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Legitimacy of Secular Authority Among Calvin, Luther and Muntzer - Essay Example

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The Limits of Secular Authority: Luther and Calvin Introduction In Luke’s Gospel, mention is made of two swords as Christ was presiding at the Passover supper with his disciples in attendance. These two swords were presented to him by his disciples after one of his enigmatic lectures that advices the sale of one’s garments in order to own a sword…
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Legitimacy of Secular Authority Among Calvin, Luther and Muntzer
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Download file to see previous pages Several centuries later, Martin Luther wrote the book On Secular Authority, whose very principles are said to be the foundation of the principle of the separation of the Church and State. Luther crafted the doctrine of the two kingdoms or the theory that God wields authority in two ways: one through the laws, and; two, through the Gospel. Hard on the heels of the Lutheran Reformation was Calvinism, which was founded by John Calvin. Echoing Luther, Calvin believes that mankind is under two kinds of government, the spiritual and the secular. In the last chapter of Book V of his book Institutions, Calvin essays the role, duties and functions of secular authority. While both men acknowledge the importance of secular authority to maintain order in society, Luther cautions it from encroaching into the business of the spiritual on the ground that secular power carries no importance in the eyes of God and is confined to a kingdom separate from that of God. Calvin, on the other hand, believes that there is no sense in severing God’s laws from manmade laws considering that to do so is to ignore the ascendancy of God’s law. In this respect, it is fundamental upon secular authority to enforce God’s laws as well. ...
Since Frederick was entitled to a vote in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor, Luther was almost untouchable (Noble et al 392). This call for help for secular support was not however, an easy decision for Luther and gave his writings dimensions not found in other reformists before him. Thus, although he ascribed to secular authority divinity to which people owed obedience to, he was quick to qualify this divinity as exclusive of the obligation to establish and maintain true religion (Estes 356). Prior to seeking support from secular authorities, however, Luther appealed to popes and bishops to spearhead the reform movement, believing that the responsibility belong to them although he opined that such personalities had no special authority to rule the church. Failing to get their support, Luther turned his attention to the German princes (Estes 356). In his works Treatise on Good Works and On the Papacy in Rome, Luther approaches the idea of secular authority with respect even attributing it the characteristic of being a divine institution. He qualifies however, that secular authority’s jurisdiction only applies to temporal matters and the punishment of violation of the second table of the Decalogue such as murder, theft, adultery, and the like. Nonetheless, Luther believes that there are situations in which secular authorities may have ascendancy over members of the clergy, such as when a clergyman commits a crime. Matters pertaining to preaching the Gospel and giving absolution are however, beyond the authority of secular powers. However, property and property rights may be conceded by secular authorities, which exercise power over them, to members of the clergy (Estes 362). In Treatise, Luther defends the right of the secular authority to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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