One of my biggest pet peeves both in politics and in Christendom today is the utter confusion of the Two Kingdoms--or worse, the fact that most Christians I encounter in politics don't even know what Two Kingdoms theology is. This is something I have written about before, but I feel like it's time for a refresher after several conversations last week on the topic. From my previous post on the subject:
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) Law Gospel Sword: Internal* and External** Word, no swords Power Grace 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.
While our faith is to govern our actions, we have to understand the clear distinction between the Two Kingdoms to properly function in the political sphere. We are not to be like the Anabaptists (Radical Reformed), who eschew all political involvement by Christians (in the world, but as far removed from it as possible). We are also to not be like the Dispensationalists specifically (Calvinists and Arminians alike) and Calvinists in general, who seek theocracies (in the case of Calvin himself, socialist theocracies...). We are also not to be like the Roman Catholics, who see the Pope as the head of both the Left-hand and Right-hand Kingdoms (I'll be posting on that soon--I should note that the RCC has a right division of the two from my reading of their own church documents, my only complaint is that they put both under the authority of the Pope, which is not a correct application of a correct division, but they are far and away the closest to Lutherans on this issue).
Some pertinent notes on this topic from a sermon my Pastor preached in October 2012 (same post that I quoted above):
- 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
Beyond a misapplication/misunderstanding/total ignorance of Two Kingdoms Theology, there seems to be this misunderstanding that the United States of America is a "Christian Nation". Because of the separation of the Two Kingdoms, and because of how utterly dangerous it is to blur the two together, that is simply impossible. One can say that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles (although, more accurately, it was founded on Natural Law, which I would argue stems from Judeo-Christian principles since I believe that Natural Law was written on the hearts of all men by God, but that's another topic). One can also say that America's Founding Fathers were largely (but NOT entirely, as some foolishly attempt to argue contrary to fact and reason) Christians. In the first segment of Table Talk Radio, Episode 150, there is a great explanation of this (as well as a succinct explanation of why Dispensationalists totally get it wrong about the nation of Israel, another theological pet peeve of mine).
Finally, there seems to be this misconception that, even if we aren't right now, we are supposed to be a Christian nation. No. No, no, no, no, no. Just no. That is, again, a Dispensationalist construct. Theocracies are dangerous and never work (anyone remember what happened to Israel and Judah when they tried doing a theocracy their way? how about Islam? what about the Holy Roman Empire? etc.). If man were not fallen, there would be no need for anything else but a theocracy--but we are fallen and sinful human beings, and that simply doesn't work with our fallen nature.
However, we are to be a nation of morals, based on Natural Law. Morality, being a Left-hand Kingdom thing, is not the same as spirituality, a Right-hand Kingdom thing (see the chart above). The two should not be confused. I know many moral non-Christians, and many immoral "Christians". Morality deals with Natural Law and the conscience which, as I've already mentioned, I would certainly argue are given to all men by God--but the key thing there is that all men possess this, whether or not they are Christians. One does not need to have faith to be moral, and it is a fallacy at absolute best to say otherwise.