Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Two Kingdoms, Three Consequences.

When I first got interested in man's inhumanity to man as a theological issue, a vicar in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod gave me a warning. He said that due to the Two Kingdoms doctrine, Christians ought not worry about such things, they are to be left up to the state. I say he's got it wrong. Too often I heard conservative critics of the mainline denominations make similar indictments of the press releases made by denominational bureacracies. Here is a treatise on the Two Kindgoms doctrine as it relates to this controversy:

If you beat your spouse or shoplift from a store, there are three consequences. Three 'accounts' you'll eventually have to settle or deal with:

i) NATURAL LAW: the relationship with store owner or spouse is likely to change, perhaps counterproductively to your aims when you undertook the act.
ii) GOD'S LAW: the wages of sin is death. (spiritual, eternal)
iii) CRIMINAL LAW: the state does not bear the sword in vain (jail, fines, loss of other privileges, etc.)

All three happen, whether we are aware of it or not, whether we deny it or not. The pastor may need to go visit the wife-beater regardless of whether the state knows about it. The pastor's intent is not to salvage relationship with state but to salvage relationship with God. The pastor's mentioning of NATURAL LAW can be a part of the preaching of GOD's LAW. The pastor doesn't need to proscribe to the state penalties for spousal abuse.

Now the following are bad ways for a national church leader to act:
A) Spend all your time advising the state on exactly which penalties to exact. One of the points of the Augsburg Confession specifically says the Lutheran church is not to do this.
B) Spend all your time on the natural law without mentioning God's displeasure or even mentioning the Gospel.

Now the following are bad models for the conservative critics of the mainline bureaucrats to engage in:

A) Criticize the bureaucrats' statements as if there were no egregious violations of GOD's LAW behind the crises they write about.
B) Criticize the bureaucrats' statements as if there were a political constituency in the denomination in favor of bulldozing children and bombing power plants, a constituency one must not offend. Using Waltherian language, such folks perhaps first need to be preached into hell before they can hear the gospel.

Luther wrote about these things. He for example wrote that pre-emptive strikes in warfare are the work of the devil. He appears to have successfully gotten GOD's LAW *and* gospel into the dicussion of his current events. The mainline bureaucrats may fail to live up to the model of Luther. Their critics however too often sound as if the offense they take is really against their own "personal peace and affluence", that the bureaucrats woke them up from their quietism. This I say is the most effective evangelism for liberal protestantism & other New Age religions that there is--you send folks seeking after a new religion that makes sense of the law written on their heart.

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