A review of the distinctive powers and purposes of church and state is essential as the pandemic of wokeness accelerates.

From the historic Lutheran Christian perspective, the two kingdoms are the two ways God rules in this world—in the right-hand spiritual kingdom by the soft power of the Gospel and Sacraments to save souls in Christ (what the church is for), and in the left-hand earthly kingdom by the hard power of governmental coercive force and law to protect the good and punish evil (what government is for).

The symptoms of the pandemic of wokeness, manifested in varying degrees, include violence toward those who reject the fellowship of the woke, denial of free speech toward those who acknowledge ultimate meaning elsewhere, and religious repression against those who worship the God of forgiveness, grace, and peace in Christ Jesus.

A superb discussion of these two kingdoms and their distinctive powers is found in Article XXVIII of the Augsburg Confession (1530). Here follows the first part of that discussion, paragraphs 1 – 12. (The spiritual kingdom is at points called the power of bishops, or of the keys, or the office of preaching. The civil realm is at points called secular power, sword, or authority. And together they are sometimes called the two authorities.)

[XXVIII.] Concerning the Power of Bishops

[1] Many and various things have been written in former times concerning the power of bishops. Some have improperly mixed the power of bishops with the secular sword, [2] and such careless mixture has caused many extensive wars, uprisings, and rebellions. For the bishops, under the guise of power given to them by Christ, have not only introduced new forms of worship [Gottesdienste] and burdened consciences with reserved cases and with forcible use of the ban, but they also took it upon themselves to set up and depose emperors and kings according to their pleasure. [3] Such outrage has long since been condemned by learned and devout people in Christendom. [4] That is why our people have been compelled, for the sake of comforting consciences, to indicate the difference between spiritual and secular power, sword, and authority. They have taught that, for the sake of God’s command, everyone should honor and esteem with all reverence both authorities and powers as the two highest gifts of God on earth.

[5] Our people teach as follows. According to the gospel the power of the keys or of the bishops is a power and command of God to preach the gospel, to forgive or retain sin, and to administer [zu reichen] and distribute [zu handeln] the sacraments. [6] For Christ sent out the apostles with this command (John 20[:21–23*]): “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

[8] The same power of the keys or of the bishops is used and exercised only by teaching and preaching God’s Word and by administering the sacraments to many persons or to individuals, depending on one’s calling. Not bodily but eternal things and benefits are given in this way, such as eternal righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. [9] These benefits cannot be obtained except through the office of preaching and through the administration of the holy sacraments. For St. Paul says [Rom. 1:16]: “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.” [10] Now inasmuch as the power of the church or of the bishops bestows eternal benefits and is used and exercised only through the office of preaching, it does not interfere at all with public order and secular authority. [11] For secular authority deals with matters altogether different from the gospel. Secular power does not protect the soul but, using the sword and physical penalties, it protects the body and goods against external violence.

[12] That is why one should not mix or confuse the two authorities [die zwei Regimente], the spiritual and the secular [weltliche]. *

* Article XXVIII of the Augsburg Confession extracted from Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (pp. 90–92). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Chaplain (Colonel) Jonathan E. Shaw currently serves as Director of Operations, U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, Pentagon. This article was first published at Gottesdienst and is reprinted here by its permission.

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