Sunday, May 3, 2015

The limits of Luther's two kingdom ideas. . .

Luther's two kingdoms idea has been attacked by those who think it set up a scenario for the rise of National Socialism in Germany to those who think it is a retreat from the political sphere entirely.  It is, of course, neither.  But that does not prevent us from raising some questions when the government we had counted upon to be neutral toward Christianity has come to view it with hostility and act accordingly.  Luther had it easier in dealing with a few royals but we are seeing Christianity unfriended by whole segments of American thought and public life.  He surely could not have foreseen such a day as this when Christianity faces the kind of challenges we now routinely face.  Luther counted on the kingdom of the left ruling through moral law, reason, and just authority but today we have little moral law left in force, reason has been displaced by feelings and desire, and authority has re-defined justice entirely.

Now I have little fear that someone will shut down our buildings or intrude on what happens on Sunday morning -- no matter how distasteful this might be for the politically correct crowd of the enlightened.  But I do have a real and honest fear that the voice of orthodox Christianity will no longer be tolerated in the public square.  We live in a time when the political majority is choosing very public retribution against those who dare to disagree with the prevailing sexual morality, stance on gay marriage, and a woman's proprietary right to her body even if it means the abortion of children.

Because it is the will of the liberal elite controlling the media and because it has at least the tacit approval of the silent majority of Americans (even some with religious convictions), the time is coming when Lutherans may have to re-evaluate how the two kingdoms are lived out in daily life.  Pastors and parishes may have to choose between faithfulness and acting as agents of the state in marriage.  Churches may find themselves forced to comply with more and more restrictions of their freedom to exercise the faith beyond the core identity of worship and prayer.  Parochial schools may be pressured more and more to conform to standards against the discrimination of gays, lesbians, and heterosexuals who choose lifestyles contrary to the traditional Judea-Christian morality.  Christian business owners may have to put up or shut up in the face of threats upon their businesses should they desire to run them in ways that reflect the Christian values and ethic.

Certainly I have no crystal ball nor do I have any real answers but I do know it has become more and more difficult to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's without conflicting with the things that are God's.  When that moment comes, we Lutherans may have to re-think how we live in a society increasingly at odds with our values and doctrines and increasingly intolerant of our independence.  This is not theoretical but eminently practical in a world that has shifted by degrees but at a quicker pace than ever before to making Christian dogma and morality an outcast from the public life of America.  No one will dare to intrude on Sunday mornings but I predict the day is coming when we will find Jesus' words uncomfortably prescient -- Blessed are you when men persecute you and slander you on my account...  It was unthinkable when I grew up in the 1950s, a few were worried in the 1960s but hoped this was merely a phase we would pass through.  Now fifty years later, it is easier to see the handwriting on the wall that led us from there to here, from faith being welcomed both as a community in worship and a voice in the public square to the day when it will be banned from speech that is no longer tolerated by those who claim to be tolerant.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

Excellent article, both accurate and timely, and applicable to the times in which we live in America. I think in many respects, much of the so called enlightened elitists in academia and in the national media now visualize a "Post Christian" society, and in redefining our land as a fully secular culture, are prepared to move forward in marginalizing and neutralizing the influences of biblical Christianity. I think many of us an now see how this fits into a strategy of the left and the liberal academics who gave us the slogans and movements of the sixties, the popular social activism of "anti-establishment" rhetoric, and things come full circle.....we can see how those who called for tolerance and inclusiveness were quite comfortable in de facto Intolerance of opposing values. Churches and biblical Christianity will now get to see how gay rights is directly connected to the deprivation of religious freedom to think, practice, and believe what our faith teaches us. In my view, only liberal churches acceptable to the carnal culture, supportive of homosexuality and leftist activist values will survive the future persecutions here in America, and only the faithful and biblical churches will be targeted. God will purge His churches and His people, seeing which churches value tax exempt status more than the Gospel, but in the end, God's faithful ones will endure.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Pastor! Always glad to see a Lutheran pastor willing to take a stand! We stand with you!
p.s. My folks pastor at St. Paul, Westlake Ohio was Pastor Peters, George and Carole Halter, and they sent me your link!