The Confessional Basis of Lutheran
Thinking on Church-State Issues
Mary Jane Haemig
The Lutheran tradition, founded in the very different social and political world of the sixteenth century, now must use its theological heritage to address contemporary questions of church and state in the United States. Its heritage offers a framework and resources for this endeavor. This chapter seeks to outline such a basic framework and to identify some resources from Luther's theology and the Lutheran Confessions that relate to church and state issues today. Instead of attempting a complete description of all relevant parts of Martin Luther's theology or the Lutheran Confessions, I will seek to focus on central guiding principles. I will also consider briefly some contemporary issues that turn out to be not so new. The major focus will be the church's, not the individual Christian's, relationship with the state or government, although the individual's relationship with the state will also come into the picture.
I will first examine how the Lutheran confessional perspective defines both church and state,1 then consider the doctrine of God's twofold rule as a basis for discussing how church and state interact. That will lead to some theological guidelines in the Lutheran tradition that illuminate the interaction and involvement of the church with the state. These include (1) the positive yet limited valuation of reason, (2) a realistic anthropology that affirms both human possibilities and limitations, and (3) a theology that recognizes the difference between civil righteousness and the righteousness of God. Finally, I will apply the confessional perspective to some issues today.