Lutheran Theology and Secular Law: The Work of the Modern State, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Lutheran Theology and Secular Law

The Work of the Modern State, 1st Edition

Edited by Marie A. Failinger, Ronald W. Duty


190 pages

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pub: 2018-04-19
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This collection brings together lawyers and theologians in the U.S. and Europe to reflect on Lutheran understandings of the political use of the law by secular governments. The book furthers the intellectual conversation about how Lutheran insights can be used to develop jurisprudence and specific solutions to legal issues in which there is strong conflict. It presents the basic theological and interpretive assumptions of the Lutheran tradition as they may inform the creation of legislation and judicial interpretation at local, national and international levels. The authors explore Luther’s conception of the foundations of modern secular law and understanding of vocation. The work discusses the application of Lutheran theological principles to contemporary issues such as the war on terror, native land rights, property law, family law, church and state, medical experimentation, and the criminal law of rape, providing ethical insights for lawyers and lawmakers.


'Important contemporary voices from the fields of religion and law demonstrate the many intersections of spiritual and political from a specifically Lutheran perspective. The book significantly develops Lutheran understanding of two kingdoms and swords and directs the focus from "faith as a gift" passivity to "love-as-responsibility" action in the increasingly complex areas of legislation and ethics, where Lutheran theological voice has agency – as aptly proven by these engaging authors.'

Kirsi Stjerna, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, USA

'The relation between law and religion is both ancient and yet also remarkably contemporary. From the legal systems and cultic practices of long past societies to our contemporary world of global interactions, how law is understood in relation to religious beliefs and practices continues shape human life. In this volume, Marie A. Failinger and Ronald W. Duty have brought together internationally renowned thinkers to explore this relation within Lutheran understandings of the use of the law in secular politics. The book examines Martin Luther’s understanding of the foundations of secular law and vocation in relation to areas ranging from international law to the individual and the state and also domestic law, to name a few. I highly recommend this work for those interested in Lutheran Theology and Law, but also, and more importantly, anyone who wants to think deeply about the relation of law and religion in our turbulent age.'

William Schweiker, The University of Chicago, USA

'This book represents an important contribution to law and religion scholarship. Its impressive essays help fill a significant lacuna in the field but, more than that, they stimulate us to reconsider how Lutheran insights and analysis may illuminate, and hence assist us in tackling, modern problems of conscience and the bounds of law.'

Rex Ahdar, University of Otago, New Zealand

`The essays in ` Lutheran Theology and Secular Law’ make an excellent addition to this body of work. In the words of the editors, legal scholar Marie Failing and theologian Ronald Duty, the collection "gives glimpses" into how the "important insights and points of view" in the Lutheran heritage "may address a range of public issues to inform those who shape or practice law." Indeed the essays are wide-ranging and uniformly thought-provoking; I can give only a hint here of their richness.'

Thomas C. Berg, Modern Theology 0:0 Month 2019

Table of Contents

Part I: Our Secular Age

1. The Contribution of Law to the Secularization of Politics: Impulses from Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Regimes - Stefan Heuser

Part II: Lutheran theology and legal philosophy

2. Legal Positivism in Lutheran Ethics - Carl-Henric Grenholm

3. Antinomianism: The "Lutheran" Heresy - Paul R. Hinlicky

Part III: The Individual and the State

4. Separability as Distinction: The Individual Subject of the Civil Law - Michael J. Kessler

5. Luther and Machiavelli: The Human Subject, Religion and the State - Michael Reid Trice

6. Luther’s Two Strategies and Political Advocacy: Law, Righteousness, Reason, Will and Works in their Civil Use - Craig L. Nessan

7. A Case for Toleration: Religious Exemptions, Conscientious Objection, and the Public Good - H. David Baer

Part IV. International Law and Human Rights

8. Liberation, Law and Proleptic Dignity - Ted Peters

9. U.S. War-culture, The Post-9/11 "Unlawful Alien Combatant," and "Peace in God’s World" - Kelly Denton-Borhaug; Part V: Domestic Legal Issues

10. Economic Justice and the Seventh Commandment: Reformation-era Insights - Mary Jane Haemig

11. The Doctrine of Discovery in American Indian Law: A Lutheran Theological Critique - Ronald W. Duty

12. For the Woman Who Yelled "Fire!" in my Backyard: Rape Law and Lutheran Theology - Mary J. Streufert

13. Re-creating the Law of the Family: A Lutheran Perspective - Marie A. Failinger and Patrick R. Keifert

Part VI: Professionals, Law and Neighbor-Love

14. Professional Responsibility, Informed Consent and Neighbor Love in Cancer Trials: Theological, Ethical and Legal Dimensions - Deanna A. Thompson

15. Role Morality, Dirty Hands and the Theology of Vocation - W. Bradley Wendel

About the Editors


Ronald Duty

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

Learn more about Ronald Duty >>

Marie A. Failinger is a Professor of Law at Mitchell Hamline University School of Law. She was editor in chief of the Journal of Law and Religion from 1988 to 2013, and has published dozens of law review and other articles, including several on Lutheran theology and law. She is also a co-editor of Feminism, Law and Religion (2013), On Secular Governance (2016); and The Poverty Law Canon (2016).

Dr. Ronald W. Duty served as Assistant Director of Studies at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Among his published works are chapters in Testing the Spirits (Eerdmans, ed. Patrick Keifert 2009) and On Secular Governance (Eerdmans, eds. Ronald W. Duty and Marie A. Failinger, 2016) and articles in The Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, dialog, The Journal of Lutheran Ethics, and Word & World.

About the Series

ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

The ICLARS Series on Law and Religion is designed to provide a forum for the rapidly expanding field of research in law and religion. The series is published in association with the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, an international network of scholars and experts of law and religion founded in 2007 with the aim of providing a place where information, data and opinions can easily be exchanged among members and made available to the broader scientific community ( The series aims to become a primary source for students and scholars while presenting authors with a valuable means to reach a wide and growing readership.

The series editors are currently welcoming proposals for this new series on any matter falling under ‘law and religion’ widely defined. Collections arising from important conferences and events are welcome as well as monographs by both established names and new voices (including monographs based on doctoral dissertations). Also of interest are interdisciplinary works and studies of particular jurisdictions.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Comparative
LAW / Constitutional
LAW / Ethics & Professional Responsibility
LAW / Jurisprudence
RELIGION / Comparative Religion
RELIGION / History
RELIGION / Philosophy
RELIGION / Christianity / Lutheran