condemnation of the law unto death. Christ plunders the captives from their chains in Satan’s shadowy nonkingdom by Jesus’ promise, “Your sin is forgiven.” Christ disarms Satan by the absolution. By this one eschatological promise Luther remarks, “we are translated into the other kingdom, not by our own power, but by the grace of God, which delivers us from this present evil world and tears us away from the power of darkness.”20 Without God sending Christ’s preacher of the absolution, in the present, the sinner remains in bondage to terror and uncertainty. So, Luther’s theological triple—double can be illustrated as the distinction of God’s two words 1) law and gospel, which constitutes 2) two eschatologically related kingdoms of God, where and when God sends a preacher so that 3) the
unpreached God becomes God preached in the absolution in the present, to actual sinners. By this one and only key of categorical (unconditional) absolution, is anyone finally wrested from sin, death, the accusation of the law, and Satan’s grip on his conscience, his life. By this freeing key of absolution, one already lives in heaven, through faith which clings to Christ alone, with the law, sin, death, and captivity to Satan left behind forever. Lectures on Galatians (1535) Another key location where Luther also takes time to lay out the two kingdoms distinction is in his Lectures on Galatians (1535). First, Luther observes Paul’s opening words to his churches in Galatia, “Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age” (1:3-4). This means there is no neutral ground on earth; there is no theological “Switzerland.” There is the present evil age and the age of grace and mercy, the old age and the new age. That Christ has delivered us from this present evil age means he has delivered, “the whole world that has been, is, and will be, in order to differentiate it from the eternal age to come. And he calls it “evil” because whatever is in this age is subject to the evil of the devil who rules the entire world.”21 Luther often calls the kingdom of the left hand of God the kingdom of Satan, or the shadow kingdom, because this is where and when the devil rules. The devil will deceive in the world through means of the law: by constantly holding our sins against us or by appealing to our religious inclinations in the
external works of the love. Luther elaborates, “the kingdom of the devil is nothing but ignorance, contempt, blasphemy, hatred of God, and disobedience of all the words and works of God. We exist in this world and under it.”22 But since the devil is God’s devil, as we learn particularly in the book of Job, it means that the devil is not all-powerful or all-knowing. Our eyes and our experiences can be deceiving, however, and tempt us to doubt Christ and his promises. For, “the whole world, as John says, “is in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). All those who are in the world, therefore, are the slaves of sin and the devil and are members of the devil, who holds all men by his tyranny as captives to his will.”23 This means that Luther we are not only warned against things we might find abhorrent, but Luther warned especially against what we may esteem, things such as virtue, wisdom, beauty, and the religious – virtues that can become vices. Luther includes especially the religious orders where they invent their own good works. He gives the example of his own life, I crucified Christ daily in my monastic life and I blasphemed God through the false trust in which I was constantly living. Outwardly I was not like other men: extortioners, unjust, adulterers (Luke 18:11). I observed chastity, poverty, and obedience. I addition, I was free of the cares of this present life and was devoted only to fasting, vigils, prayers, reading Mass, and things like that, nevertheless, under the cover of sanctity and confidence
I was nursing incessant mistrust, doubt, fear, hatred, and blasphemy against God. This righteousness of mine was nothing but a cesspool and the delightful kingdom of the devil.24 Under the deception of the devil and in his kingdom, we look to our outward acts of love and take leave of Christ and his promises. We would rather be right, do the good and beautiful and accomplish something that the world, or at least our family would praise, rather than being forgiven of our deeds. Our external deeds of righteousness according to the law are particularly seductive for our old Adam . . . [F]or even when [the evil world] is at its best. It is at its worst.” Because “you are still in the present evil age and not in Christ. If Christ is not present, it is certain that the evil age and the kingdom of Satan are.”25 It is worth noting Luther’s unique distinction of the two hands of the devil, or the difference between the black devil and the white devil: his left-hand rule, which is seen in obvious outward persecution and destruction, as well as his right-hand rule which deceives by appearing glorious and righteous according to the law.26 Both hands of the devil are the means by which he rules the present evil age. Luther’s own confession of slavery to Satan through his sanctity to the monastic laws is an example of what he calls the reign of the right-hand of the devil, or the white devil, or what scripture calls the angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Luther further depicts this specialty of the devil’s right-hand rule, For in his ministers, the devil does not want to be
deformed and black but beautiful and white. To put on such an appearance, he presents and adorns everything he says and does with the color of truth and the name of God. . . If he cannot do his damage by Precisely persecuting and destroying, he will do it because the under the guise of correcting and edifying. . . rule of the He is arousing false teachers. At first, they right-hand of accept our teaching and preach it in the devil is agreement with us. But later on, they say under the that we have made a good start, but that the guise of more sublime things have been saved until “correcting now, etc. In this way the devil impedes the and edifying,” progress of the Gospel, both on the right side (law) that this and on the left – but more on the right, by shadowy nonedifying and correcting than on the left, by kingdom falls 27 persecuting and destroying. entirely under Precisely because the rule of the right-hand of the devil is under the guise of “correcting and edifying,” (law) that this shadowy non-kingdom falls entirely under the left-hand kingdom of God, rather than the right-hand kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ who is the end of the law. The Kingdom of Christ Comes by a Promise For now, the two kingdoms remain. The law continues to rule over our flesh in the old, earthly
the left-hand kingdom of God, rather than the righthand kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ who is the end of the law.
kingdom, and the gospel alone rules our new creature of faith, whose life is in Christ Jesus. Into this present evil age and into this earthly kingdom, God sends Christ’s preachers into particular locations to bring his new and heavenly kingdom into this world. Preachers are not called to their geographic locations to straighten out the community through the moral organization of the church. Nor are preachers called to doctor up the word of God by attempting to remove the condemning law by trying to replace it with a fabricated, milk toast, doable law dressed up in religious sounding words like “spiritual” or “discipleship,” which turns faith into a project. Preachers are certainly not called to leave their congregations in a quagmire of uncertainty about their future destination by speculating about the signs of the times (Zeitgeists) as we watch them unfold (Weltgeist), as though God is playing a guessing game with us about the end and where we are headed. Preachers are ambassadors of Christ whose mandate is to place the whole Jesus Christ, human and divine, into the ears of those whom sin, death, the law, and the devil hold captive. Then Christ is the end of the law for faith and the new creature resides in heaven now and forever. Christ’s heavenly kingdom arrives “for you” by this promise, “Your sins are forgiven on account of the Crucified and Rise Christ. You are free.” (This paper was first presented at the 2021 St. Paul Lutheran Seminary Theological Conference in Jekyll Island, Georgia). Rev. Dr. Marney Fritts is an instructor of Systematic Theology for Saint Paul Lutheran Seminary. Her Ph.D. dissertation was
“Responses to Gustaf Aulén’s Christus Victor and their Impact on the Doctrine of Atonement for Proclamation” (Luther Seminary, 2011). She has written an essay for the festschrift, Handing Over the Goods: Determined to Proclaim Nothing but Jesus Christ and Him Crucified (1517 Publishing: Irvine, California, 2018), in honor of Dr. James A. Nestingen, and is a regular contributor to the Connections magazine published by Sola Publishing. Endnotes 1Steven
D. Paulson, “The Simul and Two Kingdoms,” Logia 25 no. 4 Reformation (2016), 18. 2Albrecht Ritschl, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation (Reference Book Publishers: Clifton, NJ, 1966), 13. 3Ibid., 11, 78ff. 4Ibid., 11. 5Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, volume 1 (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1988), 56. 6Paulson, Two Kingdoms, p. 18. 7Gerhard O. Forde, Where God Meets Man: Luther’s Down-to-Earth Approach to the Gospel (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1972), 89-85. 8Paulson, Two Kingdoms, p. 18. 9Martin Luther, Selected Psalms I, LW 12, p. 329. 10WA 49:95, 33-35, Sermon on Easter Saturday [27 March] 1540. 11James A. Nestingen, “The Two Kingdoms Distinction,” Word & World Volume XIX, Number 3 Summer, 1999, p. 270. 12Gerhard Ebeling, “The Necessity of the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms,” in Gerhard Ebeling, Word and Faith (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), 387. 13Ibid., 387. 14Ibid., 396. 15Ibid., 401. 16Ibid., 406. 17Nestingen, Distinction, p. 269. 18Ebeling, Necessity, p. 338. 19Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, translated by J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnson (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1957), 312. 20Ibid., 312. 21Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians 1535 Chapters 1-4, LW 26: 39.
22Ibid., 40. 23Ibid., 40. 24Ibid., 70. 25Ibid., 40. 26Ibid., 41. 27Ibid., 70.
TOWARD A CONSERVATIVE LUTHERAN SOCIAL ETHIC By Rev. Dr. John B. King Introduction Why do conservative Lutherans lack a coherent response to political evil? Why do they struggle to confront legalized abortion, let alone subtler evils like socialism, monetary inflation, and gun control?1 Over many years of conversation and study, I have come to the conclusion that conservative Lutherans lack a coherent social ethic for two main reasons: 1) an intense fear of using God’s law and 2) an interpretation of two-kingdom theory that introduces an epistemological dualism of nature and grace. Apart from God’s law, however, there is no standard for Christian ethics. Moreover, even if the law is affirmed, the dualism of nature and grace precludes the application of special revelation to the state. Thus, a Lutheran social ethic becomes impossible since the two factors combine
to remove Biblical law from the civil realm. As a result, the state becomes a realm of human autonomy devoid of moral absolutes.2 However, since these problems arise from a bad interpretation of Lutheran theology, it is possible to correct them through better interpretation. To this end, my argument below proceeds in four steps. First, I discuss the law-gospel distinction to show that the fear the law is unfounded since using the law as an ethical standard does not undermine the gospel. Second, I argue that two-kingdom theory entails an institutional distinction, but not an epistemological one. Thus, a separation of church and state does not entail a separation of Bible and state. Third, having addressed the impediments to a Lutheran social ethic, I then set forth a pro-nomian model of Christian ethics known as multiperspectivalism. Through this ethical model, I show how law and gospel work together harmoniously within the ethical realm. Finally, to set forth the utility of this model, I analyze the issues of socialism, monetary inflation, and gun control mentioned above. Nomophobia: The Irrational Fear of God’s Law
Many Lutheran pastors have an irrational fear of God’s law which I call nomophobia.3 These pastors fear that any positive use of God’s law will degenerate into works-righteousness and thereby undermine the gospel. Accordingly, they put a hedge around the gospel just as the Pharisees once
Many Lutheran pastors have an irrational fear of God’s law which I call nomophobia.
put a hedge around the law. However, once the law is sidelined and prevented from fulfilling its God-ordained role, an alternate ethical standard becomes necessary. Thus, many of these same pastors use the gospel, rather than the law, as an ethical standard, thereby making a law out of the gospel! In other words, in their attempt to avoid “front door” lawgospel confusion (works righteousness), they unwittingly fall into “back door” law-gospel confusion (antinomianism).4 Nomophobia is based upon the mistaken belief that law and gospel are opposites and are therefore pitted against one another in a zero-sum-game. Thus, any attention to the law necessarily detracts from the gospel, and vice versa. However, this opposition is false. The law is not the opposite of the gospel, works-righteousness is. Stated differently, it is the abuse of the law that is the opposite of the gospel, not the law itself. Rightly understood, the law tells us what we should do. By contrast, the gospel tells us what God has done through Christ for law breakers like us. Clearly, law and gospel are distinct, but this distinction need not imply opposition. Our heart and lungs are also distinct, but they are not for this reason opposites. Rather, they manifest a harmony-in-difference in their joint work. In a similar manner, law and gospel work together in a harmonious manner. Through the law God shows us our sin and drives us to His gospel promise for forgiveness and renewal. Through the gospel, in turn, God forgives and renews us, and thereby writes His law upon our hearts. Through their joint work, therefore, law and gospel not only provide for our
personal salvation but also help us live our lives. To change the metaphor, the gospel puts the wind in our sails while the law is our rudder. Together they help us navigate the waters of life. Consequently, Lutherans may robustly affirm the law as our ethical standard without undermining the gospel as the proclamation of God’s saving grace. King David said that he loved God’s law and that it was a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path (Ps. 119: 97-105). If we cannot say the same thing, we need to adjust our theology, not the Bible.
Epistemological Dualism: Nature, Grace, and the Two Kingdoms In addition to the fear of God’s law, a second impediment to a Lutheran social ethic is a view of two-kingdom theory that involves an epistemological dualism of nature and grace. Within this framework, the church, as the realm of grace, has a top-down epistemology in which Scripture is the primary source of knowledge. By contrast, the state, as the realm of nature, has a bottom-up epistemology based upon reason and empirical observation. However, since this framework puts the divergent principles of nature and grace side-by-side, it fractures the view of life. This makes an integrated worldview impossible and specifically precludes the application of Biblical law to the state. An example of this type of thinking comes from the website of the ELS.
. . . As opposed to those of the Reformed tradition who have tried to follow Calvin’s Geneva experiment in setting up a Bible-run secular government, we Lutherans maintain a distinction between the kingdom of Christ (ruled by God’s Word) and the kingdom of politics (ruled by reason and natural knowledge of the law). For further reading on this matter, we suggest the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XVI.5 In reaction to these statements, there is neither a Scriptural nor a natural reason to eliminate Biblical law as a basis for civil law. Moreover, to pigeonhole and dismiss such an approach as Calvinist ignores the earlier history of Christianity as a civilizing force in Europe. For instance, in Ireland St. Patrick used Biblical law to correct and revise the Brehon laws of the Druids.6 And in England King Alfred the Great made a similar revision of Anglo-Saxon law. Alfred’s Book of Dooms begins with the Ten Commandments and intersperses Old and New Testament references throughout.7 As a result of this move, Biblical law is integral to Anglo-American common law, and for this reason the Ten Commandments are prominent in many U.S. courtrooms. But this influence is not surprising. Since Christians are called to be salt and light, the Church had a leavening effect upon culture long before Calvin’s Geneva. This isn’t just a Calvinist thing; it’s a Christendom thing. Shouldn’t we have a similar effect in our day? The above revision of legal traditions is consistent with Lutheran theology. Melanchthon argued that natural reason, and hence natural law, approximates the second table of the
Decalogue (AP, IV, 34). Consistent with this view, both St. Patrick and King Alfred the Great accepted their received legal traditions as congruent with natural law for the most part. However, since Scripture provides a clearer revelation of God’s law than nature does, they used Scripture to modify particular laws that were inconsistent with the Bible. Moreover, in this process their use of Biblical law was flexible and nuanced since it was being applied to a different culture. Getting back to two-kingdom theory, Alfred the Great why do we think that it is wrong to appeal to Scripture in the civil realm? Does the church have a Biblical reason for this? No. Does the state have a “natural” reason for this based upon reason and empirical observation? To the contrary, reason and empirical observation show St. Patrick and King Alfred the Great revising their received legal traditions in terms of Biblical law. Accordingly, any reasonable view of two-kingdom theory must not preclude the application of Biblical law to the state. To this end, we must formulate two-kingdom theory in terms of an institutional distinction between church and state without imposing an epistemological dualism. Within this framework, the Church bears the keys, and the state bears the sword. Hence, the Church can excommunicate but cannot execute, whereas the state can execute but cannot excommunicate. Moreover, since their differences are complementary, church and state work together to produce a
godly society. Through its proclamation of law and gospel, the church serves the state by producing a law-abiding culture, and through its administration of justice, the state serves the church by preserving external order. But in all of this, nothing in Scripture or nature precludes the civil magistrate from using the Bible to formulate just and equitable laws. In other words, a separation of church and state need not imply a separation of Bible and state.
Multiperspectivalism: A Framework for Christian Ethics Having examined the impediments to a Lutheran social ethic, we may now turn to the positive task of developing a pro-nomian ethical framework. To this end, I will use a meta-ethical model known as multiperspectivalism that was developed by John M. Frame.8 As illustrated in Figure 1 below, Christian ethics involves the interpenetration of three distinct perspectives: 1) existential, 2) situational, and 3) normative (or deontological). These three perspectives concern the ethical agent, the ethical situation, and the ethical standard or law, respectively. John Frame In a private communication, Frame stated that multiperspectivalism combines the insights of the Reformed apologist Cornelius Van Til and the Lutheran theologian George Lindbeck.9 Consistent with the influence of Lindbeck, multiperspectivalism functions as a grammar of human action although Frame insists that it is more than a grammar. As a
grammar, it relates the subjective, objective, and normative aspects of human action in various fields. For this reason, the same three perspectives arise in Frame’s discussion of epistemology.
Figure 1. Multiperspectivalism In Figure 1 above, the triangle represents ethics as a whole while the three vertices represent the differing ethical perspectives. Since the ethical perspectives are like vertices of the same triangle, they cannot be separated from one another or from the triangle as a whole. Thus, the three perspectives interpenetrate so that each includes each of the others as well as the entire ethical domain. It is for this reason that Frame calls them “perspectives,” not “parts” of ethics. As Frame describes them, the perspectives are coextensive but differ in terms of their foci, orientations, and vantage points.10 Given this combination of co-extensiveness and orientational difference, there is complementarity and interdependence between the three perspectives such that each is needed to understand the other two. For instance, one
cannot understand the law as an ethical norm except as it is intended for an ethical agent to apply within an ethical situation. Similarly, an ethical situation is meaningless apart from an ethical agent whose activity is subject to an ethical norm or law. Finally, an ethical agent is incomprehensible except as one who is active within an ethical situation and subject to an ethical norm.11
Multiperspectivalism with a Lutheran Twist Having examined the multiperspectival model of Christian ethics, I would like to give this model a Lutheran theological twist. I do this for multiple reasons. First, I want to show how this model is consistent with Lutheran theology. Second, I wish to show how the model provides greater insight into a Lutheran understanding of ethics by revealing the relation of its several factors. Finally, I hope that this model will promote an advance in Lutheran ethics by showing where Lutheran ethics is weak and suggesting ways to strengthen it. In regard to the interplay of Lutheran theology and ethics, the multiperspectival model gives us a framework for understanding the distinct roles of law and gospel within the sphere of ethical action as well as their relation to each other. In this model, the law enters the ethical framework through the normative perspective since the role of the law is to function as an ethical norm. By contrast, the gospel enters the ethical framework through the existential perspective. After all, the role of the gospel is to transform the ethical agent through word and sacrament so that she is motivated and
empowered to love and serve her neighbor in accordance with the demands of God’s law. Finally, the situational perspective concerns the various vocational spheres (family, This means that workplace, church, state, etc.) within which we when the law is live out our daily lives. Within the multiperspectival model, therefore, rightly Christian ethics involves a harmonious interaction understood, rightly related of law, gospel, and Christian vocation. In this to the gospel, interaction the roles of law and gospel remain and rightly distinct but are complementary rather than opposed. This means that when the law is rightly applied to ethical understood, rightly related to the gospel, and problems; its rightly applied to ethical problems; its use is use is evangelically empowered and life-giving, rather evangelically than legalistic. empowered and In providing us a full picture of the ethical life-giving, domain, multiperspectivalism also helps us see where Lutheranism is ethically deficient and what rather than legalistic. must be done to fix it. In this regard, Lutheran ethics often downplays the law (normative perspective), focusing instead upon service to the neighbor (situational perspective) as motivated by love (existential perspective). Thus, it focuses upon the ends and intentions of human action, but not the law.12 Apart from the law, however, Lutheran ethics is hobbled because it cannot discriminate between good and evil. It is therefore essential for Lutherans to embrace a positive view of God’s law. Only so will Lutheranism develop a robust social ethic and begin to speak prophetically on issues of public policy.
Application of the Multiperspectival Method In the introduction, I said that the Church needs to stand against the subtle evils of socialism, monetary inflation, and gun control in addition to obvious evils like abortion. I will now apply the multiperspectival method to these three issues to illustrate the utility of this method. In so doing, I will also show that socialism, inflation, and gun control violate God’s law at multiple points and therefore warrant the opposition of conservative Lutherans. In socialism the central problem is the forced wealth transfer from person A to person B. Of course, it is legitimate for the government to tax us for the services that it renders to us, such as national defense, police protection, criminal justice, physical infrastructure, and so forth. However, when the government taxes person A for the direct benefit of person B, the government becomes a middleperson in a system of institutionalized thievery and covetousness. This violates the Seventh and Ninth Commandments (normative perspective). Moreover, since socialism destroys livelihoods and thereby ruins lives, socialism is murderous in its effects (situational perspective). This violates the Fifth Commandment. Finally, at the level of the human heart, socialism is idolatrous in its pretensions since the rulers in socialist systems assume godlike power over the people (existential perspective). This violates the First Commandment.13 The central issue in monetary inflation is that government expansion of the money supply reduces the value of the
currency and hence the real value of people’s savings and incomes. Since this is theft by scheming and stealth, it violates the Seventh and Ninth Commandments against thievery and covetousness, respectively (normative perspective). Moreover, since inflation destroys livelihoods and thereby ruins lives, it is murderous in its effects (situational perspective). This violates the Fifth Commandment. Finally, at the level of the human heart, monetary inflation is idolatrous in its pretensions since the expansion of the money supply is an attempt to create value ex nihilo (existential perspective). This violates the First Commandment. To see the evil of gun control, we must first note that Biblical law allows the taking of human life in at least three cases: 1) capital punishment, 2) just war, and 3) self-defense. Thus, it is Biblically legitimate to use lethal force in the defense of one’s life, and owning a firearm is a necessary means to this end.14 Consequently, gun control is a murderous violation of the Fifth Commandment since it strips innocent people naked in the face of thugs and gangbangers (normative perspective). In terms of its effects, gun control removes a deterrent to crime and thereby increases the rates of murder, rape, and robbery (situational perspective).15 This violates the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Commandments, respectively. Finally, at the level of the human heart, many rulers, who support gun control, seek to increase their power by subjugating their people (existential perspective). Since this attitude is both idolatrous and murderous, it violates the First and Fifth Commandments. As seen from these examples, multiperspectivalism provides a robust and systematic method of ethical analysis.
Through this method one can take a current issue and expose various ways in which it violates God’s law. In fact, since the above analysis is admittedly brief, each of the above issues violates God’s law in additional ways not covered here. However, what is shown above is sufficient both to illustrate the utility of the multiperspectival method and to show that socialism, monetary inflation, and gun control are immoral. Conclusion In the discussion above, I have championed a conservative Lutheran social ethic. To this end, I have confronted two theological impediments to this ethic, have set forth a pronomian model of Christian ethics, and have applied this model to three current issues. First, I argued that the Lutheran fear of the law is unfounded. Since law and gospel are distinct but not opposites, one can champion the law as an ethical standard without undermining the gospel. Second, I showed that twokingdom theory involves an institutional distinction but not an epistemological one. Consequently, a separation of church and state does not entail a separation of Bible and state. Third, having addressed these theological impediments, I set forth a pro-nomian ethical model known as multiperspectivalism. This model provides a meta-ethical framework that shows how law, gospel, and Christian vocation harmoniously interact within the ethical domain. Thus, it shows positively that the ethical use of the law does not undermine the gospel but is in fact motivated and empowered by the gospel. Moreover, in addition to a meta-ethical
framework, multiperspectivalism also provides a robust and systematic method of ethical analysis. As my final step, therefore, I used multiperspectivalism to analyze three issues in order to demonstrate the utility of this method. From this analysis I also showed that socialism, monetary inflation, and gun control violate God’s law at multiple points and should therefore be rejected as immoral. John B. King, Jr. is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church (NALC) in Enterprise, OR. He has a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering from Oregon State University, a Th.D. in Systematic and Philosophical Theology from the Graduate Theological Union, and a D.Min. in Leadership in the Emerging Culture from George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Endnotes 1For
my critique of socialism, see John B. King Jr., "Socialism--a Confessional Lutheran Critique," Lutheran Forum 55, no. 1 (2021). 2Presumably, the state still has natural law. But as Dr. Phil might ask, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” 3For a fuller discussion of my views, see John B. King Jr., "Toward Law-Gospel Harmony in Lutheran Theology and Ethics," Dialog 59, no. 3 (2020). 4For conceptual symmetry, I prefer the terms legalism and lawlessness to worksrighteousness and anti-nomianism. 5Socialism, (Evangelical Lutheran Synod, accessed 15 March 2022); available from https://els.org/resources/answers/socialism/. 6John Eidsmoe, Historical and Theological Foundations of Law, vol. II: Classical and Medieval (Ventura, CA: Nordskog Publishing, 2016), 767, 768. 7Ibid., 824. The word doom here means judgment. So, Alfred’s book may also be called the Book of Judgments. 8Although Frame is a Reformed theologian, I do not believe multiperspectivalism is a “Reformed” model (see below). Reformed ethics tends to focus upon the law. By contrast, Frame seeks to make all three perspectives equally basic. For this reason Reformed theologians frequently push back against Frame’s model. 9John Frame, "Private Communication," (2006). Frame came under Lindbeck’s influence as a Ph.D. student of Paul L. Holmer, Lindbeck’s colleague at Yale.
Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life: A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2008), 34, 35. 11According to Frame, the three ethical perspectives cohere with one another because they represent different aspects of God’s lordship and are therefore held together by God Himself. However, in secular ethics, this unity falls apart as secular thinkers seek an absolute reference point outside God’s revelation and therefore absolutize one of the three perspectives. Thus, we have normative (or deontological) ethics, situational ethics, and existential ethics. However, since Christianity views God as ultimate, we must not absolutize any ethical perspective. Rather, we must allow for interaction among these perspectives because they are equally derivative aspects of the created order. John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 1987), 74. 12In this regard, Lutherans need to be reminded of two ethical maxims. First, the end (situational perspective) does not justify the means. Second, the road to hell is paved with good intentions (existential perspective). Although good ends and intentions are commendable in themselves, the law (normative perspective) must constrain our means. 13The perceptive reader will notice that I have used God’s law in all three perspectives, not just the normative perspective. Because the three perspectives interpenetrate, the law is the normative standard for each perspective but is applied differently in each: 1) to the essence of the issue (normative perspective). 2) to the effects of the issue (situational perspective), and 3) to the heart attitude of those who push or favor the issue (existential perspective). 14In the gun control debate, there are actually two central questions, not just one. The first question is whether private citizens have the right to use lethal force to defend their lives. This is the question that I have addressed here. However, the second question is one of where to draw the line. How much fire power is enough? We all agree that private citizens can own a butter knife, and we also agree that citizens should not own private nuclear weapons. So, between the extremes of a butter knife and a nuclear weapon, where do we draw the line? Due to space limitations, I have not answered this second question here, but have assumed that handguns are on the allowable side of the line. To attack this second question, the criterion would be that a private citizen should be able to have defensive fire power to a degree that is proportional to all realistic threats without posing a large scale, aggressive threat to society as a whole. I have derived this rule by modifying the proportionality criterion of just war theory. Suffice it to say that since we cannot answer this second question Biblically, we can only address it through pragmatic wisdom. For this reason, conservative Christians will disagree on precisely where to draw the line. 15On the deterrent effect of private gun ownership, criminologist John R. Lott, Jr. writes: “Overall, my conclusion is that criminals as a group tend to behave rationally—when crime becomes more difficult, less crime is committed. Higher arrest and conviction rates dramatically reduce crime. Criminals also move out of jurisdictions in which criminal deterrence increases. Yet criminals respond to more than just the actions taken by the police and the courts. Citizens can take private actions that also deter crime. Allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns reduces violent crimes, and the reductions coincide very closely with the number of concealed handgun permits issued. Mass shootings in public places are
reduced when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns.” John R. Lott Jr., More Guns Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 20.
EVANGELISCHE POLITICS: TWEAKING THE TWO KINGDOMS THEOLOGY FOR APOSTOLIC OPS AFTER CHRISTENDOM Rev. Dr. Phil Anderas For Wang Yi
Introduction The two-kingdoms doctrine we inherit from our fathers is basically sound. But it needs a little re-tooling in light of Scripture and with an eye to our missionary situation. Whether you call our time the “new dark age” (Alasdair MacIntyre), the post-Christian/neo-pagan West (Lesslie Newbigin), the “secular age” (Charles Taylor) or the “negative world” (Aaron Renn),
we aren’t in Kansas anymore. That is, we aren’t in sixteenthcentury Europe or 1776 or the 1950s or even 1963 anymore. Lament if you like, nurse your nostalgia if you must, but the sooner you adjust the better. We have apostolic work to do. In “Lord of the Rings,” Frodo lamented, “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf added, “So do all who live to see such times; but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” The time that has been given to us is a time increasingly inhospitable to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the kingdom of priests redeemed by his blood (Rev 1.5-6). Like US Marines, we must learn to Frodo Baggins improvise and adapt in order to overcome. Like Tolkien’s hobbits, we must be—or become—small enough to defeat the powers of darkness. It is no easy thing for an American Christian to become small. Neither is it easy for Lutheran Christians to embrace the strange politics of the gospel. But what is impossible for man is possible with God. To execute the mission entrusted to us, one small but integral part of what we Frodos (and Sams!) need to do is re-examine what the Scriptures say about how the realms of this world relate to the dominion of the dark lord, on the one hand, and on the other to the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1.13-14). Stop right there: did you just say, “politics of the gospel”?
Getting Our Bearings: the Kingdom-politics of Jesus Religion and politics: the two topics you aren’t supposed to bring up in polite society, and the only things Jesus ever really talked about. Rightly defined, that is. For nowadays “religion” means something your self does in private and “politics” refers to that public space where facts, money, and power are in charge and God or the gods are cordoned off by Jefferson’s wall. But Jesus of Nazareth came preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1.14-15). If that evangelical fact doesn’t strike you as obviously political, it goes to show how deeply the fact/value distinction at the heart of the modern West has shaped and stunted your theopolitical imagination. Jesus: Joshua, the warrior, the conqueror. Nazareth: Podunk, Scots-Irish Appalachian, underclass. Preaching: always a threat to a Jehoiakim, a Caesar, a Xi. Evangelium: that’s what the imperial heralds declare after the victory of the Caesar in battle, the gospel of salvation (soteria), the triumph of the son of god (dei filius) that defends and advances the pax romana. Though rumor has it the Jews use a similar constellation of phrases in an ancient prophecy. Speaking of Isaiah, the Kingdom of God: to a Jew beaten down by Roman jacksandals (as it were), to even hint of the Kingdom of God is to verge toward revolution and possibly get yourself in real trouble. For the basileia tou theou is not an otherworldly (and in that sense “spiritual”) Platonic paradise but the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel accomplished in and by the return of the King to Zion. Do you think the Romans took the trouble of executing Jesus because they weren’t into his spirituality?
And yet: “Perceiving that they were about to take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6.15). Hm. Not very carpe diem, that. Maybe he got cold feet? It gets worse. At the center of this peasantrabbi’s teaching about the Kingdom of God is not war, but peace; not vengeance upon our adversaries, but a clear command to forgive them; not a battle-cry to rally the sword, but an insane summons to follow him to the … (pardon my French), ahem, “cross.” In fact, from his first synagoguesermon (Luke 4.16-21) on, every carefully-crafted word, every symbolically-charged deed (the man is master of optics, we’ll give him that) implies that the eschatological shalom the prophets spoke about is breaking into the world right here, right now, in—him! Now, we have to admit, he has worked great marvels: demons cry out in fear, the sick and the broken are healed and restored, the dead are raised to life, he treats the masses of worthy poor with dignity. But why the focus on demons, when the legions are the real issue? And why does he insist on putting these trucker-types in leadership positions? Of course, we all know what Nicodemus has been Nicodemus up to after dark; and there are rumors about Simon and Joseph of Arimathea: but why does Jesus think he has to make such a show about forgiving prostitutes, tax-men, and other public sinners? Why are the rabble in, the righteous out? Holy priests and orthodox scribes are cast down in humiliating judgment, while evil men and cheap hookers are
welcomed into the ragtag company gathering around this “messianic” son of Man (as he insists on calling himself: is he just echoing Ezekiel’s humble usage, or is he referring to Daniel 7, or Psalm 80 or 8, or even [“The Son of The Man”] Genesis 3.15? The nerve!). Wait—I didn’t quite follow the drift of that last story of his, but … did he just imply that we are the problem in Israel? Jesus looked directly at them and said: “What then is this that is written: ‘The Stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone? [Psalm 118.22]’ Everyone who falls on that Stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone it will crush him.” The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them. (Luke 20.17-19) Do you think the Jerusalem elite conspired against Jesus because he preached a “purely spiritual” gospel of a heavenly kingdom into which gnesio/confessional-sinners are admitted by straightlaced faith alone? The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said: “What are we to do! For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them: “You know nothing at all, nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people,
not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11.47-50). You know the rest of the story. Jesus, who had ridden into Jerusalem to the acclaim of the people just days before, stumbled out of Jerusalem with a Roman cross on his lash-torn back. Caiaphas had asked pointblank: “Are you the Messiah?” “I AM,” Jesus replied, “and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14.61-2). Pilate had asked: “Are you the King of the Jews?” “My Kingdom is not from this world,” Jesus replied. Pilate, ever practical, pressed: “So—you are a king?” “You say that I am king. For this purpose I was born, and for this purpose I came into the world: to bear witness to the truth.” [Nietzschean chuckle.] Pilate replied, with Rortyan irony: “What is truth?” (John 18.33-38). Pilate Given the option, the crowds chose a violent revolutionary and sent Jesus as a messianic pretender to his bloody death. He was executed in style, the way Romans did to make sure you knew just who was in charge around here. The titulus, unambiguously spelled out in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek for all to see, inscribed by personal order of Pilate and nailed just above Jesus’ thorn-crowned sacred head now wounded, read: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (John 19.19-22). The gospel of the Kingdom is dangerous business, it would seem: “and this gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24.14). To flesh out what this means, we now turn our attention
from the deeds and sufferings of the King to the ruminations of his prime theological minister, the apostle Paul. Romans: A Messianic Manifesto on YHVH’s Plan to Conquer the World through the Gospel of his Son Paul bookends the argument of his great letter on the righteousness of faith with Davidic/kingdom themes:
Paul, a slave of Messiah Jesus, called to be an envoy, set apart for the good news of God (which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy writings) concerning his Son. He is from the seed of David according to the flesh but was appointed Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by virtue of resurrection from the dead: Jesus Messiah our Lord. Through him, we have received grace and an envoy-ship with the goal of securing the obedience of faith among all nations for the sake of his name. That includes you, the called of Jesus Messiah. To all of you in Rome, the beloved of God, called saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Messiah (Romans 1.1-8, my translation, as are all in this work). Messiah became servant of the circumcision for the sake of God’s truth, to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and so that the nations would glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: … “Sing, all nations, to the Lord, and let all the peoples praise him” [Ps 117.1]. And again Isaiah says: “There
will come the Root of Jesse, even the One who arises to rule the nations: in him the nations will hope” [Isaiah 11.10 LXX] (Romans 15.8-12). I’ve translated christos as “Messiah,” apostolos as “envoy,” and apostolē as “envoy-ship,” to draw out the political resonances that are there in the Greek but lost in English translation, like the blurred face on a worn-down coin; otherwise, this is a straightforward rendering of the text. Tom Wright does a nice job highlighting the counterimperial political theology packed into nearly every word in Romans 1.1ff: “Messiah,” “gospel,” “Son” (think both: Caesarcult, and Psalm 2.7), “David,” “Lord” (kyrios: in one fell swoop, Jesus is YHVH, and Caesar isn’t lord), “peace.”1 Add to this Paul’s statement of his theme: the “power” of God for “salvation” through the gospel of “righteousness” Paul (Romans 1.16-17): dynamis/virtus, soteria/salvatio, and iustitia all being of great interest to the Romans, of course. Everything Rome promises you, falsely, you actually have in Jesus Christ through my gospel, Paul says; so don’t you mind overmuch being a persecuted little band of believers in the shadow of the imperial seat. Rome will perish like every other empire of dust, but you are an outpost of the eternal Kingdom of the beloved Son, brought into being out of nothing by the power of his gospel. And—to come round to Rom 15—this is no new
development on YHVH’s part; it’s been his plan all along. By sending his Son in David’s flesh and pouring out the gift of his Spirit, God has kept the promises he spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The curse of Adam is broken. Sin is atoned for. Death is undone. In short: “the blessing of Abraham” has come to the nations through faith (cf. Gal 3.10-14). The longed-for Root of Jesse has arisen at last: arisen from the lopped-off stump of David’s ruined house, arisen amongst the twelve tribes reconstituted in his 12 apostles, risen from the dead on the third day, exalted on the fortieth to rule the universe as Son of Man, King of kings, and Lord over all. It is too light a thing that YHVH’s Servant should raise up the tribes of Jacob and bring back the preserved of Israel. The time has come to go global.
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the Mountain of the Temple of YHVH shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it … For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of YHVH from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2.2-3). And Jesus said to them: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24.46-7).
That’s what we’re up to, says Paul. Now that Messiah has
come in our flesh, atoned for sin, conquered Death, ascended the cosmic throne, and poured out the promise of the Spirit on his people, the old world that Adam-king built is being turned upside down. They dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all In Rom 1-11, acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying Paul exegetes that there is another king—Jesus.” And the the Scriptures people and the city authorities were disturbed to articulate when they heard these things (Acts 17.6-8). and urge this This is the history of Acts in a nutshell: the Last Adam pours out his Spirit to send his kingdom-people (“church”) into all nations to announce the good news of his victory over evil, darkness, and Death; to rebuke the nations for their wickedness, and summon them to turn away from idols to the true and living God; to offer amnesty as a gift of his grace to everyone who believes the gospel of the King; and to bring about the obedience of faith among all nations for the glory of his Name, by baptizing them and bringing them into the communion of his universal Church. In Romans 1-11, Paul exegetes the Scriptures to articulate and urge this great gospel, to explain the apostolic mission to subdue the nations under Messiah’s gracious rule, and to show the Church
great gospel, to explain the apostolic mission to subdue the nations under Messiah’s gracious rule, and to show the Church something of her own splendor and glory in him as one holy, apostolic, and catholic whole.
something of her own splendor and glory in him as one holy, apostolic, and catholic whole. First, he takes the law in hand, so that the nations may repent in advance of the coming day of YHVH’s regal/judicial wrath (Romans 1.18-3.20). Then Paul pivots from law to gospel and proclaims the atoning death of Messiah and the abounding grace and righteousness that flow to sinners from it (Romans 3.21-5.21). Mark very well: because of this grace, the King’s anointed languish under the overlordship of Sin and Death no longer; now, the saints “reign in life as kings (en zoe basileusousin) through the one Man, Jesus Messiah” (Romans 5.17).2 Next, Paul describes the new life of the redeemed: life as little kings and queens in the real Narnia. We receive this new life once for all in baptism and live into it once and again by battling against world, flesh, and devil, by destroying strongholds, and by liberating captives through the gospel. Thanks be to God, the outcome of our strife is not in doubt come fire, water, demons, or sword: like DJ Khaled, all we do is win, win, win / no matter what. For we are more than conquerors through our Christ, and nothing can separate us from the omnipotent love of the Cross (Rom 6-8). Finally, the still deeply Jewish apostle to the nations wrestles with the mystery of a remnant-church destined to incorporate all peoples into herself as the Israel of God, viz., “the children of the promise,” chosen by grace, ransomed by blood, and raised up into the eschatological life of the messianic Kingdom (Rom 8.28ff, 9-11). Only now, having noted the theopolitical “bookends” of the body of the letter and surveyed the great argument in Romans 66
1-11, are we in position to hear Romans 13 well. Otherwise, if you skip straight to it in a rush to understand the apostle’s “view of the state” or “theology of the two kingdoms” or “approach to relating religion and politics,” you miss the obvious fact that Paul’s political theology got going at Romans 1.1 and doesn’t stop till he makes sure to mention the mission to save/conquer the nations one last time at Romans 16.25-7. (Note in particular “the obedience of faith” among the nations at both 1.5 and 16.26). The entire letter is, in fact, a magisterial exposition of the messianic gospel of the Son of David, the Son of God, who died for us, conquered Death, and now reigns as King over Rome, Russia, America, China, and every other petty fiefdom there ever was, is now or ever shall be: and who now, through his servants sent out on apostolic ops, summons the nations into the obedience of his Empire. That is to say, into freedom. There is, of course, a hinge at Romans 12.1. For in Romans 12-14, Paul moves from his sweeping vision of God’s mercy in his Son and of new life in their Spirit to the nitty-gritty details of how to actually live in the future that began when Messiah rose from the dead but will not be consummated “till the time for restoring all things” (Acts 3.21). In this strange timebetween-the-times, this overlap of the ages, when the powers of the old age still seem very much in charge despite the evangelical fact of their defeat by Messiah’s Cross (Colossians 2.15, Hebrews 2.5-16) and the dawn of the new age on the morning of the eighth day: how does a church of believingJews-plus-believing-goyim share a common life in Christ? How do we participate together in that kingdom which “is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace,
and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14.17)? How do we live the life of the age to come here and now, when much of the world rejects the claims of the King, when the dragon rages against the woman’s offspring (Revelation 12.17), and when my own old self threatens to drag me back into the death and hell of adamic pride that grace has saved me from? Well, it’s not easy, says Paul, but it’s beautiful—the most beautiful thing you will experience on earth —for our life together as Messiah’s body is a participation in the sacrificial love of the King. By the power of his Spirit, and with one another’s help, we begin to keep The Ten (Exodus 20) as the Lord summarized them in The Two (Matthew 22.37-40) and exposited at length in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Be humble. Use your gifts to serve the Sermon the Mount common good of Messiah’s people, for your gifts are not yours but his, and theirs. Rejoice in hope. Be patient as you suffer. Be constant in prayer. Care for the poor. Show hospitality. Love everyone, including your persecutors. Beloved, never avenge yourselves. Don’t let evil defeat you. Instead, conquer evil by the goodness you received from God in Christ (Romans 12). Oh, and by the way—see to it that you pay your taxes, obey mayors, governors, kings, work for the common good of the city you sojourn in as you wait for the King to come back. That kind of thing (Romans 13). You see, the Kuyperians aren’t all wrong. The God of Israel, to whom you belong through the gospel of his Son, is Creator,
Ruler, and Judge of the universe, theos pantokrator. He himself, not I don’t-know-what gnostic demiurge, institutes “secular” (viz., pertaining to this saeculum, this age) rulers and arms them with the avenging sword of his justice, to maintain a measure of moral and political order in the old age that keeps puttering along until the Risen One returns to put all to rights. Otherwise, how would his holy people be able to go about preaching repentance to the nations in order to welcome them into the peace of his Kingdom through forgiveness of sins? Now, we can and will do without good roads, working aqueducts, internal justice, and international peace if we have to. Just ask my son Patrick in the wilds of Ireland, or the heroic dissidents in Eastern Europe, or that lion of a man Wang Yi in his Chinese prison cell. But temporal peace and a working economy are good gifts from our Creator God, and they sure do help. True as it is that Jesus—not Caesar, not Tsar, not Bezos/Biden—is kyrios and ruler of kings on earth (Revelation 1.5), the Church of God is no assembly of anarchists. Me genoito. But now, back to the things that matter ultimately, the things that endure: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other …” (Romans 13.8). Taken together, the kingdom-politics of Jesus and the apostolic theology of Paul provide the necessary building blocks for a Lutheran political theology after Christendom. Or,
cylinders we need to revamp our sturdy old Lycoming. The Lutheran “Zweireichelehre”: sic et non In the churches of the Augsburg Confession, we speak of the Zweireichelehre: the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Or, the two governments (Zweiregimente). We also speak of the doctrine of “earthly/worldly” authority (von weltlicher Obrigkeit, a 1523 book by Martin Luther) as opposed to the “spiritual” authority vested in the office of Word and sacrament. And, perhaps a third of the Lectures on Genesis, the magnum opus of Luther’s last decade, would vanish if you cut out everything the old doctor had to say about life in “the three estates,” the distinct but mutually-serving spheres of home/economic, ecclesial, and political existence in human society: viz., the Dreiständelehre, affirmed in the Augsburg Confession (CA XVI). These are useful, complementary ways of providing conceptual definition for the same set of complexly interwoven realities. The Kingdom of God (Reiche Gottes), really though not-yet-fully present in the evangelical Church through Messiah’s invasion of this world in Word and sacrament, is one thing; Rome, Saxony, and the California Republic (Reiche Gavins), quite another. Yet the ransomed of Jesus who are the church of his gospel are also, simul, Romans, Saxons, and Californians. The saints too, not just hoi polloi, are begotten, birthed, breastfed, loved, reared, educated, and otherwise humanized in the home; fed, clothed, and sheltered by the many hands that make light the work of an economy, to which they are also called to
contribute one way or another in their vocations; defended, governed, punished, or vindicated by political authorities, who—in modern democracies—are also responsible to the citizens they defend and rule. They do not spend all their time in church, nor does God want them to. The earth is YHVH’s, and the fulness thereof. The “cultural mandate” of Gen 1.28 still stands after the rebellion of Adam-king and his Eve: husband and wife, father and mother, farmer, guardian, and teacher they very much remained after the disaster of Genesis 3 by the providential goodness or “common grace” of God. And in the time of the gospel, the people washed in Messiah’s blood and renewed by his Spirit continue to serve their Father as “culture-makers.” For grace does not destroy nature, but redeems and completes it. Not only so, but the “political mandate” of the sword, given to curb the insane violence of mankind Augsburg Confession that provoked the judgment of the flood (Gen 9.5-7), is still in place after the advent of the Christ and his kingdom in the gospel (Rom 13). And, in order to serve their Maker and love their neighbors well, first-rate Christians participate—to the extent that justice requires and allows: a major caveat—in the political affairs of this-worldly life. Hence Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession, to which the papal party had no objections: Concerning public order and secular government (Von
Policey und weltlichem regiment) it is taught that all authority in the world (Oberkeit inn der welt) and ordered government (geordente regiment) and laws, good order (ordenung), are created and instituted by God, and that Christians may be in authority, princes, and the judicial office (Oberkeit, Fürsten und Richterampt) without sin; pass sentences and administer justice according to imperial and other existing laws; punish evildoers with the sword; wage just wars; serve as soldiers; buy and sell; take required oaths; possess property; be married; etc.
In slightly less Lutheran, more Augustinian terms: citizens of the city of God, baptized into Messiah and incorporated into his universal nation of Israel-plus-the-nations, are also, in the time of our pilgrimage, citizens of the cities of man. Our real and best home is in that sphere named ecclesia, because our citizenship is in the messianic “republic” (Phil 3.20: politeuma) already liberating and reclaiming territory in this world through the people of the gospel as through an advanced force, ahead of the glorious day when the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven from God (Rev 21.2). But our ultimate allegiance to Jerusalem does not make us indifferent to the temporal concerns of the earthly cities into which the King himself sends us as ambassadors to herald his gospel and as soldiers to advance his kingdom. Jeremiah 29.7: Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to YHVH on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Augustine, City of God 19.7: Even the heavenly city in her pilgrimage here on earth makes use of earthly peace and defends and seeks compromise between human wills in respect of provisions relevant to the mortal nature of man— so far as may be permitted without detriment to true religion and piety. For Augustinian/Lutheran Christians, the penultimate spheres named oeconomia and politeia matter too, not just the ultimate sphere of the gospel and the pilgrim-people created by its power. For it is in the here-and-now of this old mundane world that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, proclaim the gospel of the King of love, and so show them something of the new heavenly world that is to come. This is tricky stuff. Somehow, by way of a Scripturesoaked, gospel-bold, Spirit-led, tradition-informed, churchdiscerned wisdom, it has to get sorted out. Above all in the warp and woof of a rich human life lived for the glory of God and the advance of the gospel of his Son, but also in Stanley Hauerwas the theoretical account we give of the rightly-nuanced, thisworldly, eschatological life. That’s what the two-kingdoms doctrine is for.3 There are alternatives. The Amish/Hauerwasian option, which is also the original Benedict option, is simple: flee the world to keep yourself pure. Too simple, however, for it forgets that men and women are men and women, not angels, and at some level (and to varying degrees) denies our catholic faith in the Wordmade-flesh. On the other end of the spectrum, the revanchist-nationalist
option is too simple too, and if anything worse than monastic flight from the world. For the world is after all just the world, and the nations are like a drop from a bucket and dust on the scales (Isa 40.15). When the church forgets this and reverts to that pagan sacralization of strongman and nation that seems to be the default setting of the fallen heart, the saints are exposed to the influences of demons and the way is paved for antichrist himself. Blut und Boden must never, ever be our battle cry: only, “Maranatha: Come, Lord Jesus!” One must never forget that “the other 13” in a good NT theology of the political is Revelation 13: the unmasking of dragon, beast, and false prophet is central to the apocalypse of spiritual/political reality given to St John on Patmos.4 Two-kingdoms thinking is meant to keep us flesh-and-blood saints grounded in this good if fallen world, while simultaneously making us mindful of the fact that the kingdom of this world has yet to become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ: and he shall reign forever and ever, Amen (Revelation 11.15; Handel). Spe salvi, nondum in re. All well and good, as far as I can tell. But we get into trouble when we lose sight of Paul’s eschatological proportion. Too often, the way we talk about the doctrine of the two kingdoms implies a symmetry of importance, permanence, and indeed reality between the one and the other: a symmetry that our idolatrous hearts find quite to our liking, and quickly turn into Babylonian captivities of one kind or another. For we are children of the man who was made to be priest-king of all creation, but who traded his temple and throne for the chance to become god in a dragon-like way:
grasping power, wielding it to make a name and empire for himself (Genesis 11), crushing anyone who dares get in his way, and—in the ultimate inversion/perversion of the gift of being in the image of God—rationalizing the entire imperial enterprise by sacralizing it. In the inextirpably pagan recesses of our hearts, we aren’t really satisfied with In the end, left political leaders who are people just like us.5 We to our own want a king who is also a priest. We want a nation adamic more than almost-chosen. We want a war we can devices, our tell ourselves is holy. In the end, left to our own culture-making adamic devices, our culture-making always always devolves into cult, our politics into idolatry. devolves into Alas, it is all too easy for a Eusebius of Caesarea, cult, our a Reichsbischof Müller, a Michael Curry, or a politics into Patriarch Kirill to celebrate a “symphonia” (as the idolatry. Orthodox label their political-theological heresy)6 between Christ and culture, a demonic dance intertwining presiding bishop or patriarch with president or premier. Alas, the collapse of the distinction between the Two, and the consequent absorption of the catholic church of the gospel by culture/world/empire, is an all-too-common story: a collapse and an absorption fueled, more often than not, by the cowardly capitulation of bishop-qua-chaplain to whoever happens to hold the purse strings and the power at a given moment. The Cross is draped with the flag, at the expense of the Cross. The sword of the Word is sheathed, to justify the unleashing of one Orthodox nation’s military on another Orthodox nation’s people. Worse: the Word is perverted by pastor or patriarch to valorize violence in the holy name of our
tortured King. When in reality, the asymmetrical relationship of the two kingdoms works quite the other way round. St Paul does not so much as deign to use the words “Caesar” or “king” when he discusses the subject in his letter to the church in—Rome. Little, eternally insignificant men like Julius Caesar or Vladimir Putin have their place as “governing authorities.” They are servants of God, “liturgists” of divine justice and political order, and they do not bear the sword in vain (Rom 13.1-6). But the least in the Kingdom of God, the most obscure saint in the holy nation of priest-kings in Messiah Jesus, is greater than they are. And behold: the day is coming, perhaps sooner than we think, when “the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with the whore Babylon, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning” (Rev 18.9). (Do you hear that, Mr Xi? Do you hear that, American businessmen who close your eyes to line your pockets? Repent, before it is too late.) But as for the martyrs and saints who are the Bride of the Lamb: the King who laid down his life for us in battle will seat us with great fanfare at his table. We will see his face, his lovely, thorn-scarred face, and he will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Every tear shed by Pastor Yi in his isolation cell. Every tear from the eye of every martyr’s mother, from the first Eve to the second (Luke 2.35, John 19.25-27) and to the end of the age. And Messiah will embrace us in his arms and in the love of his Father and ours, and the Spirit will fill us to overflowing with life and fulness and peace, and we shall reign in the kingdom of light forever, and our joy will know no end
(Rev 19-21). To re-tool the two-kingdoms doctrine for our missional moment, we need to recover this apocalyptic urgency, this eschatological proportion, freedom, and joy. The quickest path forward is, I think, the path back through the Reformation to St. Augustine and the pastor who led him to Christ: Ambrose of Milan. The Proposed “Tweak” In The Desire of the Nations,7 Oliver O’Donovan maps the now happy, now tragic fate of “the doctrine of the Two” (as he styles it) through the centuries. The pre-Nicene church evinces an “extraordinary Oliver O’Donovan missionary triumphalism … conquering society with the word of truth and the blood of the martyrs.” The goal of the earliest Christians vis-à-vis the Greco-Roman world was twofold: to transform society by the law of Christ, the law of love, and to put earthly rulers in their proper place as conquered subjects of the risen Jesus (p. 193). By the fourth century, they had met with imperfect but real success. Ambrose and Augustine in particular, though modifying it in light of the new situation, kept up the original vision: that is why the former excommunicated (and subsequently absolved) emperor Theodosius, and why the latter wrote his great work on the city of God vis-à-vis the earthly city of man. At this early stage, the doctrine of the Two is still very much the biblical/eschatological doctrine of the two Adams, the two
ages, and the two cities. The “vis-à-vis” of the triumphal missionary (don’t forget, that’s just the Latin form of “apostolic”) church is still operative. Though martyrdom is no longer to be expected as a matter of course, the Word of God as law remains a prophetic Word that attacks the folly, idolatry, and injustice of the worldly-wise; and the Word of God as gospel remains a saving Word that delivers lost and condemned men by ripping them out of Adam and implanting them into Christ. And the bishop who preaches accordingly may well find himself holed up in his basilica singing hymns with holy women and praying the angels restrain the Arian emperor’s forces from slaughtering them. Just so, that little Psalter-singing flock (Augustine’s mother Monica among them) cannot possibly be confused with the Arian soldiers outside the walls. They are two quite distinct groups of people, two societies, two cities: the one, an altera civitas inside the earthly city; the other, an empire of dust doomed to crumble beneath the nail-pierced feet of the Serpent-Crusher, Jesus, who is The Right Side of History and who will, as such, come again to judge the quick and the dead. This, says O’Donovan, is the original and fundamental form of the genuinely Christian doctrine of Christendom: In its primary form, the Christendom idea supposes the vis-à-vis of church and secular government, as distinct structures belonging to distinct societies and, indeed, distinct eras of salvation-history. Until the end of the patristic period this vis-à-vis is constantly in evidence, and the meaning of the Christian empire as a capitulation to the throne of Christ is not forgotten (p. 196).
But as the Roman empire continued to capitulate to Christ in succeeding centuries, the Ambrosian approach (courage) and the Augustinian vision (two-cities eschatology) fell prey to its own success. The missionary vis-à-vis was lost sight of. Instead of two cities, there was now one holy Roman empire ruled by two “swords”—two departments of state, if you will: “With the replacement of the empire in the West by the Germanic kingdoms, a new perspective emerges, that of a single, homogeneous society with twin foci of authority. The missionary context falls away, and we are left with a Christian society led by kings and bishops” (p. 196). In high Christendom, there is but one social res, not two; one spiritual-political respublica. Augustine had said: “Two loves made two cities.” Now, Gelasius (d. 496) begins to teach: “Two there are by whom this world is ruled as princes”; and in the Carolingian age, when “world” was sometimes replaced by “church” in the reiteration of Pope Gelasius’ novel doctrine, the gloss Gelasius was by no means self-conscious (p. 203). In its politicalecclesiastical unity, Europe is the church, the corpus Christianum. In the Reformation era, both Evangelical and Reformed theologians adopted the inherited Gelasian doctrine: though with important variations. German Lutherans repristinated it, disavowing the Pope’s authority, exalting the office of the Word, strengthening the cause of the princes, and thus attempting to restore the equilibrium between the two “swords.” So, e.g., CA XXVIII: “some have improperly mixed the power of bishops with the secular sword,” and the two must
again be distinguished in their office, nature, ends, and means. The power of the keys/of bishops is a divine power to preach the gospel, forgive or retain sin, and administer sacraments. “For the Gospel brings us not a bodily kingdom (leiplich reich) but eternal goods, the Holy Spirit, eternal righteousness and eternal life.” Secular power, on the other hand, deals with matters altogether different from the gospel. “The gospel protects the soul; worldly power (weltlich gewalt), the body.” And it uses coercion and violence to do so, which is a big reason why one mustn’t mix the two up. “One must know how to rightly distinguish geistlich und weltlich gewalt.” Even so, the one and the other come together in the Lutheran bodypolitic in a kind of psychosomatic social harmony. Other reformers/princes experimented with other recalibrations of the Gelasian synthesis. Swiss Calvinists reworked the Gregorian triumph of Pope over Emperor into the Genevan dream of consistorial supremacy in the city-state: a pipedream, it turned out, that Calvin himself never quite pulled off. The English Reformed, with a few noble exceptions, succumbed to a western caesaropapism and proceeded to develop a tradition of sycophantic Erastianism that continues right up to the present day, mutatis mutandis. (Fearless John Knox, despite his formal adoption of the doctrine of the Two in its Calvinist-Gelasian form, is really in a class of his own: what with his 18 months as a galley-slave, his trumpet-blasts against the monstrous regiment of women, his defiant preaching of the Word of God in the face of mortal danger and, generally, his huge to-hell-with-your-threats heart. He and Luther make an extraordinary pair of sixteenth-century Ambroses.)
But these are merely variations on the old Gelasian theme. For good and for ill—and it was a mix of both—the Reformers inherited the theopolitical synthesis of medieval Christendom. So much so that they couldn’t imagine what it might look like to live, preach, worship, evangelize, serve, suffer, and die as an altera civitas ontologically distinct and (often) sociologically alienated from the cultural, religious, political, and economic mainstream of the earthy city. The seeming exception, namely the persecuted evangelical churches of France, proves the rule: if the king did not favor your confession, you made like Jean Cauvin and fled for Geneva to live the Christendom life— the only imaginable life—in civil/ecclesial peace. The only other option available, the Anabaptist option, bore its own tragic witness to the Kingdom of God as distinct from the realms of this world, alas; but for what I believe are biblical and catholic theological reasons, this option was not viable for our ancestors in the evangelical Church. The apostolic option—narratively rendered above in the sketch of Messiah Jesus’ strange revolution and brutal political execution, theologically outlined in our brief survey of Romans, and powerfully exemplified in the early church of death-defying martyrs, take-no-prisoners apologists and brave bishops with their bold “missionary vis-à-vis”—wasn’t yet on the table. A quarter of the way into the 21st century, evangelical catholics in the barbarian ruins of the post-Christian West find ourselves in a very different situation than that of our earlymodern forebearers.8 Are we not wise to seize the opportunity that lies before us, not only theologically (though a
reformation of genuine theology is of capital importance) but also in terms of our life together as the kingdom-people of Messiah and of our mission to save the nations from eternal destruction? The catholic Church has been misled by Pope Gelasius’ error long enough, however understandable that error may have been in his cultural moment and however venerable our Zweireichelehre may seem to us. The time is ripe for an Augustinian adjustment of the two-kingdoms doctrine. Or if you like, an Ambrosian restoration of the paleoAugustinian theology of the two cities. Enter Bonhoeffer, stage Kirchenkampf—and a Few Forgotten Truths from the Confessions “The Body of Jesus Christ takes up space on earth.”9 So Dietrich Bonhoeffer began the chapter on “the visible Community” (die sichtbare Gemeinde) in his 1937 book Discipleship. We tend to read it as a spiritual classic, which of course it is, but in our piety we tend to miss how politically-charged the argument is. Not just church-politically, though there is no lack of polemic against the Nazified Deutschen Christen as well as against the moderate wing of the Confessing Church that Dietrich Bonhoeffer Bonhoeffer and his closest friends (the “Dahlemites”) despised. Running a secret seminary while trying to hide it from the Gestapo, Bonhoeffer went after the Nazis themselves: not directly, but subversively, like the
remarkable slave-pastors in the antebellum South who preached the Exodus story right under their masters’ noses. The community needs space on earth, he insisted: Lebensraum. “The community claims space on earth not only for her liturgy and her order, but also for the daily life of her members. That is why we must now speak of the Lebensraum of the visible community” (p. 248). The italics are original; Bonhoeffer didn’t want anyone mistaking the fact that the evangelical ecclesiology he’s articulating in the fourth part of Discipleship posed a direct challenge to the globe-gobbling intentions of the Third Reich. The Nazis say they need “living space” for their Aryan master-race, do they? So does the community of Jesus Christ, Messiah of Israel and Lord over all nations. And if push comes to shove, well … let’s just say not all the German Lutherans were two-kingdom pushovers like Althaus and Elert. “Spiritual” though the gospel may well be, if it is in fact the gospel of Jesus Christ the incarnate Word it must take up space on earth in the form of the people it generates by its saving power. Earthly rulers who feel threatened by that are hereby put on notice: Achtung, Hitler (cf. Ps 2.10-12). Here we have another Knox, another Ambrose. The argument turns on the visibility (Sichtbarkeit) of the messianic community. And for Bonhoeffer, as for the catholic tradition in which he stands, the visibility of the Church is a necessary consequence of the Incarnation of her Lord. The Body of Jesus Christ takes up Raum on earth. With the Incarnation (Meschwerdung) Christ demands Raum
among men. He came into his own possession. But they gave him a barn at his birth, “since they had no Raum in the inn.” They thrust him out at his death, so that his body hung on the gallows between earth and heaven. However, the Incarnation (Fleischwerdung) includes a claim to its own Raum on earth. What takes up Raum, is visible. So, the body of Jesus Christ can only be a visible body, or it is no body at all … A truth, a doctrine, a religion needs no Raum of its own. It is bodiless. It is heard, learnt, conceptually-grasped, but that’s it. But the incarnate (meschgewordene) Son of God needs not only ears or even hearts, but real living men (leibhaftige Menschen) who will follow him (p. 241). But, granted the power of Bonhoeffer’s brave anti-Nazi polemic, doesn’t this emphasis on the visibility and physicality of the Church reflect a departure from orthodox Lutheran theology? Is not the invisibility of the Church as the community of elect believers in Christ the genius of Augustinian Protestantism? And does this not constitute a fundamental Grunddifferenz distinguishing the evangelical Church of the Word from the institutional-sacramental Church of Rome? To make his case, Bonhoeffer works his way through the traditional “marks” (notae) of the evangelical Church one-byone. “How does this Body become visible? In the first place, in the preaching of the Word” (p. 242). “To the visibility of Christ’s Body in the preaching of the Word is added the visibility in Baptism and the Supper. Both come out of the true humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. In both he encounters us
bodily (leibhaftig) and makes us partakers in the fellowship of his Body … Neither the gift of Baptism nor that of the Supper is completely encompassed if we describe it as forgiveness of sins. The gift of the Body (Leibes), which is donated in the sacraments, gives us the bodily (leibhaftigen) Lord in his Church” (p. 244). In sum: “The community of Jesus Christ in the world lays claim to a Raum of The reality of proclamation. The Body of Christ is visible in the the Church is community gathered around Word and irreducibly Sacrament” (p. 245). And, Bonhoeffer adds, as a mysterious, for visible community of Word and Sacrament the the nature of Church also lays claim to a Raum of church order: her society is an order that is divine, not human, in both its not merely origin and its substance. “Office and community sociological but are equally originally in the triune God” (pp. 245f). spiritual and This is the stuff of catholic ecclesiology to be indeed divine: sure, though in the cast given it within the for she receives Evangelical as opposed to the Orthodox or Roman her being and portions of the Great Church. “For all time there life as a gift must be and remain one holy Christian church, from Christ which is the assembly of all believers, among through the whom the Gospel is purely preached and the holy grace and Sacraments are administered according to the power of the Gospel” (CA VII). Where is the catholic Church? Holy Spirit. Wherever Jesus Christ is, present with his flock through Word and sacrament. The reality of the Church is irreducibly mysterious, for the nature of her society is not merely sociological but spiritual and indeed divine: for she receives her being and life as a gift
from Christ through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. “The Christian Church consists not only in a society of external signs, but principally in an inward community of eternal goods in the heart (gemeinschafft innwendig der ewigen güter im hertzen), like the Holy Spirit, faith, fear, and love for God.” But great care is needed here, for this is not to say that the Church is “spiritual” in the Emersonian/American-gnostic “spiritual but not religious” sense so perniciously pervasive in the postChristian West. “The very same Church has however also external signs (eusserliche zeichen) by which one can recognize it, namely, where God’s Word goes purely ahead, where the Sacraments are rightly administered according to the same, da ist gewis die Kirche.”10 On the one hand, the Church of Christ is so much more than rites, ceremonies, or duly-ordained bishops. “If we were to say that the Church were only an external polity (eusserlich Politey) like other governments (regimente), in which there are evil and good alike and so forth, then no one would ever learn or understand that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual (Geistlich), as in fact it really is. In it Christ rules, strengthens, consoles hearts inwardly, distributes the Holy Spirit and manifold other spiritual gifts. Instead, you’d think it were an external wisdom, a certain order of genuine ceremonies and liturgy.” But if that’s the case, what’s the difference between the Spirit-filled church of the gospel and Israel kata sarka under the regime of the old covenant? “Paul distinguishes the Church from the Jews when he says that the Church is a spiritual people (geistlich volck): that is, the sort of people which isn’t just distinguished from the heathen by its polity
and civic nature, but a true people of God, which is illumined in the heart and born again through the Holy Spirit … They alone are God’s people (Gottes volck) according to the Gospel who receive the spiritual goods, the Holy Spirit; and the very same Church is the kingdom of Christ, distinguished from the kingdom of the devil.”11 On the other hand: “spiritual” as the Church is in this carefully-defined sense, invisible she is not. “Nor indeed are we dreaming about some Platonic city (Platonicam civitatem), as some people impiously cavil.” The spiritual community of the gospel is visible, touchable, cancellable, killable, for she consists of the real flesh-and-blood children, women, and men who believe the gospel and receive the Spirit through Word and sacrament. “We do not speak of an artificial church which is nowhere to be found … This Church, in which is holy living, truly is and remains on earth (warhafftig auff erden ist und bleibt), namely: there are quite a few children of God, hither and yon in all the world, in all kinds of kingdoms, The history of islands, lands, states, from the rising of the sun to its Church could setting, who have Christ and the Gospel rightly be written as confessed. And we say, this same Church has these the story of external signs, the preaching office or Gospel and one decadent the Sacrament.”12 institutionalism Probably, our very nature as spiritual-physical broken up by composites dooms us (under the conditions of sin) one explosive to oscillate between these two poles. The history of spiritualism Church could be written as the story of one after another. decadent institutionalism broken up by one explosive spiritualism after another. In the 1520s, the spiritualist
option was very much in play. And to this day, some of Luther’s progeny read his Reformation as a real but imperfect break from the sacramentalism of the medieval Church: a break that we, in our superior gnosis, are now positioned to complete. To this, Martin Luther, the confessions of the Evangelical Church, and Pastor Bonhoeffer reply: Nein! Vigorously, Nein. When God made Man in his image, he made us embodied men and women. When God set out to save the world that Adam lost, he became Man of Mary, was crucified in the body, rose in the body, ascended in the body, rules in the body: and in that body will return to judge all men on the last day. In the meantime, he goes about the business of rescuing lost people from sin and Death by giving them his Spirit and gathering them into his community through his Gospel and sacraments. It is all thoroughly “physical,” because God loves bodies and intends in the end to raise us from the dead and make us the spitting image of his crucified and risen Son, flesh, bones, blood and all. It is all thoroughly “spiritual,” because God is spirit and gives life to the embodied bipeds he cherishes in his Son by giving them of his lifegiving Spirit. Not one or the other, but both. Whoever confesses this doctrine and abides in a church that lives it out should give thanks to God and know that he is a catholic Christian and citizen of the Israel of God, regardless of whether (in God’s strange but trustworthy providence) he finds himself a member of an Orthodox, Roman, or Evangelical tribe. Whoever does not confess this doctrine is a gnostic,
however dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran or devout Catholic or ecstatic Pentecostal he may appear or even be. Ambrosian/Evangelische Politics in the Pilgrim People of the Gospel: a Preliminary Sketch Jarring as it may be, the confessional fact of the matter is that the Evangelical Church agrees with Robert Bellarmine: “The Church is a body of men that is just as visible and palpable as the body of the Roman people, or the Kingdom of France, or the Republic of Venice.”13 The church is not a Platonic republic, not an ideal form existing in the predestinating mind of God. It is a people: the messianic people of Jesus, some Robert Bellarmine chosen from the Jews, some from the goyim, who through the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit have been transferred out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the beloved Son (Col 1.14). Echoing Exodus 19.5-6, when Israel was constituted, You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Pet 2.9-10). A body of men (and women and children) as visible and palpable as Israel, Bellarmine might have said. For that is what the church is: Israel redeemed by Messiah, renewed by the Spirit, and 89
sent as a people by covenant at Sinai, as well as the great lovepromise about election in Deuteronomy 7.6-8, and the whole interlaced with eschatological prophecies from Hosea 1-2, St Peter declares with apostolic authority: out to gather the nations into the city of God through law and gospel. None of this was on Bellarmine’s radar screen: apostolicity seems to be the first ecclesial mark to go, and neither is our Israel-like character (as George Lindbeck’s clunky phrase had it) high on the list of things Christians wish to be known for. One, if possible; holy, definitely; catholic, of course: but sent to the nations to gather them into God’s Israel, well, we high-church types are content to leave that to the evangelicals and the Pentecostals. You will have noticed that Bellarmine likened the Catholic Church to the Kingdom of France. Our ecclesiologies of glory will settle for no less. When really, we are more like the Hmong: a people yes, but a landless, powerless, vulnerable people, who depend on the generosity of our host-nations and must sometimes flee violent death under cover of darkness. That is to say, we are more like the Jews … … only, like Jews who, while being ostracized, taken advantage of, and maligned, and also sometimes asked to serve in the highest echelons of government, business, law, etc., somehow miraculously combine the mad courage of Simon bar-Kokhba with the broken strength of Simon barJonah. For we were not a people, once, separated as we were from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise. We had no hope at all to speak of, being without God in a disenchanted world and dying by
suffocation in a secular age. And then, to our amazement, we suddenly realized that divine mercy had made us fellowcitizens with the saints and members of the household of God. We who were once far off were brought near … by Messiah’s blood. By the King’s Cross. By the brutal, We who were undeserved death of the Son of God. In our place. once far off In my place. And that changed everything. were brought Before, we had nothing to live for. Now, we are near … by ready even to die for the name of the Lord Jesus Messiah’s Christ, who loved and saved us and gave us his blood. By the Spirit and brought us home to his Father. Were the King’s Cross. By whole realm of nature ours, it would be an offering the brutal, far too small. What then shall we do, to give him undeserved thanks? How can we become men, to honor this death of the Man? priests, to sacrifice praise to our sacrificed Son of God. In God? kings, to reign with him in life? For already our place. In now, the One who loved us and freed us from our my place. And sins by his blood has made us a kingdom, priests to that changed his God and Father; and to him belong glory and everything. dominion forever and ever, Amen. This is what we will do: we will heed the command of the King who gave everything for us, and go into all nations as a wretched/invincible pilgrim people preaching the glad tidings of his gospel. We will rebuke them for their wickedness, but with tears in our eyes. We will summon them to submission, knowing that postmodern freedom is nothing but the bondage of an insecure flimsy dying self to itself, and to demons, and to its own damnation, but knowing also that in the service of the
King of love perfect freedom may be found. We will sing the power, power, wonder-working power of the Blood / of the Lamb: the blood of Jesus our God, which washes sin-stained sinners white as snow. We will use the keys Christ gave us to set the damned free, to restore innocence to the fallen, purity to the stained, and hope to souls drowning in despair. Then, we will baptize them, and give them new birth by water and the Spirit, and welcome them into the adoptive family of God, and feed them with the rich food and well-aged wine of the Son’s Supper. In short: we will conquer the nations in the name of our good King and for the glory of our Father and in the power of the Spirit, armed with nothing but law and gospel and the apostolic-armor Paul talks about, flanked by unseen hosts of angels, spit upon, mocked, imprisoned, or even loved, humble as dirt and bold as lions. Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against YHVH and against his Messiah, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree: YHVH said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve YHVH with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2) Xi Jinping
And our Hmong- and Israel-like band of ransomed sinners and warriors of light will be a Church in truth: an altera civitas luminous and alive even amidst “these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christforgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world.”14 And the little beachheads of the Jerusalem above that the King builds by Word, sacrament, and Spirit through us here below “shall be inhabited as villages without walls,” open to every starving wanderer, welcoming to every sister-church, exposed to the violence of Cain and Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and Nero, Justina and Xi. Yet we shall not be afraid, for we will remember the
Lord’s promise: “And I will be a wall of fire to her all around, declares YHVH, and I will be the glory in her midst” (Zecheriah 2.4-5). And in just a little while, yet once more, He will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And we will lift up our eyes and dance for joy as we welcome the coming King. Rev. Dr. Phil Anderas (Ph.D., Marquette) is pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Roanoke, VA. Endnotes 1N.
T. Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), cp. 4: “Gospel and Empire.” 2Thus proleptically fulfilling the prophecy at Dan 7.27 and explaining, via unio cum Christo, the riddle of Daniel’s shift from the singular “Son of Man” in vv. 13-14. 3Good guides on “sorting this out” include: Augustine’s City of God, esp. bks. 8, 10-14, 1922; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship (1937) and Ethics (unfinished at his death in April 1945); Robert Benne, The Paradoxical Vision: A Public Theology for the Twenty-first Century (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995); Jean Bethke Elshtain, Augustine and the Limits of Politics (Notre Dame: UNDP, 1996); Gilbert Meilaender, The Way that Leads There: Augustinian Reflections on the Christian Life (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006); Richard John Neuhaus, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile (New York: Basic, 2009). 4Peter Leithart, Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012). 5On the “naturalness” of sacral kingship, see Francis Oakley, Empty Bottles of Gentilism: Kingship and the Divine in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (to 1015) (New Haven: Yale, 2010). 6The recent “Declaration” on the part of leading (western; non-Russian) Orthodox theologians and churchmen is most welcomed, precisely because it signals a firm departure from Orthodox tradition in the direction of the western two-kingdoms theology. See https://publicorthodoxy.org/2022/03/13/a-declaration-on-the-russian-world-russkii-mir-teaching. 7The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the roots of political theology (NY: CUP, 1996), cp. 6: “The obedience of rulers.” 8“The barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time”—Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame: UNDP, 1984), 263. Also, David Hart: “As far as I can tell, homo nihilisticus may often be in several notable respects a far more amiable rogue than homo religiosus, exhibiting a far smaller propensity for breaking the crockery, destroying sacred statuary, or slaying the nearest available infidel. But, love, let us be true to one another: even when all of this is granted, it would be a willful and culpable blindness for us to refuse to recognize how aesthetically arid, culturally worthless, and spiritually depraved our society has become. That this is not hyperbole a dispassionate appraisal of the artifacts of popular culture—of the imaginative coarseness and cruelty informing them—will quickly confirm. 94
For me, it is enough to consider that, in America alone, more than forty million babies have been aborted since the Supreme Court invented the ‘right’ that allows for this, and that there are many for whom this is viewed not even as a tragic ‘necessity,’ but as a triumph of moral truth. When the Carthaginians were prevailed upon to cease sacrificing their babies, at least the place vacated by Baal reminded them that they should seek the divine above themselves; we offer up our babies to ‘my’ freedom of choice, to ‘me.’ No society’s moral vision has ever, surely, been more degenerate than that.” https://www.firstthings.com/article/2003/10/christ-and-nothing. 9Nachfolge, Martin Kuske & Ilse Tödt, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke, Bd. 4 (Gütersloher Verlaus, 1992). 10Apology of the Augsburg Confession, art. VII, Die Bekenntnisschriften der EvangelischLutherischen Kirche, ed. Irene Dingel et al. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014), 398. Here, I cite Justus Jonas’ German edition of the Apology, which was used in the original Book of Concord (1580). On gnosticism as the American religion par excellence, see Harold Bloom, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). 11Ap. VII, BSELK pp. 402-4. 12Ap. VII, BSELK pp. 406f. 13De controversiis fidei christiani contra haereticos nostri tempori, I.3.ii. 14Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World (New York: Picador, 1971), 3.
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“I observed chastity, poverty, and obedience…and was devoted only to fasting, vigils, prayers, reading Mass, and things like that, nevertheless, under the cover of sanctity and confidence I was nursing incessant mistrust, doubt, fear, hatred, and blasphemy against God. This righteousness of mine was nothing but a cesspool and the delightful kingdom of the devil.” Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (1535)