NEWS FROM THE CENTER FRIDAY DIGEST - October 7, 2022 - A Unique Public Voice of Blessing for All: Part 4



Differentiating God’s preserving from His saving work has practical implications for cultural engagement. The state is a temporal agency, dealing with temporal solutions to temporal issues. The Church is an eternal institution, dealing with eternal solutions to eternal questions. The state can compel its citizens to do what is demanded; the church can only persuade, not coerce. 

2KG praxis, which clearly differentiates God’s preserving and saving work, therefore means:

That it is permissible for a Christian to hold public office, to render verdicts on the basis of imperial laws or other stabled laws, to prescribe just punishments, to engage in just war, to serve in the military, to enter into legal contracts, to own property, to take an oath, when magistrates require it, or to contract marriage.”…This entire topic on the distinction between Christ’s kingdom and the civil realm has been helpfully explain in the writings of our theologian (Chiefly Luther.) Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, that is, it is the heart’s knowledge of God, fear of God, faith in God, and the beginning of eternal righteousness and eternal life. At the same time, it permits us to make outward use of legitimate political ordinances of whatever nation in which we live, just as it permits us to make use of medicine or architecture, or food, drink, and air.[1]

2KG citizenship motivates a dynamic yet differentiating public engagement praxis which engages the cultural and political issues of the day. Such work is easier said than done. Professor William Schumacher correctly notes that still today, “American Christians wrestle with the old alternatives of conquest or exile”[2] in engaging cultural issues. Robert Benne helpfully describes this engagement praxis as a biblical, “paradoxical”[3] vision. Such a “paradoxical” framework maintains God’s sovereignty over all things even as He engages the world in very distinct ways. He says,

[The paradoxical Lutheran vision for ecclesial public engagement] provides a valuable, if not indispensable framework for any adequate Christian public theology. This framework protects the radicality and universality of the gospel itself as well as the integrity of the church. . . . But in addition to protecting the Gospel, the paradoxical vision provides a framework that ought to condition Christian public theology’s assessment of human nature, of God’s governance of the world, and of the historical process itself even if it doesn’t provide a substantive public theology of particular policy positions).[4]

God's twofold intervention into our world keeps in tension the uniqueness of the work of Jesus Christ for all people even as it calls for Christians and all people to be involved in the right ordering of society for the sake of temporal justice and peace. Such a distinction addresses the challenges of concrete temporal solutions to the myriad of cultural and political issues, while  rooting people’s ultimate sense of their dignity and worth elsewhere in God’s gracious saving of all humanity in Christ not merely in the political and economic solutions and actions of sinful people of power and prestige.

The Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz is the executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. This is the fourth in a series  regarding the two ways in which God is at work in the world and how we as Lutherans are given to embody that message anew for the world in which we live.






Be Informed

Learn more about woke ideology and public school curriculum with Joy Pullmann of The Federalist.


Be Equipped

How pro-life is your state? Click here to learn about what abortion laws are on the books in the state in which you live.


Be Encouraged

“We make a mistake in thinking about politics simply in terms of a left versus right dynamic. The opportunity really lies today in focusing on a top versus bottom dynamic. An elite class of people are acting in their own interest and against the interest of the vast majority of American—those who are still attached to the idea that America is a force for good and who think that young children should be protected from the imposition of radical gender ideology.” –Christopher Rufo, senior fellow, Manhattan Institute

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.



[1] Apology XVI

[2]William W. Schumacher, “Civic Participation by Churches and Pastors: An Essay on Two Kinds of Righteousness,” Concordia Journal 30 (July 2004): 171.

[3] See Robert Kolb, “Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture in Paradox” Revisited,” Christ and Culture in Dialogue, ed. Angus J.L. Menuge (St. Louis: Concordia Academic Press, 1999), 114, where he corrects or nuances Benne’s “paradoxical” take on Luther’s Two-Kingdoms, saying, “Benne is not wrong when he reminds us that Luther’s vision of life in this world takes seriously those paradoxes and their implications in a unique way. However, in Luther’s view the basic structure of God’s design of human life in the two dimensions which parallel his two kinds of righteousness is not paradoxical. It is not a paradox when parents discipline a child at one point and dote on him or her with expressions of love at another. Different actions and different words are proper for differing situations. . . . These two words (Law and Gospel) are complementary when used for their proper purposes; The one to establish the identity of the children of God, the other to set in place God’s structures for their acting as children of God.” For our purposes, the emphasis will be “differentiation” which encompasses both Benne’s paradoxical view (Law/Gospel from our perspective) and complementary view (Law/Gospel from the Scriptural perspective), to ensure a proper motivation, expectation, and principled call to action in service to the mission of the Gospel.

[4] Benne, Paradoxical Vision, 62.

Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.