Author Topic: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation  (Read 5502 times)

Jim_Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #30 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..
 
Jim Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #31 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.   

 
 
« Last Edit: October 13, 2012, 03:10:53 AM by Jim_Krauser »
Jim Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #32 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

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #33 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.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 05:54:45 PM by readselerttoo »

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #34 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.


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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #35 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?   
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 09:29:03 PM by Jim_Krauser »
Jim Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #36 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.

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #37 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 

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #38 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?
« Last Edit: October 13, 2012, 03:06:01 AM by Jim_Krauser »
Jim Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #39 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.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2012, 03:02:07 AM by Jim_Krauser »
Jim Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #40 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
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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #41 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?
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Scott6

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #42 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.

Jim_Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #43 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.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2012, 11:34:56 AM by Jim_Krauser »
Jim Krauser

Pastor-Grace Evang. Lutheran Church, North Bellmore, NY

gerrybraunschweig

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #44 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???

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