God also does two different things at the

same time. Luther distinguishes between what he calls the spiritual authority of the gospel, described as “the right hand of God,” and earthly or political authority, described as “the left hand of God.” While these two kinds of authority have different functions, Luther insists that they both come from God. Today, Lutheran theologians often talk

about God’s two kinds of authority or two modes of governing rather than using the misleading “two kingdoms” language.

Government as God’s good gift Luther lived in a very different context from ours. Church and state were rivals for power, and leaders typically dipped their hands into both spheres of influence. During his time, bishops exercised political authority over the areas that were under their spiritual care, and political authorities enforced laws against heresy. Leaders assumed that religious conformity was

a necessary part of a well-ordered society, and they insisted on it. Luther was concerned about these boundary violations. Legal or political authority, he insisted, pertained only to matters of body and property. It wasn’t acceptable for political leaders to attempt to regulate the faith of their subjects. Luther didn’t want church leaders in charge of

politics any more than he wanted political leaders running the church. Nonetheless, he brought faith to bear on social and political matters. He wrote about the responsibilities of civic leadership. He dedicated some of his writings to individual politicians. Perhaps most surprising is what he wrote about government itself. In the Large Catechism, Luther lifted up

government as one of God’s good gifts. He included it in his explanation of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed, which confesses God as creator. For Luther, confessing God as creator is not only about what happened when the world began. His emphasis is on how “God has given … and still preserves” everything that exists.

“ Although we have received from God all good things in abundance, we cannot retain any of them or enjoy them in security and happiness were God not to give us a stable, peaceful government. For where dissension, strife, and war prevail, there daily bread is already taken away or at least reduced.”

16 AUGUST 2017

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52