Monday, June 4, 2012

Luther's politics

It is no accident that secularism and progressive politics go together. It's basically because the left has made a religion of politics by applying Christian principles and values, a disastrous move which inevitably leads to economic, political and social decline - as we see dramatically illustrated in the decline of Europe, and, increasingly, America as post-World War II social welfare policies and an out-of-control notion of human rights take their social and economic toll.

The irony is that the dangers of applying Christian principles in the political sphere have been known about and talked about by many thinkers, religious and unreligious, Christian and non-Christian, in the course of the last two thousand years.

I recently came across this reference to the views of Martin Luther (a thinker who once meant a lot to me).

Luther rejected philosophy - and so logic and reason - as a starting-point for faith. He drew a clear distinction between the law and the gospel, between conscience and faith.

"[U]nlike most of his contemporaries, Luther did not believe that a ruler had to be Christian, only reasonable. Here, opposite to his discussion of theology, it is revelation that is improper. Trying to govern using the gospel as one’s model would either corrupt the government or corrupt the gospel. The gospel’s fundamental message is forgiveness, government must maintain justice. To confuse the two here is just as troubling as confusing them when discussing theology. If forgiveness becomes the dominant model in government, people being sinful, chaos will increase."

Secular conservatism is a difficult path to follow because it doesn't provide an outlet for our religious instincts. It's 'unnatural' in fact, like science (both requiring an overthrow of built-in instincts and proclivities). I fear it is destined to remain a minority position.



    Another view of the same domain.

    The Martin Luther reference above surprises me, mostly because I've never thought in those terms before. If Luther's views are correctly stated in the reference, the most interesting aspect to me is the seed of church/state separation expressed by a 16th century theologian! Almost as if Luther dipped his pen in Machiavelli's ink when it came to his views of government.

    1. I had another look at Heathen's piece, which I like. But it is a very difficult and complex topic, not least because many who call themselves agnostics have what I see as a more or less religious view of the world.

      My reaction to the Luther reference was similar to yours - surprise, and I too thought of Machiavelli. But it makes sense when you think of the corrupt ecclesiastical rulers of the time whom Luther was reacting against. And there is a long tradition of Christian thought which divides the secular from the sacred. Think, for example, of that "Render unto Caesar ..." verse in the NT or Augustine's City of God.

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    Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood.