***ROUGHLY EDITED TRANSCRIPT*** CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY EDUCATION NETWORK DOGMATICS 4 DR. JOEL D. BIERMANN SEGMENT NOS. 1 THROUGH 10 No. 1. >> Hello, Professor Biermann. Thank you for being so willing to dialogue with us. I'm looking forward to our conversation. So here is my opening question: Many of my people listen to James Kennedy and James Dobson and begin to think that America is somehow God's chosen land. Is there anything wrong with that? And what's the best way to understand the proper relationship between the church and the government? >>DR. JOEL D. BIERMANN: Oh, man, David, you ask a very loaded question. It's a great way to get started. There's obviously a lot involved in the question. There's no quick, simple answer. So I'm going to try to start by giving you a little background. And hopefully eventually I get back around to your question and give you a straight answer. Because I know that's what you're looking for. Probably the best way to start, just kind of unpacking the whole relationship between God and the government and the church and the state is by backing up a little bit and thinking about what are we trying to understand as we approach this. And I think personally one of the best ways to get at this is by looking at what Luther gives us in his writing. Some people have called this Luther's Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which is a little misleading on a couple of levels. One reason it's misleading is Luther never really called it a doctrine. And it's never ever broken down as a particular locus or division of doctrine in Lutheran theology. But there is clearly this way that Luther understood how God works in this world. And he made a big distinction between what God does according to his left hand and what God does according to his right hand. And so the key here is understanding what's God doing in the world. And how God work. And what Luther recognized was God has two very distinct ways of operating in the world. And with two ways of carrying this work out almost with two different goals. You might actually visualize as you think about this two columns. And kind of think about a chalkboard with a line right down the middle. And on the left hand column will have God's left hand. And on the right hand column, God's right hand. Well, the right hand is the hand of blessing. And so Luther always associated the right hand realm or the right hand area of activity, that's kind of how we're translating this German word. And there's a reason for avoiding the word kingdom. But I'll get into that maybe a little later. But we'll talk about God's realm or area of activity. So the right hand realm or area of activity is the realm of blessing. This is where God is giving us the good news, the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins kind of stuff. The left hand area is the area of God's control or governance or protection. So let's kind of break it down this way. Let's talk about the right hand. We're more familiar with that. In the right hand we're interested in the forgiveness of sins. We're interested in delivering perfect peace which God gives to his people through the forgiveness of sins. In the right hand we're interested in establishing a right relationship between God and people. That's what it's all about. Now, in the left hand realm, what are we interested in? There we're interested in essentially crime and punishment. Stopping criminal activity. Thwarting the spread of evil. Restraining what is wicked. So in the left hand the goal is working toward peace, trying to establish peace in this world. The real goal of the left hand realm is good relationships among people. People being able to live in safety. People being able to work together. People being able to not be afraid. Being able to keep their property, keep their life. Basically living in safety. The goal of the left hand realm is justice among people. And so the goals are very different. The left hand, of course, enforces its activity with the sword. Romans 13. Paul teaches us that God has not given the sword in vain. So the government, the left hand realm, has the sword. It enforces the spread of justice. When somebody steps out of line, there's punishment. And that's how things operate in the left hand realm. It's supposed to be that way. In the right hand realm, no sword. All you have is God's Word coming. And by all appearances, the right hand realm appears to be very weak, very humble. It operates by speaking. By delivering grace through sacraments. It doesn't seem very strong. And yet the right hand realm is where God is doing powerful work even as he's doing powerful work in the left hand realm through his different ways of operating. In the right hand realm God works mostly through the church. And so the church is the area of activity where God is people making right with God. That's the No. 1 goal. So God wants to establish a right relationship between himself and his people. We talk about that often as the vertical relationship between me and God. So I think about my relationship with God. And in the church I hear the forgiveness of sins. I hear the good news that I am right with God. And the church is there to deliver that Word to had me. In the left hand realm, I think primarily about the horizontal relationship, me and other people around me. And how I get along with them and my responsibilities to them. There what I'm interested in is establishing right relationships, living justly with people, giving them what I owe them and them taking care me. And so we have two different ways of operating between the vertical realm and the horizontal realm. The vertical realm is the right hand realm. And the horizontal realm is where the left hand is operating. So we have two very different ways of functioning. When you think about it then, in the right hand realm, the Gospel runs the show. It's all about forgiveness of sins. It's all about receiving what I don't deserve. It's all about God simply giving gifts. In the left hand realm, it's going to sound odd but it's true, the law runs the show. It's all about the law. What I owe others. What they owe me. How things operate. And that's how it works. Now, the problem with a guy like Kennedy or Dobson is that they are confusing the two realms mightly. They seem to think that what God is doing here is what -- in the right hand realm is also applying to the left hand realm. And somehow what we do in the left hand realm makes us right in the right hand realm. And it kind of all gets run together. God's country. God's church. And so you have God, America, apple pie and Chevrolet. And it all gets run together. And it's this is what it means to be American. And it creates a lot of confusion. Because we begin to think as America goes, so goes my Christian faith. And if things are going rocky in America, Christianity seems up for grabs and creates lots of problems. They are two different realities. The one reality of my relationship with God. The other reality of my responsibilities to others. And we don't want to run them together and confuse them into one big mess. So in a word there is a big problem with trying to kind of say that this is God's chosen land. Because what about all the other countries where God is working with the sword, accomplishing his purpose in the left hand realm? We don't want to ally them into one mixed-up mess of the left and the right being together. So you've gotten us off to a great start, David. And I'm looking forward to going a little further with this. And I'm sure you'll have some more questions to get us into that.