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Resurgence of Two Kingdom Theology in some Lutheran Circles in a form different from Luther’s .

Pastor Roy A. Steward


The two articles about Luther’s understanding of the “Two Kingdom Theology” that I have already posted give a good focus on the so called “Kingdom of the Left” being inclusive of everything that human beings do in the Secular World as well as in the Churches. The three “Ordos” encompass all Fleshly activity, even Pious Churchly activity.

Natural Law and the morality of all of Holy Scripture (The Law of God which includes not only the Ten Commandments but even the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus) is to be applied through preaching and persuasion (which is Judaeo-Christian Advocacy) inclusive of writings and postings as well as vocal messaging. The Law of God is what makes us “Sinful.” (Romans 5:20) It drives all human beings in Government and out of Government; in the Church and outside the Church to their knees with the realization of Sin (and sins which of course emanate from the Terrible infection of Sin).

Law drives to the knees with the awareness of Sin from whence we cant even look up to heaven (no matter what our vocation) but simply pray “Lord be merciful to me a Sinner.” (Luke 18:13) Then the Holy Spirit of God begins the preparation for the Kingdom of the Right (the Kingdom of Heaven) by creating Faith in people who have come to know that they are Sinners. What is the object of Holy Spirit created Faith? It is Faith that ONLY Jesus Saves, that only in Jesus Alone can anyone enter the Kingdom of God. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Only Jesus! That and only that is the “Gospel.” So as you have read Law/ Gospel is at the core addressing the Secular world and the Church world, Those in Secular Government and those in Churchly Organization as well as those in Family (Religious and Irreligious).

How did this notion of Preaching and Persuasion(Advocacy) based on All of Holy Scripture as the Immutable and infallible Word to humankind come to understood by some as not to be addressed and discussed by Believers or to be addressed to the wider world, that is to say not to be addressed to Secular and Partisan Politics?

One of the Pastors wrote me not long ago suggesting that perhaps this notion entered in as a very different notion (even in some Lutheran Circles) as the effort to have Separation of Church and State resulted from the American Revolution and formation of the United States of America.

It may be cited by some that ‘ Freedom of Religion’ in the Bill of Rights is the raison d’etre. Certainly there was a desire by the American Colonists not to have State Churches for the States and Commonwealths of the New Nation. The New England Puritan Theocracy was rejected; Rhode Island had been under the Roger Williams Baptists, New York, Virginia and Georgia had been under the Anglicans, Maryland under the Roman Catholics, The Frontier areas had a heavy Methodist concentration, New Jersey was strongly Presbyterian, etc. So the new Nation opted for no “State Churches.” So Perhaps that was a reason behind the notion that the Pastors should not preach about Secular Political or Partisan items. However it is documented that George Washington, Adams, and Madison among others (including Franklin) felt it to be vital for Freedom and Liberty that America be a Nation based in Christian Religion.

During the Revolutionary War Period support for the Revolution Effort (Very Partisan and Political but based in Scripture) in fact came very strongly from the Pulpits and the Stump preaching/ advocacy by Church leaders across the range of Christian Religious Groupings in the Colonies. Anglicans perhaps were not strong on this but the other Churches were and as a result the Pastors and Preachers of the Churches became main targets of the British for apprehension and execution. Many were apprehended and executed and Churches were burned to the ground. The Clergy primarily wore Black Pulpit Robes and were termed by the British and the Americans as the “Black Robed Brigade. ” In Lutheran Circles even Pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the founder of the first successful Lutheran Synod in America fled from Philadelphia for his own safety when the British forces approached the City. His Son Peter Muhlenberg was serving as a Pastor in Virginia and during his Sermon on a Text from the Book of Ecclesiastes he pulled off his Black Robe to reveal the uniform of a Continental officer underneath the Robe. He then exhorted the men of the congregation to enlist in the Continental Army to fight the British. So the first Lutherans in America had no sense of a total separation of “Churches” from preaching and emphasizing God’s Word in regard to the Secular Partisan Groupings. Now they didn’t fight in Revolution under the Banner of the Luther Rose or the Cross but the Pastors had no reticence in dealing with the issues bringing on the Revolution. That boldness was and is totally in accord with what Luther talked about in the Theology of the “Two Kingdoms.” They were not trying to push Judaeo - Christian understandings on Secular people but as Luther had declared they were exhorting people to engage in a Just War of Defense of Country (the States), individuals and families of the land. So the change to a practice of totally limiting of the proclamation of the Word of God (Law/Gospel) to just Churchly settings and about only Churchly matters was not in consideration.

By the time of the brewing lead up to the Civil War and during that terrible War the Churches (especially in the Northern States) Very strongly preached and advocated the Abolition of Slavery (A secular and primarily Southern Partisan orientation. Lutherans were among those doing this. That use of the Pulpits and Church Advocacy resulted in a Split among the Lutherans of the Muhlenberg tradition. The United Synod of the South came into existence. The Southern States were under the control of one particular Partisan Political group. The North and its Churches gave support to Lincoln and his Partisan Political group Because of God’s Word of Law (Biblical Morality and Natural Law Morality). So again the notion of a “Kingdom of the Left” applying only to the Secular and of a “Kingdom of the Right” applying only to “gospel” preaching in Churches was not in practice and would have been viewed as very strange.

But things began to change with the Administration of Woodrow Wilson, the onset of WWI. The Changes picked up their pace with FDR and WWII. Then the “Blue laws” were attacked and dismantled in the latter part of the 20th Century. Prior to that Sunday was a day of no work not only for Church People but for Secular People as well. To be sure the Blue laws seem to have originated in the Puritan New England area and from a “Calvinist model of the Kingdom” but the “Blue Laws” had been adopted by all the other States and Commonwealths of the United States. The Lutheran Churches and Pulpits (And the other Mainline Protestant Churches) encouraged the adherence to these Laws prior to the 1950’s. The years subsequent to Wilson and FDR and Johnson evidenced an increasing emphasis upon “the Secular State” needing to be protected from Religion rather than Religious Freedom protected from the encroachment of the Secular State. A crucial development occurred with the enactment of legislation or Executive action during the Lyndon Johnson administration where Churches were prohibited, on penalty, of losing their Tax Exempt Status if there was Preaching or advocacy on Secular and Partisan matters. For 250 some years the Churches in the USA were able to be Advocates of matters regarding the Secular Culture, Partisan groupings and Governance Policies but that had been steadily reshaped by one Partisan Political grouping in particular into a rather dramatic change. Interesting that such occurred following the Civil rights marches that had wide Church participation and when the Vietnam War Protests were at their peak . Both of those historical occurrences had abundant participation and Advocacy by many Churches. The Johnson Policy, in retrospect, toward Churches was then unevenly applied. The Politicians and Partisans of a certain Political Party or Partisan Viewpoint got away with holding rallies and gatherings in the churches that had large racial Minority membership whereas Conservative Churches and Politicians/ Partisans of the other view were admonished not to have any connection with the other Partisan Political Secular orientation and were prohibited from allowance of support and advocacy for the same. As Dr. Luther would occasionally say “Now, do you smell the roast?”

And so the emphasis upon a “Kingdom of the Left” applying to anything Secular or Political and with preaching and address to these by Natural Law and the Word of God as “Law” is not at all Dr. Luther’s Two Kingdom understanding. Jesus makes this clear “Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 5:17ff ). The Institutional Church is Part of the Kingdom of the Left (Iure Humano) and needs the preaching of the Law as much as the Secular and Partisan groupings of Government and everyday citizenry (the three Ordos of the Kingdom of Law/ Left) in order to drive to all to the realization of Sin (Injustice, etc.) so that they can have the Holy Spirit work to equip all for the “Kingdom of the Right” which is ONLY JESUS.

Lots and lots of Documentation will be available for all of the above for those with time to research this area. And so some Lutherans got caught up in notions of the “Two Kingdom Theology” that is really not Martin Lutherische at all.

Then of course as I have mentioned in one of my comments on the earlier Two Kingdom Postings there is the blatant Hypocrisy in the Churches of those of a so called Liberal or Progressive orientation (and by some who claim to be Conservative Theologically but who are Social Liberals) where preaching and protesting against the Vietnam War and other things such as “Climate Change” or a “One Payer Health Insurance Plan”j or Planned Parenthood sponsored Abortions of unborn Babies”, etc., etc. etc. is OK BUT efforts such as “Moral Majority by Conservative Christians” or “Right to Life” efforts are Not OK and are diminished by the Cry: That is Kingdom of the Left Stuff! and is not appropriate where we are to emphasize “Gospel .“ Those who believe in All of Scripture as God’s Immutable and Infallible Word to all humankind both as “Law” and as “Gospel” are to be silent. Social Activism for Liberal Secular and Partisan Causes is OK. Instead of the “Gospel” which is “ONLY JESUS” gospel has come to mean one or more of the Greek secular definitions: “Love, Love, Love.” Again this is Not at all the “Two Kingdom” Luther understanding.

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