First Things: Rehabilitating The “Orders of Creation”

I’ve been critical of the First Things crowd like Matthew Schmitz and Sohrab Ahmari and their Trad Cath version of “post-liberalism.”

I was pleasantly surprised though this morning to find this old essay from thirty years ago by Carl E. Braaten, a leading American Lutheran theologian, which brings up the work of the 19th century German Lutheran conservative theologian Adolf von Harless and his work on the orders of creation. I’m currently reading his book A System of Christian Ethics.

First Things:

“The intent of this essay is a rehabilitation of the Lutheran idea of the “orders of creation.” That might seem to many an impossible task, something like trying to raise the Titanic. It is certainly a dangerous task, because it draws one into an area of Lutheran theological ethics that some German Lutherans under Hitler managed to give a bad reputation and that Karl Barth in fact identified as the rotten core of the Deutsche Christen ideology. It must be fully acknowledged that the idea of the orders of creation played into the hands of the Nazi ideology of Blut und Boden. But the misuse of a Christian belief is insufficient cause to dispense with it. It is difficult to think of any Christian doctrine that has not at some time been subject to misuse. The Fascists of Spain had a fighter plane that bore the insignia “Christ the King.” If misuse were the criterion of elimination, the whole of Christian dogmatics would have to be abolished.

My purpose is to show how the doctrine of the orders of creation can be revised and why in fact it is necessary to do so. After some preliminary discussion, I will provide a brief sketch of such a revised theology of orders and, finally, offer some observations on the application of that theology to current discussions of the role of the church in society.

The Dutch theologian A. A. van Ruler said in one of his books that sex, politics, and religion are the only subjects worth talking about. Martin Luther would have agreed, for these concerns happen to coincide with Luther’s own threefold division of the orders: status economicus, status politicus, and status ecclesiasticus. Luther collapsed sexual identity and family status into the economic order because the household in the broadest sense was the basic sphere in which people secured all the necessities of livelihood. Whether or not Luther ever explicitly referred to orders of creation (Schopfungsordnungen), he did use a number of related terms, such as ordo, ordo divina, ordo naturalis, ordinatio, ordinatio divina, creatura dei, weltliches Regiment, potestas ordinata, and others. It is clear in any case that those Lutherans who developed an explicit theology of the orders of creation self-consciously drew their basic ideas from Luther.

The modern form of the doctrine of the orders of creation goes back to nineteenth-century German Lutheranism. Adolf von Harless is usually credited with a reaffirmation of a theology of orders, speaking at first not of the orders of creation but of the orders of the Creator. The point of this doctrine is to affirm that Christians, like all other human beings, exist in a framework of universal orders that are there prior to and apart from belief in Christ or membership in the church. In this view, God has placed all human beings in particular structures of life such as nationality, race, sexual identity, family, work, or government that in some form or other are simply givens of creaturely existence. The law and commandments of God are revealed through these common created structures of existence and function apart from and in tension with the special revelation of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This means that there is a double revelation of God, and this duality permeates the whole system of theological categories and lies at the base of the familiar distinctions between God hidden and revealed (deus absconditus et deus revelatus), creation and redemption, law and gospel, the two kingdoms, and so on. …

We are mired in a moral marshland; we have no firm ground under our feet. Having wallowed in this swamp long enough, it may be time to look back to the sturdier traditions of the Lutheran heritage and, rather than condemn or forget them, seek to recuperate and revise them. Thus the following brief sketch of a theology of the orders of creation. …

We may begin with a definition. The orders of creation are the common structures of human existence, the indispensable conditions of the possibility of social life. Through these structures human beings are bound to each other in various relationships and mutual service. Luther said: “You will always be in a station. You are either a husband, wife, son, daughter, servant, or maid. . . . Saint Peter says that the graces and gifts of God are not all of one kind, but various. And each one is to realize what his own are and use them so that he may be of use to others. What a fine thing it would be if everyone took care of his own, while at the same time thereby serving his neighbor. So they would journey amicably together on the right road to heaven.

The orders of creation are givens that can be experienced and recognized by common human reason apart from faith and theology. So Luther could say: “God does not have to have Christians as magistrates; it is not necessary, therefore, that the ruler be a saint; he does not need to be a Christian in order to rule, it is sufficient that he possess reason.” Everyone participates in some way in the political, economic, and familial systems of society and is called upon to contribute to each of them in the service of others.

Those who believe in God acknowledge the common structures of human existence as the creation of God. Reason can discern the orders; only faith can read them as the creation of God. Faith is the presupposition of a theology of the orders of creation. By faith Christians confess “that God has created me and all that exists,” which is something quite different than claiming to know that once upon a time in the far distant past God created the very same structures in which people now participate. The confession of creation must be set free from its bondage to the myth of protological beginnings if that means the reading of the first eleven chapters of Genesis in a literal-historical manner.

Martin Luther himself believed in the orders of creation – state, work and church – which he identified as the structures through which God governs the world. Adolf von Harless identified the principal orders of creation as marriage, family, nation, state, race and economy.

I’ve also been reading up on the history of Lutheran Northern Europe between the time of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Unlike in the Dutch and Anglo world where Calvinism failed to consolidate its control over England and the Netherlands resulting in religious tolerance, Lutheranism developed a close relationship with the state in Germany and Scandinavia.

About Hunter Wallace 9458 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

28 Comments

  1. Okay. That article by First Things irritates me. They are suggesting that Catholic Fascist Spain naming a fighter “Christ the King” is wrong. It is they who are wrong. Frequently Catholic weapons and ships were named after Saints, Mother Mary, and Jesus. It is a long Catholic Tradition. Are not First Things aware of Catholic beliefs and Traditions? These weapons were usually blessed by the Church.

    The 3 ships under Columbus were called—-Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The Santa Maria would be about Mother Mary. Sometimes cannon were named after God, Jesus, or the 12 Apostles.

    How traditional is First Things? Do they attend a Tridentine Mass? Do they massively condemn Francis and other assorted heretics? Are they not aware of our racial laws historically? It pays to mention again just one racial law——The prohibition of one drop of Jewish and Moorish blood in a Jesuit from 1593-1946. Or a Brotherhood in Spain approved by the Pope that could only have members of pure blood. Formed in the 15th century.

    The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary was an Order of Catholic monks that could carry defensive weapons to use. Founded in 1261 I believe.

    Crusades and Crusaders were blessed. The Church’s Traditional position was that if men can be blessed to justifiably kill then so can their weapons in cases against an unusually evil enemy. Like——–Moslems, Communists, and those Republicans in the Civil War. I cannot imagine the Traditional Church ever blessing First Things.

    No one should pretend that First Things represents Traditional Catholic dogmas.

    • You must surely be descended from Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Princess Christina! No doubt you are already aware that it was Fascist/ Catholic Italy which provided the most support to General Franco and the Falangists, not Hitler’s Reich. By the bye, what do you think of the Lateran Treaty of 1929?

      • Spahnranch1969,

        Empress Maria Theresa is one of my favorites in history. Yes the Italian Fascists gave way more soldiers to the cause than Germany. I think the Germans did send Air Force units and other specialists that helped.

        The Italian Fascists were shocked at how ferocious the Spanish were in the war. We ( I am almost pure Spanish by blood not country) frequently nailed to the walls captured communists/republicans caught who had committed atrocities against priests or nuns or women.

        It was reported by some nuns who were raped by those damn Jews that they were being raped for the traditional attitude of the Spanish against the Jews!!!! Jews are sick and do not think like normal humans.

        I support the Lateran Treaty of 1929. It gave Mussolini prestige and gave forth the Pope’s comment in 1929 —” Fascism is Catholicism and that anyone against Fascism is a Bolshevik”.

        Mussolini had weaknesses but he was the most Catholic ruler the country called Italy has ever had. Remember Italy has only been a country since the 1860/1870’s. The nationalists were ex communicated in the 19th century for attacking and conquering the Papal States. Mussolini helped to slightly rectify that.

        I

  2. It’s rich that a CATHOLIC talks about the “Misuse of Christianity.” Let’s talk about forcing South America and the Norwegian countries to convert at the sword. It doesn’t say anything about that in the bible. These papists are just as equivocational as any Jesuit.

    If this snake wants to live in a brown Catholic nation, he has all of South America to reconquista. America is WASP territory. PAPISTS OUT.

    • You’re delusional bud. Catholic countries in Europe both past and present are based AF meanwhile cucked protestant lands such as the UK, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are going to hell. As far as the US is concerned Catholics have been here since the very beginning with heavy French influence in certain parts of the country prior to and after its founding. Now let’s talk about PROTESTANTS.. These are the same people who were burning people alive and drowning people after they were falsely accused and falsely convicted of being witches.

    • Allo Genie, Mary Phagan’s ghost, makepiegreatagain,….

      America WAS a wasp country. Now it’s a polyglot of racial, religious, and cultural diversity due to wasps aligning with jews. They still conspire with jews at this very moment in our dispossession, deplatforming, censorship, great replacement, et al.

      What you arrogantly refer to as “papists” aren’t innocent, but in comparison to to the mofo British and Anglo Saxon Americans they’re toothless tigers.

      In case your neuroses have affected your memory center of your deficiently gyrification and sulcification cerebral hemispheres, I’ll remind that it was papists that discovered the ‘New World.’ American continents are both named after an Italian papist.

      Please enjoy what your haughty, envious, greedy, and treasonous ancestors have brought to bear on the entirety of our dying civilization. You’re reaping what you’ve sown.

      • November,

        You caught that immediately as well. Do not forget the other name –Anglo Saxon Revolt. Could be a different person with the same beliefs and way of doing things but it sure sounds familiar.

        • I believe “Anglo Saxon Revolt” also went under the name of Onceler – which of course is a curious creature from a Dr. Suess book. It is rumored this person escaped from a psychiatric hospital in New Jersey and is the estranged daughter of a prominent mobster from Atlantic City.

          • Spahnranch1969,

            I wish I had your sense of humor. Even my family say I am too serious for a young girl. To me it is war to the hilt. My father just says to relax and that ultimately it will be the men that will solve everything.

            One of my priests says that I should pray as if everything depends on God but act as if everything depends on me.

            I asked my father that I only want a strong man for my husband. He said not to worry. Nothing else would be acceptable.

          • Spahn,

            I don’t know if you’re joking or not about the lineage of Anglo Saxon Revolt OT not, but if true, her poppa is/was a “papist.” To effing funny. Looney tunes.

        • Christina,

          There was another “WASP” username that kept going on about the Romans and the layout of Washington D.C. like one of Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” series of novels.

          • November,

            I do not doubt that. I do not mind if someone criticizes Catholics. I do it myself. All I demand is no one foam at the mouth or assume or pretend to that the way things are now is the way they always have been religiously.

            You and Spahn and Krafty frequently criticize what the Church authorities do. Amusing or respectful comments I like. I love a good debate IF both sides are of good faith.

  3. “Lutheranism developed a close relationship with the state in Germany”

    Indeed. The only circumstances in which the Church — any form of it — has been a benefit rather than a detriment has been when it has become a de facto extension of an explicitly nationalist state, such as was the case in Germany right up till the abdication of the Kaiser, and as it still to some degree the case today in Poland and Hungary. What this really requires, though, is that the state be acknowledged as spiritually sovereign over the Church (counter-intuitive as this may initially seem). The Church must bend the knee to the state and not undermine it. Nationalist state presiding over a nationalist Church, this is the best combination.

    Where it’s a split, and the Church is globalist while the state is nationalist, conflict inevitably ensues (this being one of the reasons why Luther was successful and necessary).

    Conversely, where the state becomes liberal but the Church remains traditionalist (the U.S. in, say, the 1960s, or Poland during the communists), conflict ensues as well, but it’s still better than the alternative, the worst of all possible worlds, which is what we have today…

    … and that is, a liberal state to which the Church adapts to be just as liberal. That is simply hell on earth.

    • Unsurprisingly, I support Der Führer’s take on Luther’s reformation. It caused an admittedly corrupt Catholic hierarchical church to cause religious and political divisions where few or none previously existed.

      The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) which was fought primarily in Central Europe (Germany) as a result of of the schism Luther and Calvin caused.

      In my humble opinion, all the Abrahamic should have gone as extinct as the duck-billed platypus, after the publication and dissemination of Darwin’s “On Origin of Species” in 1859, but obviously and unfortunately, that didn’t occur.

  4. The Church is a civil society institution.

    Starbucks, of all things, promotes a concept of the third space.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Good_Place_(book)

    There is home, and work, and the civil society “third place.”

    The book Bowling Alone described how America’s civil society institutions have been destroyed, although the author of that book couldn’t be honest why – mostly, racial integration. No white people want to hang out at a bowling alley surrounded by loud-talking, possibly violent blacks. Nor do white people want to run a civil society group like, say, a Lions Club only to have to listen to a black constantly whine about “waay-sism.” Add in non-black “diversity” and it just gets worse. Who wants to hang out at a diner where you’re the only one speaking English and they are playing that awful “mariachi” music? White people admire Japanese people, but who wants to be in a club dominated by Japanese?

    American conservatives want “small government” because they understand that government is a blunt tool. Government has the monopoly on violence and should only be used in strictly, narrowly defined cases.

    But humans need more guidance than just criminal law. And that is where the Church, and civil society institutions in general, come in.

    Consider “welfare.” White people hate it when black people get welfare. Blacks love welfare because they consider it their “right” because “waay-sisms” and black people have their own status system. To them, getting welfare from Whitey Government is “winning.”

    So in a conservative state like Utah, the government doesn’t run the welfare system. The Mormon Church runs the welfare system. Mormon men will pay 10% tithe to the Mormon church knowing that if they die, their wives and children will be taken care of by the Church.

    Under the Yang Gang, everyone gets $1000 a month. But what about drunks? They will just drink the money away. But under a Church welfare state, the Church will indeed make sure the drunk doesn’t starve to death or freeze to death, but the Church will try to reform him and get him to stop drinking. The state won’t do that – the state will just lock him up in jail.

    The Church will give a place for the, er, “not heterosexual” types. You know, maybe Miss Ann just isn’t the “marrying type.” Maybe Bill just “has been given the gift of bachelorhood” and runs the church choir instead. Catholic “celibacy” let them run the pageantry of the Mass or become scholars in a monastery, or teach elementary school as a nun. In a totalitarian state, they will instead change the definition of marriage, even sexuality, to encourage, rather than discourage, sexual deviancy.

    With a small state and a large church, liberty can flourish without making a libertine mess of society.

    America was forged in the Catholic vs. Protestant wars, so America always had more freedom of religion and a less established Church. The several states often had an established Church but the federal government was forbidden to. And the federal government was forbidden from interfering with the Church.

    It wasn’t a perfect system but it mostly worked. What happened?

    Um, the Jews. The Jews came in and drove the Church out of all civil society. Jew front groups like the ACLU sued and sued until the Church was forbidden from having any social power whatsoever. And of course the Jew mass media attacked the Church constantly and demonized everything they did. The Jews used their front groups like the NAACP not to help blacks, but to harm whites.

    Without Church social power, Jews can exploit the public via their usury, extortion, pornography, gambling, alcohol and drugs, sex-trafficking, financial fraud, abortion and prostitution, and encourage and prey on people’s vices which is what they have always done.

    But it’s not 100 AD. Miracles stories and mythology aren’t going to sell the Church to anyone in 2020. It’s not even 1840 so crazy nonsense about ancient Egypt isn’t going to sell anyone Mormonism in 2020 either, and certainly not educated, literate Whites with access to the internet.

    So the question is, how do you restore the Church in 2020?

    This issue was being solved by Americans in the early 20th Century. It was called the “Modernist vs. Fundamentalist” debate and it was a major cultural issue in all of the American institutions, like Harvard and Yale. The modernists were winning, too, via battles like the Scopes Monkey Trial.

    What happened? The Jews happened, that’s what. They exploited the controversy, used their mass media to defame both the modernists and the fundamentalists and took advantage of the conflict to form an anti-white coalition that plagues us to this day.

    The Jews correctly saw the American Church as a defense against their parasitism and they went to work destroying the Church, mostly via their mass electronic media, the radio networks ABC, CBS, NBC that turned into the TV networks, and the newspapers they controlled via their economic organizing of advertising revenue.

    I believe my analysis harmonizes a lot of “alt right” stuff, including the views of Catholics like E. Michael Jones, Dixiecrat Christians like our host HW, the various secular, science-oriented Whites, and the pro-white libertarians and conservatives.

    • Banned, your comments are consistently excellent. Even when I don’t agree with all of them, or if I see (usually minor) errors. I appreciate your contributions here.

      • Gee, sounds like comments I made months ago- the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy. Umm yeah. But whatever gets through to minds mired in muck….

        But where Luther still is stuck in the mud is in one of the opening sentences of this post:

        “The orders of creation are givens that can be experienced and recognized by common human reason apart from faith and theology. ”

        This overt Thomism is what all of the Reformers (even Luther himself, in his “Bondage of the Will”) fought against, and what was the proximate cause for the American Colonies, who were comprised (mostly- exclude the RC’s in Maryland) of CALVINISTS. Augustinians who, unlike Luther it would appear, truly did believe in…

        The TOTAL Depravity of Man… including his facility to reason, think dispassionately, and without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, given in true Baptism.

        As far as most Americans today, they actually believe that the non-Whites are just like ‘US’ but with different noses, or melanin counts, or tastes for burritos, etc.

        THIS IS FOUNDATIONALLY WRONG.

        Only as one is regenerated through the divine indwelling of the H.S., can one even BEGIN to think with a regenerated mind. That is why St. Paul says the ‘natural man’ CANNOT think the things of God. That is why I will NEVER give a pagan the legitimacy he so desperately craves- he is a dead corpse in trespasses and sins, and that includes (most especially includes) HIS MIND and Rational facility. Only as one lives the regenerate life, can one begin to see the ‘blind guides for what they are….. blind guides.

        Luther clearly either wrote this before BotW, or didn’t take his own lessons to heart (the latter, more likely). This is also why people HATE Calvin, even though he, too, was an Augustinian. He was just more consistent in this arena, but not in the arena of Liturgiology. No one’s perfect. That’s also why we talk about the ‘consensus patrum.’

        Close, but no cigar.

  5. It’s reality that now the tops of all American tax exempt Christian church denominations have all gone either pro homo, pro feminist, pro Martin Luther King Jr as a God/Saint or else they are seriously cuckservatives and lick the boots of ZOG, want to be safe normies in an insane racial/immigration anarchy world.

    I was sort of with White Latter Day Saints in a mixed university/urban neighborhood – lots of nice folks, young wives and mothers. The history of LDS Mormons was good, all White, independent, self reliant. But LDS Mormons have renounced their racist past – LDS pols like Mittens Romney, Harry Reid, Orin Hatch are terrible as bad as the worst Jews on immigration, the LDS Mormon Pols would rather get caught in bed with a naked little boy then ever say anything negative about Zionist/Neo Conservative wars, the Jewish media mafia.

    My take on Christian denominations is: most of us come from some type of Christian heritage, some people are Muslims, some people are Jews, we’re Christians. Don’t take religion too seriously, instead work for our folk. We’re not going to solve the JQ by converting them to some – the correct Christian denomination. It’s been tried many times in the past – didn’t work.

    At this late stage instead of pointing fingers at some Christian (in name only) denomination and saying “He/they suck”, try to find someone and group that doesn’t suck, that hasn’t gone traitor/cuck.

    And the Randy Weaver family choice of going up on a mountain top and proclaiming you and your family are taking on the entire ZOG government in a final battle of Revelations – that’s not going turn out very well either.

  6. This is really no different than watching women argue about astrology.

    Depressing beyond belief.

    Religion is a distraction. The war is on the ground, not in the clouds.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Classical Liberalism Today: Is Success the Cause of Its Decline? – Occidental Dissent
  2. Liberalism and the Church – Occidental Dissent
  3. TAC: Orders of Charity – Occidental Dissent

Comments are closed.