Two Kingdoms, Yes – But Don’t Go Beyond the Bible

Mr. James Swan, for a very different purpose, brought the following two quotations to my attention (link to source). Both are from Martin Luther and help to demonstrate the danger of taking the two kingdoms distinction beyond the Bible:

It is pure invention that pope, bishops, priests and monks are called the spiritual estate, while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the temporal estate. This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except that of office.

[LW 44:127].

It follows from this argument that there is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, between religious and secular, except for the sake of office and work, but not for the sake of status. They are all of the spiritual estate, and are truly priests, bishops, and popes. We are all one body of Christ the Head, and all members one of another. Christ does not have two different bodies, one temporal, and the other spiritual. There is but one Head and one body.

[LW 44: 129-130].
To be sure, Luther goes a little far in his response to the errors of Rome. The offices of bishop/elder and deacon are real offices, not merely labels. And the elders and deacons are to serve the Body of Christ (whose only head is Christ) in unique ways that are not the same as the duties of all the other members of the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, the basic point that Luther is making is correct: there is one head over the Body of Christ, and it is Christ not a pope.

Likewise, all men (whether peasants or kings) have a responsibility to promote the true religion of Jesus Christ according to the abilities, gifts, and opportunities that God has given them, and in their functions within the kingdom of this world.


3 Responses to “Two Kingdoms, Yes – But Don’t Go Beyond the Bible”

  1. natamllc Says:

    Talking about two “quotes”, here are two more to add to those two.One is from your name sake and when I read it as His “response” to why certain things were concluded after the Council, the Synod of Dort, my heart leaped!And the second is a bit of summary of the Council’s desire for the Holy Christian Church and her conduct in this world. Those elect today would do well to take these admonitions to heart!Turrentin, Pg. 206, book by J.V. Fesko, Dr., aforementioned in an earlier post:”Although he is a Reformed theologian of the High Orthodox period, Francis Turrentin best summed up why the two parties did not condemn each other’s teaching as heterodox. Turretin notes that between the two groups they both agreed upon: (1) the universal corruption and sinfulness of mankind; (2) the election of certain people out of the wretched state of sin; (3) effectual grace that works through the gift of faith given by God alone; (4) and the primacy of the Gospel and the Scriptures as the only means of salvation and God’s revelation to mankind. Turretin notes: “these are the capital doctrines of faith which we all constantly defend against Pelagians and semi-Pelagians.”A summary of the Canons of DortPg 206-7 of aforementioned work by J.V. Fesko, Dr.:The Canons state that the Reformed church staunchly denies “that it makes God the author of sins, unjust, tyrannical, hypocritical; that it is nothing more than an interpolated Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism”. In the concluding remarks, the Canons also vaguely allude to the issues regarding the debates over infra- and supralapsarianism: [Finally, this Synod exhorts all their brethren in the gospel of Christ to conduct themselves piously and religiously in handling this doctrine, both in the universities and churches; to direct it, as well in discourse as in writing, to the glory of the Divine Name, to holiness of Life, and to the consolation of afflicted souls; to regulate, by the Scriptures, according to the analogy of faith, not only their sentiments, but also their language, and to abstain from all those phrases which exceed the limits necessary to be observed in ascertaining the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures, and may furnish insolent sophists with a just pretext for violently assailing, or even vilifying, the doctrine of the Reformed Churches].!!!Yes and Amen!

  2. orthodox Says:

    “there is no true, basic difference between religious and secular”There goes up in smoke the argument that we can’t have icons in a religious context. Luther correctly observes that such a distinction between religious and secular is a fantasy.Of course, protestants have to switch horses depending on which doctrine is being defended.

  3. Turretinfan Says:

    a) Taking a brief clause containing two adjectives out of context naturally leads to absurd results.b) Grouping all non-Romanist Westerners into the category of “Protestants” also leads to absurd results.c) I had already noted that some of Luther’s language was excessive. Thanks for providing what would be (if you had understood Luther correctly, which I don’t agree) another example.-TurretinFan

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