By Adriane Heins
“We can’t step back. We must participate.” That’s LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison’s stance when it comes to confessing the faith in the public square.
On Nov. 13, Harrison hosted a free webinar as part of the Synod’s “Free to be Faithful” campaign, an endeavor aimed at education and awareness with regard to three key topics: marriage, life and religious liberty.
“We are going to be pushed on many sides on our participation in the state,” Harrison warned those watching. “There will be people among us, among the orthodox Lutheran fellowship, who will have different ideas on [matters of] conscience.”
The key? “Grab hold of and become clear on the precious gift that we have been given by the Lutheran Reformation,” he encouraged. “That is the biblical teaching of the two kingdoms.”
During the course of the webinar, Harrison explained — to viewers from New Jersey to Colorado — the history of the Synod’s two-kingdom theology and why it’s unique to Lutheranism.
Citing the Augsburg Confession and Article 16, which discusses civil government, he noted that the “Divine realm and the temporal realm are both God’s orders. They are established by God, but they have different purposes. The kingdom of the left hand — the state, emanating from the family — is ruled by reason and natural law. … The other kingdom of the right — of the church — is a matter of grace.”
Clarifying that the Church doesn’t “want to meddle in the affairs of the state,” Harrison also noted that, “On the other hand, we don’t want the state meddling in the church’s business.”
“It’s insanity for the state to turn its coercive powers on the Church and hinder its work,” he explained, reminding attendees that “anything by the state that hinders the Gospel must be rejected out of hand and out of conscience.”
Harrison also prepared viewers for the days ahead, when beliefs and convictions will continue to be tested and tried: “We will feel like strangers increasingly, and so it goes. Luther said the Gospel comes and waters a place and then for thanklessness it passes away. And we see in our time the Gospel passing America. The Lord is allowing it to move to the South.”
Nevertheless, he encouraged: “Christ is for us. The eternal game is done. The deed is done. The once-for-all act happened 8,000 miles away 2,000 years ago.”
For those weary of hearing about increasing intrusions by the government in the realm of the Church, he had a word of comfort — “Grab hold of your Baptism!” — but also emphasized the importance of an aggressive defense of the truth: “Agitate. Agitate. Agitate,” he said, quoting Frederick Douglass. “We must not grow weary. We must teach, teach, teach!”
Watch Harrison’s webinar in its entirety here, and find more information on the topics of marriage, life and religious liberty on the Synod’s Free to be Faithful website, along with many other resources.
The next Free to be Faithful webinar will be held Tuesday, March 10, 2015, at 9 a.m. The presenter will be Wesley Smith, senior fellow at Discovery Institute and one of the nation’s experts on bioethics.
Adriane Heins is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted Nov. 17, 2014 / Updated Nov. 18, 2014