For Congregational Discussion: Lutheran Theology and the Relationship between Church and State

Quotes to Consider and Discuss:

[2} “The Church forms disciples who are also citizens.  Participation in civic life is a concrete expression of neighbor love, and the Church has an important role to play in forming Christians who understand this expression in their call to follow Jesus.  Amy Reumann.  Can you remember a time when you felt that your experience in church (in adult education class, in Sunday School, or in a sermon for example) called you to participate in civic life in a concrete and specific way?  What was that experience like?  What did you do?

[3] Rulers, Luther writes, “declare that whoever rebukes them is seditious, rebels against the authority ordained by God, and defames their honor.”  John Stumme as quoted by Amy Reumann.  Have you ever been rebuked by someone who held less authority than you? What did that experience feel like and what did you learn from it?

[4] Lutherans have strong social teachings about the need for humility in discourse rather than an ethic of triumphalism . . . . Lutherans believe that public policy advocacy built on an understanding of works righteousness undercuts our community of the church and our national unity. . Amy Reumann.  What do you think is the difference in a works righteous understanding of advocacy and a view of advocacy built on serving Christ as a response to grace?

[5] “For Luther, the state and politics can preserve the world but cannot save one’s soul.”  Yang.   Do you ever feel that a single political action will either save or damn the world?  Talk about that experience and that feeling.

[6] “However, Luther understood the importance of the external condition of life from a realistic perspective. Politics should not be underestimated. For most people, the aggravation of the condition of life destroys life itself. Therefore, it is important for public power to administer efficiently the production of goods necessary for supporting people’s lives and to create peace by just distribution of products.”  Yang.   While Luther, Yang, and Reumann all agree that political action cannot save the nation or one’s soul, they also all agree that political action is a necessary way to help serve one’s neighbor.  Explain one time that you felt you were able to help a neighbor by using tools available from the government.

[7] “The increasing hatred of the public coming from the expansive influence of politics that has party-spirit and divides a whole nation, and possibly a whole planet, is today’s power of sin that poses a threat to the preservation of the world. Luther’s interpretation of the love commandment from the perspective of the moderation of feelings of hatred and hostility will give the church the godly words needed for the sustainable prosperity of humankind.” Yang.  Think about an experience in your church community that helped you feel love or helped you hear the love commandment in a way that moderated a feeling of hatred or hostility.  How can your church continue to preach love sustainably?

Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth

Jennifer Hockenbery serves as Editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics .  She is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Humanities at St Norbert College. She attends Grace Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.