Religion & Liberty Online

Political idolatry: A Lutheran view

Is faith in politics “another Gospel”? A distinguished Lutheran scholar has weighed in on the matter, clearly delineating a Christian’s duty as a citizen from his duty to the Christ and his fellow body of believers.

Gene Veith, the noted professor, provost, and editor, weighs in on the topic after taking notice of Acton’s article on President Trump’s recent “King of Israel” controversy.

In his blogat Patheos, Veith shares insights gleaned from Lutheranism’s traditional “Two Kingdoms” theology.

“The state’s purview is the first use of the Law, curbing external sin by means of lawful magistrates, rewards, and punishments, though such external and coerced obedience can never make a person internally righteous,” he writes. Justification comes from the church’s proclamation (and belief in) the Gospel.

“It is not necessarily idolatry for Christians to work through the existing governmental systems to do so, even though this may involve certain compromises with the governing authorities,” he adds. “But it is idolatry if we put our faith in them.”

He then quotes Martin Luther’s discussion of the First Commandment from his Large Catechism. The heart of the quotation comes as Luther describes idolatry.

“[T]o have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart,” Luther said. “That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.”

The full, extended quotation – and the rest of Veith’s article – is well worth your time. But this extract makes it clear what Luther would say to Christians who put their faith in the power of any earthly ruler.

Incidentally, his insights pair well with his subsequent blog on how easily how church figures find “God’s will on Brexit.”

Read the whole article here.

(Photo credit: Public domain.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is an Eastern Orthodox priest and served as Executive Editor of the Acton Institute (2016-2021), editing Religion & Liberty, the Powerblog, and its transatlantic website. He has extensively researched the Alt-Right. Previously, he worked for LifeSiteNews and, where he wrote three books including Party of Defeat (with David Horowitz, 2008). His work has appeared at, National Review, The American Spectator, The Guardian, Daily Caller, National Catholic Register, Spectator USA, FEE Online, RealClear Policy, The Blaze, The Stream, American Greatness, Aleteia, Providence Magazine, Charisma, Jewish World Review, Human Events, Intellectual Takeout,, Issues & Insights, The Conservative,, and The American Orthodox Institute. His personal websites are and His views are his own.