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date: 25 June 2017

Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Political Theologies

Summary and Keywords

Contemporary political theology often defines itself against Lutheran social ethics, which is portrayed as politically disengaged and overly deferential to state power. At the same time, contemporary political theology often embraces the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer as an exemplary political theologian. This incongruity is generally resolved by distancing Bonhoeffer from his tradition, at least on matters of political theology. But Bonhoeffer’s political theology was thoroughly Lutheran. Throughout the years of his political-theological engagement, from the Nazi rise to power in 1932–1933 to the drafting of Ethics and related writing in 1940–1943, he participated in ongoing conversations within Lutheran social ethics on the issues of, among others, the two kingdoms and the orders. In the process, he critically appropriated these elements of Lutheran thinking into an especially dynamic and christocentric framework that in turn informed his positions on various issues such as the church’s proclamation against the Nazi state and the ecumenical church’s witness for peace. Bonhoeffer is an example of Lutheran political theology, one that suggests the need to revise at least the more sweeping judgments about Lutheran theology as inherently incompatible with political engagement.

Keywords: Martin Luther, church and state relations, liberation theology, orders, pacifism, peace, public theology, two kingdoms, war, estates

Luther and Bonhoeffer in Contemporary Political Theology

Political theology labels conversations in a number of academic disciplines such as political science, political philosophy, and continental philosophy; but political theology understood as a particular focus of Christian theology can be defined as “an inquiry carried out by Christian theologians in relation to the political, where the political is defined broadly to include the various ways in which humans order common life.”1 According to this definition, Christian theology has always been political, but “political theology as a distinct academic discipline [emerged] in the mid-to-late twentieth century.”2

Formative strands of political theology, so understood, have defined themselves against what is commonly called the doctrine of the two kingdoms, which often functions in these conversations as a synecdoche for Lutheran social ethics. Thus Jürgen Moltmann, one of the founding figures of post-World War II European political theology, characterizes that movement as reacting in part to “the Lutheran tradition of two kingdoms–the separation between spiritual and worldly powers that asserts that Christians are free in their faith but obedient to the given political powers.”3 And Juan Segundo, a prominent Latin American liberation theologian, treats Luther’s two kingdoms as an expression of the dualism between Christianity and political-social life that stands in the way of liberative theology and praxis.4 These two theological movements, which have done much to shape the contemporary discussion of political theology, have treated the Lutheran two kingdoms as an obstacle to politically engaged Christian life and thought.5

In its negative evaluation of the two kingdoms, political theology draws from earlier critiques of Lutheran social ethics. Especially important in this regard is Reinhold Niebuhr, who influentially disseminated an image of Lutheran social ethics as “defeatist,” “quietistic,” and excessively deferential to the state.6 The two kingdoms in particular, Niebuhr argued, generated a “perverse” double morality that legitimated violence in the name of maintaining social order while encouraging private citizens toward a morality of nonviolence. “The inevitable consequence of such an ethic,” claims Niebuhr, “is to encourage tyranny,” with fateful results in “the history of German civilization.”7 Here Niebuhr portrays Lutheran social ethics in general and two-kingdoms thinking in particular as promoting a political subservience that paved the way for Hitler’s rise to power.

If Luther has been demonized for fostering a political subservience that abetted the Third Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been virtually canonized for his brave resistance to it. And, indeed, the very political-theological movements that define themselves against Luther’s two kingdoms embrace Bonhoeffer for his political-theological engagement. Within post-World War II European political theology, Moltmann has produced substantive interpretations of Bonhoeffer’s political thinking8 and continues to draw from him in articulating his own vision of a church radically open to the world, while Dorothee Sölle presents her Political Theology as continuing what she considers Bonhoeffer’s reconfiguration of theory and praxis.9 Latin American liberation theology also appropriated Bonhoeffer. Members of the ISAL (Church and Society in Latin America) movement that incubated liberation theology in the 1960s and early 1970s drew from him in their efforts to overcome the dualism of church and world, to understand the implications of secularization, to examine the relationship between faith and ideologies, and to explore discipleship understood as the problem of following Christ in difficult political-cultural contexts.10 Bonhoeffer’s engagement with perennial themes of political theology—war and peace, church and state, church and world—in the tumult of Nazi Germany inspired formative movements in 20th-century political theology and continues to spur theological reflection on political life today.

The tension between contemporary political theology’s rejection of Lutheran social ethics and its embrace of Bonhoeffer the Lutheran theologian has generally been resolved by separating him from his tradition. With characteristic frankness, Stanley Hauerwas explicitly argues for this distancing that often operates more subtly and implicitly in other political-theological appropriations of Bonhoeffer: “what might be called Bonhoeffer’s political ethics,” Hauerwas writes, “are expressed primarily by his critique and attempt to find an alternative to the traditional Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms.”11

Bonhoeffer was, however, a consistent two-kingdoms thinker throughout his career. And, indeed, his political theology was thoroughly Lutheran. Throughout the years in which he was seriously engaged in political theology, from the Nazi rise to power in 1932–1933, to the drafting of Ethics and related writing in 1940–1943, he participated in ongoing conversations within Lutheran political theology on the issues of, among others, the two kingdoms and the orders.12 In the process, he critically appropriated these elements of Lutheran thinking into an especially dynamic and christocentric framework that in turn informed his positions on various issues such as the church’s proclamation against the Nazi state and the ecumenical church’s witness for peace.

That the very elements of Lutheran thinking identified as obstacles to a politically engaged theology were, in Bonhoeffer’s hands, tools for political engagement suggests the need for contemporary political theology to revise at least its more totalizing claims about Lutheran patterns of social thinking, such as the two kingdoms, as necessarily nurturing political subservience. Such a revision can draw from a wealth of historical and theological scholarship that paints a more nuanced picture of Lutheranism’s relationship to political life.

Political Life as Preservation toward Redemption

It is characteristic of Bonhoeffer’s thinking that matters of political theology fall under the theological category of God’s preserving activity. God relates to the world as creator, but with the entry of sin into the world, “the creator is now the preserver.” Through “restraint and order,” God graciously preserves the world from falling into the total chaos that would rightly follow from sin. God’s preserving action is not an end in itself, however, since it points toward the redemption of creation.13 After the fall, then, God relates to the created but sinful world in preservation for redemption. Understanding Bonhoeffer’s political theology as concerned with preservation for redemption brings its Lutheran character into relief and sets the stage for examining his appropriation and deployment of the Lutheran two kingdoms and orders in concrete considerations of the church’s witness against the state and the church’s call for peace.

From Bonhoeffer’s perspective, treating political theology under the category of preservation requires resisting two inadequate alternatives. The first alternative places too much theological weight on creation. Relying on natural law arguments, this position presupposes creation in its original state, where an unspoiled creation and an epistemologically unspoiled creature allow knowledge of God’s will in political matters to be derived directly from knowledge of creation. Bonhoeffer argues that this position fails to distinguish between creation in its original and fallen states. Because of sin, any attempt to read God’s will directly from creation results only in self-justification. Thus the “danger of this argument is basically that everything can be justified on its basis.”14 Although Bonhoeffer saw this creation-focused position as characteristic of Roman Catholic theology, he argued that its logic had “also penetrated into modern Lutheranism.”15 Specifically, natural law thinking had expressed itself in Lutheran understandings of the two kingdoms and the orders of creation, where, following the modern division of life into autonomous spheres, the political import of the gospel was restricted to the religious sphere. This left the political realm to operate on its own terms, most disastrously according to the natural law of national and Volk struggle. Judging this a corruption of authentic Lutheran thinking, Bonhoeffer branded it “pseudo-Lutheranism” and argued against it consistently from the early 1930s.

The second inadequate alternative treats matters of political theology too much through the lens of redemption, modeling common life on the coming kingdom of God. Relying on traditional Lutheran polemics against the Radical Reformers, Bonhoeffer called such politics fanatical or enthusiastic (Schwärmerisch). Its theological error is collapsing preservation and redemption, confusing the coming consummated kingdom with the present kingdom that stands in need of preservation toward redemption. Such confusion, Bonhoeffer thought, “was bound to have the most dangerous chaotic consequences,” since it undermines the various orders and structures through which God preserves the world by the restraint of sin.16 While Bonhoeffer followed Luther and the Lutheran confessions in applying the derogatory terms “enthusiasm” to the Radical Reformers, he also extended that label to any understanding of politics that attempted through human effort to build the kingdom of God on earth. In defining enthusiasm that way, he could group together 16th-century militant groups, who tried to build the kingdom on earth through force, with the 16th-century pacifist groups, who tried to do so through love. He even identified as enthusiastic later movements such as the French Revolution,17 the American social gospel movement,18 and National Socialism.19

To position Bonhoeffer’s thinking between pseudo-Lutheranism and enthusiasm in this way is to locate him in the Lutheran tradition, which defined itself, so far as political and civic disputes were concerned, largely against Roman Catholicism on the one hand and the Radical Reformers on the other. Bonhoeffer appropriated this Lutheran tradition, drawing on traditional arguments both to develop his own position and criticize others. But he also creatively adapted the tradition for his context, where pseudo-Lutheranism and enthusiastic National Socialism were greater threats than Roman Catholicism or the Radical Reformers. Similarly, Bonhoeffer also felt free, throughout his career and depending on the concrete issue at hand, to adapt the traditional terminology to rename, as he did in Ethics, the two unsatisfactory poles as “compromise” and “radicalism.”20 The compromise (elsewhere “pseudo-Lutheranism”) position separates the world into spheres, some of which remain largely untouched by God’s revelation. With this quarantining of the gospel into a religious sphere, politics defaults to an affirmation of the status quo, a deference toward ruling structures and authority that would only be appropriate in a sinless world. The radical position (elsewhere “enthusiasm”) sees the gospel as a thoroughgoing challenge to the status quo, a religious legitimation of radical social change. Thus the compromise position in effect treats the political order as sinless creation, while the radical position treats the gospel message of redemption as the judgment on all current (inherently sinful) political orders. Missing from both is the mediation of creation and redemption through preservation. In the political order, Bonhoeffer argues, the created but sinful world is preserved for redemption.

The Two Kingdoms

Bonhoeffer’s concern with grounding political theology in preservation-toward-redemption is on display in his ongoing critical conversation with two traditional topics of Lutheran social ethics: the two kingdoms and the three orders or estates. The “two kingdoms” are generally recognized as a defining feature of Lutheran social ethics and political theology. Their locus classicus is the 1523 essay on “Temporal Authority,” where Luther writes, “God has ordained two governments: the spiritual, by which the Holy Spirit produces Christians and righteous people under Christ; and the temporal, which restrains the un-Christian and wicked so that—no thanks to them—they are obliged to keep still and to maintain an outward peace.”21 Although he elsewhere uses the language of “kingdoms” (Reiche), Luther here uses the language of “regiments” (Regimente), which puts the emphasis on the differing modes of rule proper to each kingdom. Thus, there are two kingdoms governed in two different ways, the temporal by the sword and the spiritual by the word. Many scholars find the terminology of regiments more helpful than kingdoms, because it is less open to the misreading that Christians are thoroughly separated from the world and because it directs attention to God’s twofold action in the world. As Svend Andersen puts it, “the distinction between the spiritual and worldly regiments [is] one between two divine projects concerning the human world. The spiritual is the project of salvation and of creating faith that occurs primarily by the gospel’s proclamation … In contrast, the worldly is the project of ruling the sinful world by the sword, namely by legal and political power.”22 The two kingdoms are ultimately about the twofold way that God preserves the sinful world for redemption.

As an account of God’s action in the world, the two kingdoms are primarily a theological topic rather than a political one. But Luther’s two-kingdoms thinking has been taken to have implications for, to put it anachronistically, the relationship between church and state.23 Following Luther, the Augsburg Confession defines the church in terms of the gospel, namely, as “the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel.”24 Of the state “it is taught that all authority, orderly government, laws, and good order in the world are instituted by God.”25 Thus, the church is the assembly through which God performs the work of the spiritual kingdom through the preaching of the gospel for redemption, and the state’s enforcement of law is one way that God restrains the effects of sin to preserve the world for redemption. Ideally, on this view, state and church work cooperatively as agents of God’s plan. The reality often falls short, however, as when either the church or the state fails to uphold its mandate or encroaches on the other. In these cases it is the task of the true church to proclaim God’s twofold work in the world and thus reassert the grounds and limits of both spiritual and temporal authority.

For a number of political and intellectual reasons, there developed in early-20th-century Germany a dualistic or dichotomous interpretation of the two kingdoms. In contrast to Luther and the confessions, where the two kingdoms and regiments were united under God’s single rule, this dualistic interpretation treated the kingdoms as two rigidly separated spheres. Supporting this dualism was a distinctly modern view that the domains of life—economic, political, and aesthetic, etc.—had developed according to their own inner logic so as to be eigengesetzlich, that is, governed by their own norms and values in independence from each other. The incorporation of autonomy qua Eigengesetzlichkeit into two-kingdoms thinking generated a sharp opposition between the two kingdoms that was foreign to Luther’s own thinking.26 It was this dichotomous version of two-kingdoms thinking that Bonhoeffer labeled pseudo-Lutheran.

In articulating his own vision of the two kingdoms, Bonhoeffer reasserted a dynamic differentiation-in-unity. Perhaps his first explicit articulation of the two kingdoms comes in a 1932 lecture course on “The Nature of the Church.” As is characteristic, his entrée into two-kingdoms thinking is the church, which he presents as limited in part by the state. He distinguishes the church and state according to function and mode of rule; the state judges by the sword, and the church proclaims the word. Moreover, the two ought not interfere in the work of the other and are autonomous in that sense. But crucially, because “God’s word has power also over the state,” this autonomy (Autonomie) of the state is not Eigengesetzlichkeit or freedom from God’s rule. And for this reason, the relation between church and state is not only cooperative but also potentially antagonistic: “[The church’s o]bedience to the state exists only when the state does not threaten the word. The battle over the boundary must then be fought out!”27 Already in 1932, Bonhoeffer articulated a vision of the two-kingdoms distinguished from contemporary dualistic accounts by relating church and state under God’s rule. Because of this, his two-kingdoms thinking does not present the church as entirely deferential to the state. Rather, his two-kingdoms thinking includes within it a logic of churchly resistance to the state.28

Bonhoeffer’s two-kingdoms remained basically consistent and reappeared in a number of places. In “Heritage and Decay,” an Ethics essay from 1940, revised perhaps a year later, Bonhoeffer urges the West to recognize that its unity and meaning rest in Christ. In this connection he narrates a history of the West that presents secularization as taking different forms in various national and confessional contexts. That history begins with the medieval corpus christianum, where Christian unity is protected by pope and emperor, an ideal that he sees persisting in contemporary Catholicism.29 The Reformation ushered in a new religio-political situation, where unity rests in the Word of God. Bonhoeffer describes this with the language of the two kingdoms.

There is unity of faith only under the true word of Jesus Christ. The sword, however, belongs to the worldly government [Regiment], which in its own way, in the proper exercise of its office, serves the Lord Jesus Christ. There are two kingdoms [Zwei Reiche], which, as long as the earth remains, must never be mixed together, yet never torn apart: the kingdom of the proclaimed word of God and the kingdom of the sword, the kingdom of the church and the kingdom of the world, the kingdom of the spiritual office and the kingdom of worldly authority … [This is] the true unity of the West.30

Bonhoeffer then tells the story of secularization as the degeneration, in various ways, of this two-kingdoms unity. One such falling away is the pseudo-Lutheran, dualistic misunderstanding of the two kingdoms:

Protestants found in a misunderstood Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms a liberation and sanctification of the world and the natural order. Government, reason, economy, and culture each claimed the right to autonomy [Eigengesetzlichkeit], but in this autonomy understood themselves to be not at all at odds with Christianity. Rather, they saw the service of God that is truly demanded by Reformation Christianity in their very autonomy … The Reformation was celebrated as the liberation of the human being, of conscience, reason, and culture, as the justification of the worldly as such.31

This and other secularization processes have left the West facing a nihilistic abyss. The solution involves a reinstatement of the two kingdoms: “Only two things can prevent the final fall into the abyss: the miracle of a new awakening of faith; and the power that the Bible calls ‘the restrainer’ … The place where God’s miracle is proclaimed is the church. The ‘restraining force’ is the ordering power of the state.”32 In articulating the unity of the West and narrating its fall from that unity, Bonhoeffer’s normative standard is a non-dualistic account of the two kingdoms conceived outward from Christ.33

The Church’s Word to the State

The 1933 essay “The Church and the Jewish Question” offers an example of Bonhoeffer approaching the church’s resistance to the state through the prism of his two-kingdoms thinking.34 There Bonhoeffer writes that the recently enacted “Aryan paragraph” legislation, which excluded Jews from various organizations and professions, posed for the church the question, “How does the church judge this action by the state, and what is the church called upon to do about it?” 35 Because this question could “only be answered on the basis of the right concept of the church,”36 the essay offers a concept of the church that in turn forms the basis for an ecclesial response to the state’s action against Jews.

In response to this question, Bonhoeffer initially writes, “There is no doubt that the church of the Reformation is not encouraged to get involved directly in specific political actions of the state. The church has neither to praise nor to censure the laws of the state.”37 “Even on the Jewish question today, the church cannot contradict the state directly and demand that it take any particular course of action.”38 It is not the church’s task to advocate for or against particular policy decisions, Bonhoeffer reasons, because the “true church of Christ … lives by the gospel alone.”39 Thus Bonhoeffer, following the Lutheran tradition, defines the church as the community whose power rests in the preaching of the gospel.

In defining the church in terms of the “gospel alone,” Bonhoeffer draws distinctions between the church and two other institutions. On the one side, the church is not the state. It is the state’s mandate to maintain order, and it does so by “creating law and order by force.”40 So, consistent with the Lutheran tradition, the state preserves the world through law and order, and the church preaches the gospel. If the church were to focus on advocating this or that policy position, it would risk abandoning its own task for the state’s. So that the church can preach the gospel, the church should recognize that its task differs from the state’s. On the other side, Bonhoeffer defines the church against ethical or humanitarian organizations. While he discourages the church from speaking out on particular actions of the state, he encourages humanitarian organizations (and individual Christians) to do so, “to accuse the state of offences against morality.”41 But this moral activism is not generally the task of the church, which stands or falls not with politics or ethics but with the gospel. If the church speaks on every unjust action of the state, it ceases to become the church and becomes a humanitarian organization.

Having initially called for the church to refrain from challenging the state, Bonhoeffer later, in the same essay, calls on the church to speak against the state. Although this has been seen as an inconsistency in the essay,42 Bonhoeffer’s position vis-à-vis church proclamation against the state is consistent so long as it is read against the background of his two-kingdoms thinking. Seeing this requires attending to the distinction between a state’s actions and a state’s character (Staatlichkeit).43 While admitting that this distinction is difficult to discern in practice, Bonhoeffer asserts the importance of recognizing that judging a particular action of the state is something different from judging the character of the state itself. And this distinction can be translated into Lutheran language. On the one hand are particular state actions and policies, which are about the content of the law in its first use, which fall out of the purview of the gospel in the narrow sense.44 All of this has to do with how the state fulfills its mandate. On the other hand is the character of the state vis-à-vis its divine mandate, which has to do with the purpose of the law, which falls within the purview of the gospel in the broader sense. This has to do with whether the state fulfills its mandate. On the issue of how the state fulfills its mandate, the church should generally be silent, but on the issue of whether the state fulfills its mandate, the church has the divine obligation to speak.45 The church speaks out against the state not in direct response to particular actions but on the question of the state’s character as the institution entrusted by God with the mandate to maintain law and order. The church speaks in such cases because it alone knows the true distinction between law and gospel, the true purpose of the law (and therefore of the state) as that which preserves the world toward Christ.

Bonhoeffer goes on to provide the criteria for adjudicating the character of the state. The church is compelled to speak, he says, when the state fails to fulfill its mandate by ceasing to maintain law and order. “Either too little law and order or too much law and order compels the church to speak.”46 As an example of too little law and order, Bonhoeffer discusses the case where “a group of people is deprived of it rights.” As an example of too much law and order, Bonhoeffer considers a situation where the state dictates to the church the exclusion of baptized ethnic Jews from its communion.47 Such a case of too much law and order, he says, “would mean the state developing its use of force to such a degree as to rob the Christian faith of its right to proclaim its message.”48 Then the “church must repudiate such an encroachment by the state authorities, precisely because it knows better about the state and the limitations of state actions.”49 Thus the church must speak against the state in cases where the state fails to maintain law and order, either through too little or too much. That is, the church speaks when the state abandons its mandate for temporal governance or oversteps into the church’s spiritual governance.

Therefore Bonhoeffer’s entire argument about church action toward the state—from the prohibition of resistance on particular state actions to the incitement to resistance on the state’s character—develops within the logic of his two-kingdoms thinking that works from the concept of the church outward. The church is defined by the gospel, in both the narrow and broad senses. For the sake of the purity of the gospel message as reconciliation with God apart from works of the law, the church refrains from criticizing the state’s particular acts of law-making and law-enforcement. Here the law and gospel distinction generates the distinction between the two kingdoms and the distinction between church and state. But the law and gospel are also a unity, the coordinated, twofold mode of God’s action in the world. The church’s custodianship of the relation between law and gospel means it speaks against the state on issues of the state’s character, “precisely because it knows better about the state and the limits of its actions.”50 The church speaks out in two kinds of cases: when the state abandons its mandate (too little order) and when the state oversteps its mandate and encroaches on the church’s (too much). The entire argument, including the call for the church to resist the state, is governed by two-kingdoms thinking.

The Orders

In addition to the two kingdoms, another characteristic of Lutheran political theology or social ethics is the theme variously referred to as “orders,” “stations,” “offices,” or “hierarchies.”51 Although Luther himself spoke of the orders in a number of places and with a variety of vocabulary, he was relatively consistent in identifying three: the church (ecclesiam), the government (politiam), and the household (oeconomiam, which included family life, economic life, and education). These were, for Luther, “the fundamental forms of life which God has provided for human existence.”52 The orders reflect the way that God has structured temporal reality and are the places, so to speak, where people live out their vocations. Luther derived the orders from the bible (especially Genesis53) and incorporated them into the Lutheran confessional tradition in his 1529 Small Catechism.54

Bonhoeffer carried on an extended discussion about the Lutheran orders that can be divided into three phases marked by differing terminology. While in his earliest thinking he used the phrase “orders of creation,” he undertook a criticism of this concept in the early 1930s in favor of “orders of preservation.” In the third phase, the early 1940s, he again shifted terminology, preferring “mandates” over “orders of preservation.” Even with “mandates,” Bonhoeffer remained committed “to renewing and reclaiming the old concepts of order, estate, and office.”55

Representative of the first phase in Bonhoeffer’s thinking about the orders is his 1928 lecture on “Basic Questions of a Christian Ethic.” There he argues that a Christian ethic cannot rest on general, universally valid principles.56 Specifically, appealing either to the idea of Volk as an order of creation or to the Sermon on the Mount for concrete ethical decisions would amount to legalism, for both are general principles. When Bonhoeffer turns in the lecture to concrete situations regarding war, however, he repeatedly resolves the dilemma between loving your enemy and defending your Volk in favor of the latter.57 While criticizing both the idea of Volk as an order of creation as well as the Sermon on the Mount as insufficiently concrete guides for moral action, Bonhoeffer in this early lecture relies on Volk thinking when he imagines concrete ethical decisions.

In 1932–1933, Bonhoeffer undertook a critique of the orders of creation on which he had previously relied.58 The idea of an “order of creation” presupposes creation in its original state, where knowledge of creation leads directly to knowledge of God’s will. From the distinction between creation in its original state and creation in its fallen state, mentioned above, it follows, first, that any attempt to know God directly from creation has the character of self-justification, and, second, that God the creator now relates to the world also as preserver. Taking sin seriously in this way requires jettisoning “orders of creation” and rethinking how God, order, and creature relate to each other. Specifically, the distinction between original and fallen creation implies that any divinely approved ordering of the world is not an order of creation but an order of preservation.

How does an order of preservation differ from an order of creation? Whereas an order of creation is understood to be valid in itself, an order of preservation is valid by reference to God’s redeeming work through the gospel.59 In other words, an order of creation maintains the world as it is in its original goodness, while an order of preservation prevents the world from falling into total chaos so that it might be redeemed. Thus Bonhoeffer crucially shifts the place of “order” from creation to preservation, where preservation’s meaning is fulfilled in redemption. Further, while an order of creation is universally valid, an order of preservation is only provisionally valid precisely because its validity is not in itself but in reference to the redemptive word of the gospel. A particular ordering of society is an order of preservation, then, “if the gospel can still be heard in it.” If the gospel can be heard in an economic order such as communism or in a political order such as parliamentary democracy, then those orders are to be affirmed as orders of preservation. This is not to say that communism or parliamentary democracy is good in itself to the exclusion of other forms of organization, but that, in a particular time and place, they serve to maintain the order necessary for the preaching and hearing of the gospel. But if those same orders become such that “the gospel can no longer be heard,” “[w]e must loudly protest.”60 “Wherever an order, even though it appears to be most fundamental, such as marriage, nation, and so on, is fundamentally closed to this proclamation, it must be surrendered.”61 In shifting orders from creation to preservation, Bonhoeffer undercuts the kind of thinking that exalts a particular ordering of the world as divinely approved in all times and places.

In effect, then, Bonhoeffer rules out reference to a particular order as an ethical universal or principle. This is so because we cannot know beforehand whether to approve or condemn a particular order; such a decision depends on a judgment about whether that order functions in a given situation to preserve the world toward Christ or to close the world off from him. In this way, Bonhoeffer’s revision of the orders of creation in favor of orders of preservation reflects his fundamental conviction that action in accordance with God’s will cannot be prescribed ahead of time but must be determined in the concrete situation.

The third phase in Bonhoeffer’s engagement with the Lutheran orders is marked by a transition from “orders of preservation” to “mandates.” In the 1943 Ethics essay “The Concrete Commandment and the Divine Mandates,” he defines “mandate” as

the concrete divine commission grounded in the revelation of Christ and the testimony of scripture; it is the authorization and legitimization to declare a particular divine commandment, the conferring of divine authority on an earthly institution. A mandate is to be understood simultaneously as the laying claim to, commandeering of, and formation of a certain earthly domain by the divine command. The bearer of the mandate acts as a vicarious representative, as a stand-in for the one who issued the commission.62

After offering this definition, Bonhoeffer considers a number of more traditional terms—order [Ordnung], estate [Stand], and office [Amt]—before rejecting each of them as being open to one misreading or another. Regarding the term “order” specifically, he is concerned that it “contain[s] the inherent danger of focusing more strongly on the static element of order rather than on the divine authorizing, legitimizing, and sanctioning, which are its sole foundation. This then leads too easily to a divine sanctioning of all existing orders per se … ”63 Because Bonhoeffer’s own previous use of “orders of preservation” worked against such divine sanctioning of the status quo, the shift to “mandates” is conceptually less dramatic than the previous shift to “orders of creation”; with both “orders of creation” and “mandates” Bonhoeffer resists the pseudo-Lutheran sanctification of spheres of reality that he saw as having infected thinking about the two kingdoms as well as thinking about the orders.

Peace as an Order of Preservation

If “The Church and the Jewish Question” shows how Bonhoeffer applies two-kingdoms thinking to the concrete issue of the church’s proclamation against the state, his 1932 lecture “On the Theological Foundation of the World Alliance” shows how he applied his orders-thinking to the concrete issue of the ecumenical church’s proclamation of peace. As in the 1928 “Basic Questions of a Christian Ethic,” Bonhoeffer is interested in thinking about war and peace in a way that avoids, on the one side, a natural-law appeal to the nation or Volk as an order of creation to justify war, and, on the other side, an enthusiastic appeal to the peaceable kingdom of God to justify principled pacifism. These positions are represented in the early 1930s by German militant nationalists and pacifist international ecumenists, respectively. Bonhoeffer’s translation of orders-thinking from creation into preservation allows him to negotiate these positions in a way he had not yet managed in 1928.

Specifically, Bonhoeffer mediates these positions by treating peace as an “order of preservation.”64 In doing so, he locates the issue of worldly, penultimate peace in the sphere of God’s preserving work. He does not locate the issue of worldly war and peace in the sphere of creation, as advocates of orders of creation do. This would suggest what is impossible in a fallen world, namely, knowledge of God’s will regarding peace and war based on a natural law. Nor does he locate the issue of worldly peace in the sphere of redemption, as Bonhoeffer sees the international ecumenists doing.65 This would confuse God’s preserving work with God’s redeeming work. This would confuse the law, which functions to restrain sin and preserve the world, with the gospel, which redeems the preserved world. For Bonhoeffer, peace is an issue of preservation.

Even though Bonhoeffer argues for peace and invokes “pacifism,”66 then, his theological position differs markedly from “enthusiasm” both in its 16th-century Radical Reformation and contemporary ecumenical forms.67 For Bonhoeffer, and in contrast to peace-church traditions stemming from the Radical Reformation, worldly peace is not, strictly speaking, the message of the gospel. The message of the gospel in the narrow sense is: “your sins are forgiven.”68 The church’s call to peace falls under the realm of the law and preservation, not the gospel and redemption. The two belong together but must not be confused. As a result, for Bonhoeffer the church’s call to peace is provisional rather than universally valid, for the provisional character of orders of preservation applies also to peace: “even peace is only an order of preservation than can be destroyed.”69 Because peace falls under the theological topic of preservation, worldly peace is neither the heart of the gospel nor an end in itself but rather that which preserves the world for the hearing of the gospel.

Review of the Literature

Among the many of Luther’s writings that have implications for political theology, the following are especially notable. “Temporal Authority”70 is his most systematic presentation of the two kingdoms, a topic that has generated much theological and historical discussion. The writings in connection with the peasants’ revolts continue to be of interest, as are his discussions of war and resistance to imperial authority.71

In discussions of Lutheran social ethics and political theology, the critical interpretations by Ernst Troeltsch and Reinhold Niebuhr have been widely influential. In the second volume of Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, Troeltsch presents Luther as offering a dualistic ethic, where a specifically Christian morality governs the religious sphere of life and a morality of autonomous reason governs others.72 Reinhold Niebuhr, in the second volume of The Nature and Destiny of Man, adopted and intensified Troeltsch’s interpretation, writing that Luther’s “distinction between an ‘inner’ and an ‘outer’ kingdom … became, in effect, a distinction between public and private morality.” Referring to the peasants’ revolts, Niebuhr writes that the “rulers, as custodians of public morality, were advised to ‘hit, stab, kill’ when dealing with the rebels …” The peasants on the other hand, as private citizens, were admonished to live in accordance with the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount.”73

For Niebuhr, the “inevitable consequence of such an ethic is” an indifference to governmental injustice that “encourage[s] tyranny,” an indifference that has had “a fateful consequence in the history of German civilization.”74 It is difficult to overstate the influence of this dualistic, Troeltsch-Niebuhr line of interpretation in discussions of social ethics and political theology.75

The Troeltsch-Niebuhr line has frequently been challenged, however, as an inaccurate representation of Luther’s own thinking. Notably, the dualistic interpretation of the two kingdoms misses the deep and various ways in which for Luther the two kingdoms, as Bonhoeffer saw, are also united.76 Moreover, Niebuhr’s near-totalizing claims about the Lutheran tradition being as a whole and necessarily subservient to political authority has been challenged in a number of ways. For example, there is consensus among political historians of the early modern period that European theories of resistance to political power found their first articulation in the Lutheran tradition. And it has also been pointed out that Luther and the two kingdoms were a resource in the Norwegian resistance to Nazism. While it is true that in some circumstances Lutheran thinking has supported tyranny—especially in Nazi Germany—this ought not be taken as evidence that the tradition as a whole necessarily tends toward political subservience.77

Turning to Bonhoeffer’s political theology, it can be said that much of its reception and ongoing application has been broadly liberative. Often praised in these contexts is Bonhoeffer’s overcoming of a dualistic relationship between church and world, religion and politics, and private and public. This reception has prized, in Bonhoeffer’s language, the critique of the pseudo-Lutheran or compromise approach to political theology. The danger, though, is a one-sided reception of Bonhoeffer, who certainly did resist the idea of a privatized religion over against a public political life but was also extraordinarily wary of the fanatical, enthusiastic religion of revolutionary social change. Reading Bonhoeffer rightly here is not simply an issue of balance, a matter of giving equal time to his critique of compromise and his critique of radicalism. Rather, it requires penetrating the underlying logic that generates his critique of private religion that is at the same time a critique of religious radicalism. To read Bonhoeffer in this way is to highlight the theological theme of preservation as well the attendant complex of kingdoms and mandates.78

But such a reading has been hampered by the persistent distancing of Bonhoeffer from his own Lutheran tradition, especially on the topic of the two kingdoms. In political-theological discussions that appropriate Bonhoeffer’s overcoming of a dualistic relationship between church and world, it is frequently suggested that the Lutheran pattern of thinking in terms of two kingdoms has stood as a major obstacle to overcoming this dualism. The implication, then, is that Bonhoeffer overthrew the dualism by distancing himself from two-kingdoms thinking. Many interpreters of Bonhoeffer’s political theology, then, appropriate his overcoming of a dualistic understanding of church and public life, see the two kingdoms as a particularly pernicious form of this dualism, and therefore suggest or argue explicitly that Bonhoeffer’s political theology is marked by a turn away from the two kingdoms.79

As indicated above, this line of interpretation is problematic, first, in identifying two-kingdoms thinking with a rigid and modern distinction between the public and private. It is certainly the case that some Lutheran thinkers, especially in the early-twentieth-century Germany, interpreted the two kingdoms in that direction. But to identify this particular expression of the two kingdoms with the tradition of two-kingdoms as a whole is to project the late-nineteenth and early-20th-century logic of Eigengesetzlichkeit onto the earlier tradition.80 This line of interpretation is problematic, second, because Bonhoeffer himself saw the distance between a dualistic account and what he considered the authentically Lutheran account of the two kingdoms as a differentiated unity. Instead of interpreting Bonhoeffer as attempting to distance himself from the two kingdoms—and then identifying remnants of two-kingdoms logic as unfortunate residues81—it is better to see him firmly situated within Lutheran two-kingdoms thinking, arguing for one expression of it over another. For Bonhoeffer, the two kingdoms function not to prop up a private/public distinction, but to locate politics as concerning preservation-toward-redemption, and therefore to forestall what he saw as the twin errors of compromise and radicalism.

Against this background, avenues emerge for future research on Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and political theologies. One area for further work is the continued reassessment of the Lutheran tradition of social ethics. Characterizations of Lutheran social ethics as inherently dualistic and therefore liable to political servility have proven remarkably resilient despite a great deal of historical-theological demonstration to the contrary. The example of Bonhoeffer, who marshaled Lutheran arguments for resisting the Nazi state, ought to be included in this reassessment. Conversely, a second avenue for future research is the deeper incorporation of Bonhoeffer into historical-theological treatments of Lutheran social ethics and political theology. Bonhoeffer has been claimed for a series of political-theological perspectives and movements, but there has been relatively little work grounding his thinking in its own Lutheran tradition.

Such work need not come at the expense of the ongoing application of Bonhoeffer’s thinking to contemporary issues of political theology. Here one can point to Heinrich Bedford-Strohm’s contribution to German public theology, which is exemplary for holding up Bonhoeffer as a model public theologian without separating him, in the process, from the two kingdoms or the Lutheran tradition more generally. Bedford-Strohm’s reading is significant not because it maintains the two kingdoms as some independently valuable theologoumenon, but because it recognizes that Bonhoeffer’s two-kingdoms thinking reflects the attempt, necessary now as then, to cultivate the space between compromise and radicalism. Bedford-Strohm himself cultivates this space by examining a series of models for theological or ecclesial advocacy in political matters. One, which he calls the “charity model,” errs in treating political advocacy as largely a private concern. Making the same distinction Bonhoeffer does between dualistic and dynamically unified versions of the two kingdoms, Bedford-Strohm writes that the charity model is connected with “a certain understanding of the Lutheran two kingdoms doctrine,” but “is a clear misunderstanding of Luther, since Luther was an active and passionate political ethicist.”82 Another approach, the “fundamental critical model,” errs by identifying certain political-ethical theories, such as the critique of capitalism, with the confession of the gospel. With this language of the “charity model” and the “fundamental critical model,” Bedford-Strohm has translated Bonhoeffer’s “pseudo-Lutheranism” and “enthusiasm” (or “compromise” and “radicalism”) into contemporary language. Consistent with this, Bedford-Strohm himself advocates a model he identifies in both Luther and Bonhoeffer, which he calls the “public theology model.” On the one hand, it sides with the fundamental-critical model in rejecting the charity model’s restriction of the church’s role to the private sphere. But on the other hand, it resists the fundamental critical model’s mistaken tendency to identify the church’s public, political-ethical message with the proclamation of the gospel.

On this view, the task of the church includes addressing issues of public, political concern without confusing that address with the proclamation of the gospel. In Bonhoeffer’s words:

The church has a twofold approach here: on the one hand, it must declare as reprehensible, by the authority of the word of God, such economic attitudes or systems that clearly hinder faith in Christ, thereby drawing a negative boundary. On the other hand, it will not be able to make its positive contribution to a new order on the authority of the word of God, but merely on the authority of responsible counsel by Christian experts. Both these tasks must be strictly distinguished. This first task is that of the teaching office, the second that of the diaconate; the first is divine, the second earthly; the first is that of the divine Word, the second that of the Christian life. Here the saying applies: doctrina est coelom, vita est terra [doctrine is heavenly; life is earthly] (Luther).83

To pursue in detail the underlying logic of his twofold approach, which lies between compromise and radicalism, between pseudo-Lutheranism and enthusiasm, would be to examine the Lutheran contours of Bonhoeffer’s political theology.

Further Reading

Andersen, Svend. Macht aus Liebe. Zur Rekonstruktion einer lutherischen politischen Ethik. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010.Find this resource:

Andersen, Svend. “Can We Still Do Lutheran Political Theology?” Studia Theologica 67.2 (2013): 110–127.Find this resource:

Bayer, Oswald. “Nature and Institution: Luther’s Doctrine of the Three Orders.” Lutheran Quarterly 12 (1998): 125–159.Find this resource:

Bedford-Strohm, Heinrich. “Public Theology and Political Ethics.” International Journal of Public Theology 6.3 (2012): 273–291.Find this resource:

Bedford-Strohm, Heinrich. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer als öffentlicher Theologe.” Evangelische Theologie 69.5 (2013): 329–341.Find this resource:

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “On the Possibility of the Church’s Message to the World.” In Ethics. Edited by Clifford J. Green, translated by Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Stott, 352–362. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 6. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005.Find this resource:

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “A Theological Position Paper on State and Church.” In Conspiracy and Imprisonment: 1940–1945. Edited by Mark S. Brocker, translated by Lisa E. Dahill and Douglas W. Stott, 503–528. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 16. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006.Find this resource:

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “The Church and the Jewish Question.” In Berlin: 1932–1933. Edited by Larry L. Rasmussen, translated by Isabel Best, David Higgins, and Douglas W. Stott, 361–370. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 12. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.Find this resource:

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “On the Theological Foundation of the Work of the World Alliance.” In Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931–1932. Edited by Victoria J. Barnett, Mark S. Brocker, and Michael B. Lukens, translated by Anne Schmidt-Lange, Isabel Best, Nicholas Humphrey, and Marion Pauck, 356–369. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 11. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012.Find this resource:

Bornkamm, Heinrich. Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms in the Context of His Theology. Translated by Karl H. Hertz. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966.Find this resource:

Busch Nielson, Kirsten, Ralf K. Wüstenberg, and Jens Zimmermann, eds. A Spoke in the Wheel: The Political in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer/Dem Rad in die Speichen fallen. Das Politische in der Theologie Dietrich Bonhoeffers. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2014.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. “Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed,” Luther’s Works 45 (1523), 75–129.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. “Admonition to Peace: A Reply to the Twelve Articles of the Peasants in Swabia,” Luther’s Works 46 (1525), 17–43.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants,” Luther’s Works 46 (1525), 49–55.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. “An Open Letter on the Harsh Book against the Peasants,” Luther’s Works 46 (1525), 63–85.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. “Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved,” Luther’s Works 46 (1526), 87–137.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. “Dr. Martin Luther’s Warning to His Dear German People,” Luther’s Works 47 (1531), 11–54.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. “Zirkulardisputation über das Recht des Widerstands gegen den Kaiser (Matt. 19:21),” WA 39/II: 34–91, 1539.Find this resource:

Tietz, Christiane. “‘The Church Is the Limit of Politics’: Bonhoeffer on the Political Task of the Church.” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 60.1–2 (2006): 23–36.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Craig Hovey and Elizabeth Phillips, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Political Theology (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), xi–xii.

(2.) Elizabeth Phillips, Political Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), 11.

(3.) Jürgen Moltmann, “European Political Theology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Political Theology, ed. Craig Hovey and Elizabeth Phillips (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 8–9.

(4.) For example, see Juan Luis Segundo, Liberation of Theology, trans. John Drury (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1976), 142–149.

(5.) On the importance of European political theology and Latin American liberation theology for contemporary political theology, see Hovey and Phillips, The Cambridge Companion to Political Theology, xii–xiii.

(6.) Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. 2 (New York: Scribners, 1964), 191, 187, 195. Juan Segundo’s criticism of the two kingdoms, for example, relies on Niebuhr. See Segundo, Liberation of Theology, 142–149.

(7.) Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. 2, 194–195. Similar judgments appear in the work of Karl Barth. See Karl Barth, This Christian Cause (New York: Macmillan, 1941); Karl Barth, Community, State, and Church: Three Essays (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1968).

(8.) Jürgen Moltmann, Herrschaft Christi und soziale Wirklichkeit nach Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1959); Jürgen Moltmann, “Die Wirklichkeit der Welt und Gottes konkretes Gebote nach Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” in Die Mündige Welt, ed. Eberhard Bethge, Vol. 3 (Munich: Kaiser Verlag, 1960), 42–67. The first of these is translated in Jürgen Moltmann and Weissbach, Jürgen, Two Studies in the Theology of Bonhoeffer, trans. Reginald H. Fuller and Ilse Fuller (New York: Scribner, 1967).

(9.) Dorothee Sölle, Political Theology, trans. John Shelley (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), 1. Originally published as Dorothee Sölle, Politische Theologie. Auseinandersetzung mit Rudolf Bultmann (Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 1971).

(10.) Julio de Santa Ana, “The Influence of Bonhoeffer on the Theology of Liberation,” The Ecumenical Review 28.2 (1976): 189. See also Julio de Santa Ana, “Der Einfluss Bonhoeffers auf die Theologie der Befreiung,” in Genf ’76: Ein Bonhoeffer Symposion, ed. Hans Pfeifer (Munich: Kaiser Verlag, 1976), 151–163. For an appropriation of Bonhoeffer in Latin American liberation theology, see Gustavo Gutiérrez, The Power of the Poor in History: Selected Writings (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1983), 222–234. Subsequent interpretations of Bonhoeffer from a liberation theology perspective include G. Clarke Chapman, “Bonhoeffer: Resource for Liberation Theology,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 36.4 (1981): 225–242; G. Clarke Chapman, “Bonhoeffer and Liberation Theology,” in Ethical Responsibility: Bonhoeffer’s Legacy to the Churches, ed. John D. Godsey and Geffrey B. Kelly (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1981), 147–195; G. Clarke Chapman, “Bonhoeffer, Liberation Theology, and the 1990s,” in Reflections on Bonhoeffer: Essays in Honor of F. Burton Nelson (Chicago: Covenant, 1999), 299–314; Geffrey B. Kelly, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Theology of Liberation,” Dialog 34.1 (1995): 22–29; Geffrey B. Kelly, Liberating Faith: Bonhoeffer’s Message for Today (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002).

(11.) Stanley Hauerwas, Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2004), 48. On its own, Hauerwas’s claim is open to the interpretation that Bonhoeffer rejected a traditional version of the two kingdoms doctrine (whatever that might be) in favor of some other version. But later Hauerwas says that Bonhoeffer “reject[s] the two-kingdom tradition,” Ibid. For that reason I take Hauerwas’s claim to be that he rejects that entire tradition of the two kingdoms, not just some version of a two-kingdoms doctrine. See also Stanley Hauerwas, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Political Theology,” The Conrad Grebel Review 20.3 (2002): 32.

(12.) On the two kingdoms or governments as a political organizing principle and the three estates or orders as an organizing principle of society in Luther’s thinking, see Eike Wolgast, “Luther’s Treatment of Political and Societal Life,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, ed. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and Lubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 397–413.

(13.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, ed. John W. de Gruchy, trans. Douglas Stephen Bax, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 3 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004), 139–140.

(14.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “On the Theological Foundation of the Work of the World Alliance,” in Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931–1932, ed. Victoria J. Barnett, Mark S. Brocker, and Michael B. Lukens, trans. Anne Schmidt-Lange et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 11 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 363. Bonhoeffer does have a place for natural law, so long as “the natural” is defined in terms of preservation toward Christ. See Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Natural Life,” in Ethics, ed. Clifford J. Green, trans. Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 6 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 171–178.

(15.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “A Theological Position Paper on State and Church,” in Conspiracy and Imprisonment: 1940–1945, ed. Mark S. Brocker, trans. Lisa E. Dahill and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 16 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 506.

(16.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Letter to Sabine and Gerhard Leibholz,” in Theological Education Underground: 1937–1940, ed. Victoria J. Barnett, trans. Victoria J. Barnett et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 302.

(17.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Führer and the Individual in the Younger Generation,” in Berlin: 1932–1933, ed. Larry L. Rasmussen, trans. Isabel Best, David Higgins, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 12 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 278.

(18.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Social Gospel,” in Berlin: 1932–1933, ed. Larry L. Rasmussen, trans. Isabel Best, David Higgins, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 12 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 241.

(19.) Bonhoeffer, “The Führer and the Individual,” 278.

(20.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Ultimate and Penultimate Things,” in Ethics, ed. Clifford J. Green, trans. Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 6 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 153–157.

(21.) Martin Luther, “Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed,” 1523, LW 45:91.

(22.) Svend Andersen, “Can We Still Do Lutheran Political Theology?,” Studia Theologica 67.2 (2013): 112.

(23.) Mary Jane Haemig, “The Confessional Basis of Lutheran Thinking on Church-State Issues,” in Church & State: Lutheran Perspectives, ed. John R. Stumme and Robert W. Tuttle (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 3–19.

(24.) Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2d ed. trans. Charles Arand et al. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), CA VII, 42.

(25.) Ibid., CA XVI, 48.

(26.) See Uwe Rieske-Braun, Zwei-Bereiche-Lehre und christlicher Staat. Verhältnisbestimmungen von Religion und Politik im Erlanger Neuluthertum und in der Allgemeinen Ev.-Luth. Kirchenzeitung (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1993), 448–449. Rieske-Braun presents Ludwig Ihmels and Paul Althaus as examples of dualistic two-kingdoms thinking. See Ludwig Ihmels, Der Krieg und der Jünger Jesu. Dritte völlig umgearbeitete und vermehrte Auflage von “Der Krieg im Lichte der christlichen Ethik” (Leipzig: Werner Scholl, 1916); Paul Althaus, Staatsgedanke und Reich Gottes (Langensalza: Hermann Beyer & Söhne, 1923).

(27.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Nature of the Church,” in Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931–1932, ed. Victoria J. Barnett, Mark S. Brocker, and Michael B. Lukens, trans. Anne Schmidt-Lange et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 11 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 332.

(28.) For other examples of Bonhoeffer’s early two-kingdoms thinking, see “Thy Kingdom Come!” in Berlin: 1932–1933, ed. Larry L. Rasmussen, trans. Isabel Best, David Higgins, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 12 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 285–297; “Lectures on Christology,” in Berlin: 1932–1933, ed. Larry L. Rasmussen, trans. Isabel Best, David Higgins, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 12 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009), 325–327; “The Church and the Jewish Question,” in Berlin: 1932–1933, ed. Larry L. Rasmussen, trans. Isabel Best, David Higgins, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 12 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 361–370.

(29.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Heritage and Decay,” in Ethics, ed. Clifford J. Green, trans. Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 6 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 110–111.

(30.) Ibid., 112.

(31.) Ibid., 113–114.

(32.) Ibid., 131.

(33.) For other examples of Bonhoeffer’s late two-kingdoms thinking, see “Protestantism without Reformation,” in Theological Education Underground: 1937–1940, ed. Victoria J. Barnett, trans. Victoria J. Barnett et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 450–456; “State and Church”; “Ultimate and Penultimate Things.”

(34.) For a fuller analysis, see Michael P. DeJonge, “Bonhoeffer’s Two-Kingdoms Thinking in ‘The Church and the Jewish Question,’” in Christ, Church and World: New Studies in Bonhoeffer’s Theology and Ethics, ed. Michael Mawson and Philip G. Ziegler (London: T&T Clark, 2016), 141–160.

(35.) Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” 362.

(38.) Ibid., 363.

(40.) Ibid., 364.

(41.) Ibid., 363.

(42.) For example, Kenneth C. Barnes, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hitler’s Persecution of the Jews,” in Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust, ed. Robert P. Ericksen and Susannah Heschel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 114, 116.

(43.) Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” 364.

(44.) Here and below I follow Mary Jane Haemig in distinguishing between a narrow and broad sense of the gospel: “‘Gospel’ can be used in two senses. When ‘gospel’ is used to designate the entire Christian message, the term includes both the proclamation of repentance (law) and the forgiveness of sins. When ‘gospel’ is opposed to law, the term is limited to the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God,” Haemig, “Confessional Basis,” 172n.6.

(45.) Here is the key passage where Bonhoeffer moves from urging the church’s restraint on particular state actions to urging church speech on the character of the state: “Even on the Jewish question today, the church cannot contradict the state directly and demand that it take any particular course of action. But that does not mean that the church stands aside, indifferent to what political action is taken. Instead, it can and must, precisely because it does not moralize about individual cases, keep asking the government whether its actions can be justified as legitimate state actions, that is, actions that create law and order, not lack of rights and disorder. It will be called upon to put this question as strongly as possible wherever the state seems endangered precisely in its character as the state [Staatlichkeit], that is, in its function of creating law and order by force. The church will have to put this question with the utmost clarity today in the matter of the Jewish question,” Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” 363–364. A similar stance is taken later on the question of the church’s role in the political reconstruction to follow the war. Based on a first draft written by Bonhoeffer, Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft writes, “The Church cannot and should not elaborate detailed plans of post-war reconstruction, but it should remind the nations of the abiding commandments and realities which must be taken seriously if the new order is to be a true order, and if we are to avoid another judgment of God such as this present war,” Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft, “The Church and the New Order in Europe,” in Conspiracy and Imprisonment: 1940–1945, ed. Mark S. Brocker, trans. Lisa E. Dahill and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 16 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 534.

(46.) Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” 364. For parallel language in Luther, see “On Temporal Authority,” LW 45:104.

(47.) Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” 368–370.

(48.) Ibid., 365.

(50.) Ibid.

(51.) These are translations of the various Latin (ordo, hierarchia) and German terms (Stand, Hierarchie, Orden, Amt) found in Luther and the tradition. Bernhard Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development, trans. Roy A. Harrisville (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 322.

(52.) Oswald Bayer, “Nature and Institution: Luther’s Doctrine of the Three Orders,” Lutheran Quarterly 12 (1998): 127.

(53.) Ibid.

(54.) Kolb and Wengert, The Book of Concord, SC, 365–367. See Denis R. Janz, The Westminster Handbook to Martin Luther (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 50.

(55.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Concrete Commandment and the Divine Mandates,” in Ethics, ed. Clifford J. Green, trans. Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 6 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 390.

(56.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Basic Questions of a Christian Ethic,” in Barcelona, Berlin, New York, 1928–1931, ed. Clifford J. Green, trans. Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 10 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008), 359–360.

(57.) Ibid., 371.

(58.) Bonhoeffer uses the phrase “order of preservation” in a number of writings from this period, but he most thoroughly explains the phrase in the following: “The Discernible Nature of the Order of Creation,” in Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931–1932, ed. Victoria J. Barnett, Mark S. Brocker, and Michael B. Lukens, trans. Anne Schmidt-Lange et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 11 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 267–268; “Report on the Conference of the Provisional Bureau (2),” in Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931–1932, ed. Victoria J. Barnett, Mark S. Brocker, and Michael B. Lukens, trans. Anne Schmidt-Lange et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 11 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 351–355; Creation and Fall, 139–140.

(59.) Bonhoeffer, “The Discernible Nature of the Order of Creation,” 267–268; Bonhoeffer, “Report on the Conference of the Provisional Bureau (2),” 353.

(60.) Bonhoeffer, “The Discernible Nature of the Order of Creation,” 268.

(61.) Bonhoeffer, “Report on the Conference of the Provisional Bureau (2),” 353.

(62.) Bonhoeffer, “The Concrete Commandment and the Divine Mandates,” 389. When he adopts the language of the mandates, Bonhoeffer also splits Luther’s order of the household to reflect the late modern separation of economic and family life. Thus Bonhoeffer has four mandates: marriage (and family), work (or culture), government, and church.

(63.) Ibid.

(64.) Bonhoeffer, “World Alliance,” 365.

(65.) Ibid.

(66.) Ibid., 367.

(67.) It has been common to read Bonhoeffer as a pacifist in the peace-church sense. The most prominent example of this is Hauerwas, Performing the Faith. See also Hauerwas, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Political Theology.” Against this, see Michael P. DeJonge, “How to Read Bonhoeffer’s Peace Statements: Or, Bonhoeffer Was a Lutheran and Not an Anabaptist,” Theology 118.3 (2015): 162–171; Michael P. DeJonge, “Bonhoeffer’s Non-Commitment to Nonviolence: A Response to Stanley Hauerwas,” Journal of Religious Ethics 44.4 (2016): 378–394; Clifford J. Green, “Pacifism and Tyrannicide: Bonhoeffer’s Christian Peace Ethic,” Studies in Christian Ethics 18.3 (2005): 31–47; Michael Mawson, “The Politics of Jesus and the Ethics of Christ: Why the Differences Between Yoder and Bonhoeffer Matter,” in The Freedom of a Christian Ethicist: The Future of a Reformation Legacy, ed. Brian Brock and Michael Mawson (London: T & T Clark Bloomsbury, 2016), 127–144; Christiane Tietz, “War Dietrich Bonhoeffer Pazifist? Oder: Dietrich Bonhoeffers Äußerungen zum Krieg,” in Glaube und Verantwortung. Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Nikolaus Schneider, ed. Petra Bosse-Huber and Christian Drägert (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft, 2012), 28–40.

(68.) Bonhoeffer, “World Alliance,” 360.

(69.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Theses for the World Alliance Lecture,” in Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931–1932, ed. Victoria J. Barnett, Mark S. Brocker, and Michael B. Lukens, trans. Anne Schmidt-Lange et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 11 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 371. See also Bonhoeffer, “World Alliance,” 365.

(70.) Martin Luther, “Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed,” 1523, LW 45:75–129.

(71.) Martin Luther, “Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed,” 1523, LW 45:75–129. For a classic theological interpretation, see Heinrich Bornkamm, Luthers Lehre von den zwei Reichen im Zusammenhang seiner Theologie, 2d ed. (Gütersloh: Mohn, 1960). Its English translation is Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms in the Context of His Theology, trans. Karl H. Hertz (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966). A recent historical example is Volker Mantey, Zwei Schwerter—zwei Reiche : Martin Luthers Zwei-Reiche-Lehre vor ihrem spätmittelalterlichen Hintergrund (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005). Much of the literature on the two kingdoms is summarized in William J. Wright, Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms: A Response to the Challenge of Skepticism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 1–43. On peasants’ revolts, read Martin Luther, “Admonition to Peace: A Reply to the Twelve Articles of the Peasants in Swabia,” 1525, Luther’s Works, Vol. 46, 17–43; Martin Luther, “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants,” 1525, Luther’s Works, Vol. 46, 49–55; Martin Luther, “An Open Letter on the Harsh Book against the Peasants,” 1525, Luther’s Works, Vol. 46, 63–85. See Armin Kohnle, “Luther und die Bauern,” in Luther Handbuch, ed. Albrecht Beutel (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 134–139. On war, Martin Luther, “Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved,” 1526, LW 46:87–137; Martin Luther, “On War against the Turk,” 1529, Luther’s Works, Vol. 46, 161–205. On the topic of resistance to authority, see Martin Luther, “Dr. Martin Luther’s Warning to His Dear German People,” 1531, LW 47:11–54; Martin Luther, “Zirkulardisputation über das Recht des Widerstands gegen den Kaiser (Matt. 19:21),” 1539, WA 39/II:34–91.

(72.) Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, trans. Olive Wyon, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 506–511.

(73.) Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, 2:194.

(74.) Ibid., 2:195.

(75.) The Troeltsch-Niebuhr interpretation has become “representative of the kind of criticism typically aimed at Luther by Christian ethicists whose training and interests lie primarily in religious social ethics rather than in his historical or systematic theology,” Brent W. Sockness, “Luther’s Two Kingdoms Revisited: A Response to Reinhold Niebuhr’s Criticism of Luther,” Journal of Religious Ethics 20.1 (1992): 101–102. There has been an “almost exclusive American dependence upon Troeltsch in the interpretation of Luther,” Carter Lindberg and George W. Forell, eds., Piety, Politics and Ethics: Reformation Studies in Honor of George Wolfsans Farell (Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 1984), viii.

(76.) “It is the tight linkage in Luther’s theology between the two kingdoms that Niebuhr does not seem to see,” David C. Steinmetz, “Luther and the Two Kingdoms,” in Luther in Context (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 124. The connection between the two kingdoms is a theme of Svend Andersen, Macht aus Liebe. Zur Rekonstruktion einer lutherischen politischen Ethik (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010); Andersen, “Can We Still Do Lutheran Political Theology?”; Svend Andersen, “Lutheran Political Theology in the Twenty-First Century,” in Transformations in Luther’s Theology: Historical and Contemporary Reflections, ed. Christine Helmer and Bo Kristian Holm (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2011), 245–263.

(77.) Oliver K. Olson, “Theology of Revolution: Magdeburg, 1550–1551,” Sixteenth Century Journal 3.1 (1972): 56–79; Cynthia G. Shoenberger, “Development of the Lutheran Theory of Resistance: 1523–1530,” Sixteenth Century Journal 8.1 (1977): 61–76; Cynthia G. Shoenberger, “Luther and the Justifiability of Resistance to Legitimate Authority,” Journal of the History of Ideas 40.1 (1979): 3–20; Quentin Skinner, “The Origins of the Calvinist Theory of Revolution,” in After the Reformation: Essays in Honor of J.H. Hexter, ed. Barbara C. Malament (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980), 309–330; Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 206–207; David M. Whitford, Tyranny and Resistance: The Magdeburg Confession and the Lutheran Tradition (St. Louis: Concordia, 2001), 98–102; Robert M. Kingdon, Church and Society in Reformation Europe (London: Variorum Reprints, 1985); Thomas Kaufmann, Das Ende der Reformation. Magdeburgs “Herrgotts Kanzlei” (1548–1551/2) (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2003); Thomas Kaufmann, “‘Our Lord God’s Chancery’ in Magdeburg and Its Fight against the Interim,” Church History 73.3 (2004): 566–582. For Norwegian resistance to Nazism, see Torleiv Austad, “Die Lehre von den zwei Regimenten im norwegischen Kirchenkampf 1940-1945,” in Zwei Reiche und Regimente. Ideologie oder evangelische Orientierung? ed. Ulrich Duchrow (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1977), 87–96; Arne Hassing, Church Resistance to Nazism in Norway, 1940–1945 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014). Lutheran thinking has supported tyrannyin some circumstances, as outlined in William Henry Lazareth, Christians in Society: Luther, the Bible, and Social Ethics (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), 7–10.

(78.) For especially strong examples liberative interpretations of Bonhoeffer’s political theology, see Chapman, “Bonhoeffer: Resource for Liberation Theology”; Chapman, “Bonhoeffer and Liberation Theology”; Chapman, “Bonhoeffer, Liberation Theology, and the 1990s”; Kelly, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Theology of Liberation”; Kelly, Liberating Faith. For examples of using Bonhoeffer to overcome a dualistic relationship between church and world, religion and politics, see Santa Ana, “The Influence of Bonhoeffer on the Theology of Liberation,” 189–192; Moltmann, “European Political Theology,” 8–9; Chapman, “Bonhoeffer: Resource for Liberation Theology,” 229–230; Carlos Ribeiro Caldas Filho, “Bonhoeffer and Public Ethics from the Perspective of Brazil,” in Interpreting Bonhoeffer: Historical Perspectives, Emerging Issues, ed. Clifford J. Green and Guy C. Carter (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 42–43.

(79.) For examples of the possibility of two-kingdom thinking as an obstacle to overcoming the dualistic relationship of church and world, see Moltmann, “European Political Theology,” 8–9; Chapman, “Bonhoeffer: Resource for Liberation Theology”; Kelly, Liberating Faith. On moving away from the two kingdom thinking, see, again, Hauerwas, Performing the Faith, 48; Hauerwas, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Political Theology,” 32. Other interpreters of Bonhoeffer, who otherwise differ from Hauerwas in many regards, also claim that he moved away from the two kingdoms. For a few examples, see Clifford J. Green, “Editor’s Introduction,” in Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 6 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 21; Larry L. Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005), 27–28, n.59; Reggie L. Williams, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance (Baylor: Baylor University Press, 2014), 122; Craig J. Slane, Bonhoeffer as Martyr: Social Responsibility and Modern Christian Commitment (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2004), 100.

(80.) See Ulrich Duchrow, Wolfgang Huber, and Louis Reith, eds., Umdeutungen der Zweireichelehre Luthers im 19. Jahrhundert (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1975); Ulrich Duchrow and Wolfgang Huber, eds., Die Ambivalenz der Zweireicheslehre in lutherischen Kirchen des 20. Jahrhunderts (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1976). A summary of the scholarship on the 19th and 20th-century iterations of the two kingdoms can be found in Wright, Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms, 1–43.

(81.) Hauerwas writes that Bonhoeffer’s political ethics are defined by “his critique and attempt to find an alternative to the traditional Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms” but concludes that “Bonhoeffer’s attempt to rethink the Lutheran two-kingdoms theology … failed to escape from the limits of the habits that have long shaped Lutheran thinking on these matters,” Performing the Faith, 48, 51. Clarke Chapman sees Bonhoeffer’s influence on Liberation theology in his “[r]ecognition that our world come of age overcomes the traditional dualism of church vs. world” but later writes: “Some dualism persists in Bonhoeffer, despite his efforts. The remnants of the two-kingdom doctrine formed an indelible part of his Lutheran heritage,” Chapman, “Bonhoeffer: Resource for Liberation Theology,” 229, 236.

(82.) Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, “Poverty and Public Theology: Advocacy of the Church in Pluralistic Society,” International Journal of Public Theology 2.2 (2008): 146. For Bedford-Strohm’s models, see Ibid., 146–151; “Öffentliche Theologie als Theologie der Hoffnung,” International Journal of Orthodox Theology 3.1 (2012): 40–42. For his treatment of Bonhoeffer as public theologian, see “Poverty and Public Theology,” 151–157; “Dietrich Bonhoeffer als öffentlicher Theologe,” Evangelische Theologie 69.5 (2013): 329–341. For his connection of Bonhoeffer with the two kingdoms, see “Public Theology and Political Ethics,” International Journal of Public Theology 6.3 (2012): 273–291.

(83.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “On the Possibility of the Church’s Message to the World,” in Ethics, ed. Clifford J. Green, trans. Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Stott, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 6 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 361–362.