Should Churchmen Be Concerned with Government?

Your answer to this question depends upon your doctrinal heritage. The Augsburg Confession actually answers this question, and sets us up well for a good understanding. But as you read the quoted article XVI (from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions) below, notice the dramatic difference between the Lutheran position and the position labeled “Anabaptist.” The latter comes from the radical reformation, which has ended up rather splintered in our time. Not all of the present-day theological descendants of the Anabaptists agree with their position, but some still do. More significant, I think, is the divergence between the political “Christian right” and those who would make a complete separation between matters of faith and government.

The “Christian right” seems to be most interested in social issues, unless you include the interest of some in the future of modern-day Israel. That interest really has no scriptural support, stemming from 19th Century dispensationalism, and perpetuated by a fascination with misusing the Bible as a code book. However, social issues generally relate to the Ten Commandments and the moral law, which is intended for all people, in all times.

Those who would like to separate matters of faith and government also have a point, in that there are two separate kingdoms of God, which we do well to distinguish. What some fail to realize, however, is that on an individual level, a Christian’s activities related to government are sanctified by faith. That means a Christian citizen is never a mere citizen, and a Christian office-holder is never a mere office-holder. Faith cannot be divorced from life, even where government is concerned. Those who try make a wreck of faith, or of life, or of both.

In fact, one of the main premises of this blog is that necessary connection between faith and life. It applies to faith both in the sense of “having a belief” and in the sense of “a doctrine.” I use it specifically of the Christian faith.

1 Our churches teach that lawful civil regulations are good works of God. 2 They teach that it is right for Christians to hold political office, to serve as judges, to judge matters by imperial laws and other existing laws, to impose just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to take oaths when required by the magistrates, for a man to marry a wife, or a woman to be given in marriage [Romans 13; 1 Corinthians 7:2].

3 Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these political offices to Christians. 4 They also condemn those who do not locate evangelical perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but place it in forsaking political offices. 5 For the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart (Romans 10:10). At the same time, it does not require the destruction of the civil state or the family. The Gospel very much requires that they be preserved as God’s ordinances and that love be practiced in such ordinances. 6 Therefore, it is necessary for Christians to be obedient to their rulers and laws. 7 The only exception is when they are commanded to sin. Then they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

2 thoughts on “Should Churchmen Be Concerned with Government?

  1. So, why do you think it is that so few Lutherans run for and/or get elected to high offices? We’ve never had a Lutheran President or VP, and even Lutheran Congressmen are rare (I’m not aware of any, actually). There was Renquist, who was a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but he was ELCA so I’m not sure that counts.

  2. Good question. It’s as though some evil will is exerting its influence to prevent it. Uncanny.

    There actually is a Lutheran congresswoman much in the news these days. I pray for her often.

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