First off, remember my blog is for conversation. I am not presenting a decisive position but hoping for conversation. Also, as I travel for my work, I frequently write an article and publish it at times around 5 AM while sitting in my hotel room. I really don’t spend time reworking an article as I should nor are they meant to be an academic dissertation. That said, here is my article for this morning:
I naturally believe in the distinction between Church and State or the Two Kingdoms doctrine of the Lutheran Church (LCMS). But what is confusing is this notion that modern Lutheranism appears to keep the two Kingdoms so distinct that the authority of the State is played out as being equal to the authority of God even when it opposes those things we learn from Holy Scripture. One can cry Romans 13, but at the same time not being consistent with the rest of Holy Scripture. After hearing some convincing lectures, it seems apparent that Luther himself bounced back and forth on the Church and State issues by using the State to serve the interest of the Church and in the same way claiming the authority of God as supreme in all matters. The early Church Fathers were clearly First Article theologians, keeping God center and recognizing the purpose of the State, that is, a State that keeps order within a sinful society. Lutherans clearly are the best in understanding the distinction between the Two Kingdoms and at the same time Lutherans emphasize the Second Article, and rightly so, because the Church’s interest is Christ and the Gospel. But it also makes modern Lutheranism operate with a fear to engage society or the State in the name of the Church, at least, this is what I see. Especially when the Lutheran Church believes that the issues might confuse the distinction between the role of the Church and State. This I find most unfortunate.
Yes, in the United States, our pastors stand in the stead of the State when preforming a wedding and we recognize marriages only preformed by the State (claiming marriage is an institution before the Fall and not result of the fall into sin, therefore belonging to the Kingdom of the Left and not issues of the Gospel) but when a couple gets a legal divorced, the Church may discipline the couple as it is seen as an unlawful divorce before the Church. This brings about a confusion regarding the distinction between the two Kingdoms. With the the same sex marriages that we see happening today, we see a greater problem with our involvement with the State in the matters of marriage.
When it comes to societal issues, the question is, “Who will speak for the Lutheran Church (LCMS)?” My educated Roman Catholic friends would agree, that the Roman Catholic church is very diverse in practice and teaching and the only reason why the Church of Rome appears to be unified is because of the Pope. But at least they have someone to speak for them in order to give a unified confession in the name of their church. I would argue that the confessional Lutheran Church should be the most unified Church in today’s world but realistically we do not really have a spokesman for the Church nor do we tend to engage society as we should.
I was reading the article concerning the Roman Catholic church’s opposition of contraceptives and their aggressive response to the health care law. The question I would like to ask is, “Where is the Lutheran Church (LCMS) in the public square?” That is, not only in the matters of public statements but also in debate and discussion of these issues. I think it was before 1958 (as I am told), that all Christian churches were against contraceptives. Today, when I try to discuss the issue, many Lutherans immediately scuff at even discussing this issue in defense of the habitual and common practices we see in secular society today and call it adiaphora. Perhaps in some way we have lost the ability of engaging such life issues from a theological standpoint or should I say from a Christological perspective. I am only suggesting that we need to be able to engage and debate such subjects as theologians, especially in the public square because they involve many things such as the integrity of marriage and family and the dignity of human life.
I am very proud of my Seminary, Concordia Theological Seminary, for many of the students, staff and professors marched in the Pro-Life march this past saturday. The Seminary is not per se political, but confessional within our Church and Society. – H.F.