The fourth chapter of William J. Wright’s Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms attempts to lay out the doctrine in its fullest. As Wright has said earlier, this is not simply a political doctrine, nor is it one aspect of Luther’s theology, but rather it sits under all of Luther’s thought. “Luther’s understanding of God’s two kingdoms represented his basic premise about the nature of reality. In short, it was his Christian worldview” (114). Wright states that the two kingdoms were employed by Luther to explain creation, imago dei, Christology, grace, the sacraments, and the proper exegesis of the Old and New Testaments. The two kingdoms even provide the foundation for Luther’s distinction between active and passive righteousness and the law and gospel.
It is crucial that Luther’s distinction be given full treatment. The two kingdoms were sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man or the Kingdom of Satan. This is not the best nomenclature, however, because both kingdoms truly belong to God and are ordered by his divine laws, whether they be revealed biblical laws or the natural law. There is ultimately only one king. More precise is the language of “inner” and “outer” or “eternal” and “temporal.” Wright states, “The kingdom of the world and all material, temporal things were part of the visible dimension of man’s existence, while the kingdom of Chirst and spiritual matters were part of the invisible dimension” (115).
The two kingdoms are not the Church and the State. Continue reading