Toward a Lutheran “Delight in the Law
of the Lord”: Church and State
in the Context of Civil Society
Gary M. Simpson
Blessed are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on that law they meditate day and night.
God has endowed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and its predecessor bodies with a half-century of trustworthy theological reflection on our topic. This chapter builds on that endowment. The ELCA Constitution attempts to encapsulate this heritage in its “Statement of Purpose.” Among the many ways to participate in the triune God's mission, the ELCA commits itself to “[w]ork with civil authorities in areas of mutual endeavor, maintaining institutional separation of church and state in a relation of functional interaction.”1 This formulation provides the imaginative horizon for my investigation.
At the beginning of the third millennium, Lutherans in the United States can harvest their heritage in order to face newer challenges, like the emerging shifts in the nation-state and the renewed appreciation for the public sphere of civil society. In the first section, “Our Originating Confessions,” I outline the contours of Lutheran confessional reflections on the neuralgic theme of God and political authority as one contribution toward a Lutheran “delight in the law of the Lord.”2 These confessional contours appear succinctly in Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession. The vehicle that effectively hands these confessional convictions on from generation to generation is Martin Luther's Small