The Ethics of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview

8
THE STATE1

POLITICAL AUTHORITY
AS GOD'S CREATION AND ORDER

RULERS AND people—Luther also speaks of the people ruled as “the community”—belong together and are attached to one another. Both are God's creation and order. Luther explicitly asserts that this is also true of a people in the sense of a national group (Volk). He does not feel that the development and continued existence of such a people can be taken for granted or that it happens accidentally; rather, it is the mystery of God's creating and preserving work. “Mad reason, in its shrewdness,” knows nothing of this; it considers it to be a mere accident “that people hold together and live side by side.” Scripture proclaims and faith knows, however, that “God has made, and makes, all communities. He still brings them together, feeds them, lets them grow, blesses and preserves them.”2 All nations have received their historical

1 In addition to the political writings of 1523–1526 (see chapter 4, n. 1),
many of which are translated in LW 45 and 46, especially Temporal Authority:
To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523), WA 11, 245–80; LW 45, 81–
129, see Luther's Commentary on Psalm 82 (1530), WA 311, 189–218; LW
13, 41–72; his Commentary on Psalm 127 (1532/1533, but not published until
1540), WA 40111, 202–69; his Commentary on Psalm 101 (1534/1535), WA
51, 200–64; LW 13, 145–224; and his Commentary on the Song of Solomon
(1530/1531), WA 3111, 586–769.

Hermann Jordan, Luthers Staatsauffassung, ein Beitrag zu der Frage des
Verhältnisses von Religion und Politik (Munich: Müller and Fröhlich, 1917),
traces the various stages in the development of Luther's understanding of the
state. Karl Holl, “Der Neubau der Sittlichkeit.” GA 1, 252–17, 265–81. Theodor
Pauls, Luthers Auffassung von Staat und Volk (Bonn: K. Schroeder, 1925).
Werner Elert, Morphologie des Luthertums, 2d ed. (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1953),
2:313–34. Georg Wünsch, Evangelische Ethik des Politschen (Tübingen: Mohr/
Siebeck, 1936), pp. 150 ff. Gunnar Hillerdal, Gehorsam gegen Gott und
Menschen. Luthers Lehre von der Obrigkeit und die moderne evangelische
Staatsethik (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1954), pp. 17–119.

2WA 311, 193; LW 13, 46. The fact that Luther at this place in his Com-
mentary on Psalm 82 speaks of people and community in a synonymous sense
is determined by his translation of Psalm 82:1: “God stands in the midst of
the congregation. …” In using these terms Luther does not make the distinc-
tion which we ordinarily make today between the political and the Christian
congregation or community, but sees both in the one community. Cf. WA 311,
196; LW 13, 49, where Luther says that God has “appointed priests and
preachers” in “his congregation.” [Luther's word Gemeine could be translated
either as “community” or as “congregation.”—Trans.]

-112-

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The Ethics of Martin Luther
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface xix
  • Contents xxi
  • Abbreviations xxiii
  • 1: The Foundation of the Christian Ethos1 3
  • 2: The Knowledge of God's Commands1 25
  • 3: Stations and Vocations (The Orders) 36
  • Chapter 4 - The Two Kingdoms and the Two Governments 43
  • 5: Love, Marriage, Parenthood1 83
  • 6: Work 101
  • 7: Property, Business, and Economics1 105
  • 8: The State1 112
  • 9: Great Men in Political History 155
  • Indexs 161
  • Index of Authors 162
  • Index of Scripture References 163
  • Index of Subjects 164
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