Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pure and Mixed Articles of Faith: What This Means for the Two Kingdoms and the Separation of Church and State

"Separation of Church and State!"  "You can't govern morality!"  "I'm not going to force my religious beliefs on anybody."  I'm sure we've all heard these statements said at least a few time in our lives.  Many have arrived at the conclusion that because the United States of America and Canada are not theocracies, that the doctrine of the Church should not effect the laws of these governments.  Even among Lutherans the term "Two Kingdoms" is often used to keep Christian doctrine out of legislation and judicial decisions.  I am by no means supporting a theocracy in the United States or Canada.  On the contrary, I seek to help us define the lines that separate the Church from the state.

To understand the Christian acceptance of "Separation of Church and State" and the Lutheran teaching of "The Two Kingdoms" we must first understand two terms: pure article of faith and mixed article of faith.  An article of faith is that believed on account of revelation, because it is revealed by the Holy Spirit through Holy Scripture (of course God has used other means to reveal such articles of faith, such as Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1), God in the burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3), etc.)  A pure article of faith is an article of faith that is only revealed through revelation of the Spirit.  This article of faith cannot possibly be discovered by any human reason or strength.  An example of such an article of faith is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel" etc. (Luther's Small Catechism Pt. 2, Art. 3)  In Matthew 16:16 Peter makes the confession to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered him (v. 17), "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."  That Jesus is the Messiah, who came to the world to save sinners is a pure article of faith that can only be known through revelation of the Spirit.  We know that the Spirit reveals this truth to us through Holy Scripture, "Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them,“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,47 and that repentance and[c] forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:44-47)  This is the Gospel that is only revealed to Christ's Church by revelation through Scripture.  The Church can only use words, based on Scripture to bring people to this faith.  

A mixed article of faith is revealed to us through revelation, but can also be revealed to man through the light of reason.  This includes the Law of God such as the Ten Commandments.  One does not need to know the True God or have heard the proclamation of His Word to know that murder is a sin.  One can through natural human reasoning discern what is right and wrong.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:19-20, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."  Paul writes in chapter 2, "14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them."  This is why nearly every religion, (that is a system set up by man to understand God, contrary to the Christian Church, which is established by God for the sake of His sheep) teaches that murder, adultery, theft, and dishonesty are wrong.  One does not even need to believe in God to know that these things are "evil."  

You might be wondering, "So what?"  Here's what.  God has given His authority to the governments of this world, the Left Hand of the two kingdoms.  What people often forget is that these two kingdoms are the two kingdoms of God.  They are the left and the right hands of God.  Just because the left hand is not the Church, does not mean that it is not directly under God's authority.  As Jesus said to Pilate, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above." (John 19:11)  Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit even states, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Romans 13:1)  These pagan governments received their authority from God!  They didn't even believe in the true God!  Yes, but they did and do have the authority of God.  Their purpose, whether they acknowledge it or not, is to preserve God's ordered creation.  God instituted government to prevent the godless, and even the Christians who are driven by concupiscence to sin and even commit crimes, from destroying his created order.  Paul writes of the one in authority, "for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain."(v. 4)  That's right, the government bears the sword and God handed it to him sharpened and ready.  Even if the government does not acknowledge that it receives the sword (authority to punish criminals) from God, it is still true.   

The government is supposed to punish those who do wrong.  But how can the government know what is right and wrong if those in government are not Christians?  "The work of the law is written on their hearts."  The law is a mixed article of faith.  The government is required to enforce the law, whether or not it knows it through revelation, because it should know it by natural law, and most times it does.  This does not mean that we must submit to the government when it forces us to do things contrary to our faith.  Then we must "obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)  Where the government does act within its ordered authority, we are ordered to, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme."  (1 Peter 2:13)  

So when people say that the government should not force the Christian religion on people, they are right.  The Church does not use the power of the sword as the government does.  As AC XXVIII states, "The power of bishops is a power and command of God to preach the Gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to administer and distribute the does not interfere at all with government or temporal authority...Temporal power does not protect the soul, but with the sword and physical penalties it protects body and goods from the power of others."  People cannot be converted to the Gospel by force.  The function of the Church is primarily Gospel.  The function of the government is LAW.  

This does, however, mean that the government should use its force to protect morals.  Those who murder should be punished, along with those who steal, slander, and do violent acts without cause.  Even when it comes to institutions such as marriage, the government is given authority.  The government can force you to take care of your children.  If you starve them or abuse them, it can take them away.  It does not have to condone lifestyles that nature says are unnatural, such as polygamy and homosexual lifestyles.  

The government, however, doesn't have free use of the sword.  It must act within the ordered power of God.  When Hitler ordered the "final solution of the Jews" he did not act within his God given authority.  The government has the authority to kill criminals, not "innocent" humans.  This is why the Church should remind the government what is a "just killing."  It is absolutely possible for the government to kill people unjustly and go to unjust wars.  These acts are not ordained by God, even if the government has the sword from God.  It is, in these cases, not inappropriate for the Church to educate the government on mixed articles of faith.  When it is not only revealed through revelation, but also through natural wisdom, the Church and Christians should step in.  In this way, protesting the murder of unborn children, the sick, handicapped, elderly, and unjust wars is not mixing the Church with the State.  The light of wisdom has revealed these things to everyone.  The law is written on man's heart.  And to us who have had it revealed to us by the Holy Spirit through the revelation of Scripture, we have no excuse if we keep silent.  The Church should tell the government when it is derelict of its duties, given to it by God.     

1 comment:

Andrew J Preus said...

After all, isn't that what John the Baptist did when he told Herod he was sinning for committing adultery?