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ALPB => Your Turn => Topic started by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 12:14:33 AM

Title: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 12:14:33 AM
In the context of the election season, do the paragraphs below hold up?  Are these principles that transcend nearly 500 years and in a very different polity?  Do we explictly teach these in any way?  Would our Lutheran church bodies still affirm them today? 
 
I plan on reading the first excerpt to the congregation on the first Sunday in November in preface to a prayer for the country as we go to the polls.

 
      But God sustains government and through it gives peace and punishes and guards against the wicked, so that we may support wife and children, bring up children in the discipline and knowledge of God, have security in our homes and on the streets, that each may help the other, and communicate and live with another. Such gifts are altogether of heaven, and God desires that we consider and recognize them as gifts of God. He desires us to honor government as a servant of his and to show gratitude to it because through it God gives us such great benefits.
     Whoever, thus, might see God in government, would have sincere love towards government. Whoever could estimate the blessings which we receive through government, would be heartily thankful toward government. If you knew that someone had saved your child from death, you would thank him warmly. Why then are you not grateful to the government which saves you, your children, your wife, daily from murder? If the government did not restrain the wicked, when could we be secure? Therefore when you look on wife and children, bear in mind that these are gifts of God which you may possess through the government. And as you love your children, you should also love the government. Because the common man does not acknowledge such blessings as peace, justice, and punishment of the wicked, we need often to remind him of them and diligently to explain them to him. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 283). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


The people are also to be exhorted to pay honestly and willingly the tax imposed on each. Even if some obligations are heavy each one is bound to pay on account of his duty and his obedience to government so that peace may rule throughout the land. For what else is unwillingness to pay tax or render service than giving rise to thievery and murder?
     So they especially who bear the name of Christian should do this in love which willingly bears all burdens, and gives beyond what is due, which pays, even when burdened unjustly, and seeks no revenge through its own powers, as Christ teaches in Matt. 5[:39]. We ought to bring honor to the holy gospel by paying honestly, as a matter of course, so that the holy gospel is not slandered and disgraced as happens in the case of those who claim in the name of the holy gospel to be free from tithes and other temporal burdens. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 286-287). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 

 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Scott6 on October 12, 2012, 12:34:58 AM
In the context of the election season, do the paragraphs below hold up?  Are these principles that transcend nearly 500 years and in a very different polity?  Do we explictly teach these in any way?  Would our Lutheran church bodies still affirm them today? 
 
I plan on reading the first excerpt to the congregation on the first Sunday in November in preface to a prayer for the country as we go to the polls.

 
      But God sustains government and through it gives peace and punishes and guards against the wicked, so that we may support wife and children, bring up children in the discipline and knowledge of God, have security in our homes and on the streets, that each may help the other, and communicate and live with another. Such gifts are altogether of heaven, and God desires that we consider and recognize them as gifts of God. He desires us to honor government as a servant of his and to show gratitude to it because through it God gives us such great benefits.
     Whoever, thus, might see God in government, would have sincere love towards government. Whoever could estimate the blessings which we receive through government, would be heartily thankful toward government. If you knew that someone had saved your child from death, you would thank him warmly. Why then are you not grateful to the government which saves you, your children, your wife, daily from murder? If the government did not restrain the wicked, when could we be secure? Therefore when you look on wife and children, bear in mind that these are gifts of God which you may possess through the government. And as you love your children, you should also love the government. Because the common man does not acknowledge such blessings as peace, justice, and punishment of the wicked, we need often to remind him of them and diligently to explain them to him. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 283). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


The people are also to be exhorted to pay honestly and willingly the tax imposed on each. Even if some obligations are heavy each one is bound to pay on account of his duty and his obedience to government so that peace may rule throughout the land. For what else is unwillingness to pay tax or render service than giving rise to thievery and murder?
     So they especially who bear the name of Christian should do this in love which willingly bears all burdens, and gives beyond what is due, which pays, even when burdened unjustly, and seeks no revenge through its own powers, as Christ teaches in Matt. 5[:39]. We ought to bring honor to the holy gospel by paying honestly, as a matter of course, so that the holy gospel is not slandered and disgraced as happens in the case of those who claim in the name of the holy gospel to be free from tithes and other temporal burdens. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 286-287). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes?  That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 12:54:50 AM

Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes? That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
No, no one would abandon those primary roles for government.  But the appreciation of and thankfulness for government (not to be confused with "I love my country" patriotism) seems on the wane. 
Where is the love of govenment (as opposed to country)? 
Where is the positive affirmation of government  in our church life, personal life, political life?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 12, 2012, 12:59:14 AM
In the context of the election season, do the paragraphs below hold up?  Are these principles that transcend nearly 500 years and in a very different polity?  Do we explictly teach these in any way?  Would our Lutheran church bodies still affirm them today? 
 
I plan on reading the first excerpt to the congregation on the first Sunday in November in preface to a prayer for the country as we go to the polls.

 
      But God sustains government and through it gives peace and punishes and guards against the wicked, so that we may support wife and children, bring up children in the discipline and knowledge of God, have security in our homes and on the streets, that each may help the other, and communicate and live with another. Such gifts are altogether of heaven, and God desires that we consider and recognize them as gifts of God. He desires us to honor government as a servant of his and to show gratitude to it because through it God gives us such great benefits.
     Whoever, thus, might see God in government, would have sincere love towards government. Whoever could estimate the blessings which we receive through government, would be heartily thankful toward government. If you knew that someone had saved your child from death, you would thank him warmly. Why then are you not grateful to the government which saves you, your children, your wife, daily from murder? If the government did not restrain the wicked, when could we be secure? Therefore when you look on wife and children, bear in mind that these are gifts of God which you may possess through the government. And as you love your children, you should also love the government. Because the common man does not acknowledge such blessings as peace, justice, and punishment of the wicked, we need often to remind him of them and diligently to explain them to him. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 283). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


The people are also to be exhorted to pay honestly and willingly the tax imposed on each. Even if some obligations are heavy each one is bound to pay on account of his duty and his obedience to government so that peace may rule throughout the land. For what else is unwillingness to pay tax or render service than giving rise to thievery and murder?
     So they especially who bear the name of Christian should do this in love which willingly bears all burdens, and gives beyond what is due, which pays, even when burdened unjustly, and seeks no revenge through its own powers, as Christ teaches in Matt. 5[:39]. We ought to bring honor to the holy gospel by paying honestly, as a matter of course, so that the holy gospel is not slandered and disgraced as happens in the case of those who claim in the name of the holy gospel to be free from tithes and other temporal burdens. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 286-287). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 



Has anyone ever said that no one should pay taxes, or that we should not have governments? You raise a straw man issue. The current public debate is over how to divide the taxes among the people being taxed. It is a question of whether taxes should be levied in order to redistribute the wealth by taking it from those with much in order to give to those with less, or should taxes only be levied to raise the funds needed for the government to function. Those are two very different positions on what taxes should be levied, but neither argument says no one should pay taxes.


So, pray tell, just how does what Luther said (in a time and place when leaders were not elected by the people) relate to the issues that are part of this current election season?


Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Scott6 on October 12, 2012, 01:31:02 AM

Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes? That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
No, no one would abandon those primary roles for government.  But the appreciation of and thankfulness for government (not to be confused with "I love my country" patriotism) seems on the wane. 
Where is the love of govenment (as opposed to country)? 
Where is the positive affirmation of government  in our church life, personal life, political life?

Again, I find no one debating the issues you raise here.  That we should have a government that protects us is nowhere in debate.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: peter_speckhard on October 12, 2012, 01:55:30 AM
Everyone who thanks a soldier for his service expresses love for the government. Same with demands to enforce the borders, "tough on crime" political campaigns, and praises of the entreprenuership that results in copyrights and patents; all are hymns to government. I saw an interesting rejoinder a few weeks ago, one I agree with. A liberal had made the point that government was just a word for what we do together, and a conservative rebutted that commerce is the word for what we do together voluntarily. Government is the word for what we are coerced into doing together.

In the end, most of liberalism is simply the hubris and envy of very smart and educated people looking with disdain at a rich guy and saying, "I could do great things with that guy's money."
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on October 12, 2012, 01:59:40 AM
In the context of the election season, do the paragraphs below hold up?  Are these principles that transcend nearly 500 years and in a very different polity?  Do we explictly teach these in any way?  Would our Lutheran church bodies still affirm them today? 
 
I plan on reading the first excerpt to the congregation on the first Sunday in November in preface to a prayer for the country as we go to the polls.

 
      But God sustains government and through it gives peace and punishes and guards against the wicked, so that we may support wife and children, bring up children in the discipline and knowledge of God, have security in our homes and on the streets, that each may help the other, and communicate and live with another. Such gifts are altogether of heaven, and God desires that we consider and recognize them as gifts of God. He desires us to honor government as a servant of his and to show gratitude to it because through it God gives us such great benefits.
     Whoever, thus, might see God in government, would have sincere love towards government. Whoever could estimate the blessings which we receive through government, would be heartily thankful toward government. If you knew that someone had saved your child from death, you would thank him warmly. Why then are you not grateful to the government which saves you, your children, your wife, daily from murder? If the government did not restrain the wicked, when could we be secure? Therefore when you look on wife and children, bear in mind that these are gifts of God which you may possess through the government. And as you love your children, you should also love the government. Because the common man does not acknowledge such blessings as peace, justice, and punishment of the wicked, we need often to remind him of them and diligently to explain them to him. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 283). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


The people are also to be exhorted to pay honestly and willingly the tax imposed on each. Even if some obligations are heavy each one is bound to pay on account of his duty and his obedience to government so that peace may rule throughout the land. For what else is unwillingness to pay tax or render service than giving rise to thievery and murder?
     So they especially who bear the name of Christian should do this in love which willingly bears all burdens, and gives beyond what is due, which pays, even when burdened unjustly, and seeks no revenge through its own powers, as Christ teaches in Matt. 5[:39]. We ought to bring honor to the holy gospel by paying honestly, as a matter of course, so that the holy gospel is not slandered and disgraced as happens in the case of those who claim in the name of the holy gospel to be free from tithes and other temporal burdens. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 286-287). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes?  That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?


The debate seems to be where should such protection come from. At one extreme would be the federal government providing the funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked. At the other extreme would be each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property. In the middle are the state and local governments providing protection and punishment.


I have a member who served as a military police. He has firearms and a stockpile of ammunition to protect himself and his wife. The former chief of police is a member. His wife works for the sheriff's department. A member works for the highway patrol. We've had some who work for the federal border patrol. In addition, the Indian reservations have their own police forces, the Marine base has it's own police force -- and the marines themselves are a federal enforcement agency.


Do we need all these different governments and agencies - which all cost money -- to refrain and punish evil, to protect life and property, to provide a reasonable level of peace in our land? Could we get by without the federal government and just rely on state governments (which would make us more like Europe)? Could we get by without state governments and cede everything over to the federal government to remove duplication of efforts?


Then there can be arguments about which form of government is the best. Democracy is about the least efficient form of government. Giving a king (or pope) the authority to make decisions is much more efficient than trying to get a majority of people to agree about something. I don't know who first said it, but I like this quote: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest."
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Scott6 on October 12, 2012, 02:05:48 AM
The debate seems to be where should such protection come from. At one extreme would be the federal government providing the funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked. At the other extreme would be each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property. In the middle are the state and local governments providing protection and punishment.

This is one of the least insightful things I've read in quite a while (and explains why I have been skipping any of Brian's postings for over two years now), to put it kindly.

Alright, to be blunt, the idea that any credible politician would advocate that we just should arm ourselves and enforce our own laws sans governmental funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked (i.e., "each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property") as we will is stupid.  No one claims this.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on October 12, 2012, 02:19:33 AM
The debate seems to be where should such protection come from. At one extreme would be the federal government providing the funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked. At the other extreme would be each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property. In the middle are the state and local governments providing protection and punishment.

This is one of the least insightful things I've read in quite a while (and explains why I have been skipping any of Brian's postings for over two years now), to put it kindly.

Alright, to be blunt, the idea that any credible politician would advocate that we just should arm ourselves and enforce our own laws sans governmental funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked (i.e., "each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property") as we will is stupid.  No one claims this.


Did you miss "at the other extreme"? It's an extremist position -- and there are such people with such extreme views. Seldom are they elected to government positions. I purposely used extreme examples, which on the bell-shaped curve are usually considered the positions or actions of "sick" people. Healthy ones are somewhere in the middle of the graph; which in my examples would put local government against broader government, e.g., city vs. state; state vs. federal.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 02:20:12 AM

Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes? That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
I'm not talking merely about the functions of government, but our attitudes toward government itself.  An appreciation of and thankfulness for government (not to be confused with "I love my country" patriotism) seems on the wane.   
Is there among Lutheran Christians a love of government (as opposed to love of country)? 
Where is the positive affirmation of government in our church life, personal life, political life?

Again, I find no one debating the issues you raise here.  That we should have a government that protects us is nowhere in debate.
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   
Don't the priciples encouraged upon the preachers by the visitors suggest that the church in some way needs to challenge the above attitudes and instead promote an attitude of thankfulness to government for its role in helping and supporting its citizens and our neighbors in their need?
Another reference from the Instructions:
"The preachers, accordingly, should faithfully remind the authorities to maintain peace, justice, and security for their subjects, to defend the poor, the widow, and the orphaned...." LW 40, p. 284
Again I'm not saying we debate the idea the role of governement in provding security.  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")  Do we teach (along with our stewardship campaigns for church offerings) the duty of paying taxes?  All of this should come up in Catechism instruction regarding the Fourth Commandment.  But is it part of the piety, life of faith that we inculcate?  If we asked the average person in the pew to say what does the church teach about government?  How would they respond?  Would it resemble this?
"...that we obey the government.  In Romans 13 Paul enumerates three points concerning government. 
    "First, the payment of taxes, namely that each shall give the authroities such money and labor as is required of him [Rom. 13:6f].
    "Second, respect, that is, that we have sincere respect for government. ...
    "The third duty we owe government is honor.  For how can we imagine that we have paid the government something when we have given it tax or tithe or served it with physical labor?  God requires of us a much higher service toward the government, namely, honor...."
LW 40, p. 281-2
 
 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on October 12, 2012, 02:23:25 AM
"...that we obey the government.  In Romans 13 Paul enumerates three points concerning government. 
    "First, the payment of taxes, namely that each shall give the authroities such money and labor as is required of him [Rom. 13:6f].
    "Second, respect, that is, that we have sincere respect for government. ...
    "The third duty we owe government is honor.  For how can we imagine that we have paid the government something when we have given it tax or tithe or served it with physical labor?  God requires of us a much higher service toward the government, namely, honor...."
LW 40, p. 281-2


A problem with Luther's approach is that Romans 13 needs to be balanced with Revelation 13 where a quite different picture of government is presented.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 02:24:45 AM
The debate seems to be where should such protection come from. At one extreme would be the federal government providing the funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked. At the other extreme would be each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property. In the middle are the state and local governments providing protection and punishment.

This is one of the least insightful things I've read in quite a while (and explains why I have been skipping any of Brian's postings for over two years now), to put it kindly.

Alright, to be blunt, the idea that any credible politician would advocate that we just should arm ourselves and enforce our own laws sans governmental funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked (i.e., "each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property") as we will is stupid.  No one claims this.


Did you miss "at the other extreme"? It's an extremist position -- and there are such people with such extreme views. Seldom are they elected to government positions. I purposely used extreme examples, which on the bell-shaped curve are usually considered the positions or actions of "sick" people. Healthy ones are some where in the middle of the graph; which in my examples would put local government against broader government, e.g., city vs. state; state vs. federal.
And to my purpose:  when persons advocate suspicion of the authorities or government or fear of the government (particularly to the point of arming themselves against it, but perhaps even before that point) or even contempt or disdain for the government. are we not obligated to call that sin?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Scott6 on October 12, 2012, 02:28:58 AM

Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes? That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
I'm not talking merely about the functions of government, but our attitudes toward government itself.  An appreciation of and thankfulness for government (not to be confused with "I love my country" patriotism) seems on the wane.   
Is there among Lutheran Christians a love of government (as opposed to love of country)? 
Where is the positive affirmation of government in our church life, personal life, political life?

Again, I find no one debating the issues you raise here.  That we should have a government that protects us is nowhere in debate.
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   
Don't the priciples encouraged upon the preachers by the visitors suggest that the church in some way needs to challenge the above attitudes and instead promote an attitude of thankfulness to government for its role in helping and supporting its citizens and our neighbors in their need?
Another reference from the Instructions:
"The preachers, accordingly, should faithfully remind the authorities to maintain peace, justice, and security for their subjects, to defend the poor, the widow, and the orphaned...." LW 40, p. 284
Again I'm not saying we debate the idea the role of governement in provding security.  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")  Do we teach (along with our stewardship campaigns for church offerings) the duty of paying taxes?  All of this should come up in Catechism instruction regarding the Fourth Commandment.  But is it part of the piety, life of faith that we inculcate?  If we asked the average person in the pew to say what does the church teach about government?  How would they respond?  Would it resemble this?
"...that we obey the government.  In Romans 13 Paul enumerates three points concerning government. 
    "First, the payment of taxes, namely that each shall give the authroities such money and labor as is required of him [Rom. 13:6f].
    "Second, respect, that is, that we have sincere respect for government. ...
    "The third duty we owe government is honor.  For how can we imagine that we have paid the government something when we have given it tax or tithe or served it with physical labor?  God requires of us a much higher service toward the government, namely, honor...."
LW 40, p. 281-2

I would and have denied that anyone would dispute with your Luther quote which started this thread based upon the importance of government to preserve peace and punish the guilty.

If you could give a single example of a credible politician who would argue against the government preserving the peace and punishing the guilty, then perhaps I could see the value of this thread.

Now, regarding your expanded view, I see that you are backing away from a position that at least implicitly claimed that some were against preserving peace and punishing wrongdoers, and this is good.  No one would argue against your original quotation.

And, of course, I am sure that during the Bush administration you were duly aware of your duties in praising that government as well.

Or, just perhaps, the reason for this thread was rather a partisan view of government thinly masked as an ode to Luther's view of the value of government?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on October 12, 2012, 02:31:51 AM
The debate seems to be where should such protection come from. At one extreme would be the federal government providing the funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked. At the other extreme would be each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property. In the middle are the state and local governments providing protection and punishment.

This is one of the least insightful things I've read in quite a while (and explains why I have been skipping any of Brian's postings for over two years now), to put it kindly.

Alright, to be blunt, the idea that any credible politician would advocate that we just should arm ourselves and enforce our own laws sans governmental funds and forces to restrain and punish the wicked (i.e., "each head of the family being armed and equipped to protect his own family and property") as we will is stupid.  No one claims this.


Did you miss "at the other extreme"? It's an extremist position -- and there are such people with such extreme views. Seldom are they elected to government positions. I purposely used extreme examples, which on the bell-shaped curve are usually considered the positions or actions of "sick" people. Healthy ones are some where in the middle of the graph; which in my examples would put local government against broader government, e.g., city vs. state; state vs. federal.
And to my purpose:  when persons advocate suspicion of the authorities or government or fear of the government (particularly to the point of arming themselves against it, but perhaps even before that point) or even contempt or disdain for the government. are we not obligated to call that sin?


Not if the government has become the beast of Revelation 13. Then we are to call the actions of the government sin, or even demon-possessed; and we are to call those who worship the beast "sinners".


I do not think that our government is the beast of Revelation 13. For us in America, Romans 13 and the fourth commandment can be used to support Christians being good citizens and supporting our government.


I do not agree that such allegiance to the government as Romans 13 espouses is always the Christian response to all governments. Sometimes governments sin and sometimes patriotism is idolatry.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 02:34:07 AM
"...that we obey the government.  In Romans 13 Paul enumerates three points concerning government. 
    "First, the payment of taxes, namely that each shall give the authroities such money and labor as is required of him [Rom. 13:6f].
    "Second, respect, that is, that we have sincere respect for government. ...
    "The third duty we owe government is honor.  For how can we imagine that we have paid the government something when we have given it tax or tithe or served it with physical labor?  God requires of us a much higher service toward the government, namely, honor...."
LW 40, p. 281-2


A problem with Luther's approach is that Romans 13 needs to be balanced with Revelation 13 where a quite different picture of government is presented.
I think that balance is maintained.   There may bad government and bad governors.  We may face suffering under them, and should cry out to God for deliverance and pray for the strength to endure in the time of trial.  In our context, under oppressive rulers (or even those we deem ineffectual or misguided) we may also work within the law to remove them from power.
Does Revelation teach that government is evil, or that evil forces may use government to evil purposes?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on October 12, 2012, 02:42:42 AM
Does Revelation teach that government is evil, or that evil forces may use government to evil purposes?


Does that distinction matter to citizens suffering under the evil of the government?


What God promises to bring down in the magnificat are the powerful from their thrones, who are also described as arrogant and proud. Whether we call it evil forces or just self-serving, when a government does that, they are not fulfilling God's purpose for those in positions of authority.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 02:51:49 AM

Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes? That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
I'm not talking merely about the functions of government, but our attitudes toward government itself.  An appreciation of and thankfulness for government (not to be confused with "I love my country" patriotism) seems on the wane.   
Is there among Lutheran Christians a love of government (as opposed to love of country)? 
Where is the positive affirmation of government in our church life, personal life, political life?

Again, I find no one debating the issues you raise here.  That we should have a government that protects us is nowhere in debate.
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   
Don't the priciples encouraged upon the preachers by the visitors suggest that the church in some way needs to challenge the above attitudes and instead promote an attitude of thankfulness to government for its role in helping and supporting its citizens and our neighbors in their need?
Another reference from the Instructions:
"The preachers, accordingly, should faithfully remind the authorities to maintain peace, justice, and security for their subjects, to defend the poor, the widow, and the orphaned...." LW 40, p. 284
Again I'm not saying we debate the idea the role of governement in provding security.  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")  Do we teach (along with our stewardship campaigns for church offerings) the duty of paying taxes?  All of this should come up in Catechism instruction regarding the Fourth Commandment.  But is it part of the piety, life of faith that we inculcate?  If we asked the average person in the pew to say what does the church teach about government?  How would they respond?  Would it resemble this?
"...that we obey the government.  In Romans 13 Paul enumerates three points concerning government. 
    "First, the payment of taxes, namely that each shall give the authroities such money and labor as is required of him [Rom. 13:6f].
    "Second, respect, that is, that we have sincere respect for government. ...
    "The third duty we owe government is honor.  For how can we imagine that we have paid the government something when we have given it tax or tithe or served it with physical labor?  God requires of us a much higher service toward the government, namely, honor...."
LW 40, p. 281-2

I would and have denied that anyone would dispute with your Luther quote which started this thread based upon the importance of government to preserve peace and punish the guilty.

If you could give a single example of a credible politician who would argue against the government preserving the peace and punishing the guilty, then perhaps I could see the value of this thread.

Now, regarding your expanded view, I see that you are backing away from a position that at least implicitly claimed that some were against preserving peace and punishing wrongdoers, and this is good.  No one would argue against your original quotation.

And, of course, I am sure that during the Bush administration you were duly aware of your duties in praising that government as well.

Or, just perhaps, the reason for this thread was rather a partisan view of government thinly masked as an ode to Luther's view of the value of government?
I think you read something far more partisan into my citation that was intended or can reasonably be inferred. 
In my previous post, I highlighted (in green) three statements.  Two from Pres. Ronald Reagan, one from Grover Norquist.  Once again, my focus is not on the wisdom of any particular policies or programs, but on the attitude toward government underlying them. 
Are these statements
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
complimentary or compatable with our obligation to teach that God  "desires us to honor government as a servant of his and to show gratitude to it because through it God gives us such great benefits."
I would also observe that Luther clearly thought that, in addtion to the functions of law and order, social welfare (care of the needy and sick, providing for education, etc.) was part of the proper work of government and part of "great benefits" for which we ought give thanks.
BTW. for those who haven't looked the Instructions recently, the sections I've quoted are presumed composed by Melanchthon, but anyone familar with the Large Catechism can see it closely follows Luther's explanation of the Commandments.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Mel Harris on October 12, 2012, 03:13:40 AM

  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")


       One place we do these things is in the Prayers of the Church in the Divine Service.  (See the Lutheran Book of Worship pages 52 & 53.)  If the Prayers of the Church in any given Sunday Service do not include praying for our government, or for those who govern us, it is because the one leading the Prayers chose not to, or neglected to do so.  Another place we do these things is in confirmation instruction.

       Mel Harris
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 03:14:57 AM
Does Revelation teach that government is evil, or that evil forces may use government to evil purposes?


Does that distinction matter to citizens suffering under the evil of the government?


What God promises to bring down in the magnificat are the powerful from their thrones, who are also described as arrogant and proud. Whether we call it evil forces or just self-serving, when a government does that, they are not fulfilling God's purpose for those in positions of authority.
I think it does matter.  As uncomfortable and untidy as it works out:  both kingdoms are God's.  This is also addressed in the instructions:
      Some ask, how can government be from God, since so many have come to power by evil use of force? Julian is an example. And Scriptures call Nimrod a hunter, because he had grasped for so much (Gen. 10[:9]).
     This is the answer. When in Rom. 13[:1] Paul says that the government is of God, this is not to be understood in the sense that government is an affliction in the way that murder or any other crime is inflicted by God, but in the sense that government is a special ordinance and function of God, just as the sun is a creature of God or marriage is established by God. An evil man who takes a wife with evil intent can abuse the ordinance of marriage. So also a tyrant can abuse the ordinance of God, as Julian or Nero did. The ordinance, by which peace and justice is maintained, remains a divine creation even if the person who abuses the ordinance does wrong.
LW 40, p. 283-284 [emphasis added]

The Magnificat does not suggest that God will abolish government but rather humble the proud and cast the mighty from their thrones.  The throne is not done away with but another, more worthy ruler is promised.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 03:26:25 AM

  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")


       One place we do these things is in the Prayers of the Church in the Divine Service.  (See the Lutheran Book of Worship pages 52 & 53.)  If the Prayers of the Church in any given Sunday Service do not include praying for our government, or for those who govern us, it is because the one leading the Prayers chose not to do so.  Another place we do these things is in confirmation instruction.

       Mel Harris
Yes, indeed.  But part of the reason for my post was born of a kind of mea culpa, that my public prayers have tended more to be prayers for wisdom and guidance (important) but not the kind of fulsom thanksgiving for government witnessed in the Instructions.  It made me think that we do not pay enough attention to appreciating government and do not object when others run it down or speak disrespectfully or disparagingly of government itself (not meaning specific policies or programs). 
We regularly pray for those who serve in the military.  This year there were no names given in for remembrance for Memorial Day weekend.  We offer prayer for wisdom for the electorate before election day, and for those elected the week following.
I have a number of times scheduled special morning prayer services for Independence Day, but few have felt the desire to interrupt their day to come and give thanks before the parade or picnic.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Charles_Austin on October 12, 2012, 04:02:37 AM
How many times, even in this supposedly "Lutheran" forum, is "government" denounced as corrupt, evil, or something to be mocked and derided? How many times are there mocking comments about politicians, lumping them all into a foul-smelling ooze?
I live in New Jersey, so I know some corrupt public officials, some of them under indictment or serving time. But I also know dedicated citizens who make great personal sacrifices to serve the public good.
I think Pastor Krauser is not referring to what some politicians want to do (virtually abandon all government action), but he cites the disrespect and even hatred hurled toward our elected officials and our governing institutions.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: John_Hannah on October 12, 2012, 05:50:30 AM

...

I think Pastor Hannah is not referring to what some politicians want to do (virtually abandon all government action), but he cites the disrespect and even hatred hurled toward our elected officials and our governing institutions.


I think Pastor Hannah is not referring to....  I think you mean Pastor Krauser; I haven't entered this discussion.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: LutherMan on October 12, 2012, 06:14:10 AM

...

I think Pastor Hannah is not referring to what some politicians want to do (virtually abandon all government action), but he cites the disrespect and even hatred hurled toward our elected officials and our governing institutions.


I think Pastor Hannah is not referring to....  I think you mean Pastor Krauser; I haven't entered this discussion.
Pr. Austin seems to be in his dotage lately
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jeremy Loesch on October 12, 2012, 07:32:03 AM
LutherMan...So Charles made a mistake in getting a name wrong.  He's allowed.  As we all are.

Pastor Krauser, I'm going to make an assumption that in your congregation there are a multitude of varying opinions regarding our government.  There are in mine.  Tea partiers, conservatives, classic libs, modern libs, libertarians.  I think I might even classify one as a Green party supporter.  The ten minutes before Sunday Bible class are fun as people are talking about various things while getting their coffee.  The conversation is usually political in nature as retired teachers talk about various issues regarding public education.  The ten people seem to have 13 different opinions on things.

I probably wouldn't share those paragraphs in the initial post because the way that people interpret the terms "government" and "taxes" is widely varied.  And I think there have been a few posts that make the claim that no one is debating whether or not there should be taxes.  It is the way those taxes are then spent that gets the bulk of the attention. 

Sharing those paragraphs might lead members to think, "Right on!  Pastor's on my side!  See, right there we have taxes and government being extolled and know people will know that this candidate is supported by Luther."  Or it could be the opposite, "Pastor's such a jerk.  Doesn't he know that he's falling for XYZ's side and its fallacious arguments?  He should just stick to reading that Bible and visiting the moochers on Social Security and be grateful that he gets ABC tax break."  These paragraphs might cause unneeded division in the congregation.

Perhaps they could be printed out with some explanation about the thanks we ought to give for government and how that thankfulness is expressed in different ways?

Just some thoughts.

Jeremy   
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Dadoo on October 12, 2012, 08:29:49 AM

Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes? That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
I'm not talking merely about the functions of government, but our attitudes toward government itself.  An appreciation of and thankfulness for government (not to be confused with "I love my country" patriotism) seems on the wane.   
Is there among Lutheran Christians a love of government (as opposed to love of country)? 
Where is the positive affirmation of government in our church life, personal life, political life?

Again, I find no one debating the issues you raise here.  That we should have a government that protects us is nowhere in debate.
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   
Don't the priciples encouraged upon the preachers by the visitors suggest that the church in some way needs to challenge the above attitudes and instead promote an attitude of thankfulness to government for its role in helping and supporting its citizens and our neighbors in their need?
Another reference from the Instructions:
"The preachers, accordingly, should faithfully remind the authorities to maintain peace, justice, and security for their subjects, to defend the poor, the widow, and the orphaned...." LW 40, p. 284
Again I'm not saying we debate the idea the role of governement in provding security.  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")  Do we teach (along with our stewardship campaigns for church offerings) the duty of paying taxes?  All of this should come up in Catechism instruction regarding the Fourth Commandment.  But is it part of the piety, life of faith that we inculcate?  If we asked the average person in the pew to say what does the church teach about government?  How would they respond?  Would it resemble this?
"...that we obey the government.  In Romans 13 Paul enumerates three points concerning government. 
    "First, the payment of taxes, namely that each shall give the authroities such money and labor as is required of him [Rom. 13:6f].
    "Second, respect, that is, that we have sincere respect for government. ...
    "The third duty we owe government is honor.  For how can we imagine that we have paid the government something when we have given it tax or tithe or served it with physical labor?  God requires of us a much higher service toward the government, namely, honor...."
LW 40, p. 281-2

Jim,

We live in AMerica where part of the founding story is revolt against unjust and unfair taxes. Unjust because they were arbitrarily set by a distant authority, a king, who by virtue of being "king" has the right to be arbitrary and even vindictive in his levying of taxes. Unfair because there were no benefits attached to the taxes levied. If you read Luther some more, I believe his address to the German Nobility would be a good place to start, you would find Luther condemn the same things as the early American story.

One can and should question a few things. Are Luther's words applicable in their raw form to this country? We are a republic. We get to chose government, its scope and its character. If that is true, then critique, even harsh critique of government action and inaction is probably not precluded. To see it another way: If government is not feudal but elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable, then must not a Christian speak out against what he sees the government do wrong? Might that mean that she has to say: "I see no good done by the government at all right now?" Lutheran have been there before in the 1940's.  Whether disapproval should go all the way to "revolt" is questionable but questionable in  a Bonnhoeffer way if you know what I mean. A government gone insane has to be restrained would it not? In our case that would it not mean be restrained by its people?

And what is respect? Does it mean agree with all things the government does? If so, what are elections for?

And what is honor? GOvernment is supposed to be a given entity that is filled with a changing cast of players. For some reason, we have fallen into the habit to have those players retain their title even after they have returned to non government life. Do we really need to honor these women and men after they are no longer guiding affairs?  We might thank them for a job well done but are they worthy of honor greater than a CHristian owes any other neighbor? What exactly is honoring government? Obeying its laws? Even if we do not agree and even think that a law is evil? Lutherans have been there as well in the 1940's. Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way?

A final thought: Luther certainly knew of cities that were governed not by prices but by city fathers. As democratic as that may sound to American ears, democracy as we know it it was not. When he spoke of government he basically meant the feudal system prevalent in his time and place. WHat was remarkable about him was that he insisted that nobility was not about privilege or entitlement but about responsibility. Maybe that responsibility is now transferred to all of us along with a call to shun privilege and entitlement? If so, then the debate, even the heated debate, might just be an external manifestation of the internal moral struggles of a 16th century prince.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Charles_Austin on October 12, 2012, 08:32:41 AM
I made a mistake. It happens. Sorry. All the Noo Yawk guys look alike; but they don't all post alike, so I made a mistake.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 12, 2012, 08:41:19 AM
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   

Such rhetoric describes badly run government. It specifically describes government doing things that are either (1) not the things government should be doing or (2) things that the government is doing badly. Soundbites taken out of context, some of which are over three decades old, do not prove that anyone opposes government doing what governments should be doing.
 
I have a great deal of disdain for most professional politicians. That has to do with the caliber of the individuals, not the job itself. I have even more disdain for most bueaucrats, those un-elected public "servants" who general tend to display attitudes and abilities that wouldn't be tolerated or accepted in private sector employment. At the time Luther wrote what he wrote, there was no monster-sized horde of unelected bureaucrats mismanaging most aspects of everything that they touch.
 
But that has nothing to do with your straw man attack on an imaginary opponent that pretends those who disagree with you are anarchists advocating chaos. Those of us who disagree with you about your well-documented desire to see the central Federal government take over micromanaging even more aspects of our lives are not saying there should be no government, no Kingdom of the Left. What we're saying was well stated by Pastor Speckhard when he noted that government was, "what we are coerced into doing together." 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Charles_Austin on October 12, 2012, 08:51:54 AM
Mr. Erdner writes:
I have a great deal of disdain for most professional politicians. That has to do with the caliber of the individuals, not the job itself.
I comment:
I might reserve some of that disdain for unprofessional politicians, namely those ideologues and know-it-alls blustering their way into office with no knowledge of how civil government works. The good thing is, most of them fail. If they do not learn the art of compromise, nothing they want to do (often in the name of their god) will get done. If they do learn that government is negotiation and compromise, the mono-minded folks who elected them will turn on them.

Mr. Erdner writes:
 I have even more disdain for most bueaucrats, those un-elected public "servants" who general tend to display attitudes and abilities that wouldn't be tolerated or accepted in private sector employment. At the time Luther wrote what he wrote, there was no monster-sized horde of unelected bureaucrats mismanaging most aspects of everything that they touch.
I comment:
Mr. Erdner's use of the CYA "most" won't play here. I ask in all seriousness: how many of these people do you know? How many times have you sat in their offices, talked with them about their jobs, look at the performance reviews which most government agencies apply? These, Mr. Erdner and others, are our fellow citizens and church members; there may be incompetents among them, as there are in any profession, whether the pastorate or acting in television commercials; but it is most unfair to level this broadside against them.
Mr. Erdner will attempt to take refuge in his use of the word, "most," but I'm not buying it.
BTW, there was indeed a horde of "unelected bureaucrats" in Luther's day; 'cause no one was elected, not even the Electors. And there was the machinery of government which included such "bureaucrats" as Tetzel, Cajetan, a chancel-full of cardinals and their sycophants.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Team Hesse on October 12, 2012, 08:52:31 AM
I probably have as low an opinion on the current direction of our government as any in this forum, but there is no way I believe that we can do without government. When government action is seen as the solution to societal problems, we have become idolatrous in turning to someone other than the Lord. This turn is not a good thing and cannot stand long-term. Nations which are moving toward less intrusive government, that see government action as curbing and providing stable boundaries for citizens to live out their vocational responsibilities without the government detailing the precise shape of those responsibilities, are the nations which are making progress and improving the lives of their citizens. Nations which insist on running all of societies actions through the ringer of government regulation are, and slowly will, grind to a dead stop.


It has been absolutely amazing to me the turn around that has occurred in agriculture in Russia since the collapse of the over-arching notions of the Soviet state. What was the world's leading grain importing nation under the previous regime has become a major exporter and projections are, within a few years, will become once again the world's leading exporter of wheat. Russia was the world leader in grain exports prior to the Russian revolution. This is only one example, but to me it is the clearest example, of the problem of the government becoming more than it is called to be. Governments rule best when they rule least. A need for more government is a mark of a decaying society. The people are no longer self-regulating but need to be regulated.


Lou
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 11:16:23 AM
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   

Such rhetoric describes badly run government. It specifically describes government doing things that are either (1) not the things government should be doing or (2) things that the government is doing badly. Soundbites taken out of context, some of which are over three decades old, do not prove that anyone opposes government doing what governments should be doing.
 
I have a great deal of disdain for most professional politicians. That has to do with the caliber of the individuals, not the job itself. I have even more disdain for most bueaucrats, those un-elected public "servants" who general tend to display attitudes and abilities that wouldn't be tolerated or accepted in private sector employment. At the time Luther wrote what he wrote, there was no monster-sized horde of unelected bureaucrats mismanaging most aspects of everything that they touch.
 
But that has nothing to do with your straw man attack on an imaginary opponent that pretends those who disagree with you are anarchists advocating chaos. Those of us who disagree with you about your well-documented desire to see the central Federal government take over micromanaging even more aspects of our lives are not saying there should be no government, no Kingdom of the Left. What we're saying was well stated by Pastor Speckhard when he noted that government was, "what we are coerced into doing together."
Even accepting what you say, the statements I referenced improperly indict government itself when they mean to critique the management of specific governors.  They are careless and irresponsible and engender suspicion (at best) and loathing (at worst) of what God has ordained.  We may look at performance to assess whether this or that person is/should be called to govern.  But I think we must guard against rhetoric that is disrespectful of government.  And even of the governors, while we may disagree with their notions and may be dubious about their competence, they too are still entitled, under God, to respect.
I reject the notion that I have any particular agenda here.  I came across this passage as I was reading through Volume 40 of Luther's Works.  The passage struck me as remarkable and timely and worthy of attention in our day.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 11:25:33 AM
LutherMan...So Charles made a mistake in getting a name wrong.  He's allowed.  As we all are.

Pastor Krauser, I'm going to make an assumption that in your congregation there are a multitude of varying opinions regarding our government.  There are in mine.  Tea partiers, conservatives, classic libs, modern libs, libertarians.  I think I might even classify one as a Green party supporter.  The ten minutes before Sunday Bible class are fun as people are talking about various things while getting their coffee.  The conversation is usually political in nature as retired teachers talk about various issues regarding public education.  The ten people seem to have 13 different opinions on things.

I probably wouldn't share those paragraphs in the initial post because the way that people interpret the terms "government" and "taxes" is widely varied.  And I think there have been a few posts that make the claim that no one is debating whether or not there should be taxes.  It is the way those taxes are then spent that gets the bulk of the attention. 

Sharing those paragraphs might lead members to think, "Right on!  Pastor's on my side!  See, right there we have taxes and government being extolled and know people will know that this candidate is supported by Luther."  Or it could be the opposite, "Pastor's such a jerk.  Doesn't he know that he's falling for XYZ's side and its fallacious arguments?  He should just stick to reading that Bible and visiting the moochers on Social Security and be grateful that he gets ABC tax break."  These paragraphs might cause unneeded division in the congregation.

Perhaps they could be printed out with some explanation about the thanks we ought to give for government and how that thankfulness is expressed in different ways?

Just some thoughts.

Jeremy   
Please note that I said I would read the first of the quotations (love of government) not the second (taxes) on the Sunday before the election.
Indeed people have varying ways of interpreting "government" and "taxes."  What I am observing is that our Lutheran forbears believed those terms had specific biblical meanings and use that should be taught to Christian people. 
I don't see how the text regarding love of government could be understood to endorse any particular candidate, since it doesn't address the policies or attidutes of those who govern, but the mindset of the citizen..
 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 12:09:01 PM
We live in AMerica where part of the founding story is revolt against unjust and unfair taxes. Unjust because they were arbitrarily set by a distant authority, a king, who by virtue of being "king" has the right to be arbitrary and even vindictive in his levying of taxes. Unfair because there were no benefits attached to the taxes levied. If you read Luther some more, I believe his address to the German Nobility would be a good place to start, you would find Luther condemn the same things as the early American story.

One can and should question a few things. Are Luther's words applicable in their raw form to this country? We are a republic. We get to chose government, its scope and its character. If that is true, then critique, even harsh critique of government action and inaction is probably not precluded. To see it another way: If government is not feudal but elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable, then must not a Christian speak out against what he sees the government do wrong? Might that mean that she has to say: "I see no good done by the government at all right now?" Lutheran have been there before in the 1940's.  Whether disapproval should go all the way to "revolt" is questionable but questionable in  a Bonnhoeffer way if you know what I mean. A government gone insane has to be restrained would it not? In our case that would it not mean be restrained by its people?

And what is respect? Does it mean agree with all things the government does? If so, what are elections for?

And what is honor? GOvernment is supposed to be a given entity that is filled with a changing cast of players. For some reason, we have fallen into the habit to have those players retain their title even after they have returned to non government life. Do we really need to honor these women and men after they are no longer guiding affairs?  We might thank them for a job well done but are they worthy of honor greater than a CHristian owes any other neighbor? What exactly is honoring government? Obeying its laws? Even if we do not agree and even think that a law is evil? Lutherans have been there as well in the 1940's. Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way?

A final thought: Luther certainly knew of cities that were governed not by prices but by city fathers. As democratic as that may sound to American ears, democracy as we know it it was not. When he spoke of government he basically meant the feudal system prevalent in his time and place. WHat was remarkable about him was that he insisted that nobility was not about privilege or entitlement but about responsibility. Maybe that responsibility is now transferred to all of us along with a call to shun privilege and entitlement? If so, then the debate, even the heated debate, might just be an external manifestation of the internal moral struggles of a 16th century prince.
Respect for government does not mean agreeing with all things that government does.  I don't think anything in the passage I cite precludes criticism of particular government actions or voting against incumbents.  Luther was not shy to remonstrate against those in authority when he felt it necessary, but always asserted the validity of their authority even if/when it was wielded badly.  To speak out against wrongs that government might do, is not only proper for persons where government is "elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable," it is proper in feudal or other less responsive systems as well. 

As you note, he called them to greater responsiblity in the adminstration of the office given them by God.  That we would do so today would also seem in order.  Nevertheless even criticism should be seen in the context of the blessing and benefits that government provides.
"Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way? " Don't know about Elert, haven't read him on the subject.  But Luther and Melanchthon said yes.   They also believed that taxes were essential to the work of the state and the obligation of the citizen, even while noting that the power to tax could be abused.

I have said elsewhere that the retention of titles for those who have served in government (or even those in the church) when out of office is an appropriate way of recognizing and honoring those individuals for their service.  I don't see how it is an honor that raises them above anyone else.  Honorifics are simply that--honors and courtesys.  Some more radical reformers such as Karlstadt rejected the use of any titles (in office or out) prefering, "neighbor" or "brother," he even adovcated a form of plain dress.  It was regarded by Luther as a kind of false humility.  Like the ironic use of "comrade" among Soviet oligarchs.   

 
 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Team Hesse on October 12, 2012, 04:40:58 PM

"Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way? " Don't know about Elert, haven't read him on the subject.  But Luther and Melanchthon said yes. 


What do you know about Elert?


Godwin's law applies here, but Werner Elert and Paul Althaus over against Herman Sasse and Dietrich Bonhoeffer is precisely why some of us will not follow the simplistic understanding of Luther you are proposing without also considering closely what he said in "The Address to the Christian Nobility" or what developed later--particularly during the interims and what transpired in Magdeburg. Honoring the proper servant role of the government is not a simple proposition....


Lou
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: readselerttoo on October 12, 2012, 05:47:09 PM
You may be misinterpreting Elert.  For the record Elert was well aware that God's left hand is God's left hand.  That being the case, the issue is also muddied when one considers that sinners also administer government and then there is the reality and order which evil engages and can grasp hold of structures and orders as they play themselves out within history.  Elert's respect for the political order was not a naive rendering of respect ala Romans 13 alone.  He was also aware that the order of evil can and does render the powers within the good order of God demonic.  Nonetheless the order is always a good order but the powers wielded within the orders are subject not only to God's law administering retribution but also to the power of the demonic.  In his actual management of his own office as rector at the University of Erlangen during the 1930s, Elert was just as aware of the miscarriage of ideological agency that the Deutsche Christen portrayed as well as some of the portrayal of mis-directed and myopic ideology of the Confessing Church, including Barmen.  Elert (I can't speak about Althaus) remained a constitutional monarchist (looking forward to a return to the days of Bismarck) and by the end of the 1930s and into the 40s he was stridently against Nazism.  (Hopefully some of our reassessments could put to rest much of the misinformation and wrongful bias about
Elert in the future.)

Having said that, there has been in recent years a return to the sources taking place in not only Bavaria but also in some of the American (particularly Lutheran) contexts in which a reassessment of the ideologies operative within Nazi Germany paint a more complex picture as to who was on what side of the political issues of the day.  After the post-war layer of naivete positing the sources and history of Nazi Germany as simply being that "one was either for it or agin' it", time has progressed to the point now where there is a more honest look at biographies and histories which indicate a far more nuanced and degree of aspect to life within Nazi Germany.  A reading of Elert's writings esp. the little monograph, Bekenntnis, Blut und Boden (see his remarks in the preface to that monograph) written during Hitler's ascendancy indicate both his guarded hope yet wariness that the new chancellor could direct to stabilize a very chaotic political and social climate coming out of the Weimar period (1920s).   Even the response to Barmen penned primarily by Althaus and Elert, Ansbacher Ratschlag (1934), tried to steer a course away from the radical Barthian interpretation of Barmen toward a more sober analysis of what natural revelation provides within the political order, even the church's left hand order.  Elert was not above being critical of both the Deutsche Christen and Reich church as well as the popularization of the Confessing Church.  There was a third way.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 12, 2012, 06:21:21 PM
I reject the notion that I have any particular agenda here.  I came across this passage as I was reading through Volume 40 of Luther's Works.  The passage struck me as remarkable and timely and worthy of attention in our day.


You can say one thing all you want. The content of this post and your earlier expressions of enthusiasm for liberal and/or socialist politics are at odds with this disclaimer. It is not consistent with what anyone can see by reading what you've written.


Let me put it this way. You have hit a certain target right in the bullseye. You can deny that you aimed at that target all you want, but it's very hard to believe that such a direct hit was the result of random chance.

Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 12, 2012, 09:10:18 PM
I reject the notion that I have any particular agenda here.  I came across this passage as I was reading through Volume 40 of Luther's Works.  The passage struck me as remarkable and timely and worthy of attention in our day.


You can say one thing all you want. The content of this post and your earlier expressions of enthusiasm for liberal and/or socialist politics are at odds with this disclaimer. It is not consistent with what anyone can see by reading what you've written.


Let me put it this way. You have hit a certain target right in the bullseye. You can deny that you aimed at that target all you want, but it's very hard to believe that such a direct hit was the result of random chance.
There have been several posts which indicate reservation concerning the attitude that the Instructions say should be taught in our churches. This position is grounded in scripture. Indeed it holds it even where government is less responsive, generous and accountable to the general population. This was true for both Paul and Luther. These Instructions are written eight years after the Address to the Christian Nobility (so one might conclude they take its concerns into account) and three years after the Peasant's Revolt. I am unconvinced that they spring from political naïveté. Rather they challenge Christians to shoulder the duty of obedience to authority, whether or not they are in personal agreement with its personal incarnations.  Even then, it should be informative that Luther never denounced the HRE in the same way he denounced the papacy.  I am unaware of anything remotely like the harsh words spoken about/against the pope being said about/against Charles.
 
Paul did not live under the Pax Romana of Augustus, but under harsher regimes (i.e. the explusion of Jews from Rome). Luther was himself condemned by the HRE and accepted the fact that he was subject to arrest and execution at any time (even as he regarded that judgment unjust). How could it be then that we should be less trustful or obdedient to government than they?
 
So far no one has provided any biblical support for teaching anything other than thankfulness, respect and even love of government in our churches. All I've seen here to counter it is political opinion. Revelation has been mentioned, but can this not be reconciled with Romans by understanding it as applying to unjust rulers and not as an indictment of government?

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 12, 2012, 10:59:54 PM
I reject the notion that I have any particular agenda here.  I came across this passage as I was reading through Volume 40 of Luther's Works.  The passage struck me as remarkable and timely and worthy of attention in our day.


You can say one thing all you want. The content of this post and your earlier expressions of enthusiasm for liberal and/or socialist politics are at odds with this disclaimer. It is not consistent with what anyone can see by reading what you've written.


Let me put it this way. You have hit a certain target right in the bullseye. You can deny that you aimed at that target all you want, but it's very hard to believe that such a direct hit was the result of random chance.
There have been several posts which indicate reservation concerning the attitude that the Instructions say should be taught in our churches. This position is grounded in scripture. Indeed it holds it even where government is less responsive, generous and accountable to the general population. This was true for both Paul and Luther. These Instructions are written eight years after the Address to the Christian Nobility (so one might conclude they take its concerns into account) and three years after the Peasant's Revolt. I am unconvinced that they spring from political naïveté. Rather they challenge Christians to shoulder the duty of obedience to authority, whether or not they are in personal agreement with its personal incarnations.  Even then, it should be informative that Luther never denounced the HRE in the same way he denounced the papacy.  I am unaware of anything remotely like the harsh words spoken about/against the pope being said about/against Charles.
 
Paul did not live under the Pax Romana of Augustus, but under harsher regimes (i.e. the explusion of Jews from Rome). Luther was himself condemned by the HRE and accepted the fact that he was subject to arrest and execution at any time (even as he regarded that judgment unjust). How could it be then that we should be less trustful or obdedient to government than they?
 
So far no one has provided any biblical support for teaching anything other than thankfulness, respect and even love of government in our churches. All I've seen here to counter it is political opinion. Revelation has been mentioned, but can this not be reconciled with Romans by understanding it as applying to unjust rulers and not as an indictment of government?

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   

So? There is no serious questioning of authority taking place at this time. Not in the sense you're speaking of questioning authority.
 
Based on your first sentence, "In the context of the election season, do the paragraphs below hold up?", the answer is plainly and simply, "They do not apply". The paragraphs you quoted are about issues unrelated to the context of the election season, presuming you mean this particular election season, and not just elections in general. Some overblown and hyperbolic rhetoric used to make a point but never intended to be taken absolutely literally do not change anything.
 
Luther was talking about an anointed government, not about an elected government and the campaigns to sway voters. The paragraphs you quoted only have meaning with respect to following the laws imposed by the elected officials after they take office and become "the government". They have nothing at all to do with campaigning for election to office, which was a nearly unknown practice in Luther's Germany.
 
Now, I have two choices in how to view you raising this issue. The first is to assume that you lack the intellectual capacity to recognize that Luther was talking about a government of officials who had already taken office, not about candidates campaigning for election. The other is that you did recognize that fact, but wanted an opportunity to make points in favor of your bias towards a heavily intrusive government. I do not believe that you lack intellectual capacity, so I must assume that your intention was deliberate. To put your actions in writing what you wrote in the best light, I must assume you did it deliberately, for a purpose. If you did it deliberately, for a purpose, then you must have a particular agenda. I do not dispute that it is worthy of attention in our day, but it is only appropriate "in the context of the election season", then it can only be seen as being in support of the candidates who are currently incumbents rather than those who are challengers.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: pearson on October 12, 2012, 11:17:07 PM

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   


Would it be fair to assume that you are recommending this as a general exegetical strategy, Pr. Krauser?  That even though we know much more today about sexual orientation and the possibility of publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships, why should that overthrow the biblical principle that discourages such things?  That even though we may now recognize the personal and pastoral gifts of women that equip them for ordained ministry, why should that overthrow the biblical principle denying the office to women?  That the biblical principle always prevails, regardless of our discernment of the contemporary situation?  Is that right?

Tom Pearson 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 13, 2012, 02:37:13 AM

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   


Would it be fair to assume that you are recommending this as a general exegetical strategy, Pr. Krauser?  That even though we know much more today about sexual orientation and the possibility of publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships, why should that overthrow the biblical principle that discourages such things?  That even though we may now recognize the personal and pastoral gifts of women that equip them for ordained ministry, why should that overthrow the biblical principle denying the office to women?  That the biblical principle always prevails, regardless of our discernment of the contemporary situation?  Is that right?

Tom Pearson
In the examples you cite there substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles, for some those reasons are convincing, for others they are not.   Are you suggesting that there are substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles that government is to be received as a from God as our daily bread for which we ought to give thanks? 
If there are good reasons to reject this, I suppose I would be open to hearing them.  Of course, if we conclude that government is not exercising God's authority then the entire Two Kingdoms schema falls, does it not?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 13, 2012, 02:50:32 AM
I reject the notion that I have any particular agenda here.  I came across this passage as I was reading through Volume 40 of Luther's Works.  The passage struck me as remarkable and timely and worthy of attention in our day.


You can say one thing all you want. The content of this post and your earlier expressions of enthusiasm for liberal and/or socialist politics are at odds with this disclaimer. It is not consistent with what anyone can see by reading what you've written.


Let me put it this way. You have hit a certain target right in the bullseye. You can deny that you aimed at that target all you want, but it's very hard to believe that such a direct hit was the result of random chance.
There have been several posts which indicate reservation concerning the attitude that the Instructions say should be taught in our churches. This position is grounded in scripture. Indeed it holds it even where government is less responsive, generous and accountable to the general population. This was true for both Paul and Luther. These Instructions are written eight years after the Address to the Christian Nobility (so one might conclude they take its concerns into account) and three years after the Peasant's Revolt. I am unconvinced that they spring from political naïveté. Rather they challenge Christians to shoulder the duty of obedience to authority, whether or not they are in personal agreement with its personal incarnations.  Even then, it should be informative that Luther never denounced the HRE in the same way he denounced the papacy.  I am unaware of anything remotely like the harsh words spoken about/against the pope being said about/against Charles.
 
Paul did not live under the Pax Romana of Augustus, but under harsher regimes (i.e. the explusion of Jews from Rome). Luther was himself condemned by the HRE and accepted the fact that he was subject to arrest and execution at any time (even as he regarded that judgment unjust). How could it be then that we should be less trustful or obdedient to government than they?
 
So far no one has provided any biblical support for teaching anything other than thankfulness, respect and even love of government in our churches. All I've seen here to counter it is political opinion. Revelation has been mentioned, but can this not be reconciled with Romans by understanding it as applying to unjust rulers and not as an indictment of government?

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   

So? There is no serious questioning of authority taking place at this time. Not in the sense you're speaking of questioning authority.
 
Based on your first sentence, "In the context of the election season, do the paragraphs below hold up?", the answer is plainly and simply, "They do not apply". The paragraphs you quoted are about issues unrelated to the context of the election season, presuming you mean this particular election season, and not just elections in general. Some overblown and hyperbolic rhetoric used to make a point but never intended to be taken absolutely literally do not change anything.
 
Luther was talking about an anointed government, not about an elected government and the campaigns to sway voters. The paragraphs you quoted only have meaning with respect to following the laws imposed by the elected officials after they take office and become "the government". They have nothing at all to do with campaigning for election to office, which was a nearly unknown practice in Luther's Germany.
 
Now, I have two choices in how to view you raising this issue. The first is to assume that you lack the intellectual capacity to recognize that Luther was talking about a government of officials who had already taken office, not about candidates campaigning for election. The other is that you did recognize that fact, but wanted an opportunity to make points in favor of your bias towards a heavily intrusive government. I do not believe that you lack intellectual capacity, so I must assume that your intention was deliberate. To put your actions in writing what you wrote in the best light, I must assume you did it deliberately, for a purpose. If you did it deliberately, for a purpose, then you must have a particular agenda. I do not dispute that it is worthy of attention in our day, but it is only appropriate "in the context of the election season", then it can only be seen as being in support of the candidates who are currently incumbents rather than those who are challengers.

Since in our system of government terms expire continued holding of the authority of government is not to be presumed by anyone.   The elections are part of God's providing rulers for us; it's a simple as that.  Incumbency does not imply a greater claim upon an office. Are we clear?  I don't think there is anything in the texts I've offered for comment that would suggest this. 

The context I was referring to was the widespread rhetoric that expresses contempt for government* (which has been around for several decades) and those who hold or seek office** (which has probably been around since elections began).   To vote against an incumbent is not an act of contempt.  It is a decision. 

One more time I will state that my posting of the quotations was not directed for or against any candidates, but rather our attitudes toward government.  The only specific connection to the elections I have drawn is in my intention to the read of the first quotation to send people to the polls with thankful hearts for the exercise of the vote and thankfulness for the government (not the administration) we have.  Please stop trying to tease out hidden motives.
*Issues of 4th commandment  **Issues of 4th and/or 8th commandment;
I understand the commandments to enjoin us against contempt for divine institutions such as parents, government, marriage, etc. and, of course, our neighbor.  If we take seriously Jesus teaching to "love our enemies," contempt for those with whom we have political disagreements would seem also to be excluded.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Pasgolf on October 13, 2012, 09:24:51 AM
     Has anyone on this forum ever run for public office or served in a public appointment?  From the running commentary it is not possible to determine.  I have held local office in two different states, once while serving as a parish pastor, once since retirement.  In both experiences the difference between government as “ruler” and government as “representative servant in common”  became apparent within moments.  The US system makes it clear that there are, in the founders’ words, “no persons born with saddles and no persons born with spurs.”  Taking an oath to preserve and uphold the Constitution is more than a verbal exercise.  Upholding such an oath in the face of a mob with a personal agenda is at no small cost. 

     Government under the “rule of law” is stressfully difficult in practice.  Law as written will sometimes run counter to every instinct of an office holder, because of the perceived injustice of the statute.  The personal prejudice and individual preference for self promotion and aggrandizement is always a close at hand temptation.  It is even more of a temptation, in my observation, for appointees and employees of various systems claiming the mantle of government authority.  Having served on such boards and committees, I know that resisting the impulse to use regulation to control rather than to enable is hard work.

     The thrust of Pr. Krauser’s posts citing Luther seems to be that we ought to hold “government,” in the abstract, in honor.  So we should.  We should also honor “magistrates, elected, and appointed officials” by holding them accountable at a level that is commensurate with the position of responsibility they hold.  By juxtaposing these two notions, we can immediately see that when government becomes the personal plaything or bludgeon of one exercising it, it becomes contemptibly sullied because it has moved from being “of law” to “of men.” 

     “Of men” government is characterized by “arbitrary and capricious” decision making,  cronyism, rent seeking, and abuse of “police” power.  Such government, because it has forfeited the dignity of being blessed in exchange for a demonic sourced will to power, deserves contempt and opposition in person while still holding honor in the abstract.

     The relatively modern usage of the name of the top office holder in conjunction with a particular law or policy passed and implemented by the proper process serves to personalize and trivialize government.  So we get “Bush’s tax cuts” or “Obamacare.”  Both were enacted within a process of a whole government of a whole nation. Our obsession with trivializing, shorthand labels misses the point that these are the policies of the whole of the United States at this point in time, not the personal whim of an emperor.

     Taxes are intended in our written Constitution, to be collected to accomplish services for the common good, not to enable the rule of the whole by a few, or the service of factional preference.  Can anyone argue with integrity that some forms of taxation(regulation) and some forms of rule in the name of current governance at any level have not become abusive, and thus deserving of both question and prophetic contempt in the particular, “fat cows of Bashan” comes to mind?  Has there ever been a system of governance established where such perfection has been consistently apparent?  To paraphrase Hiliary Clinton, such resistance is the highest form of patriotism..., when it calls government back to its proper function, under the rule of law.

     Part of the current resentment, if that is a proper word for the mood, of government seems to be the growing distance between the impositions made and the locality at which they have an impact.  There is much conversation about the economic inequality in our system, fostered by emerging elites.  That those elites of all political persuasions have seized upon the federal and state government structures, and many times city, county, local and school board structures as well, to serve their own ends is pretty apparent. I really don’t mind paying tax to purchase needed services.  I mind greatly paying taxes to fund someone’s well tooled saddle and silver spurs.

Mark Renner
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Dadoo on October 13, 2012, 11:08:13 AM
We live in AMerica where part of the founding story is revolt against unjust and unfair taxes. Unjust because they were arbitrarily set by a distant authority, a king, who by virtue of being "king" has the right to be arbitrary and even vindictive in his levying of taxes. Unfair because there were no benefits attached to the taxes levied. If you read Luther some more, I believe his address to the German Nobility would be a good place to start, you would find Luther condemn the same things as the early American story.

One can and should question a few things. Are Luther's words applicable in their raw form to this country? We are a republic. We get to chose government, its scope and its character. If that is true, then critique, even harsh critique of government action and inaction is probably not precluded. To see it another way: If government is not feudal but elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable, then must not a Christian speak out against what he sees the government do wrong? Might that mean that she has to say: "I see no good done by the government at all right now?" Lutheran have been there before in the 1940's.  Whether disapproval should go all the way to "revolt" is questionable but questionable in  a Bonnhoeffer way if you know what I mean. A government gone insane has to be restrained would it not? In our case that would it not mean be restrained by its people?

And what is respect? Does it mean agree with all things the government does? If so, what are elections for?

And what is honor? GOvernment is supposed to be a given entity that is filled with a changing cast of players. For some reason, we have fallen into the habit to have those players retain their title even after they have returned to non government life. Do we really need to honor these women and men after they are no longer guiding affairs?  We might thank them for a job well done but are they worthy of honor greater than a CHristian owes any other neighbor? What exactly is honoring government? Obeying its laws? Even if we do not agree and even think that a law is evil? Lutherans have been there as well in the 1940's. Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way?

A final thought: Luther certainly knew of cities that were governed not by prices but by city fathers. As democratic as that may sound to American ears, democracy as we know it it was not. When he spoke of government he basically meant the feudal system prevalent in his time and place. WHat was remarkable about him was that he insisted that nobility was not about privilege or entitlement but about responsibility. Maybe that responsibility is now transferred to all of us along with a call to shun privilege and entitlement? If so, then the debate, even the heated debate, might just be an external manifestation of the internal moral struggles of a 16th century prince.
Respect for government does not mean agreeing with all things that government does.  I don't think anything in the passage I cite precludes criticism of particular government actions or voting against incumbents.  Luther was not shy to remonstrate against those in authority when he felt it necessary, but always asserted the validity of their authority even if/when it was wielded badly.  To speak out against wrongs that government might do, is not only proper for persons where government is "elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable," it is proper in feudal or other less responsive systems as well. 

As you note, he called them to greater responsiblity in the adminstration of the office given them by God.  That we would do so today would also seem in order.  Nevertheless even criticism should be seen in the context of the blessing and benefits that government provides.
"Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way? " Don't know about Elert, haven't read him on the subject.  But Luther and Melanchthon said yes.   They also believed that taxes were essential to the work of the state and the obligation of the citizen, even while noting that the power to tax could be abused.

I have said elsewhere that the retention of titles for those who have served in government (or even those in the church) when out of office is an appropriate way of recognizing and honoring those individuals for their service.  I don't see how it is an honor that raises them above anyone else.  Honorifics are simply that--honors and courtesys.  Some more radical reformers such as Karlstadt rejected the use of any titles (in office or out) prefering, "neighbor" or "brother," he even adovcated a form of plain dress.  It was regarded by Luther as a kind of false humility.  Like the ironic use of "comrade" among Soviet oligarchs.   

Jim,

I read things political through European eyes. Titles are not just titles. They are power. One barked orders at those below, called those on level with oneself "Colleague," and saluted those above one's rank as "Comrade." Titles are a verbal marker for power. Whether Karlstadt saw it that way I know not but I would assume he might have, knowing that he lived in a society that put great importance in titles, and whose descendant culture, Europe, still kind of does. A hint might be that he saw the need to replace, not eliminate but replace, the usual titles with "new" ones. I have no idea how these titles functioned in his brief time of influence.

I would guess that in todays terms, titles and their retention, should be seen as simple "classism." Titles are power.

I would love to push an issue a bit further: Again, we live in a republic, a representative republic, with democratic elections and all that good stuff. I, and I may be in a minority here, see this not as a system that elevates certain individuals to places of influence and power but as the permission of my fellow citizens and myself given to a number of individuals to exercise the duties of an office that is created by laws  and is carried out according to laws. The laws serve us as a society and the elected officials serve the laws. Yes, some of the offices administer laws that carry coercive power with them but the elected are and they need to be seen as "servants." A 16th century prince served God in His work of "providence," according to Luther. I do not draw a parallel between the "prince" and the "Governor, " the President," the "representative," the "Senator," or any of those people. The "Prince" in America is the people, not the elected crowd in the state capitol or in DC.

Therefor, the debate, no matter how contentious, is a matter of the "prince" having an internal debate. Maybe the debate is wrenching and couched in self defaming language. But it is a debate that in the end needs to reach a point where "the people" serve the will of God in doing providence for God's creation. The heated disagreements are and need to be how that is best accomplished. A "prince" would have the exact same struggle: How do I best accomplish this? Do I give the poor alms and benevolences or do I find work fit to their skills for them to do?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Scott6 on October 13, 2012, 11:19:57 AM

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   


Would it be fair to assume that you are recommending this as a general exegetical strategy, Pr. Krauser?  That even though we know much more today about sexual orientation and the possibility of publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships, why should that overthrow the biblical principle that discourages such things?  That even though we may now recognize the personal and pastoral gifts of women that equip them for ordained ministry, why should that overthrow the biblical principle denying the office to women?  That the biblical principle always prevails, regardless of our discernment of the contemporary situation?  Is that right?

Tom Pearson
In the examples you cite there substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles, for some those reasons are convincing, for others they are not. 

It is refreshing to get a view that says that the CWA 2009 decisions and those made to ordain women were made by setting aside biblical principles.  This position at least has the virtue of integrity.  Thank you for stating it.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 13, 2012, 11:31:51 AM

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   


Would it be fair to assume that you are recommending this as a general exegetical strategy, Pr. Krauser?  That even though we know much more today about sexual orientation and the possibility of publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships, why should that overthrow the biblical principle that discourages such things?  That even though we may now recognize the personal and pastoral gifts of women that equip them for ordained ministry, why should that overthrow the biblical principle denying the office to women?  That the biblical principle always prevails, regardless of our discernment of the contemporary situation?  Is that right?

Tom Pearson
In the examples you cite there substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles, for some those reasons are convincing, for others they are not. 

It is refreshing to get a view that says that the CWA 2009 decisions and those made to ordain women were made by setting aside biblical principles.  This position at least has the virtue of integrity.  Thank you for stating it.
Just as Paul set aside circumcision and the dietary laws for substantive and circumstantial reasons.  So far as we know, he had no revelatory dream like Peter; he came to his conclusions because the proclamation of the Gospel could not support the enforcement of the old laws.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: gerrybraunschweig on October 13, 2012, 11:41:12 AM
Engaging in acts of sexuality clearly rejected by Christ and the Apostles is the same as eating pork?

HUH???

 :o
 ::)
 :-\
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Scott6 on October 13, 2012, 11:56:11 AM

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   


Would it be fair to assume that you are recommending this as a general exegetical strategy, Pr. Krauser?  That even though we know much more today about sexual orientation and the possibility of publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships, why should that overthrow the biblical principle that discourages such things?  That even though we may now recognize the personal and pastoral gifts of women that equip them for ordained ministry, why should that overthrow the biblical principle denying the office to women?  That the biblical principle always prevails, regardless of our discernment of the contemporary situation?  Is that right?

Tom Pearson
In the examples you cite there substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles, for some those reasons are convincing, for others they are not. 

It is refreshing to get a view that says that the CWA 2009 decisions and those made to ordain women were made by setting aside biblical principles.  This position at least has the virtue of integrity.  Thank you for stating it.
Just as Paul set aside circumcision and the dietary laws for substantive and circumstantial reasons.  So far as we know, he had no revelatory dream like Peter; he came to his conclusions because the proclamation of the Gospel could not support the enforcement of the old laws.

Again, thank you for the clear statement.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: readselerttoo on October 13, 2012, 12:07:21 PM

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   


Would it be fair to assume that you are recommending this as a general exegetical strategy, Pr. Krauser?  That even though we know much more today about sexual orientation and the possibility of publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships, why should that overthrow the biblical principle that discourages such things?  That even though we may now recognize the personal and pastoral gifts of women that equip them for ordained ministry, why should that overthrow the biblical principle denying the office to women?  That the biblical principle always prevails, regardless of our discernment of the contemporary situation?  Is that right?

Tom Pearson
In the examples you cite there substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles, for some those reasons are convincing, for others they are not.   Are you suggesting that there are substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles that government is to be received as a from God as our daily bread for which we ought to give thanks? 
If there are good reasons to reject this, I suppose I would be open to hearing them.  Of course, if we conclude that government is not exercising God's authority then the entire Two Kingdoms schema falls, does it not?


I could never imagine a time when God was not exercising authority through the government.  To say otherwise seems to reject the pre-established order and power that God has authored for the relative security and protection of a nation's people.  I don't understand the concept of circumstantial reasons to set aside priniciples.  These are not principles but actual orders of creation that God has established and we are born into them as they are orders and powers with pre-established force (ie. they were in place even before we were born.)  The two-kingdom schema, imo, is not a concept as much as it is a pre-established configuration of existence that we don't somehow conceptualize as a construct to understand reality.  Natural orders are pre-established orders into which we are born.  We are not born as somehow simply individuals.  But are born into families as, for example, I am the unique first born son of my parents and there is not another person who exists in that configuration.  Families, marriages, people, nations and government are all orders with pre-established configurations.  We do not create them or conceptualize them.  They are simply there.  At least this is what I read from the biblical witness.

Yes, Adam and Eve were created by God and not "born" as individuals.  However, that was before the Fall and we do not live as people created before the Fall but are born into sin through the union of father and mother, into history, which is life after the Fall.  Again, I am confining myself to the biblical witness and for all intents and purposes I agree with this scenario despite other non-biblically conceived scenarios.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 13, 2012, 12:52:35 PM
We live in AMerica where part of the founding story is revolt against unjust and unfair taxes. Unjust because they were arbitrarily set by a distant authority, a king, who by virtue of being "king" has the right to be arbitrary and even vindictive in his levying of taxes. Unfair because there were no benefits attached to the taxes levied. If you read Luther some more, I believe his address to the German Nobility would be a good place to start, you would find Luther condemn the same things as the early American story.

One can and should question a few things. Are Luther's words applicable in their raw form to this country? We are a republic. We get to chose government, its scope and its character. If that is true, then critique, even harsh critique of government action and inaction is probably not precluded. To see it another way: If government is not feudal but elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable, then must not a Christian speak out against what he sees the government do wrong? Might that mean that she has to say: "I see no good done by the government at all right now?" Lutheran have been there before in the 1940's.  Whether disapproval should go all the way to "revolt" is questionable but questionable in  a Bonnhoeffer way if you know what I mean. A government gone insane has to be restrained would it not? In our case that would it not mean be restrained by its people?

And what is respect? Does it mean agree with all things the government does? If so, what are elections for?

And what is honor? GOvernment is supposed to be a given entity that is filled with a changing cast of players. For some reason, we have fallen into the habit to have those players retain their title even after they have returned to non government life. Do we really need to honor these women and men after they are no longer guiding affairs?  We might thank them for a job well done but are they worthy of honor greater than a CHristian owes any other neighbor? What exactly is honoring government? Obeying its laws? Even if we do not agree and even think that a law is evil? Lutherans have been there as well in the 1940's. Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way?

A final thought: Luther certainly knew of cities that were governed not by prices but by city fathers. As democratic as that may sound to American ears, democracy as we know it it was not. When he spoke of government he basically meant the feudal system prevalent in his time and place. WHat was remarkable about him was that he insisted that nobility was not about privilege or entitlement but about responsibility. Maybe that responsibility is now transferred to all of us along with a call to shun privilege and entitlement? If so, then the debate, even the heated debate, might just be an external manifestation of the internal moral struggles of a 16th century prince.
Respect for government does not mean agreeing with all things that government does.  I don't think anything in the passage I cite precludes criticism of particular government actions or voting against incumbents.  Luther was not shy to remonstrate against those in authority when he felt it necessary, but always asserted the validity of their authority even if/when it was wielded badly.  To speak out against wrongs that government might do, is not only proper for persons where government is "elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable," it is proper in feudal or other less responsive systems as well. 

As you note, he called them to greater responsiblity in the adminstration of the office given them by God.  That we would do so today would also seem in order.  Nevertheless even criticism should be seen in the context of the blessing and benefits that government provides.
"Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way? " Don't know about Elert, haven't read him on the subject.  But Luther and Melanchthon said yes.   They also believed that taxes were essential to the work of the state and the obligation of the citizen, even while noting that the power to tax could be abused.

I have said elsewhere that the retention of titles for those who have served in government (or even those in the church) when out of office is an appropriate way of recognizing and honoring those individuals for their service.  I don't see how it is an honor that raises them above anyone else.  Honorifics are simply that--honors and courtesys.  Some more radical reformers such as Karlstadt rejected the use of any titles (in office or out) prefering, "neighbor" or "brother," he even adovcated a form of plain dress.  It was regarded by Luther as a kind of false humility.  Like the ironic use of "comrade" among Soviet oligarchs.   

Jim,

I read things political through European eyes. Titles are not just titles. They are power. One barked orders at those below, called those on level with oneself "Colleague," and saluted those above one's rank as "Comrade." Titles are a verbal marker for power. Whether Karlstadt saw it that way I know not but I would assume he might have, knowing that he lived in a society that put great importance in titles, and whose descendant culture, Europe, still kind of does. A hint might be that he saw the need to replace, not eliminate but replace, the usual titles with "new" ones. I have no idea how these titles functioned in his brief time of influence.

I would guess that in todays terms, titles and their retention, should be seen as simple "classism." Titles are power.

I would love to push an issue a bit further: Again, we live in a republic, a representative republic, with democratic elections and all that good stuff. I, and I may be in a minority here, see this not as a system that elevates certain individuals to places of influence and power but as the permission of my fellow citizens and myself given to a number of individuals to exercise the duties of an office that is created by laws  and is carried out according to laws. The laws serve us as a society and the elected officials serve the laws. Yes, some of the offices administer laws that carry coercive power with them but the elected are and they need to be seen as "servants." A 16th century prince served God in His work of "providence," according to Luther. I do not draw a parallel between the "prince" and the "Governor, " the President," the "representative," the "Senator," or any of those people. The "Prince" in America is the people, not the elected crowd in the state capitol or in DC.

Therefor, the debate, no matter how contentious, is a matter of the "prince" having an internal debate. Maybe the debate is wrenching and couched in self defaming language. But it is a debate that in the end needs to reach a point where "the people" serve the will of God in doing providence for God's creation. The heated disagreements are and need to be how that is best accomplished. A "prince" would have the exact same struggle: How do I best accomplish this? Do I give the poor alms and benevolences or do I find work fit to their skills for them to do?
Following your reasoning I think the parallel between high government officials and the princely office that Luther knew is still apt.  Though the modern office of president, governor, etc. has greater limitations and accountablility than the medieval prince, these are still administrative titles and offices, something the general population/electorate cannot be.  Direct democracy where the people rule as the government had rarely if ever existed.  The people have power; they bestow office and take it away.  But the officials, be they prince or president exercise authority.  When Luther/Melanchthon speak of government, they speak generally of those who hold authority, often more specifically, those who wield the sword, thus "government" as they use the term speaks to an administrative function in society.  In republican demoncracy, the people are not "princes" or rulers in any administrative sense (save perhaps for the occasional referrendum).  The electorate replaces the role of birth, or perhaps a vested elite, in selecting who will be the adminstrators in various levels of governmental responsibility.  The electorate thus also functions to provide temporal accountablity for those vested with temporal authority for their stewardship of it. 
How titles are used are ultimately a matter of indifference.  Neither your tastes or mine are more proper.  For me when a person no longer holds office their power is only influential--though perhaps in some regard a greater influence than the average Joe, because of their personal knowledge and experience in their field.  For me the continued application of the title is a repectful recognition of that experience and as I said early an expression of gratitute for service rendered. 
I do offer a caution:  I worry sometimes that in our eagerness to demonstrate a "class-less" society, the populist notion that no one's opinion counts more than mine, no matter how well-informed they may be, or ill-informed I may be, does not serve the project of democracy well.  We all share in a common human dignity and worth; we all stand equal before God and the law.  Nevertheless it remains true that the contributions and resources individuals bring to bear in matters of the common good vary according to their gifts.  Should that give "experts" hegemony in their fields?  No.  But it ought to give weight to their counsel to those who exercise authority, whether the people or the administrators.
As to your final question, surely it cannot be a matter of either/or but must be a mixture of both as the needs and circumstances require.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 13, 2012, 12:59:47 PM

In our nation our leaders are elected to office by the people, but why should that overthrow the biblical principle that by these means (as formerly by birth) they are set in office by God?   


Would it be fair to assume that you are recommending this as a general exegetical strategy, Pr. Krauser?  That even though we know much more today about sexual orientation and the possibility of publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships, why should that overthrow the biblical principle that discourages such things?  That even though we may now recognize the personal and pastoral gifts of women that equip them for ordained ministry, why should that overthrow the biblical principle denying the office to women?  That the biblical principle always prevails, regardless of our discernment of the contemporary situation?  Is that right?

Tom Pearson
In the examples you cite there substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles, for some those reasons are convincing, for others they are not. 

It is refreshing to get a view that says that the CWA 2009 decisions and those made to ordain women were made by setting aside biblical principles.  This position at least has the virtue of integrity.  Thank you for stating it.
Just as Paul set aside circumcision and the dietary laws for substantive and circumstantial reasons.  So far as we know, he had no revelatory dream like Peter; he came to his conclusions because the proclamation of the Gospel could not support the enforcement of the old laws.

Again, thank you for the clear statement.
I don't think that this idea was absent in the discussions leading to either decision but rather evident on its face, though perhaps others would nuance it differently.  When I read "thank you for the clear statement" I thought it reminiscent of Pr. McCain's exchanges.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Scott6 on October 13, 2012, 02:01:15 PM
When I read "thank you for the clear statement" I thought it reminiscent of Pr. McCain's exchanges.

I don't think that you intended this as a compliment.  I simply highlighted something in your post that I found noteworthy and then thanked you again for it as I don't want to get in an extended debate on the issue which is what would happen if I responded to your claim where you appropriate Pauline apostolic authority.  There is no need to give me what you intend to be an insult.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 13, 2012, 02:09:22 PM
When I read "thank you for the clear statement" I thought it reminiscent of Pr. McCain's exchanges.

I don't think that you intended this as a compliment.  I simply highlighted something in your post that I found noteworthy and then thanked you again for it as I don't want to get in an extended debate on the issue which is what would happen if I responded to your claim where you appropriate Pauline apostolic authority.  There is no need to give me what you intend to be an insult.
Apologies.  I'm a bit sensitive having the aformentioned poster frequently apply that "thank you for confiming..." comment several times to me and others, and it came off as quite snarky.
As to going into further extended debate, yes, we all know that ground.  As I said earlier, for some the arguments are convincing, for others not--but we know well what they are, so no need to side track this discussion further on those questions.  My response to Tom Pearson above, was really meant to be about methodology not those other subjects.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: pearson on October 13, 2012, 02:23:04 PM

Are you suggesting that there are substantive and circumstantial reasons to set aside the principles that government is to be received as a from God as our daily bread for which we ought to give thanks?


Yes.


If there are good reasons to reject this, I suppose I would be open to hearing them.


I suppose as well that they would be the same sort of reasons employed in modifying or rejecting biblical principles regarding homosexual relationships or the ordination of women -- that things have changed, substantively and circumstantially.  Structurally and functionally, the modern nation-state (and not just in the U. S.) bears scant resemblance to the political culture of the Roman Empire.  "Government" refers to something rather different today than it did in the first century AD.  And if all you mean by "government" is "the public authorities," perhaps we should be talking about Wal Mart, amazon.com, and the World Bank. 



Of course, if we conclude that government is not exercising God's authority then the entire Two Kingdoms schema falls, does it not?


Well, maybe not entirely.  Insofar as the Two Kingdoms doctrine is a variation on Augustine's original notion of the Two Cities, it's possible to describe the two realms as divine and secular.  The secular is not devoid of divine judgment, but neither is the secular the domain of divine providence (for Augustine, anyway).  The secular is the transient kingdom of patient preparation for the City of God, and little more.

Can the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms be read like that -- two kingdoms independent at the functional level?  I don't know.  The truth of the matter is that I struggle to make good sense out of the relationship of God's dominion in this world with the existence of the pernicious modern nation-state as the vehicle of that dominion.  It seems to me that the institutions of contemporary "government" are no more immune from interrogation into their moral value than are the institutions of warfare or international finance.  Beyond that, I don't know.

Tom Pearson 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on October 13, 2012, 02:31:43 PM
When I read "thank you for the clear statement" I thought it reminiscent of Pr. McCain's exchanges.

I don't think that you intended this as a compliment.  I simply highlighted something in your post that I found noteworthy and then thanked you again for it as I don't want to get in an extended debate on the issue which is what would happen if I responded to your claim where you appropriate Pauline apostolic authority.  There is no need to give me what you intend to be an insult.
Apologies.  I'm a bit sensitive having the aformentioned poster frequently apply that "thank you for confiming..." comment several times to me and others, and it came off as quite snarky.
As to going into further extended debate, yes, we all know that ground.  As I said earlier, for some the arguments are convincing, for others not--but we know well what they are, so no need to side track this discussion further on those questions..


To perhaps combine the issues: If God is the ruler of the government, is God working through our democratic process? If God works through the democratic process in his rule over government, does not God also rule over the votes within churches and congregations? Do we not say that God makes his will known through the congregational vote to Call a pastor?


I believe that God works through the processes church bodies have chosen for making decisions to reveal his will for that church body. Thus it was God's will for the ALC and LCA to ordain women when our left-hand kingdom processes came to that decision.


It is God's to allow LCMS congregations to give women the right to vote when their left-hand kingdom processes decided to allow it in the congregations.


I've just begun reading Disruptive Grace: Reflections on God, Scripture, and the Church by Walter Brueggemann, edited by Carolyn Sharp. In the first essay Brueggemann writes:


But there they are, these two traditions of Abraham and Moses. They are there together as the beginning point of covenant. here is God's covenant to Abraham that is unconditional and unilateral. Here is God's covenant with Moses and Israel that is bilateral and conditional. They are there together, and that interface of contradiction may offer us the most work to do but also the most honest disclosure of the truth of our life. The full tradition asserts that all of our relationships, including that with the Holy One, are an unsettled mix of unilateral and bilateral, of conditional and unconditional, and it is that unsettled truth of covenant on which I will dwell for these comments. (p. 21, italics in original)


If Brueggamann is right about quite different styles of covenants between God and Abraham, and between God and Moses/Israel; then why can't we also accept that God's ways through Lutherans can be different than through Roman Catholics and Baptists? Or that God's ways through ELCA can be different than through LCMS?


In connection with this meeting, do we not believe that God can rule the left-hand kingdom both through democratic votes and through unilateral proclamations by kings and queens; through votes of churchwide/synod/district assemblies/conventions and through proclamations by the pope?


God's ways are not always the same with every people and place and time.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 13, 2012, 03:09:23 PM
The context I was referring to was the widespread rhetoric that expresses contempt for government* (which has been around for several decades) and those who hold or seek office** (which has probably been around since elections began).   To vote against an incumbent is not an act of contempt.  It is a decision. 



Then you are mistaken. The rhetoric you cited, taken in context, referred to the caliber of work of the individuals who had positions in the government, not to the concept of government itself. Soundbites taken out of context might be twisted to imply violations of the commandments, but taken in context they are clearly campaign hyperbole, and not relevant to the quotes from Luther than you posted.

Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 13, 2012, 03:41:22 PM
The context I was referring to was the widespread rhetoric that expresses contempt for government* (which has been around for several decades) and those who hold or seek office** (which has probably been around since elections began).   To vote against an incumbent is not an act of contempt.  It is a decision. 



Then you are mistaken. The rhetoric you cited, taken in context, referred to the caliber of work of the individuals who had positions in the government, not to the concept of government itself. Soundbites taken out of context might be twisted to imply violations of the commandments, but taken in context they are clearly campaign hyperbole, and not relevant to the quotes from Luther than you posted.
They are not merely soundbites taken out of context.  They have become slogans for an entire way of thinking about government. Sometimes hyperbole can be easily dismissed.  Sometimes it takes on a life of its own.

If you have specific context to demonstrate they were addressed to specific individuals and situations I would be glad to know of them. My impression is that they were rather broadly applied in their original contexts.
Do you really believe that they are not corrosive of the understanding of thankfulness and love for government Luther/Melanchthon were urging the pastors to teach? 
Do you believe that the charge given the Visitors in the Instructions to see that the clergy to inculcate a favorable attitude toward government is something the church should not promote today?
 
 
 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: readselerttoo on October 13, 2012, 03:56:45 PM
When I read "thank you for the clear statement" I thought it reminiscent of Pr. McCain's exchanges.

I don't think that you intended this as a compliment.  I simply highlighted something in your post that I found noteworthy and then thanked you again for it as I don't want to get in an extended debate on the issue which is what would happen if I responded to your claim where you appropriate Pauline apostolic authority.  There is no need to give me what you intend to be an insult.
Apologies.  I'm a bit sensitive having the aformentioned poster frequently apply that "thank you for confiming..." comment several times to me and others, and it came off as quite snarky.
As to going into further extended debate, yes, we all know that ground.  As I said earlier, for some the arguments are convincing, for others not--but we know well what they are, so no need to side track this discussion further on those questions..


To perhaps combine the issues: If God is the ruler of the government, is God working through our democratic process? If God works through the democratic process in his rule over government, does not God also rule over the votes within churches and congregations? Do we not say that God makes his will known through the congregational vote to Call a pastor?


I believe that God works through the processes church bodies have chosen for making decisions to reveal his will for that church body. Thus it was God's will for the ALC and LCA to ordain women when our left-hand kingdom processes came to that decision.


It is God's to allow LCMS congregations to give women the right to vote when their left-hand kingdom processes decided to allow it in the congregations.


I've just begun reading Disruptive Grace: Reflections on God, Scripture, and the Church by Walter Brueggemann, edited by Carolyn Sharp. In the first essay Brueggemann writes:


But there they are, these two traditions of Abraham and Moses. They are there together as the beginning point of covenant. here is God's covenant to Abraham that is unconditional and unilateral. Here is God's covenant with Moses and Israel that is bilateral and conditional. They are there together, and that interface of contradiction may offer us the most work to do but also the most honest disclosure of the truth of our life. The full tradition asserts that all of our relationships, including that with the Holy One, are an unsettled mix of unilateral and bilateral, of conditional and unconditional, and it is that unsettled truth of covenant on which I will dwell for these comments. (p. 21, italics in original)


If Brueggamann is right about quite different styles of covenants between God and Abraham, and between God and Moses/Israel; then why can't we also accept that God's ways through Lutherans can be different than through Roman Catholics and Baptists? Or that God's ways through ELCA can be different than through LCMS?


In connection with this meeting, do we not believe that God can rule the left-hand kingdom both through democratic votes and through unilateral proclamations by kings and queens; through votes of churchwide/synod/district assemblies/conventions and through proclamations by the pope?


God's ways are not always the same with every people and place and time.


I disagree with the premise that the two covenants are together.  God's original covenant of being faithful to his promises for others begins with the unconditional and unilateraly made covenant with the foreigner Abraham.  This is not to be combined with the covenant made with Israel/Moses at Mt. Sinai a conditional bilateral one made after circumcision was introduced to demarcate a political and social entity, ie Israel.  Even the New Testament is clear that any covenant that comes after one previously made does not nullify a covenant previously made.  The bilateral covenant was made exclusively with the people of Israel/Moses and is not to be extrapolated into general history.  Christians use the 10 Commandments as Jesus did, as diagnostic tools to see where sin is active in one's life, to be exposed in one's life:  St. Paul's "...with the law comes the knowledge of sin."  The Sinai covenant is a covenant of the law of retribution (if you do these things you will find favor with God;  if not, watch out.)
That covenant is authoritative for those who live under the law and who refuse to trust in what God has done on Good Friday where Christ is the fulfillment of the law.  God's law in the retributive sense is for those who will not live by faith in Christ's merits alone.  The fulfillment of God's covenant with Abraham as well as the one made at Sinai, on the other hand, is posited in Christ's death on the cross through which God's law was fulfilled and with Easter inaugurates a whole new existence which is led by the Spirit and the kingdom of heaven is opened to all who believe and are baptized into the Living Body of Christ.

The issue of natural order re: government (a corporate collective) can never be placed within the orders of grace because forgiveness is a God to human being individualized relationship in that like Abraham was called by God into a relationship of faith, so is each person who like Abraham is called individually. 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 13, 2012, 06:22:47 PM
If you have specific context to demonstrate they were addressed to specific individuals and situations I would be glad to know of them. My impression is that they were rather broadly applied in their original contexts.

Weren't you paying attention at the time they were originally spoken? Did you bring them up without knowing where they came from?

Do you really believe that they are not corrosive of the understanding of thankfulness and love for government Luther/Melanchthon were urging the pastors to teach? 

Yes. I do.

Do you believe that the charge given the Visitors in the Instructions to see that the clergy to inculcate a favorable attitude toward government is something the church should not promote today?

I do not see that charge has anything to do with "the context of the (current) election season".
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 13, 2012, 07:09:10 PM

On further reflection on these paragraphs from Luther, something else occurs to me. Luther mentions some of the rightful functions of government. One has to wonder how Luther might react to a government that used revenues derived from taxation for a very different set of things. Please note what I have highlighted in red.

In the context of the election season, do the paragraphs below hold up?  Are these principles that transcend nearly 500 years and in a very different polity?  Do we explictly teach these in any way?  Would our Lutheran church bodies still affirm them today? 
 
I plan on reading the first excerpt to the congregation on the first Sunday in November in preface to a prayer for the country as we go to the polls.

 
      But God sustains government and through it gives peace and punishes and guards against the wicked, so that we may support wife and children, bring up children in the discipline and knowledge of God, have security in our homes and on the streets, that each may help the other, and communicate and live with another. Such gifts are altogether of heaven, and God desires that we consider and recognize them as gifts of God. He desires us to honor government as a servant of his and to show gratitude to it because through it God gives us such great benefits.
     Whoever, thus, might see God in government, would have sincere love towards government. Whoever could estimate the blessings which we receive through government, would be heartily thankful toward government. If you knew that someone had saved your child from death, you would thank him warmly. Why then are you not grateful to the government which saves you, your children, your wife, daily from murder? If the government did not restrain the wicked, when could we be secure? Therefore when you look on wife and children, bear in mind that these are gifts of God which you may possess through the government. And as you love your children, you should also love the government. Because the common man does not acknowledge such blessings as peace, justice, and punishment of the wicked, we need often to remind him of them and diligently to explain them to him. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 283). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


The people are also to be exhorted to pay honestly and willingly the tax imposed on each. Even if some obligations are heavy each one is bound to pay on account of his duty and his obedience to government so that peace may rule throughout the land. For what else is unwillingness to pay tax or render service than giving rise to thievery and murder?
     So they especially who bear the name of Christian should do this in love which willingly bears all burdens, and gives beyond what is due, which pays, even when burdened unjustly, and seeks no revenge through its own powers, as Christ teaches in Matt. 5[:39]. We ought to bring honor to the holy gospel by paying honestly, as a matter of course, so that the holy gospel is not slandered and disgraced as happens in the case of those who claim in the name of the holy gospel to be free from tithes and other temporal burdens. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 286-287). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


Where does Luther mention such things as:

Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 13, 2012, 10:03:48 PM

On further reflection on these paragraphs from Luther, something else occurs to me. Luther mentions some of the rightful functions of government. One has to wonder how Luther might react to a government that used revenues derived from taxation for a very different set of things. Please note what I have highlighted in red.

In the context of the election season, do the paragraphs below hold up?  Are these principles that transcend nearly 500 years and in a very different polity?  Do we explictly teach these in any way?  Would our Lutheran church bodies still affirm them today? 
 
I plan on reading the first excerpt to the congregation on the first Sunday in November in preface to a prayer for the country as we go to the polls.

 
      But God sustains government and through it gives peace and punishes and guards against the wicked, so that we may support wife and children, bring up children in the discipline and knowledge of God, have security in our homes and on the streets, that each may help the other, and communicate and live with another. Such gifts are altogether of heaven, and God desires that we consider and recognize them as gifts of God. He desires us to honor government as a servant of his and to show gratitude to it because through it God gives us such great benefits.
     Whoever, thus, might see God in government, would have sincere love towards government. Whoever could estimate the blessings which we receive through government, would be heartily thankful toward government. If you knew that someone had saved your child from death, you would thank him warmly. Why then are you not grateful to the government which saves you, your children, your wife, daily from murder? If the government did not restrain the wicked, when could we be secure? Therefore when you look on wife and children, bear in mind that these are gifts of God which you may possess through the government. And as you love your children, you should also love the government. Because the common man does not acknowledge such blessings as peace, justice, and punishment of the wicked, we need often to remind him of them and diligently to explain them to him. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 283). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


The people are also to be exhorted to pay honestly and willingly the tax imposed on each. Even if some obligations are heavy each one is bound to pay on account of his duty and his obedience to government so that peace may rule throughout the land. For what else is unwillingness to pay tax or render service than giving rise to thievery and murder?
     So they especially who bear the name of Christian should do this in love which willingly bears all burdens, and gives beyond what is due, which pays, even when burdened unjustly, and seeks no revenge through its own powers, as Christ teaches in Matt. 5[:39]. We ought to bring honor to the holy gospel by paying honestly, as a matter of course, so that the holy gospel is not slandered and disgraced as happens in the case of those who claim in the name of the holy gospel to be free from tithes and other temporal burdens. 
 Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors  Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Vol. 40, Page 286-287). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
 


Where does Luther mention such things as:
  • Requiring all people to buy health insurance whether they can afford it or not, and paying a penalty tax if they don't.
  • Confiscating the earnings of those who work the hardest to give it to those who do not..
  • Punish those who hire others to enable the others to earn they pay.
I'm certainly not going to try and demonstrate that Luther would favor a healthcare mandate, I don't even know at what level the concept of insurance existed....perhaps some burial societies, but I don't know.  Healthcare itself was primitive--I doubt that in that time treatments to make you well enough to work could themselves cause bankruptcy.   
We know he drew up regulations for a Community Chest for those in need and it is not unreasonable to conclude that insurance would be consistent with the "that each may help the other" function of government that you highlighted. 

The Instructions also include this:  "According to Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, Moses ordered tithes to be given only to the priests.  But we should give tithes to whomever the government orders." LW 40, p. 285 emphasis added  I don't know what that might mean, but it is an intriguing statement to say the least.  It certianly raised my eyebrows.  It would seem to mean that the peoples traditional churchly tithes might be allocated by the government to other purposes.

Luther believed in a strong work ethic.  The revision of the liturgical calendar was to reduce the number of holidays.  He wrote harshly of the mendicant orders and the idleness of monastics.

I wish you would stop trying to horn this discussion into endorsements of policies, programs or candidates.  I'm not suggesting that.
My desire is that, since an election is upon us, people would give thanks for government and fulfill their civic responsibility to vote, that is call into office servants for the work of God's left hand.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 14, 2012, 09:58:25 AM
My desire is that, since an election is upon us, people would give thanks for government and fulfill their civic responsibility to vote, that is call into office servants for the work of God's left hand.


Given your track record of advocacy for actions to be undertaken by the Kingdom of the Left that are inconsistent with the form of limited government described in America's founding documents, it is impossible to separate your prior advocacy for the political agenda of one particular political party with a general appeal such as that which you describe above. Your prior history makes it impossible to believe that what you call "the work of God's left hand" refers to anything other than the official platform of the Democrat Party.



It would be no different from me calling for all Lutheran Christians to call for an end to abortion, and yet denying that such a call automatically includes a call for them to vote for the only candidate running who is likely to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe V. Wade. I don't have to specifically say that's what I would be calling for. I don't even have to mention the candidate by name or party. It's clear and obvious who I would be supporting.

Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Linda on October 14, 2012, 10:03:31 AM
I certainly agree that citizens, christians especially, as good stewards of the gift of this government, should exercise their constitutional duty and vote.  The more citizens insist their government be transparent and accountable, the less corruption and waste will rule.

Linda
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 14, 2012, 07:03:22 PM
My desire is that, since an election is upon us, people would give thanks for government and fulfill their civic responsibility to vote, that is call into office servants for the work of God's left hand.

Given your track record of advocacy for actions to be undertaken by the Kingdom of the Left that are inconsistent with the form of limited government described in America's founding documents, it is impossible to separate your prior advocacy for the political agenda of one particular political party with a general appeal such as that which you describe above. Your prior history makes it impossible to believe that what you call "the work of God's left hand" refers to anything other than the official platform of the Democrat Party.

It would be no different from me calling for all Lutheran Christians to call for an end to abortion, and yet denying that such a call automatically includes a call for them to vote for the only candidate running who is likely to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe V. Wade. I don't have to specifically say that's what I would be calling for. I don't even have to mention the candidate by name or party. It's clear and obvious who I would be supporting.
Clearly this is your hang-up not mine.  You have grievances with the current adminstration.  I have some as well. I had many with the previous adminstration.  That didn't and doesn't stop me from being thankful that God provides us, you and I both, with GOOD GOVERNMENT, as our daily bread as we are taught in the Cathechism.  It sounds like your saying that because Krauser likes it and he's a cock-eyed looney-tunes liberal, Luther and Melanchthon must be wrong in their Instructions about government.
 
I posted the quotes because I think they well represent a Lutheran understanding of government.  That would be pretty much any government, whether here in the US or in Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, Australia what have you.  So don't come at me with this nonsense that its about endorsing the vision of a particular party.  To be sure, the vision/attitude toward government taught in the Instructions would be a challenging and difficult one to maintain in places where governments are in the hands of true tyrants and despots.  In such cases there is little daylight between those who govern and the structure of the government itself so that if one is wicked or evil the other is as well.  In such cases the Instructions may have to be abandoned.  But not by us here.  Certainly in any democratic society the disctinction should be able to be maintained that we can rightly encourage love and thankfulness of "government" apart from any endorsement of particular persons who may govern poorly or even badly.  I don't believe that the Instructions require us to stifle all criticism or protest of specific governmental actions, or require blind obedience.  There is always the caveat "we must obey God, rather than men."  But obedience is our duty if what is asked of us is not sin and is otherwise lawful.  As Christians, we may not be disobedient to government simply because we disagree with its political judgments, but we are free within the structures of government to work to overturn those judgments. 
 
To teach appreciation of government is not to endorse all of its actions, not all are equal and NO government is perfect.  But neither is any manifestation of the church perfect, yet would you say that to teach people to love, honor and respect the church is a sectarian or partisan enterprise, because that church body has some false clergy or ineffective leaders or even scoundrels for bishops? 
 
I am a member and pastor of the ELCA who loves, honors and respects the church.  That doesn't just mean church in the abstract, but the church where I commune, or should I say with whom I commune as well.  Is it flawed?  Does it err?  Of course.  Now and before 2009.  Was the church with which I communed, in which I communed at the time of my ordination (LCA) flawed and did it err?  Of course.  Was the church, in which I baptized (ULCA) flawed and did it err?  Of course.  Any one who would deny the church in which they were baptized and with which they commune is without flaw or error is a fool.  The church is the body of Christ knit together of forgiven sinners, we are righteous by faith, and not without error.  Nevertheless in this sometimes flawed and errant living church, the Holy Spirit presides; in this flawed and errant living church I have been called by the gospel, enlightened with the Spirit's gifts, made holy and kept in the true faith, just as the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth.  The teaching that we are at the same time saint and sinner cannot be applied to individuals without also applying to the whole body of the church.
 
How would you characterize the Christian attitude toward government from a Lutheran theological perspective, if not the one described in the Instructions?   Can you provide a better Lutheran instruction as to how a Christian is to regard their government?   
 
How come it is so easy for people to say they love the flag, but if your ask them to say they love the government there's an argument?  The flag does nothing to ensure and provide for "security in our homes and on the streets, that each may help the other, and communicate and live with another," or guarantee "peace, justice, and punishment of the wicked."  It is government that does all these things.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: gerrybraunschweig on October 14, 2012, 07:46:12 PM
Jim, the lessons of history teach us to be hesitant to embrace your utopian view of government.

Nazi Germany, anyone?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 14, 2012, 08:23:18 PM
Jim, the lessons of history teach us to be hesitant to embrace your utopian view of government.

Nazi Germany, anyone?
Didn't I say that?  Perhaps it was buried in a longer paragraph--
"To be sure, the vision/attitude toward government taught in the Instructions would be a challenging and difficult one to maintain in places where governments are in the hands of true tyrants and despots.  In such cases there is little daylight between those who govern and the structure of the government itself so that if one is wicked or evil the other is as well.  In such cases the Instructions may have to be abandoned."
I don't think Luther and Melanchthon were naive on that score, but the existence of evil does not negate the goodness of creation or the goodness of government.  As noted above:
"[font=]An evil man who takes a wife with evil intent can abuse the ordinance of marriage. So also a tyrant can abuse the ordinance of God, as Julian or Nero did. The ordinance, by which peace and justice is maintained, remains a divine creation even if the person who abuses the ordinance does wrong." LW 40, p. 284[/font]
 
Good government is what is most desired, of course.  But even muddling government is better than evil government,  The line between evil government (ordered lawlessness*) and no government (chaos, anarchy) is slim.     
*how better to describe Nazi Germany?
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 14, 2012, 08:28:18 PM
Clearly this is your hang-up not mine.  You have grievances with the current adminstration.  I have some as well. I had many with the previous adminstration.  That didn't and doesn't stop me from being thankful that God provides us, you and I both, with GOOD GOVERNMENT, as our daily bread as we are taught in the Cathechism. It sounds like your saying that because Krauser likes it and he's a cock-eyed looney-tunes liberal, Luther and Melanchthon must be wrong in their Instructions about government.


First, at this moment in history, the government we're getting at the Federal level is hardly "good". More specifically, if measured on a scale of only "good, better, and best", I'd rate the Federal government right now as "good". I am very thankful for the government of the State of Georgia, Gwinett County, and the City of Duluth. I am thankful for some aspects of what the Federal government has done since the current President took office. I will be even more thankful when the current President, and his entire cabinet, and much of the US Senate is replaced.

There are times when we give thanks to God for what He has given to us, secure in the knowledge that in His infinite wisdom, He knows why what we have is "good", even if the goodness is so obscure to our meager abilities to perceive that we can only recognize a particular gift as "good" because of His gift to us of faith.

I'm also not saying that Luther and Malanchthon are wrong. I'm saying that You are calling for prayers of thanks for "good government" at this time because as long as people are lead to believe that the current government is "good", then that means support for those candidates are currently incumbent. In the years I've been participating in this forum, this is the first time I can recall anyone advocating the use of those instructions to teach congregations just prior to an election. If it was such an obvious and non-partisan thing, then surely someone else would have made a similar observation prior to a previous election. Your personal track record makes it impossible to believe your claim that you have no personal agenda.


I do not challenge the accuracy of Luthern and Malanchthon, but I do challenge your interpretation of what they said. And, I challenge your timing of when you've said it. As I said, I think you are using what they said as a means of supporting and advocating the political platform of the Democrat Party. I'm not saying Luther and Malanchthon are wrong. I am saying that you are wrong when you claim to have no agenda.



Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Felix Culpepper on October 14, 2012, 09:11:33 PM
As a Conservative Liberal or Liberal Conservative, I appreciate the points of view of Pr. Krauser and Dr. Pearson.

1.  Conservative politicians attract my support more by defining the positive and limited role they envision for government than by engaging in blanket condemnations of government.*

2.  It seems that if we want to view government from a Lutheran perspective, we need to keep in mind that there were three Orders of Creation, and not one.  When government seeks to absorb roles of Church and Family, which modern government seems to want to do, it should be open to critique from a Lutheran perspective.

3.  When the creature begins to claim powers that belong to the Creator we have big problems.  Yet when people speak as if government is the origin of all things and that it alone determines the proper limits of all things, isn't that what is happening?

*I dislike Grover Norquist immensely.  And yet, I find myself quoting him often in reference to the Churchwide expression of the ELCA.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 15, 2012, 12:05:06 AM
It also occurred to me that while the inspired Word of God in Holy Scripture should not be subjected to historical critical revision, no Lutherans claim that Luther or Malanchthon were writing down the inspired Word of God to be followed, word for word, until the Lord's return. What they said about the government in their part of Germany in the 16th century was probably very accurate in the context of the government in their part of Germany in the 16th century. Does that mean that we must automatically interpret what they said about government by a hereditary nobility and apply it to a constitutional republic with democratically elected leaders and a huge civil service bureaucracy, that works on as many as four different levels?
 
 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 15, 2012, 12:57:46 AM

I do not challenge the accuracy of Luthern and Malanchthon, but I do challenge your interpretation of what they said. And, I challenge your timing of when you've said it. As I said, I think you are using what they said as a means of supporting and advocating the political platform of the Democrat Party. I'm not saying Luther and Malanchthon are wrong. I am saying that you are wrong when you claim to have no agenda.
You know its actually ironic that I liked the quote about love of government precisely because it challenged my own cynicism about government.  I found it breathtakingly refreshing. 
Luther was condemned by government on the one hand, protected by government on the other hand, yet he declares government good. He doesn't choose between the Empire and Electoral Saxony.   He stands with what he believes the faith teaches about government, quite apart from how he is regarded by either the Emperor, who condemned him, or the Elector who protected him.  I think there is much to learn from him in this.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 15, 2012, 01:15:02 AM
It also occurred to me that while the inspired Word of God in Holy Scripture should not be subjected to historical critical revision, no Lutherans claim that Luther or Malanchthon were writing down the inspired Word of God to be followed, word for word, until the Lord's return. What they said about the government in their part of Germany in the 16th century was probably very accurate in the context of the government in their part of Germany in the 16th century. Does that mean that we must automatically interpret what they said about government by a hereditary nobility and apply it to a constitutional republic with democratically elected leaders and a huge civil service bureaucracy, that works on as many as four different levels?
Perhaps, but you still haven't identified what the flaw in their argument is and why it doesn't hold up. 
(I'm already discounting the incongruous notion that they didn't really understand how government could be used for evil.)
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 15, 2012, 10:40:57 AM
It also occurred to me that while the inspired Word of God in Holy Scripture should not be subjected to historical critical revision, no Lutherans claim that Luther or Malanchthon were writing down the inspired Word of God to be followed, word for word, until the Lord's return. What they said about the government in their part of Germany in the 16th century was probably very accurate in the context of the government in their part of Germany in the 16th century. Does that mean that we must automatically interpret what they said about government by a hereditary nobility and apply it to a constitutional republic with democratically elected leaders and a huge civil service bureaucracy, that works on as many as four different levels?
Perhaps, but you still haven't identified what the flaw in their argument is and why it doesn't hold up. 
(I'm already discounting the incongruous notion that they didn't really understand how government could be used for evil.)


Yes, I have. Go back and re-read my earlier posts.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Dadoo on October 15, 2012, 11:40:36 AM
We live in AMerica where part of the founding story is revolt against unjust and unfair taxes. Unjust because they were arbitrarily set by a distant authority, a king, who by virtue of being "king" has the right to be arbitrary and even vindictive in his levying of taxes. Unfair because there were no benefits attached to the taxes levied. If you read Luther some more, I believe his address to the German Nobility would be a good place to start, you would find Luther condemn the same things as the early American story.

One can and should question a few things. Are Luther's words applicable in their raw form to this country? We are a republic. We get to chose government, its scope and its character. If that is true, then critique, even harsh critique of government action and inaction is probably not precluded. To see it another way: If government is not feudal but elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable, then must not a Christian speak out against what he sees the government do wrong? Might that mean that she has to say: "I see no good done by the government at all right now?" Lutheran have been there before in the 1940's.  Whether disapproval should go all the way to "revolt" is questionable but questionable in  a Bonnhoeffer way if you know what I mean. A government gone insane has to be restrained would it not? In our case that would it not mean be restrained by its people?

And what is respect? Does it mean agree with all things the government does? If so, what are elections for?

And what is honor? GOvernment is supposed to be a given entity that is filled with a changing cast of players. For some reason, we have fallen into the habit to have those players retain their title even after they have returned to non government life. Do we really need to honor these women and men after they are no longer guiding affairs?  We might thank them for a job well done but are they worthy of honor greater than a CHristian owes any other neighbor? What exactly is honoring government? Obeying its laws? Even if we do not agree and even think that a law is evil? Lutherans have been there as well in the 1940's. Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way?

A final thought: Luther certainly knew of cities that were governed not by prices but by city fathers. As democratic as that may sound to American ears, democracy as we know it it was not. When he spoke of government he basically meant the feudal system prevalent in his time and place. WHat was remarkable about him was that he insisted that nobility was not about privilege or entitlement but about responsibility. Maybe that responsibility is now transferred to all of us along with a call to shun privilege and entitlement? If so, then the debate, even the heated debate, might just be an external manifestation of the internal moral struggles of a 16th century prince.
Respect for government does not mean agreeing with all things that government does.  I don't think anything in the passage I cite precludes criticism of particular government actions or voting against incumbents.  Luther was not shy to remonstrate against those in authority when he felt it necessary, but always asserted the validity of their authority even if/when it was wielded badly.  To speak out against wrongs that government might do, is not only proper for persons where government is "elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable," it is proper in feudal or other less responsive systems as well. 

As you note, he called them to greater responsiblity in the adminstration of the office given them by God.  That we would do so today would also seem in order.  Nevertheless even criticism should be seen in the context of the blessing and benefits that government provides.
"Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way? " Don't know about Elert, haven't read him on the subject.  But Luther and Melanchthon said yes.   They also believed that taxes were essential to the work of the state and the obligation of the citizen, even while noting that the power to tax could be abused.

I have said elsewhere that the retention of titles for those who have served in government (or even those in the church) when out of office is an appropriate way of recognizing and honoring those individuals for their service.  I don't see how it is an honor that raises them above anyone else.  Honorifics are simply that--honors and courtesys.  Some more radical reformers such as Karlstadt rejected the use of any titles (in office or out) prefering, "neighbor" or "brother," he even adovcated a form of plain dress.  It was regarded by Luther as a kind of false humility.  Like the ironic use of "comrade" among Soviet oligarchs.   

Jim,

I read things political through European eyes. Titles are not just titles. They are power. One barked orders at those below, called those on level with oneself "Colleague," and saluted those above one's rank as "Comrade." Titles are a verbal marker for power. Whether Karlstadt saw it that way I know not but I would assume he might have, knowing that he lived in a society that put great importance in titles, and whose descendant culture, Europe, still kind of does. A hint might be that he saw the need to replace, not eliminate but replace, the usual titles with "new" ones. I have no idea how these titles functioned in his brief time of influence.

I would guess that in todays terms, titles and their retention, should be seen as simple "classism." Titles are power.

I would love to push an issue a bit further: Again, we live in a republic, a representative republic, with democratic elections and all that good stuff. I, and I may be in a minority here, see this not as a system that elevates certain individuals to places of influence and power but as the permission of my fellow citizens and myself given to a number of individuals to exercise the duties of an office that is created by laws  and is carried out according to laws. The laws serve us as a society and the elected officials serve the laws. Yes, some of the offices administer laws that carry coercive power with them but the elected are and they need to be seen as "servants." A 16th century prince served God in His work of "providence," according to Luther. I do not draw a parallel between the "prince" and the "Governor, " the President," the "representative," the "Senator," or any of those people. The "Prince" in America is the people, not the elected crowd in the state capitol or in DC.

Therefor, the debate, no matter how contentious, is a matter of the "prince" having an internal debate. Maybe the debate is wrenching and couched in self defaming language. But it is a debate that in the end needs to reach a point where "the people" serve the will of God in doing providence for God's creation. The heated disagreements are and need to be how that is best accomplished. A "prince" would have the exact same struggle: How do I best accomplish this? Do I give the poor alms and benevolences or do I find work fit to their skills for them to do?
Following your reasoning I think the parallel between high government officials and the princely office that Luther knew is still apt.  Though the modern office of president, governor, etc. has greater limitations and accountablility than the medieval prince, these are still administrative titles and offices, something the general population/electorate cannot be.  Direct democracy where the people rule as the government had rarely if ever existed.  The people have power; they bestow office and take it away.  But the officials, be they prince or president exercise authority.  When Luther/Melanchthon speak of government, they speak generally of those who hold authority, often more specifically, those who wield the sword, thus "government" as they use the term speaks to an administrative function in society.  In republican demoncracy, the people are not "princes" or rulers in any administrative sense (save perhaps for the occasional referrendum).  The electorate replaces the role of birth, or perhaps a vested elite, in selecting who will be the adminstrators in various levels of governmental responsibility.  The electorate thus also functions to provide temporal accountablity for those vested with temporal authority for their stewardship of it. 
How titles are used are ultimately a matter of indifference.  Neither your tastes or mine are more proper.  For me when a person no longer holds office their power is only influential--though perhaps in some regard a greater influence than the average Joe, because of their personal knowledge and experience in their field.  For me the continued application of the title is a repectful recognition of that experience and as I said early an expression of gratitute for service rendered. 
I do offer a caution:  I worry sometimes that in our eagerness to demonstrate a "class-less" society, the populist notion that no one's opinion counts more than mine, no matter how well-informed they may be, or ill-informed I may be, does not serve the project of democracy well.  We all share in a common human dignity and worth; we all stand equal before God and the law.  Nevertheless it remains true that the contributions and resources individuals bring to bear in matters of the common good vary according to their gifts.  Should that give "experts" hegemony in their fields?  No.  But it ought to give weight to their counsel to those who exercise authority, whether the people or the administrators.
As to your final question, surely it cannot be a matter of either/or but must be a mixture of both as the needs and circumstances require.

Jim,

I forgot who wrote it but there's is a saying: no matter how good and noble people seem to you, at any given time 95% of any crowd are asking in their hearts: what's in it for me?

Luther's adminitions to the princes was based on just such an opinion on human nature. I share his evaluation of human nature, by the way. This is also why I treasure Luther's essay to the nobility. Extending it to the voting citizen also make perfect sense if things are considered that way. It is an old saying: people vote their pocket book. If that is actualy true then, well, any vote is a vote of "what's in it for me?" Luther would probably go nuts over that, asking why charity and common good is not considered instead. And who did Luther admonish like that? The nobility who, like a voter, are before that choice. The fact that the officeholder in the republic is also a sinful human being put that individual before that choice also but then all of us are before it every day.

Th subtleties of the tax debate should probably be looked at in that light as well. Are the proposals to lower taxes based on an alternative that shows good promise to work justice and mercy or are they merely greed? As the guy with the "vote no on the school taxes" sign sometime.

Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 15, 2012, 11:49:12 AM
It also occurred to me that while the inspired Word of God in Holy Scripture should not be subjected to historical critical revision, no Lutherans claim that Luther or Malanchthon were writing down the inspired Word of God to be followed, word for word, until the Lord's return. What they said about the government in their part of Germany in the 16th century was probably very accurate in the context of the government in their part of Germany in the 16th century. Does that mean that we must automatically interpret what they said about government by a hereditary nobility and apply it to a constitutional republic with democratically elected leaders and a huge civil service bureaucracy, that works on as many as four different levels?
Perhaps, but you still haven't identified what the flaw in their argument is and why it doesn't hold up. 
(I'm already discounting the incongruous notion that they didn't really understand how government could be used for evil.)


Yes, I have. Go back and re-read my earlier posts.
Those are political not theological objections.  Why is Paul wrong in Romans 13 when he writes  "For rulers are  not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  whould you have no fear of him who is in authroity?  The do what is good , and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servangt for your good.is not ?


Then read them again, for surely you missed what was there.


God gave the people of Germany in the time of Luther and Malancthon a government of appointed rulers, usually from the hereditary aristocracy. God gives us in 21st century America a constitutional republic with elected leaders and an appointed bureaucracy. We choose our leaders through the ballot box. By your interpretation of scripture, that is a gift of God we are to be grateful for. Included in that gift from God is the principle of separation of state and church. The state is, on paper at least, not allowed to dictate what a preacher may or may not preach. The church, on paper at least, is not supposed to take sides in partisan elections.


The structure of government is one thing. The written rules and laws it is to follow is another thing. And the people selected to fill that structure and work within those rules is a third thing. In the minds of most people, those three things tend to blur into a single entity called "government". By calling for prayers of thankfulness for the structure of our government, and for our set of laws, one is also calling for prayers of thanksgiving for incumbent office holders at a time when the incumbents are being challenged in contested elections. Such prayers would be heard by many people as an endorsement for incumbent officeholders.


Which comes back to the object I have raised that you keep pretending is about something else. You claim you raise this issue with no "agenda", and I reject your claim of lack of agenda. Your actions are consistent with someone who wants to support the re-election of the incumbents, and inconsistent with someone who truly is neutral about his desired outcome for the election.


You are taking the writings of Luther and Malancthon that referred to a government in which those being governed had no say whatsoever in who did the governing, and attempting to use them as a subtle encouragement to re-elect the incumbent candidates. Your replies dodge that issue completely, and substitute lengthy and convoluted defenses of a 16th century understanding of the nature of government. Even the addition of taxation to the argument is tailored to support the incumbent candidate, who seeks to increase taxes.


Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Norman Teigen on October 15, 2012, 12:11:41 PM
For those who foolishly equate the current American scene with that of Nazi Germany, I suggest the following read:

Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003. 

This book is readily available for less than the suggested retail price.  I bought copy at Half Price Books in St. Louis Park MN.

Norman Teigen, Layman
Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 15, 2012, 01:43:39 PM
For those who foolishly equate the current American scene with that of Nazi Germany, I suggest the following read:

Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003. 

This book is readily available for less than the suggested retail price.  I bought copy at Half Price Books in St. Louis Park MN.

Norman Teigen, Layman
Evangelical Lutheran Synod

I would suggest that there is a world of difference between noting a few similarities by way of comparison with going so far as to say anyone would "equate the current American scene with that of Nazi Germany". The two different situations are not equal. They cannot be equated. However, there are some similarities, as there are between almost any two pairs of nations at any given time. There are similarities between the US in 2012 and France in 1789. There are also differences. The same can be said of comparing the US in 2012 and Russia in 1917, or the US in 2012 and the US in 1932 or 1980. One could even compare the contemporary US situation with Rome in the decades prior to the birth of Christ and Rome in the 3rd and 4th centuries. The fact that some parallels can be drawn is hardly the same as "equating" two time periods.
 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Pasgolf on October 15, 2012, 03:08:32 PM
http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/10/14/fukuyama-on-building-better-bureaucracies/

Some useful thoughts on the proper role of government.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 15, 2012, 03:11:25 PM

God gave the people of Germany in the time of Luther and Malancthon a government of appointed rulers, usually from the hereditary aristocracy. God gives us in 21st century America a constitutional republic with elected leaders and an appointed bureaucracy. We choose our leaders through the ballot box. By your interpretation of scripture, that is a gift of God we are to be grateful for. Included in that gift from God is the principle of separation of state and church. The state is, on paper at least, not allowed to dictate what a preacher may or may not preach. The church, on paper at least, is not supposed to take sides in partisan elections.
"The church, on paper at least, is not supposed to take sides in partisan elections." 
This idea is the result of a 1954 Law, the was no such sense in American law prior to that. 
The quotation I've offered has not partisan content, that is YOUR inference.  You can say it is mine as often as you like, but it is not true.
Quote

The structure of government is one thing. The written rules and laws it is to follow is another thing. And the people selected to fill that structure and work within those rules is a third thing. In the minds of most people, those three things tend to blur into a single entity called "government". By calling for prayers of thankfulness for the structure of our government, and for our set of laws, one is also calling for prayers of thanksgiving for incumbent office holders at a time when the incumbents are being challenged in contested elections. Such prayers would be heard by many people as an endorsement for incumbent officeholders.
 
I'm not sure what distincting you are trying to make between the first and second points.  Of the second you said the laws it (meaning government?) is to follow....Wouldn't that be the structure that arranges how the government works?  Perhaps you mean the enactments of the government.   As to the people that fill the structure some are elected others but many perhaps most are career civil servants.  They are good because the do the work of governing, not because of policies they enact. (Caveat:  if what they were doing were manifestly criminal, violated the laws they have a duty to uphold, then they would be poor servants worthy of rejection through election or termination of employment on behalf of the public.)  How can affirmation of the work of civil servants partisan?
Quote

Which comes back to the object I have raised that you keep pretending is about something else. You claim you raise this issue with no "agenda", and I reject your claim of lack of agenda. Your actions are consistent with someone who wants to support the re-election of the incumbents, and inconsistent with someone who truly is neutral about his desired outcome for the election.


You are taking the writings of Luther and Malancthon that referred to a government in which those being governed had no say whatsoever in who did the governing, and attempting to use them as a subtle encouragement to re-elect the incumbent candidates. Your replies dodge that issue completely, and substitute lengthy and convoluted defenses of a 16th century understanding of the nature of government. Even the addition of taxation to the argument is tailored to support the incumbent candidate, who seeks to increase taxes.
Here as in many other places there are many state races also being decided most of the incumbents in these are Republicans .  Our congressional district happens to be represented by a Republican.  So if, as you claim, my offering the quote as a celebration of democratic government is partisan in favor of incumbents, then I'm probably endorsing many more Republicans than Democrats, so your argument and analysis of my motives is flawed and false.
The taxation quote (which I had not identified as part of the statement that I would read to the congregation) was offered for the purposes of discussion here. 
 
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: Jim_Krauser on October 15, 2012, 03:23:19 PM
http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/10/14/fukuyama-on-building-better-bureaucracies/ (http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/10/14/fukuyama-on-building-better-bureaucracies/)

Some useful thoughts on the proper role of government.
An interesting analysis and much food for thought. Other than praising thrift (which religion regards as a virtue), it is purely secular and organizational in scope. 
One wonders if it is not open to the same utopian charge as the proclamation of the general goodness of government.  Small government would likely be more efficient and ideal, who could argue against that?  The lingering question is whether it is really possible in a very large and compelex societies, that is how small could "small" be in a nation of 300,000,000 people who need the services of government.
Title: Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
Post by: George Erdner on October 15, 2012, 06:27:27 PM
The structure of government is one thing. The written rules and laws it is to follow is another thing. And the people selected to fill that structure and work within those rules is a third thing. In the minds of most people, those three things tend to blur into a single entity called "government". By calling for prayers of thankfulness for the structure of our government, and for our set of laws, one is also calling for prayers of thanksgiving for incumbent office holders at a time when the incumbents are being challenged in contested elections. Such prayers would be heard by many people as an endorsement for incumbent officeholders.
 
I'm not sure what distincting you are trying to make between the first and second points.  Of the second you said the laws it (meaning government?) is to follow....Wouldn't that be the structure that arranges how the government works?  Perhaps you mean the enactments of the government.   As to the people that fill the structure some are elected others but many perhaps most are career civil servants.  They are good because the do the work of governing, not because of policies they enact. (Caveat:  if what they were doing were manifestly criminal, violated the laws they have a duty to uphold, then they would be poor servants worthy of rejection through election or termination of employment on behalf of the public.)  How can affirmation of the work of civil servants partisan?

"Structure" refers to such things as a bicameral legislature with separate executive and judicial branches. Laws refer to those things that the legislature passes that the executive executes. If a city with a home rule charter decides to govern itself with a pseudo parliamentary structure, with an elected council that appoints one of it's members to be the chairman/executive, that's a structure. If a city has an elected council and hires a professional city manager to handle the executive duties, that's another structure. If the city has an ordinance requiring people to keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice, that's a law. Jurisdictions can have different government structures, and yet have similar laws. Likewise, identical structures could result in very different laws.


A jurisdiction could pass a law that all persons must have a properly approved permit in order to build an addition to their home. The bureaucrats responsible for issuing those permits might be good and diligent public servants, or they might be incompetent fools. They might do their work as they are supposed to, or they might require the illegal payment of bribes before they do what they should. A jurisdiction might pass laws about restaurant sanitation, but the bureaucrats who do the inspections might be incompetent, corrupt, or both.


There are also laws such as constitutions or charters that specifically limit what authority a jurisdiction has. The US Constitution limits some functions to the Federal government, and reserves other functions to the states or the people themselves. In modern times, most of those limits are blatantly ignored by the use of the weakest, flimsiest excuses. A recent example is Federal taxes on people who don't buy healthcare insurance. It is true that most constitutions and charters both define structures of government as well as setting limits on them, those are two separate things.


And far too often, when the bureaucrats responsible for carrying out the provisions of the laws are incompetent, corrupt, or both, it is because their jobs were obtained as a result of political patronage.