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The Two Kingdoms

What Are They and How Should We Understand Them Today?

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While the nomenclature ‘Two Kingdoms’ is of relatively recent origin and Luther scholars often debate whether the language of two governments or two realms might be more appropriate, the fact of the matter remains that from the Holy Scriptures we know that the triune God is at work with both hands in the world He created,” write editors Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless. Their new book, One Lord, Two Hands?: Essays on the Theology of the Two Kingdoms, discusses the Lutheran perspective on the two kingdoms, its foundation during the Lutheran Reformation, and the implications for doctrine and practice.

Harrison and Pless write, The Lutheran teaching of the two kingdoms is not a stand-alone piece. In one way or another it touches on every article of faith from creation to eschatology. It is critical to vocation as the Christian navigates life in this world as one who is simultaneously a citizen of the heavenly kingdom through faith in Christ Jesus.” One Lord, Two Hands? is a perfect resource for Lutherans to reference for questions regarding church and state. It provides readers with a sound, accessible, and current perspective into these ideas, alongside references to the works of Martin Luther.

For more information on One Lord, Two Hands?: Essays on the Theology of the Two Kingdoms, or to order the book, please visit, or contact Lindsey Scheetz, Public Relations, by email at

Praise for One Lord, Two Hands?

Current North American Christianity, whether inspired by the Marxist left or the Evangelical right, tends to politicize the Gospel, and so obfuscates both the Gospel’s purity and the integrity of Christian social responsibility. One Lord, Two Hands? is a one-stop resource that offers a Lutheran theology of politics that neither caves to a secular “naked public square” nor cavorts with a Reformed tendency to Christianize each inch of culture as if God were not already ruling there. Eschewing both quietism and fanaticism, Lutherans enter the public arena, aware of God’s “left hand” in which He provides order to a potentially chaotic world and His “right hand” which imparts the life-giving Good News. This book is must-reading for anyone interested in how Christians should engage wider culture.

Mark Mattes—LBI Chair in Bible and Theology, Grand View University, Des Moines, IA

The authors need to be commended for compiling this valuable sourcebook of significant writings on the two kingdoms from notable theologians past and present. The temptation in today’s pluralistic world is to reject faith in God in favor of the idea of the autonomous individual and to accept the utopian idea of the present world as the place for ultimate happiness. In this situation, the Lutheran theology of the two kingdoms is the indispensable means of orientation which Christians must again and again employ when considering their role and action in the world.

Hans Schwarz—Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, University of Regensburg

What a wonderful collection of scholarly writings on one of Lutheranism’s great contributions to social thought: the teaching on the two ways—Law and Gospel—that God relates to the world. This important distinction resists political messianism on the one hand and subversion of the radicality and universality of the Gospel on the other. The modern world, with its pseudo-religions and deafness to the Gospel, sorely needs such teaching. Thanks to President Harrison and Professor Pless for providing us with these important writings.

Robert Benne—Professor of Christian Ethics, the Institute of Lutheran Theology, Brookings, SD

As American culture moves beyond any semblance of civic Christianity, the question of how to relate church and state has become a pressing one for all Christians. The Lutheran Church has a rich tradition of reflection on this issue, and yet has often been misunderstood both by non-Lutherans and even by Lutherans themselves. The collection of classic essays in this volume offers a panoramic view of the various nuances in the Lutheran approach to two kingdoms and an excellent starting point for contemporary discussions of religion, politics, and how the two can be related to each other. A very useful addition to the literature on this important subject.

Carl R. Trueman—Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, Grove City College, Grove City, PA

As a theologian who has one foot in the late twentieth century and one in the twenty-first century, I see the collection of papers on the topic as fundamental and necessary. First, the texts lead us to look at the past because we can read the best that was written when seeking to understand the “doctrine of the two kingdoms” in Martin Luther’s theology around the first half of the twentieth century. Second, we are urged to continue the reflection with texts that lead us to look forward in the light of what was written at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Therefore, at the present time, the work is unique and deserves our full attention.

Clóvis Jair Prunzel—Seminário Concórdia and ULBRA, Brazil

One Lord, Two Hands? provides Lutherans with a fresh and faithful theological consideration of the relationship between church and state. In a day rife with simplistic political sound bites, this compendium provides us with a sound theological and pastoral approach to the believer’s relationship to government as well as issues confronting Christians in this society. Harrison and Pless have collected essays demonstrating profound scholarship on Luther’s teaching on the two kingdoms, practical application of that teaching related to civil affairs today, and deep pastoral care for the people of God. This volume is an invaluable, truly Lutheran approach to being a faithful Christian and an honorable citizen today.

Joshua C. Miller—Pastor, Jehovah Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN

After Harrison and Pless’s work on this volume, the doctrine of the two kingdoms can no longer be seen as distant, diffuse, or inaccessible. This essay collection is broad and extensive, providing the reader every opportunity to explore the depths of this Lutheran doctrine. And a rich discussion of how God governs both the right- and left-hand kingdoms could not be more timely.

Jacob Corzine—Associate Professor of Theology, Concordia University Chicago

The editors are to be congratulated in assembling a first-rate collection of articles on this most important of topics. The two-kingdoms doctrine is a specifically Lutheran teaching first enunciated by Martin Luther and the Lutheran Confessions on the basis of Scripture. However, it is often misunderstood today even by Lutherans. These essays will stimulate and guide all readers, especially pastors, students, and informed laity, as they grapple with the correct way to understand this key Lutheran teaching.

Jeffrey Silcock—Australian Lutheran College/University of Divinity, North Adelaide, Australia

About the Editors

Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Before becoming Synod president, Harrison served for nine years as the executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. In addition to his presidential duties, he is a prodigious theologian and scholar, authoring, translating, or editing numerous articles, pamphlets, and books of contemporary and classic Lutheran theology.

John T. Pless is assistant professor of pastoral ministry and missions, as well as director of field education, at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.