Luther and Reformatory Ideas: State and Church

Luther’s understanding of the relationship between the state and church was complex. On one hand he drew sharp distinctions between the spiritual and the secular, but on the other he believed there was a close relationship between religion and politics. For Luther, justice in the spiritual sense was very different to secular, legal justice. According to Luther, spiritual justice could only be granted by God, whereas secular justice was dependent on deeds. Luther saw God as governing the world through two channels: the spiritual and the secular. The spiritual was God’s word, which was the law of mankind and denounced the sinner, and the gospel, which forgave the sinner. The secular channel was through a worldly ruler and the laws of society. In this way, Luther distinguished between the spiritual (religion) and the secular (politics) in his so-called ‘two kingdoms’ doctrine.

But Luther also understood the world according to his teachings on the three estates of the church, family and state. All three orders are parallel, and all three contribute to maintaining a good society. They are therefore all equally important. The combination of the two kingdoms doctrine, the primary focus of which is the distinction between religion and politics, and the three estates doctrine, which emphasises the connection between the three orders, brings a high degree of dynamism to Lutheranism