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Luther's Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms

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The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.


Luther's Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms

Luther, the Pastor


Recent Discussion of the Topic

- The Older "Political" approach

- The Search for Proper Terminology

- two kingdoms and two governments

- some are now suggesting that Luther mentions more than 2 Kingdoms

- The Critiques of Luther's Thought

- some have pointed to this as support for Nazi Germany

- Two irreconcilable ethics. Neibuhr Christ and Culture

- Troeltsch - Reactionary parties

- The Supporters


I. Luther was not a statesman nor a politician, but a preacher of the gospel. For this reason it is not easy to fit him into a political history and to label him and his views.

A. The older descriptions used to speak of Luther's view of the State. This was an anachronistic approach.

B. The search for proper terminology led to the "Two Kingdoms" terminology. This had the advantage of avoiding concepts foreign to Luther, but it had the disadvantage of creating the impression of a dualistic separation of a Christian - the ecclesiastical domain from all secular affairs.


II. The Scriptural Basis for Luther's Teaching. Two types of Scripture.

A. The first comes from the Sermon on the Mount (ex. "Do not resist evil, Do not avenge yourselves, Do not litigate" etc....) These kind of sayings appear to set another standard of behavior over and above the activity of the political authorities. In all these circumstances one is to serve the other to love.

B. There are other statements of Scripture which appear to establish the "sword." The apostle in Romans 13 urges us to "obey the authorities." In addition, statements of the Old Testament institute the death penalty, among other things. In Luke 3:14, John the Baptist says nothing to the soldiers about leaving military service.


III. The Historical Context of Luther's Utterances

A. The Two Kingdoms--Secular and Spiritual

1. The spiritual government brings the kingdom of God into being. This is the kingdom of grace. Christ exercises his government by bringing in the gospel to people who are in bondage to sin and death. The constitutive element is freedom. Force is not used in this kingdom.

2. The secular government includes everything that contributes to the preservation of this earthly life, esp. marriage and family, the entire household, as well as property, business, and all stations. The constitutive element is order. Force is used in this kingdom.

B. The Unity of the Two Kingdoms

1. Both governments have been established by one and the same God. This is how God's own work, institution and creation are established in opposition to the Devil.

2. The unity of the kingdoms is experienced as an individual has dealings as "a person acting in his own behalf," and as "a person acting on behalf of another." Insofar as both are experienced in one's life, the two kingdoms cannot be separated in this life.

C. The Difference Between the Two Kingdoms

1. The spiritual is of higher rank because it deals with things that are eternal.

2. The rule in the kingdom of Christ is that all people, because of their relationship to him, are one and equal before God. In secular government, however, God has instituted differences between individuals and made some dependent upon others

3. The spiritual kingdom is ruled by the gospel through His Spirit. The secular government is ruled by reason and force.

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