Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown Luther Academy Lecture on The Two Kingdoms

Earlier, we reported on two Luther Academy programs which took place in our region last spring. Today, in honor of the Reformation, we bring you the first of two lectures from Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown which was presented at the program in Slovakia. We thank Dr. Brown for allowing us to share his work. Dr. Brown is a member of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and chief editor of the additional volumes of Luther’s Works. He serves as associate professor at Boston University in the area of historical theology.

Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown is first up today with his second lecture: Luther on the Three Estates to be followed by his third lecture: The Two Kingdoms and the Doctrine of Resistance in Bohemian Lutheranism: Johann Mathesius, Nicholas Herman, and the Reformation in Jáchymov (Joachimstal). The participants are fascinated by an American scholar's depth of knowledge about the history of a Lutheran town across the Saxon border in the Kingdom of Bohemia. (Photo Courtesy of Rev. James Krikava)

Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown lectures during the Luther Academy program in Slovakia in April 2016. (Photo Courtesy of Rev. James Krikava)

Luther on the Two Kingdoms
Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown
Luther Academy
Terchova, Slovakia
April 25-27, 2016

My topics for this series of lectures are the basic theological structures which Luther offers us for understanding God’s rule over human life in this world and human activity within it: Luther’s distinction between God’s two kingdoms or governments, and his description of the three estates or orders of human life. Both of these schemas have become controversial in recent discussion: accused of limiting Christ’s lordship over the world, restricting Christians to political subservience and quietism, and supporting a static social order.

I want to argue instead for the enduring value and significance of Luther’s theology of the two kingdoms and three estates for addressing fundamental questions of God’s rule over the world and the Christian’s life, action, responsibility, and understanding within it, not only in respect to the church and the state, but with regard to culture, philosophy, reason, ethics, and faith, as the working out of Luther’s fundamental distinction between Law and Gospel in the conduct of Christian life. In this lecture I will discuss Luther’s distinction between the two kingdoms, and in the lecture to follow, the three estates appointed by God for life in this world.[1]

Luther offers multiple overlapping definitions of the “two kingdoms” over the span of his writing and teaching.[2] One of the briefest, to serve as a starting point, comes from his 1525 treatise Unterrichtung wie sich die Christen in Moses schicken soll [How Christians Should Regard Moses]: “There are two kingdoms: the temporal, which governs with the sword and is visible; and the spiritual, which governs solely with grace and with the forgiveness of sins.”[3]


One of the challenges of interpreting Luther’s theology here, his so-called “Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms” [Zweireichelehre], is that of distinguishing it from at least superficially similar predecessors or parallels in interpretation while at the same time acknowledging real points of connection and lines of influence. Luther’s distinction between the two kingdoms is not, for example, the same as the modern polity of separation of church and state, though it may be seen as part of the intellectual background that makes the modern polity imaginable. Luther’s theology does not demand a particular institutional configuration—whether a monarchy or aristocracy or democracy for the state, or a state church or an episcopate or independent congregations for the church—though Luther’s theology may challenge certain ways of understanding and implementing each of those forms. Luther’s theology of the kingdoms and estates is not, I would argue, narrowly time-bound to his late medieval and early modern context. Nonetheless, it must be understood within the longer context of Christian history in order to identify its distinctiveness as well as the options that Luther intends to criticize or exclude.

The Biblical, exegetical basis of Luther’s distinction between the two kingdoms rests on New Testament texts on the Christian’s relation to God and the state. Particularly important is the Pauline text in Romans 13:1: “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” (ESV). In close parallel is the text from 1 Peter 2:13-14: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (ESV). Finally there is the Gospel text from the mouth of Christ Himself: ““Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21c, ESV), and the words of the apostles from Acts: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29b, ESV).

These New Testament texts reflect the situation of the first Christians, living under Roman rule. They were persecuted at least sporadically by a state which enforced paganism, yet they professed their obedience to the Roman state, at least within the limits of its divinely-given authority. The Roman state might profess to worship gods whom Christians regarded as either nonexistent or demonic beings; certain currents of early Christian thought (as in the Revelation to St. John) identified the persecuting activity of the state as demonic, yet Christians overwhelmingly affirmed the state itself as being ordained by the true God and carrying out His purposes.

Second and third-century Christian apologists pointed out that Christians continued to participate in Roman society, serving at least in local governments and even in the Roman army. Ironically, it was not Christian refusal to support and participate in the state that led to the final vicious wave of persecution under Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century, but the presence of so many Christians in the imperial army that was blamed for the failure of the pagan rites.

When the Emperor Constantine came to power and declared the first official toleration of Christians in 313, many Christians embraced him as a divinely-sent liberator of the Church. As Constantine became more closely involved as patron of Christians, some, including the church historian Eusebius, went further and hailed him as the appointed interpreter and representative on earth of Christ the Logos. Constantine served later generations as the model of the Christian king, involved not only in protecting the church from persecution and external enemies but intervening in doctrinal debates and giving orders to clergy.

In part because Constantine’s immediate successors rejected Constantine’s own favored Nicene Creed and promoted Arian heresy, the next generations of orthodox bishops sought to limit the theological authority of a Christian emperor, a position they continued even when the emperors returned to Trinitarian orthodoxy. The most famous example was that of bishop Ambrose of Milan, who compelled the emperor Theodosius to do public penance before being restored to Christian communion.

At the beginning of the fifth century, the greatest Western theologian, Augustine of Hippo, faced with the possibility of the collapse of the Roman state after the sack of Rome in 411, articulated his theology of the two cities to assure Christians, who had become accustomed after Constantine to identify Christianity with the Roman Empire, that God’s purposes for His people were not dependent on any human institution or particular culture. Augustine explored the Scriptures to argue that human history was the story of the interaction of two cities in the world between creation (or rather, since the fall and the conflict between Cain and Abel) and the last day: the City of God, made up of God’s chosen people, who loved God above all and were destined for heavenly salvation, and the earthly city [civitas terrena], made up of those who loved self and pursued earthly goods. Yet the story of these two cities was not simply one of conflict: rather, in the present age, the saeculum, the citizens of the two cities could cooperate in maintaining earthly peace and human society, even though they used these goods for ultimately different ends. For Augustine, neither the Christian Roman Empire nor the Catholic Church could be directly identified with the City of God—or with the earthly city—for the identity of those who belonged to each city was known only to God and would only be revealed at the last day.

Yet in the western Middle Ages, most interpreters of Augustine sought to make a directly institutional application of Augustine’s two cities. The emperor Charlemagne, who slept with a copy of the City of God under his pillow, claimed to be the rector of the Christian people, whose Christian empire had jurisdiction over the church as well as the rest of society. The medieval popes, on the other hand, defended their independence by asserting that the church over which they presided was the City founded by God whereas worldly kingdoms were the realm of the devil. Therefore, as Pope Gregory VII asserted, Christian kings had to be subject to the pope for their salvation, and it was the pope who had divinely given authority even to depose emperors.

In the high middle ages, the papacy elaborated this model into a theology of rule according to which God’s power descended into the world through the pope, who as vicar of Christ had power over the whole world and its rulers. In a metaphor first set forth by a theologian no less than Bernard of Clairvaux, the pope, as Christ’s representative, had rightful power over “two swords”: the sword of spiritual authority and the sword of temporal authority. According to Christ’s words to Peter in Gethsemane: “put away your sword in its sheath,” the papacy was only to exercise the spiritual sword directly. The sword of temporal authority was to be wielded by emperors and kings, yet always under the ultimate authority of the pope. The pope was thus the supreme head both of the church and of worldly government.

Though this view of papal authority was contested in the late middle ages, especially by radical Franciscans who challenged the right of the church to own property much less to exercise coercive worldly authority—among these critics were William of Ockham, whose theology Luther studied, and Marsilius of Padua—it remained enshrined in canon law, endorsed by theologians like Thomas Aquinas. With some of the kingdoms of Western Europe—France in particular, as well as England—the papacy had come to terms with allowing monarchs relatively extensive control over the church within their respective domains. In the Holy Roman Empire and the rest of central Europe, however, the political claims of the papacy were still pressed. That is one reason for the political success of the Reformation in central Europe.


Luther’s distinction between the two kingdoms was a critique of the medieval conception of papal and secular authority arranged either in a metaphysical hierarchy or in fundamental opposition. Yet Luther’s distinction goes beyond the political-theological questions of the medieval church. It grew out of specific circumstances in the history of the Reformation, yet it became a fundamental principle in Luther’s mature understanding of theology.

Luther distinguished between two kingdoms or governments of God: the spiritual government, in which God rules over consciences through the Gospel, and gives the righteousness of faith, which justifies before God; and the secular government, in which God rules over the external body and needs of human beings by means of the sword and brings about the external, civil righteousness which is necessary for life and human society in this world. Luther’s vocabulary is significant. He uses both the word “kingdom” [Reich] and the term “government” [Regiment]. Though the word “kingdom” on its own can be misleading if it is taken as geographic metaphor, as a “kingdom” with fixed territorial boundaries and particular subjects, it is helpful in denoting a sphere within which certain ideas and principles are operative. The term “government,” on the other hand, more clearly denotes the activity of governing rather than a fixed sphere. Both ideas, properly understood, are important.

In a helpful and illuminating metaphor, Luther refers to the “spiritual” kingdom as the kingdom or government of God’s right hand and the “secular” kingdom as the kingdom or government of God’s left hand. This language emphasizes that God is over and behind each kingdom, even if God’s rule is exercised in different ways in the kingdom of the right hand and in the kingdom of the left hand.

Luther thus emphatically rejects the idea that the “secular” is distinguished from the “spiritual” as if the “spiritual” came directly from God whereas the secular was the realm of the devil. Both the spiritual and the secular come from God. It is notable that Luther uses the neutral, Augustinian term “secular” [weltliche, saecularis] rather than the negatively charged “profane” [profanum].

Luther certainly knows about the conflict between the devil and God and can use the language of “kingdoms” to describe it. But the so-called “kingdom” of the devil is not the “secular” kingdom and the fundamental opposition is not between the representatives of God in the church and the representatives of the devil in the state. Rather, the devil opposes and seeks to pervert the rule of God both in the spiritual and in the secular kingdom, and indeed in the spiritual kingdom above all. The Antichrist is not a worldly ruler but the perversion of spiritual rule, “sitting within the temple of God” [2 Thess. 2:4].[4] The spiritual kingdom is higher—indeed, “heavenly”—for Luther because it deals with eternal life and righteousness before God. But the spiritual is not higher in the sense of being the source of secular authority and government, as in the medieval claim that popes were able to depose and appoint kings and emperors.

Though Luther can sometimes speak as if Christians were subject only to the spiritual kingdom, it is clear that he means that Christians are made Christians as such by their relation to the spiritual kingdom, the Gospel, and the righteousness of faith. In that sense, Christians, justified by faith alone in Christ, have no need of the secular kingdom, that is, for justification before God or the hope of life everlasting. Nevertheless, the Christian as a person lives in both kingdoms, both as justified by faith before God and serving the neighbor by means of external, civil righteousness. Thus, though only Christians are subject to the spiritual kingdom, Christians live in and participate in both the secular and the spiritual kingdoms. Luther wants to distinguish the two kingdoms sharply but not to separate them as if persons had to belong to one or the other (that is, as either “spiritual” clergy or as “secular” laity). This is one of the key differences between Luther’s concept of the two kingdoms and the medieval separation of powers.

Since the secular government is established by God, Luther says, a Christian may with good conscience participate in it and serve God and the neighbor in it. A Christian may be a prince, a magistrate, a soldier, or even an executioner and still be a Christian, even though it is not his participation in secular government that makes him Christian. Here Luther’s position is in sharp contrast to the medieval piety of monasticism according to which the highest form of Christian life was renunciation of the world. He also stands in opposition to Anabaptist ethics which insisted that the “sword” was “outside the perfection of Christ” and that accordingly Christians had to renounce participation in secular government.

At the same time, Luther insists on a sharp distinction between the two kingdoms in their goals, means, and nature. The kingdom of God’s right hand, he says, is the kingdom over which God rules solely by the Gospel, not by any coercion or force but by the Word alone. The left hand kingdom is the kingdom of external, bodily things, it is the realm of law, and the sword (that is, the use of force), and the realm of reason. Thus Luther can say: “God has established two kinds of government among men. The one is spiritual; it has no sword, but it has the word, by means of which men are to become good and righteous, so that with this righteousness they may attain eternal life. [God] administers this righteousness through the word, which he has committed to the preachers. The other kind is secular government, which works through the sword so that those who do not want to be good and righteous to eternal life may be forced to become good and righteous in the eyes of the world. He administers this righteousness through the sword. . . . Thus God himself is the founder, lord, master, protector, and rewarder of both kinds of righteousness. There is no human ordinance or authority in either, but each is a divine thing entirely.”[5]

It should be clear that in many respects, Luther’s distinction between the two kingdoms or governments is parallel to and bound up with his distinction between Law and Gospel and the two kinds of righteousness. The secular kingdom is the realm of law and civil righteousness. The spiritual kingdom is the realm of Gospel and the righteousness of faith. Luther’s distinction between the two kingdoms has been criticized (by Karl Barth among others) for making the secular realm autonomous, free from God’s law and exempt from moral criticism. Yet one of the implications of the parallel between the two kinds of righteousness and the two kingdoms is that the secular kingdom is precisely the realm of law and moral effort.

Luther makes clear, however, that the law that binds the secular kingdom is the natural law which is discerned in the created order by human reason. The natural law is God’s law, but its claim on human beings is not based on revelation. Luther clearly says, particularly in his treatise How Christians Should Regard Moses, that the Ten Commandments are binding on Christians (and on all human beings) not because God revealed them to Moses, but because they echo the natural law that is accessible to reason.

It is in this context that Luther, who so famously derides human reason as the “devil’s whore,” praises reason as “the most important and the highest in rank among all things and, in comparison with other things of this life, the best and something divine. . . the inventor and mentor of all the arts, medicines, laws, and of whatever wisdom, power, virtue, and glory men possess in this life. . . . a sun and a kind of god appointed to administer things in this life.”[6]

In his treatise De servo arbitrio [On the Bound Will], Luther describes these things as the kingdom that is “below man,” within which human beings are free and reason is God’s gift.[7] Practical reason, ethics, and natural law are all part of God’s kingdom of the left hand—but so are arts, such as music, rhetoric, poetry, painting, and the like.

God’s kingdom of the left hand is a sphere in which Christians and non-Christians can cooperate and interact. Luther advises Christian rulers to learn about how to govern from the books of the heathen—even Aristotle and the other philosophers.[8] He prizes the Roman pagan Quintilian’s textbook of rhetoric for students of Christian theology and preaching.[9] In his first hymnal preface, Luther declares that there should be no conflict between Christianity and the arts:

Nor am I of the opinion that the gospel should destroy and blight claim. But I would like to see all the arts, especially music, used in the service of Him who gave and made them.[10]

Yet if reason seeks to intrude as master in theological matters, to define human beings in relation to God as creator and redeemer, or if above all reason seeks to make the law and human moral achievement a ladder leading up to God and salvation, then reason becomes diabolical, the “devil’s whore.” This is the fundamental rationale for Luther’s insistence on the distinction between Law and Gospel, the two kinds of righteousness, and the two kingdoms. If the Gospel is to be preserved—as well as the God-given dignity of the secular and the Law in its own sphere, then they must be distinguished and not mixed together as if they had the same divinely intended purpose. Otherwise even the best things become the instruments of the devil against the things of God.

Luther insists:

Constantly I must pound in and squeeze in and drive in and wedge in this difference between the two kingdoms, even though it is written and said so often that it becomes tedious. The devil never stops cooking and brewing these two kingdoms into each other. In the devil’s name the secular leaders always want to be Christ’s masters and teach Him how He should run His church and spiritual government. Similarly, the false clerics and schismatic spirits always want to be the masters, though not in God’s name, and to teach people how to organize the secular government. Thus the devil is indeed very busy on both sides, and he has much to do. May God hinder him, amen, if we deserve it![11]

Thus, the ministers of the Word should not dictate policy or personnel to the secular government, as the papacy had claimed the right to do. Luther insists that if one “attempted to rule the world by the Gospel,” then everything would come to ruin.[12] Yet neither should secular rulers dictate to the church. This sounds like a categorical separation. Yet Luther believed that the two governments did not work in complete isolation from one another, but complemented each other. He understood this coordination, however, in quite different terms from medieval theologians. For Aquinas, the state was responsible for directing its members toward eternal life by cultivating in them the natural virtues to which the church then could add the infusion of grace that made works of virtue worthy of eternal reward. That was the fundamental Aristotelian soteriology which had provoked Luther to say in the Disputation against Scholastic Theology that “the whole of Aristotle is to theology as darkness is to light.”[13]

Instead, for Luther, the role of secular authority is to provide the external conditions of worldly peace and order under which the Gospel can be preached. The secular government acts to enforce the external requirements of the law, but it does so not as the first step toward salvation, but in order to maintain peace and worldly justice. Luther distinguishes the orientation of the spiritual and secular kingdoms as above and below, horizontal and vertical respectively:

The spiritual government or authority should direct the people vertically toward God that they may do right and be saved; just so the secular government should direct the people horizontally toward one another, seeing to it that body, property, honor, wife, child, house, home, and all manner of goods remain in peace and security and are blessed on earth.[14]

In terms of their basic purposes and rationale, therefore, the two kingdoms or two governments are distinct. Yet unlike the medieval division, the persons involved in the two governments may be the same. A Christian may also be a prince, or a subject, or a town councilman, or a citizen, with two distinct sets of responsibilities before God. As we have already seen, Luther sees no necessary conflict between being a Christian and participating in government. Luther explains this most thoroughly in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Christ says, for example, that Christians must not resist evil. Medieval theologians had interpreted this not as a commandment but as a so-called “counsel of perfection,” which those Christians specially called to total commitment could freely choose to follow as an offering to God. This was one key framework for understanding monastic life. Luther argues instead that Christ’s words apply not just to a religious elite but to all Christians.

Luther distinguishes, however, between what a Christian should do for his own person—to suffer even injustice willingly—and what a Christian should do as on behalf of his neighbor, especially if the Christian occupies a public office. As a believer and a private person, a Christian should offer no resistance to evil. But if the Christian is a magistrate, a policeman, or a parent with an office and duty of protecting others, he should resist evil because of his office, for the sake of the neighbor. In an emergency when no public official is available, a Christian may act in good conscience to protect his neighbor.[15]

Luther can also reflect on the combination of Christian faith and public office from the other direction: what should someone in a public office in the secular kingdom do as a Christian? Luther is clear that a ruler has no authority over faith on the basis of his office as ruler. Nevertheless, a Christian in a position of authority may use his personal power in support of the pure teaching of the Gospel, just as all Christians in their individual callings and circumstances should do.

It is on this understanding of the prince as Christian that Luther, in his 1520 treatise An den christlichen Adel . . .von des christlichen Standes Besserung, calls on the German princes to take emergency action toward the reformation of the churches. Here Luther insists that all Christians—not only the clergy—as Christians are part of the spiritual estate. A Christian ruler who supports an Evangelical church in his territory, therefore, is acting as an influential Christian layman, and not as a prince.[16] Or a town council might call pastors, not by virtue of its secular authority but as representative of the Christian congregation that was basically coextensive with the town community. Some scholars have suggested that Luther abandoned these distinctions later in his career and embraced Melanchthon’s model of the Christian prince who had special prerogatives as a Christian prince and not simply as a Christian layman.[17] Yet Luther continued to insist on the principle. In a sermon of April 1545, for example, Luther says, “Kings want us to think and to believe the same as they do. We cannot do that; rather, we distinguish faith from secular rule.”[18]

These kinds of overlap between Christian responsibilities and public office based on the person of the Christian office-holder are difficult to imagine in the modern age. Luther’s principle of distinction does have important implications, though. If the secular authority is not obligated to enforce true religion, then Christians and non-Christians may cooperate in civil government. The legitimacy of secular authority does not depend on its religious orthodoxy though, as we will see, it may sacrifice its claim to obedience if it attempts to enforce false religion.

Luther is not, however, thinking here primarily in institutional terms. Rather, he is trying to define and defend the role of conscience and to delimit the claims that can be made on Christian conscience. Fundamentally, for Luther, Christian conscience is captive to God’s Word, as Luther famously asserted at Worms in 1521. Yet Christians are also presumed, according to Romans 13, to be obligated in conscience to obey the secular authorities as well. If the secular government complements the spiritual kingdom by maintaining worldly peace and order so that the Gospel can be preached and heard, then the spiritual kingdom supports the secular government by preaching obedience to secular authority.

What happens if the claims of God’s Word and the secular authorities on conscience conflict? One way in which Luther begins to delineate the limits of these claims is to specify that the left-hand, secular kingdom has power only over what is physical and external: body and property and money. The secular government may impose arbitrary and burdensome laws, taxes and the like and the Christian is obligated to obey and to pay them, because they are external matters. The kingdom of God’s right hand rules over the inner man through the Gospel.

Yet this division between external and internal quickly becomes more complex, already in Luther’s first effort to draw these lines in his 1523 treatise Von weltlicher Obrigkeit [On Secular Authority]. In 1523, the immediate provocation was the attempt by the Roman Catholic government in Ducal Saxony (outside of the jurisdiction of Luther’s prince and protector Frederick the Wise) to ban and confiscate copies of Luther’s German New Testament. Having argued that secular authority is ordained by God and that Christians are obliged to obey it in external matters, Luther goes on to insist that Christians should refuse to surrender their Bibles to the prince and his agents.

A book, even the Bible, is certainly a piece of external, physical property. Yet because God’s Word is a matter of faith and makes its own claim upon conscience, a prince oversteps his authority when he tries to control or confiscate it. Princes, Luther says, are God’s hangmen and executioners; they overstep their bounds when they try to make themselves into shepherds. In such a case, when they command idolatry or forbid the true worship of God, they forfeit their claims to command the obedience of their subjects, and their subjects may refuse to obey them in good conscience.

Luther’s distinction between the two kingdoms upholds the God-given origin and dignity both of the preaching of the Gospel of grace and of the secular realm, which upholds God’s law based on reason in the midst of the world. The distinction maintains the right of the Christian to participate in both kingdoms, in the right-hand kingdom through faith, and in the left hand kingdom through his works in service of the neighbor, even works done by the power of the secular sword. The Christian may make use of God’s gifts in the left hand kingdom, including the gifts of culture and art, to support the Gospel, just as he may use Caesar’s coin to support the preaching of the church. The distinction between the two kingdoms maintains the integrity of each realm, both in keeping the secular government free from attempts to denigrate its authority to wield the sword and above all in keeping the Gospel from becoming a program of moral accomplishment or social transformation.

We will turn next to consider the second of Luther’s structures for understanding life in this world: the three estates or hierarchies, and how that structure further affirms the Christian’s vocation in the world and undergirds the possibility not only of refusal to obey unjust commands but even of active resistance to authorities when they abandon their divinely-appointed role.

[1] Helpful treatments of Luther’s theology of the two kingdoms include Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, tr. Karl H. Hertz (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966) and William J. Wright, Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms: A Response to the Challenge of Skepticism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010).

[2] Major texts in which Luther engages the distinction between the two kingdoms include An den christlichen Adel [To the Christian Nobility] (1520), WA 6:404-69 (LW 44:115-217); Von weltlicher Obrigkeit [Temporal Authority] (1523), WA 11:245-81 (LW 45:75-129); Unterrichtung wie sich die Christen in Moses schicken soll [How Christians Should Regard Moses] (1525), WA 16:363-93 (LW 35:155-174); Sendbrief von dem harten Büchlein wider die Bauern [Open Letter on the Harsh Book against the Peasants] (1525), WA 18:14-26 (LW 46:16-19); Ecclesiastes Salomonis cum annotationibus [Commentary on Ecclesiastes] (1526/1532), WA 20:7-203 (LW 15:1-187); Ob Kriegsleute auch in seligem Stande sein können [Whether Soldiers Too May Be Saved] (1526), WA 19:623-62 (LW 46:87-137); Das fünfte, sechste und siebente Kapitel Matthaei [Sermon on the Mount] (1532), WA 32:299-544 (LW 21:1-294); Der 101. Psalm ausgelegt [Commentary on Psalm 101] (1534/1535), WA 51:200-264 (LW 13:143-224); Zirkulardisputation über das Recht des Widerstandes gegen den Kaiser (1539), WA 39/2:39-91.

[3] WA 16:371 (LW 35:164): “Das sind zwey reych: weltlich, das mit dem schwerd regirt und wird gesehen, das geystlich regirt allein mit gnaden und vergebung der sunden.”

[4] See, e.g., Vom Kriege wider die Türken, WA 30/2:125-126 (LW 46:180).

[5] Ob Kriegsleute auch in seligem Stande sein können, WA 19:629f (LW 46, 99f.): “Denn er hat zweyerley regiment unter den menschen auff gericht. Eins geistlich, durchs wort und on schwerd, da durch die menschen sollen frum und gerecht werden, also das sie mit der selbigen gerechtickeit das ewige leben erlangen. Und solche gerechtickeit handhabet er durchs wort, wilchs er den predigern befolhen hat. Das ander ist ein weltlich regiment durchs schwerd, auff das die ienigen, so durchs wort nicht wollen frum und gerecht werden zum ewigen leben, dennoch durch solch weltlich regiment gedrungen werden, frum und gerecht zu sein fuer der welt. Und solche gerechtickeit handhabet er durchs schwerd. . . . Also ist Gott selber aller beyder gerechtickeit, beyde geistlicher und leiblicher, stiffter, herr, meister, foedderer und belohner. Und ist keine menschliche ordnung odder gewalt drynnen, sondern eytel Goettlich ding.”


[6] Disputatio de homine, WA 39/1:175 (LW 34:137): “Et sane verum est, quod ratio omnium rereum res et caput et prae caeteris rebus huius vitae optimum et divinum quiddam sit. Quae est inventrix et gubernatrix omnium Artium, Medicinarum, Iurium, et quidquid in hac vita sapientiae, potentiae, virtutis, et gloriae ab hominibus possidetur. . . . hoc est, ut sit Sol et Numen quoddam ad has res administrandas in hac vita positam.”

[7] De servo arbitrio, WA 18:638 (LW 33:70).

[8] Der 101. Psalm durch D. M. Luther ausgelegt, WA 51:242, 253 (LW 13:198, 211).

[9] See Luther to Georg Spalatin, before November 29, 1519, WA Br 1:562, no. 222; preface in LW 67:-xxxix-xl.

[10] Gesangbuchvorrede von 1524, WA 35:474-5 (LW 53:316): “Auch das ich nicht der meynung bin, das durchs Evangelion sollten alle künste zu boden geschlagen werden und vergehen, wie ettliche abergeystlichen fur geben, Sondern ich wollt alle künste, sonderlich die Musica, gerne sehen, ym dienst des, der sie geben und geschaffen hat.”

[11] Der 101. Psalm durch D. M. Luther ausgelegt, WA 51:239 (LW 13:165): “Jch mus jmer solch unterscheid dieser zweier Reich ein blewen und ein kewen, ein treiben und ein keilen, obs wol so offt, das verdrieslich ist, geschrieben und gesagt ist. Denn der leidige teuffel hoeret auch nicht auff diese zwey Reich jnn einander zu kochen und zu brewen. Die weltlichen herrn wollen jns teufels namen jmer Christum leren und meistern, wie er seine kirche und geistlich Regiment sol fueren. So wollen die falschen Pfaffen und Rottengeister nicht jnn Gottes namen jmer leren und meistern, wie man solle das weltliche Regiment ordenen, Und ist also der Teuffel zu beiden seiten fast seer unmuessig und hat viel zu thun. Gott wolt jm weren, Amen, so wirs werd sind.”

[12] Von weltlicher Obrigkeit, WA 11: 251 (LW 45:91).

[13] WA 1:226 (LW 31:13): “Totus Aristoteles ad Theologiam est tenebrae ad lucem.”

[14] Der 101. Psalm durch D. M. Luther ausgelegt, WA 51:241 (LW 13:197): “Denn wie das geistlich Regiment oder ampt die leute sol uber sich weisen gegen Gott recht zu thun und selig zu werden, also sol das weltlich regiment unter sich die leute regirn und schaffen, das leib, gut, ehr, weib, kind, haus, hof und allerley gueter im friede und sicherheit bleiben und auff erden selig sein muegen.”

[15] Das fünfte, sechste und siebente Kapitel Matthaei gepredigt und ausgelegt, WA 32:299-544, esp. 386-395 (LW 21:1-294, esp. 105-115).

[16] WA 6:407-411 (LW 44:127-133).

[17] See James M. Estes, Peace, Order, and the Glory of God: Secular Authority and the Church in the Thought of Luther and Melanchthon, 1518–1559, Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions 111 (Leiden: Brill, 2005) ; and contra, David M. Whitford, “Cura Religionis or Two Kingdoms: the Late Luther on Religion and the State in the Lectures on Genesis,” Church History 73, no. 1 (2004): 41–62.

[18] WA 49:719 (LW 58:228): “Reges volunt, ut idem sapiamus, credamus, quod ipsi. Das konnen wir nicht thun. Sed scheiden fidem von der weltlichen herrschafft.”

  • Here is a PDF version of the lecture, which may be easier for some to read: luther_2kingdoms_la_finalforblog.
  • Read about the occasion on which these lectures were given.
  • We will also be sharing Dr. Brown’s paper on Luther’s doctrine of The Three Estates with you.

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