When discussing theology, I've come to realize that not only is personal study of doctrine a necessary component to faith, but it is something that shouldn't be kept to oneself. I want to share my journey, both past and ongoing, into the realm of theology. Through this, I hope that you will gain insight into the Christian faith as a whole. Before reading anything else, I suggest you read the introduction and definitions (found in the pages tabs above) so you may better understand where I am coming from in everything I write. Because many of my posts are on heresies, there is also a page above with a family tree of heresies and links to all the posts I have so far on the topic.

14 October, 2012

Sermon Notes: Law and Gospel and the Two Kingdoms

This week's sermon came from our Gospel reading Matthew 9:1-8 (with references to our Old Testament reading from Exodus 20:1-8, 12-18).

Pastor prefaced the sermon with a note on politics, or more specifically, the two kingdoms and the role of law (the 10 Commandments, or our interpretation of Natural Law) in Christians deciding how to vote.

I won't recount the entire sermon, since the audio is online so you can listen for yourself, but I wanted to make a few observations about Two Kingdoms Theology in general (some of which comes from a previous Bible Study) as well as some of the points Pastor made both in the sermon and our discussion of it in Bible Study following service regarding the Christian's role in politics and voting (as well as the rest of the Sermon--since we can't have the Law without the Gospel!).

Regarding "Two Kingdoms Theology"

Two Kingdoms Theology refers to the Lutheran teaching of the proper distinction between the Left-hand Kingdom (or the Kingdom of Man) and the Right-hand Kingdom (or the Kingdom of God).  I personally consider Romans 13 to be the original separation of Church and State document.  By this, I don't mean that they are completely severed from each other at all, but as another Pastor reminded me, it shows the proper distinction of the Kingdoms, and more importantly, the proper role of a Christian in both Kingdoms.  

I also mean by "separation of Church and State" that a) theocracies are a BIG no-no (basically, preachers are preachers and rulers are rulers, the two roles should not be combined--that is, no blurring of the clear lines between the two Kingdoms); b) that the Left-hand Kingdom is meant to not interfere with the Right-hand Kingdom (First Amendment, anyone?); and c) Christians are called to be involved in government, not using government to advance Christianity, but rather, to advance Natural Law (which we'll get to in a minute).

For a better illustration, here are some of the differences between the two Kingdoms:

Left-hand Kingdom
Right-hand Kingdom
Kingdom of the Man (State)
Kingdom of God (Church)
Sword: Internal* and External**
Word, no swords
Exists for Order
Exists for Mercy
External Righteousness
Internal Righteousness
Realm of Morals
Realm of Faith
Ruled by Reason
Ruled by Scripture

 *Internal Sword = police, etc.
**External Sword = military

Now, from the Christian (and particularly Lutheran) perspective, Natural Law is exemplified in the second table of the Ten Commandments.  The first table deals with the Right-hand Kingdom, or our faith in God, and the second table deals with the Left-hand Kingdom, or Natural Law and interaction with our neighbor.

From that perspective, here is how the Commandments shape up as compared to Natural Law (my own analysis based somewhat on Pastor's Voter's Guide to the 10 Commandments):

Natural Law
4th Commandment: Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
Establishes earthly authority 
(not just parents, but “masters”: teachers, bosses, rulers, etc.; also places emphasis on a stable family unit)
5th Commandment: Thou shalt not murder.
“Do not encroach on other persons.”
(keep in mind that “murder”  “kill” -- that is, self-defense and justified wars do not fall under the “murder” category; also places emphasis on the government respecting all life)
6th Commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
“Do all you have agreed to do.”
(especially since from a state perspective, marriage is essentially contract law, and adultery would be a violation of your contract)
7th Commandment: Thou shalt not steal.
“Do not encroach on [other persons or] their property.”
(economic issues and theft fall under this commandment--something interesting we discussed was that socialism would also fall under this commandment)
8th Commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
“Do all you have agreed to do.”
(again, contract law—also addresses slander)
9th Commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.
“Do not encroach on [other persons or] their property.”
(eminent domain)
10th Commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, not his maidservant, not his cattle, nor anything that is they neighbor’s.
“Do not encroach on [other persons or] their property.”
(cross-applies to the 7th commandment and theft of personal property/items)

Of course, we can then argue how much of a role the government has in some of these issues.  Anyone who knows me politically knows I take a pretty extremely libertarian (or limited government) stance, especially when it comes to social issues, but that's a different discussion for a different blog.  But as you can see, the second table of the Ten Commandments works well with natural and common law (I used Richard Maybury's summary of common law above because it is that with which I am familiar and ridiculously succinct to boot at 17 total words).

Regarding Christians and Politics

A few brief notes from Pastor's sermon (these are the bullet points I wrote down, I've been taking sermon notes since confirmation):
  • Many Pastors say that you must "Take your faith into the voting booth," but that is wrong
  • It is not faith, but reason, by which we should vote because the Left-hand Kingdom is ruled by reason (the Right-hand Kingdom is ruled by faith)
  • We should bring not the Apostle's Creed but the 10 Commandments into the voting booth
  • We don't need to elect someone who is Orthodox, but someone who understands and values Natural Law
  • Pagans and Christians should vote the same, because it is by reason and natural law that we should all cast our votes
  • The 10 Commandments are the Christian's "Cliff Notes" of Natural Law
  • Knowing the 10 Commandments makes us reasonable, keeping them makes us wise
  • The State exists for order and the Law, the Church exists for mercy and the Gospel

Regarding the "Rest" of the Sermon

Now, before I go into the "rest" of the sermon, I wanted to briefly discuss Law and Gospel, since this is another fairly uniquely Lutheran thing--and is important to understand the distinction between to understand why this sermon was so well constructed.

The Law is what God demands of us, but because of Original Sin, we cannot fulfill.  The Gospel is the "good news" of God that forgives our sins and gives us what we cannot do on our own.  It is not simply Old vs. New Testament, nor is it always easy to distinguish in modern Christendom (sometimes even inside the Lutheran church).

I bring this up because, more obvious than usual, the Law and Gospel were very clearly defined in this sermon.  Our Left-hand Kingdom duty in politics is clearly covered the by Law.  But no good Lutheran sermon would be complete without the Gospel.  So today we had the story of the healing of the paralytic.  My notes:
  • Jesus' words ("Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven.") were likely shocking and offensive to the onlookers
  • The man came for healing, not forgiveness of sins, why would a paralytic need forgiveness of sins?  Wouldn't he rather "need" his arms and legs healed?
  • Jesus was questioned by the scribes, who thought Jesus was blaspheming
  • Jesus poses an interesting question to the scribes: "Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?"
  • Both require higher power, but for us, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' almost seem harder, not easier (luckily we have Jesus who does that for us), but it was the most important thing to say
  • He forgives sins so that we may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive our sins
  • Like many, the paralytic very well may have been consumed by thinking his disability was caused by his sin (which, in a way, it was--or specifically, his sin nature which brings death, disease and decay)
  • Jesus wants all to know that nothing in life will prevent us from receiving forgiveness of our sin, even if we think we don't deserve it.
  • Melancholy sometimes sets in when we think of the state of this world, especially politics (because it is the Law)--but the Gospel undoes this for us
  • Christ tells us to take heart and be of good cheer--we are forgiven and He will come again

So, as you see, this brings it full-circle--the balance of Law and Gospel in another great sermon.  I spent a lot more time on the "politics" side of it than I did the actual sermon side--probably because I am surrounded by politics usually--so I would encourage you to listen to the sermon for yourself, since it brings a better balance than I did.

No comments: