A Confusion of Kingdoms

Lutherans make a distinction between the “left-hand” kingdom and the “right-hand” kingdom and for good reason. God rules the civil realm (Kingdom of Power) by the sword, and He rules in the Church (the Kingdom of Grace) by His Word and Gospel. These two kingdoms are confused when the civil government acts like the Church in showing mercy and forgiveness to criminals rather than punishing them and when the Church acts like the civil government and rules by power and force. The duty of the civil kingdom is to reward those who do well and to punish the evil doer.

Rom 13:4 “for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

The Church on the other hand must be a place of forgiveness and mercy.

This is an extremely helpful distinction, I think, especially when speaking of current affairs. Some people today (including close friends of mine) do not like the fact that the United States and Israel are waging war against terrorists, because innocent people are being hurt by this. They think that we need to “cool off” a bit, and let the diplomats go to work. Israel and the U.S. (and the U.K. I might add) are looked at as the “evildoers” rather than the ones who actually picked these fights to begin with (e.g. Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda Terrorists). This is a confusion of the kingdoms I think. I think it is entirely within the bounds of the catholic Faith to support the work of those who are “ministers of God’s wrath” for those who do wrong and who wish to bring disorder and chaos to the world. Our President and other world leaders are not called to show mercy towards wanton killers, but to bring them to justice. That is their divinely established Office. Meanwhile, the Church, God’s Kingdom of Grace, should pray for all our enemies, for our fellow Christians who are suffering as a result of the military engagements, and give thanks to God for leaders who are not afraid to confront these killers.

As a pastor, my duty is not to rule by power or force but to preach the Word of God. My duty is to bestow forgiveness upon those who repent of their sins, and to withhold forgiveness from those who do not repent. My duty is to feed the sheep of Christ, and to pray for everyone. The duty of a President, however, is to secure the protection of our nation and its people. His office demands that those who would threaten our national security are brought to justice so that they are not allowed to thrive. The reason that there is conflict still today in the Lebanon area is that the Muslim extremists have never been dealt with the way that they ought.

I have no problem theologically with what our country and with what Israel is doing in response to a 30 year history of terrorist attacks. What other options do we have? You cannot bargain with men who use women and children as shields, and who strap bombs to their children and teach them to hate the West, and, I might add, Christians. They must be dealt with according to the full severity of the Law and Justice. War is hell, no doubt about it. But some wars must be fought so that people do not have to live in fear. Remember, Hitler and Stalin were saying some of the same things as these terrorist leaders.

Final thought: Let the Church be the Church—a place of refuge for sinners; and let the civil government be the civil government—“ministers of God’s wrath on the evildoer.”

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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19 Responses to A Confusion of Kingdoms

  1. Fr. Gregory Hogg says:

    Pr. Beisel, let me ask you a few questions.

    1. Who occupied the land of Palestine prior to the mid-1940’s?

    2. How did they come to lose that land?

    3. What tactics were employed by those who took possession of the land?

    4. How much were the original landowners compensated for the loss of their property?

    5. And were you aware that a number of those previous inhabitants were Christians?

  2. Pastor Beisel says:

    Are you implying that there is nothing wrong with people strapping bombs to themselves and their children, shooting rockets into another territory, and kidnapping soldiers, common tactics of Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists?

    Look, I really don’t care about the land, nor do I think that it somehow by divine mandate belongs to Israel. The true Israel of God, the true royal priesthood are the Baptized, obviously. And the true Jerusalem is that Jerusalem from above. What I care about is killers being brought to justice. Are you not concerned about that?

  3. Rev. Shane Cota says:

    Padre,

    Not to be nasty, but if you are concerned about killers being brought to justice, then how about Israeli killers? Fr. Gregory is correct in pointing out the background of how modern Israel came to possess the land it is now on. If you study the history, you’ll see that they have no more right to that land than the Palestinians (Israeli terrorism against them goes back more than 50 years). Israel is not considered a terrorist state because they have been “recognized.” How Orwellian. Israel is not some great friend of ours. They assasinate people. They persecute Christians in their own country and elsewhere. They send spies to our country. Great pals, they.

    This is no defense of the murdering tactics of the other side. Yet, you have to understand history and what Israel has done to the Palestinians. What are they supposed to do? Israel has the might of the U.S. behind them. The Palestinians know who’s providing all that stuff to Israel. They don’t hate America because we have “freedom” and “democracy” but because we have supported Israel’s terrorism against them.

    We would have done well to have stayed out of all this from the beginning. We wouldn’t be the target of terrorism if we didn’t go butting into everyone else’s business.

    You’ve been listening to too many Zionist Republicans like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter (I know you’re not a Zionist). Just because they are “conservative” doesn’t mean everything they say is right. Nor, am I saying we ought to support terrorism, whether it be Palestinian or Israeli. Just realize that Israel is part of the origin of this problem. They are not the innocent “victim.”

    P.S. Maybe if you support Israel enough, Pat Robertson will let you in on how to leg press 2000 pounds. 😉

  4. Rev. Shane Cota says:

    By the way, I don’t want any of my comments above to be construed as any kind of support for Islam or Islamic terrorists. I have absolutely no sympathy with them, I just see Israel as no kind of ally either. My main concern is for the Christian Palestinians who suffer under both the Muslims and the Israelis. The Islamic terrorists must be dealt with, but that doesn’t mean Israel has to be our “buddy.”

  5. Pastor Beisel says:

    I’m not going to argue these points any further, because I can see where it will go. However, I will say that I just don’t believe that we would not be targeted by terrorists if we were isolationists. That’s what they would like us to believe. And then two years will go by and boom, a tanker will get blown up. And then another two years, and some soldiers will get kidnapped, and so on. This is how they operate.

  6. Petersen says:

    As to whether or not current foreign policies are wise or not is a matter of opinion. Pr. Beisel seems to think they are wise, that they will serve to protect the innocent and punish those who do evil. It is possible that some Christians will disagree with that assessment and suggest that our current policies are actually foolish and will not serve those aims. But if I understand Pr. Beisel correctly his point is that while the policy may or may not be wise it is not immoral and the government has the God-given right to use violence for the protection of its citizens.

  7. SRC says:

    I am not disagreeing with the God-given right for a government to use violence for the protection of its citizens. I am disagreeing with the morality of favoring Israel at the expense of Palestinians (particularly the Christians).

    I understand the threat of Islamic terrorism. And I do not think we can go back and undo what has brought us to this point (by suddenly becoming isolationists).

    If you really want to be serious about getting rid of the Islamic threat to the West, then this is what needs to be done:

    1) Europe and North America need to deport every last Muslim.

    2) All Islamic countries need to be bombed into the stone age (without worrying about what happens to Israel).

    What we’re doing are a bunch of ridiculous “half-measures” that are never going to solve the problem. If the Lord allows the temporal world to continue, Islam is going to overrun the West for these reasons:

    1) The West is too paralyzed by political correctness to do anything about Islam as a religion, having bought into all the “religion of peace” nonsense and thinks it can go on with Muslims in its midst.

    2) Demographically the West is making itself extinct. We have become a prissy, self-centered, neurotic, “pleasure uber alles,” child murdering culture. We don’t have kids and the Muslims do. All they have to do is wait us out, and we’ll be gone.

    Given all that, maybe an Islamic takeover wouldn’t be so bad. Abortion would be stopped. Christianity might actually get serious. All the fluffy, fruitcake versions of Christianity would disappear in an instant. Yet, I certainly don’t want Islam running over the West. Norwich’s three volumes on the history of Byzantium show you where that leads.

    Lord, have mercy.

  8. Petersen says:

    When governments engage in war they always favor some countries over others. It is not immoral for the US to favor Israel over Palestine any more than it is immoral for America to favor England over France. It might, however, be very foolish. And it is wrong when Christians argue that the modern nation-state Israel is God’s chosen vessel.

  9. Pastor Beisel says:

    Shane,

    I’ll admit certainly that I do not know the history of these conflicts as well as you. In fact, it has only been in recent years that I have actually learned anything about current affairs, and to be quite honest, I do find much of what conservative talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, et. al. to simply make sense. Common sense. It is not a bunch of intellectual jargon. It is simple, common sense. I don’t listen to them for their theological acumen, but simply to hear the other-usually-under-reported side of the news.

    But don’t pull that “Orwellian” crap on me 🙂 Honestly, then we can never make the case that we rightfully belong here in the U.S. because we (GASP!) “stole” the land from the native Americans (and we all know how peace-loving and friendly they were…see history of Aztecs and Incas).

    Anyway, I always love a spirited discussion of these things. But it is funny to read some of the comments. I may watch Fox News too much and listen to Rush too much, but I hear Dan Rather and Katie Couric coming through loud and clear through the rest of the comments! (With a wink and a smile, of course).

  10. Rev. Shane Cota says:

    Ok Paul,

    I am not opposed to taking land from people from whom you have conquered it. I have no problem at all, if they had it coming (like those who practiced human sacrifice).

    All I’m really saying, when it boils down to it, is there is no reason at all to support Israel. And that’s all I have to say about that (to quote Forrest Gump).

    I’m with you when it comes to the Islamo-fascists, but I have no sympathy with Israel. We were nuts to give them the bomb.

    If you want to support a Christian persecuting and US spying state, then go right ahead. But just think, Saddam actually allowed more civil rights than Israel does. At least he allowed Christians on his cabinet. Can you say that about your beloved Israel?

    Again, if you want to wipe out Islam, great. But do it right.

  11. Pastor Beisel says:

    Ultimately this is about the West vs. Islamic Terrorism, when you boil it down to it. If you look at it that way, then on a purely left-hand kingdom level, one could plausibly support other countries who are in conflict with Islamic Terrorists, even a Christian-killing Israel.

    I guess the point of my original post was that Christians are not obligated to be pacifists. We recognize the right use of force by the government. And I don’t see you disagreeing with that.

  12. borther-in-law says:

    Uh, src,

    You can’t bomb all islamic countries back to the stone age because there would be no place left to deport “every last” Muslim.

    That is not a “serious” solution.

    Pete

  13. SRC says:

    What I am saying is to deport them, AND then blow them to the stone age! 😉

  14. Fr. Gregory Hogg says:

    Pr. Beisel, you wrote:
    Ultimately this is about the West vs. Islamic Terrorism, when you boil it down to it. If you look at it that way, then on a purely left-hand kingdom level, one could plausibly support other countries who are in conflict with Islamic Terrorists, even a Christian-killing Israel.

    Rx: Have you answered the simple questions addressed to you some days ago, concerning whose the land in question was, and how it was obtained?

  15. Pastor Beisel says:

    Rx: Have you answered the simple questions addressed to you some days ago, concerning whose the land in question was, and how it was obtained?

    Why don’t you just put the answers down yourself, since you obviously asked the questions to make a point. Make your point. And then tell me why it is relevant to the discussion. I’ll listen.

  16. Fr Gregory Hogg says:

    You seem to say we ought to support Israel, despite the fact that it is now actively engaged in killing Lebanese Christians. I guess I wonder whether, before you say such things are ok (“one could plausibly support other countries who are in conflict with Islamic Terrorists, even a Christian-killing Israel”), you might wish to do a little research.

  17. Pastor Beisel says:

    So, you’re saying I shouldn’t feel sorry for Israel, I think. Perhaps you are right. Of course, it is not Lebanese Christians who are kidnapping Israeli soldiers and shooting rockets across the borders. My point was that on a *purely secular level* I can understand why the U.S. would support Israel against Hezbollah, although, by the looks of it, the U.S. seems just as eager as a cease fire as the U.N., which I find kind of hypocritical. The U.S. has the right to take military measures against Al-Qaeda, but Israel doesn’t? Doesn’t seem to mesh. But you’re right, I shouldn’t speak out of ignorance.

  18. Whey Lay says:

    How countries interact with one another is completly within the realm of the Kingdom of Power, and subsequently ordained by God. I have to admit my bias in that I believe that wars are acts of God. Yes they are ultimatly consumated by man, but still acts of God, just like hurricanes and earthquakes.
    Isreal is taking action in Lebanon against a non state entity that Lebanon can not control or resist. The firing of one rocket would justify action, to do what Lebanon cannot.
    My personal theology does not stand or fall on the existance of the state of Isreal, (I’m not a disponsationalist) and I am not neccesarily a supporter, but it is a country that exists and is recognized by the majority of the players in the Kingdom of Power, via the UN and community of nations.
    The confusion that we Christians in America have is that since we exist in a democracy, we realise that we are our own rulers and thus subject to judgment by God on how we conduct our national affairs in the Kingdom of Power through our participation in the democratic process. I say, “Each person vote their conscience as a Christian, and leave the rest to God.”
    In regards to Fr. Hogg’s questions and concerns of the killing of Lebonese Christian by Isreal.
    Yes, Christians are going to die, along with everyone else in the world. The killing of Christians by a nation does not automatically disqualifiy its intentions. If this was the case then the proclaimed Christian nations engaged in WWI that hurried to pick up the most modern weapons to slaughter one another were all unjust.
    With that said, the plight of Middle Eastern Christians is great. Our lack of concern and support as American Christians will undoubtedly bring judgement upon us all. May the blood of Christ cover us in this, for if our Palestinian or Lebonese Christian brothers are not the least of us, I don’t know who is. I would ask that any who read this find some way, through aid relief and prayers, to support these brothers and sisters under the Cross.
    For me, God has provided the opportunity to help support a Palestinian woman travelling to America this year to studying via our districts Parish nursing program.
    Why is not the plight of Middle Eastern Christians more prevalent in the “mainstream Christian news outlets”, (700 club, Focus, Mattox ect)? I have my suspicions that the equation goes something like this, since they are most likely Eastern Orthodox, EO = Roman Catholic = not really Christian, which means < disponsational Isreal. But this is another discussion.
    Peace

  19. Kirby Olson says:

    I really enjoyed reading the original post here! Finally, some sense!

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