Martin Luther's Understanding of God's Two Kingdoms: A Response to the Challenge of Skepticism

William J. Wright

Baker Books

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The concept of God's two kingdoms was foundational to Luther and subsequent Lutheran theology. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, that concept has been understood primarily in political terms. The most striking example is the Nazi corruption of the concept into a dualism that separated one's activities in the realms of church and state. But is a political reading of the two kingdoms a perversion of Luther's teaching? Leading Reformation scholar William Wright contends that those who read Luther politically and see in Luther a compartmentalized approach to the Christian life are misreading the Reformer. For Luther, both kingdoms were under the laws and rule of God. Wright reassesses the original breadth of Luther's theology of the two kingdoms and the cultural contexts from which it emerged, showing the influence early Renaissance humanism had on Luther. He argues that Luther's two- kingdom worldview was not a justification for living irresponsibly or carelessly on planet earth. The book includes a variety of Luther's writings that reveal what the Reformer did and did not intend by the concept. These writings show how the two kingdoms converge in all areas of life: family, church, and society. About the series: The Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought series recognizes the need for careful, scholarly treatment of the Reformation and of the era of Protestant orthodoxy, seeking to present the varied and current approaches to Protestantism's rich heritage and to stimulate interest in the roots of the Protestant tradition. The series highlights revised understandings regarding the relationship of the Reformation and orthodoxy to their medieval background and of the thought of both eras to their historical, social, political, and cultural contexts.