Journal of Religious Ethics 20 (1):93 - 110 (1992)

A close reading of Luther's treatise on "Temporal Authority" and a review of the most pertinent Luther scholarship show why Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms remains notoriously difficult to interpret. Reinhold Niebuhr's criticism of Luther in "The Nature and Destiny of Man" is representative of widespread discontent with Luther's argument, but Niebuhr misses the soteriological point of Luther's distinction between the two kingdoms and the significance of salvation for life in society. Ironically, Niebuhr must cite Luther in such a way as to confuse the kingdoms in order to support his charge that Luther's position leads to "quietism" and "defeatism.".
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