Mark Wilms, "The Rebirth of Luther's Two Kingdoms in Kant's Commonwealths: Optimism Coming of Age," Journal for Christian Theological Research 3:1 (1998) par. 1-40.

The Rebirth of Luther's Two Kingdoms in Kant's Commonwealths

Mark Wilms
St. Charles, Minn.

1. In most respects, Martin Luther and Immanuel Kant can be contrasted more easily than they can be compared. Despite a harmony that can be established between Kant's view of the finite nature of knowledge and Luther's insistence that God must be the one who engenders faith, Kant's Enlightenment formation made it impossible for him to think about grace in a way that was genuinely like the faith and piety of the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers.1 Even though he was raised and educated by Lutheran Pietists, the Pietism of Kant's youth offered passion for the gospel without Luther's reliance on salvation by grace through faith alone, and Kant rejected the devotional aspects of Pietism in any case.

2. But there are intriguing areas where Kant and Luther imply similar principles, even though they may not speak the same language. One involves the idea of two realms of spiritual or moral renewal. More specifically, both Luther and Kant describe what might be called the "purer" state within the person renewed through either grace (Luther) or moral maxims (Kant),2 and the imperfect dimension of human activity in the world.

3. Luther's description of Christians living in two kingdoms reflects this in its ideal spiritual life of faith put alongside the realities of imperfect people living together in society. In Religion3 Kant had a similar vision of the ethical commonwealth, a society of people ruled by morality, put alongside the political association of people, where the rule must be by law. So, both talked of moral renewal as taking place in two arenas. On the one hand, there is the world around us, the physical and sensible world in which the human being strives for moral achievement with a limited degree of success. On the other hand, there is the spiritual realm of Luther or Kant's realm of reason. These involve the object of faith, or ultimate trust (God for Luther, and primarily reason for Kant, although, as we shall see, Kant affirms the guidance of Providence4). The "purer" realm remains trustworthy to the extent that the object of faith is active in it, while the visible world changes constantly for better or worse.

4. In other words, the person justified by grace or moral renewal lives a life that is more fully ruled by that justified state, but does so in a world where evil still exists and influences the justified person. Both Kant and Luther are agreed on that, especially on the existence of what Kant termed "radical evil," a perversion of the decision-making process. Surprisingly for an Enlightenment thinker, in Religion Kant regarded radical evil as an inevitable feature of human life in spite of his consistent affirmation of the human power of moral choice. Moral choice can result in good maxims, but can just as well result in evil. It is "radical":

because it corrupts the ground of all maxims; it is, moreover, as a natural propensity, inextirpable by human powers, since extirpation could occur only through good maxims, and cannot take place when the ultimate subjective ground of all maxims is postulated as corrupt; yet at the same time it must be possible to overcome it, since it is found in man, a being whose actions are free (RiG 37 R 32).

5. In the realm of grace, the justified person of Luther is totally free of condemnation for evil, but he or she is also bound by the force of the gospel and its call to goodness in a world that is not yet morally perfect. Restating St. Paul (Romans 13.8), Luther's formula is that "a Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all."5 Certainly we see this idea reflected in Kant's position that the human will is free to effect moral renewal (or not to do so) through its power of choice, but that the moral will is bound by the truth of goodness to eradicate the effects of evil in one's life and world.6

6. It is significant for our understanding of Kant that his notion of the ethical/political commonwealths reflects Luther's two kingdoms, because until recent times Kant research has not strongly noted Kant's development toward a greater emphasis on evil and the guidance of Providence, themes also important to Luther. Scholars such as Ernst Cassirer have regarded Kant as a typical representative of the Enlightenment, presenting nothing new in later works such as Religion.

7. However, there is a growing awareness that there was a significant theological shift in Kant's thinking in his later career, and that at the same time Religion was a consistent development of the implications of Kant's theories about moral autonomy rather than a philosophically imprecise afterthought in contradiction with his critical philosophy. Scholars such as Gordon Michalson, Philip Rossi and Allen Wood are included in this group. Michalson, in Fallen Freedom: Kant on Radical Evil and Moral Regeneration, especially deals with the fact that Kant, an Enlightenment thinker, grappled in a unique way with the challenge of radical evil and came to terms with its implications for the history of moral thought.

8. Like Luther's justification by grace through faith alone, Kant's development toward the idea of the commonwealths contradicted some of the fundamental assumptions of his time. In a way that is similar to Luther's notion of the two kingdoms, Kant's concept of the commonwealths recognized evil as an inevitable feature of human society. Since Enlightenment thinkers tended to think of human beings as basically good, Kant's notion of radical evil was a significant departure from that movement.

Kant's Ethical/Political Commonwealths Compared with Luther's Two Kingdoms

9. Although Luther never wrote a systematic work on the two kingdoms, the notion that there are two areas in which God works with believers and non-believers is present throughout his works.7 The basic concept is that the Spirit of God, which is active among people, works on the level of earthly life in a realm in which evil is constantly at work. In spite of the power of evil, God's will is done. In the spiritual realm of the gospel, faith lives empowered by God's Spirit.

10. The important point for our discussion is the interrelationship of the two modes of divine activity. As Carl Braaten points out, if one is to understand Lutheranism it is essential to distinguish rightly between law and gospel and between the two kingdoms, but the distinction does not have to mean separation. This is no formula for "separation of church and state." Although Luther taught that the state's power is put into place by God for the sake of good order, even though the state itself may be corrupt in many ways, this does not mean that the Christian should keep clear of improving the society in which he or she lives (Braaten, 133-34). The Christian lives in deference to the state's legitimate power of maintaining order, and works for the betterment of one's neighbor:

Since a true Christian lives and labors on earth not for himself alone but for his neighbor, he does by the very nature of his spirit even what he himself has no need of, but is needful and useful to his neighbor. Because the sword is most beneficial and necessary for the whole world in order to preserve peace, punish sin, and restrain the wicked, the Christian submits most willingly to the rule of the sword, pays his taxes, honors those in authority, serves, helps, and does all he can to assist the governing authority, that it may continue to function and be held in honor and fear. Although he has no need of these things for himself-to him they are not essential-yet he concerns himself about what is serviceable and of benefit to others (WA 11: 253.23-32 LW 45: 94)

11. As Luther strikes this balance in his articulation of the two-kingdoms notion in Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should be Obeyed, certain aspects of Luther's idea are in harmony with Kant's optimistic moral philosophy. For example, Luther feels that there is, under the Spirit's power, a conceptual possibility of believers living out their lives according to God's will:

Here we must divide all the children of Adam and all mankind into two classes, the first belonging to the kingdom of God, the second to the kingdom of the world. Those who belong to the kingdom of God are all the true believers who are in Christ and under Christ. . . .

Now observe, these people need no temporal law or sword. If all the world were composed of real Christians, that is, true believers, there would be no need for or benefits from prince, king, lord, sword, or law. . . .

Why is this? It is because the righteous man of his own accord does all and more than the law demands. But the unrighteous do nothing that the law demands; therefore, they need the law to instruct, constrain, and compel them to do good.8

12. This does not mean that Luther believed that great numbers of people belong to the class of the righteous. At one point he says that "since no one is by nature Christian or righteous, but altogether sinful and wicked, God through the law puts them all under restraint so they dare not willfully implement their wickedness in actual deeds." In another place he remarks that "the whole world is evil and . . . among thousands there is scarcely a single true Christian."9

13. Nevertheless, the two kingdoms are a reality because of the presence of Christians living in the world, albeit imperfectly, and the kingdoms gain strength by their interdependence. They work in harmony, each making possible the need for the other, and all is guided by God's will.

14. When we compare the two kingdoms notion of Luther with Kant's ethical/political commonwealths, we see that they speak in a similar way about an ideal community ruled by the good as opposed to the imperfect society that really exists. Instead of Luther's kingdoms of spirit and flesh, Kant describes his two realms in a more political fashion. First, there is the "juridico-civil state,"10 or the political order as we experience it under ordinary government. Its laws are laws of coercion, correcting the "juridical state of Nature" in which every person does as he or she pleases. Then there is the "ethico-civil state," which is bound by laws which are non-coercive, laws "of virtue alone" (RiG 95 R 87).

15. Just as Luther believed that the secular realm, while serving an important function, cannot take the place of the kingdom of the gospel, so Kant's ethical commonwealth cannot be forced into existence by the political authorities. The ethical commonwealth cannot be coercive in the way that the political realm has a right to be, for it is based on the free choice of people who want to live under its conditions. There is order in an ethical commonwealth, and this implies a constitution, but it is not so much imposed by force as it is a "limiting factor" under the consistent principle of not contradicting morality:

It would be a contradiction (in adjecto) for the political commonwealth to compel its citizens to enter into an ethical commonwealth, since the very concept of the latter involves freedom from coercion. . . . Only so far as an ethical commonwealth must rest on public laws and possess a constitution based on these laws are those who freely pledge themselves to enter into this ethical state bound, not to accept orders from the political power as to how they shall or shall not fashion this ethical constitution internally, but to agree to limitations, namely, to the condition that this constitution shall contain nothing which contradicts the duty of its members as citizens of the state-although when the ethical pledge is of the genuine sort the political limitation need cause no anxiety (RiG 95-96 R 87-88)

16. Kant conceives of a certain kind of people, those ruled by the good, creating a society that more closely approximates the ideal sought after. This is similar to Luther's community of those ruled by the gospel. For both Luther and Kant, if communities were inhabited by morally renewed people, laws enforced by the state would not be necessary.11

17. The similarity between Luther and Kant in the notion of two realms also extends to their conceptions of the church. Kant's ethical commonwealth is what he calls the invisible church, much the same that Luther's kingdom of believers comprises the true church. Thus, the ethical commonwealth has a religious dimension:

An ethical commonwealth under divine moral legislation is a church which, so far as it is not an object of possible experience, is called the church invisible (a mere idea of the union of all the righteous under direct and moral divine world-government, an idea serving all as the archetype of what is to be established by men). The visible church is the actual union of men into a whole which harmonizes with that ideal (RiG 101 R 92).

18. The universality of Kant's "invisible church" expressed itself in an idea similar to Luther's priesthood of all believers. Although Kant had a much more negative view of ecclesiastical structure than did Luther, he shared the Reformers' sense of the spiritual equality of renewed human beings:

The leading-string of holy tradition with its appendages of statutes and observances, which in its time did good service, becomes bit by bit dispensable, yea, finally, when man enters upon his adolescence, it becomes a fetter. . . . The humiliating distinction between laity and clergy disappears, and equality arises from true freedom, yet without anarchy, because, though each obeys the (non-statutory) law which he prescribes to himself, he must at the same time regard this law as the will of a World-Ruler (RiG 121-22 R 112).

19. Luther's opposite community is made up of those not ruled by the gospel. Kant's version of this is the community of those ruled by the condition of radical evil:

To such a people of God we can oppose the idea of a rabble of the evil principle, the union of those who side with it for the propagation of evil, and whose interest it is to prevent the realization of that other union-although here again the principle which combats virtuous dispositions lies in our very selves and is represented only figuratively as an external power (RiG 100 R 91).

20. This parallels Luther's kingdom of the "left hand," inhabited by those who do not know the gospel and must be ruled by force. In Religion, Kant joins Luther in realizing that human beings are opposed in their moral task by the evil that lies within them along with the good. The establishment of the ethical commonwealth is one way of overcoming this, but Kant frankly admits, along with Luther, that the condition of radical evil is almost universal and very persistent. He does this in striking contrast to the general optimism of the Enlightenment:

More modern . . . is the contrasted optimistic belief, which indeed has gained a following solely among philosophers and, of late, especially among those interested in education - the belief that the world steadily (though almost imperceptibly) forges in the other direction, to wit, from bad to better; at least that the predisposition to such a movement is discoverable in human nature. If this belief, however, is meant to apply to moral goodness and badness . . . , it has certainly not been deduced from experience; the history of all times cries too loudly against it. The belief, we may presume, is a well-intentioned assumption of the moralists, from Seneca to Rousseau, designed to encourage the sedulous cultivation of that seed of goodness which perhaps lies in us - if, indeed, we can count on any such natural basis of goodness in man (RiG 19-20 R 15-16).

21. It was common for Enlightenment thinkers to envision an ideal society, no longer dominated by religious prejudice and trustful in an innate goodness that human beings were supposed to possess. Kant's reminder was that this dream was overshadowed by the apparent inability of people to overcome evil. Even the ethical/political commonwealths could not bring about the perfect society this side of eternity. Philip Rossi ("The Ethical Commonwealth: Moral Progress and the Human Place in the Cosmos," Paper presented at the VIth Russian Kant Congress, University of Kaliningrad, Russia, September, 1993) comments:

For Kant, then, the problem of evil - both its origin and its overcoming - is thus one in which individual and social processes are inextricably linked. They are linked in such a way, moreover, that even if individuals could successfully extirpate the evil by which they have disordered (and continue to disorder) their wills, this does not guarantee the extirpation of evil from the social dynamics of human life: the moral "salvation" of individual human beings does not, by itself, ensure the moral destiny of the human species, let lone constitute that destiny. . . . The establishment of an external order of justice stands as a necessary element of the social dynamics that lead to an "ethical commonwealth," but, by itself, it is not and cannot be sufficient to bring it about definitively (5).

22. These examples show that Kant's ethical and political commonwealths are Luther's two kingdoms working in concert with each other. The major difference is that Luther's kindgoms are ruled on the basis of God's will revealed in grace, and will end in the partial victory of the one over the other, the gospel over the world. Kant's ethical commonwealth is ruled more directly by reason and will result in the moral ideal finding ultimate expression in the lives of individuals, in spite of the continuous presence of evil, in a process which is guided by Providence.

23. This does not mean, however, that Providence acts as an impersonal and distant principle for Kant, as it did for the Deists. God is as present in the moral landscape as is the moral force of the community.12 Of course, Kant limited human knowledge of such things to that which can be constructed from the interplay of mind and experience. "Things in themselves" cannot really be known. Still, out of this came Kant's "postulates" of God and immortality, for they are moral requirements that cannot be proven, but must exist for the sake of justice.

24. This way of affirming God's existence is alien to Luther's vibrant faith in the God of scripture. Nevertheless, it was Kant's way of speaking about the activity and personal being of God, whom he regarded as more than a deistic abstraction. Though at times Kant seemed to regard God as mainly a conceptual support of the ethical structure needed to effect the moral autonomy of the individual in the world, in Religion God is more of a personalized reality, something which affects the outcome of human justification and moral effort. God must be just, and God is powerful enough to mete out appropriate consequences for behavior. There is a dependency on God that must be acknowledged. There is even a control that God exercises on the moral outcome of the world:

There must therefore be someone other than the populace capable of being specified as the public law-giver for an ethical commonwealth. . . . Hence only he can be thought of as highest lawgiver of an ethical commonwealth with respect to whom all true duties, hence also the ethical, must be represented as at the same time his commands; he must therefore also be "one who knows the heart," in order to see into the innermost parts of the disposition of each individual and, as is necessary in every commonwealth, to bring it about that each receives whatever his actions are worth. But this is the concept of God as moral ruler of the world. Hence an ethical commonwealth can be thought of only as a people under divine commands, i.e., as a people of God, and indeed under laws of virtue (RiG 99 R 90-91).

25. This affirmation of God's rule is surprising for a thinker formed by the Enlightenment, whose God was often an abstraction produced by Deism. Kant certainly conceived of God abstractly in response to the moral requirements of his sytem, but his conception was of an active God providing moral principles and guidance (however subtle and inscrutable). The social aspect of Kant's "extension" of reason into the world, therefore, dovetailed with the active guidance of God.

26. Allen Wood made note of this as he quoted Kant in Kant's Moral Religion:

The "deist," says Kant, "understands by the concept of God merely a blindly working eternal nature, as the root of all things, a primordial being or a highest cause of the word." But, he asks, "do I in this way come to be in the least acquainted with God? The concept of the deist is thus completely vain and useless, and makes no impression upon me, if I assume it alone." In contrast to the emptiness and abstractness of deism, Kant describes his own position as that of "Moral Theism": "Theism consists in believing not merely in a God, but also in a living God, who has produced the world through knowledge and free volition."13

27. The point that Wood wants to make is that "moral faith" in God is not a deistic abstraction. It is trust in God as a person. Thus, belief in God for Kant was not a result of metaphysical speculation, but of moral trust, and that in Kant's theology moral faith is the outlook of the rational person who does not give in to moral despair, but chooses hope instead. This hope includes the notion that the world is a place of harmony and purpose in cooperation with human moral volition. The source for this view is the belief that the world is a product of a morally perfect creator and ruler (Wood, 160-76).

28. According to Allen Wood (Kant's Rational Theology) while rejecting arguments for God's existence and claims of speculative knowledge concerning God's nature, Kant is also:

fundamentally unable to conceive of the human situation except theistically, and unable to conceive of God in any terms except those of the scholastic-rationalist tradition. . . . For Kant's real aim is not to destroy theology, but to replace a dogmatic theology with a critical one: to transform rational theology from a complacent speculative science into a critical examination of the inevitable but perpetually insoluble problems of human reason, and a vehicle for the expression of our moral aspirations under the guidance of an autonomous reason (17).

29. Several elements are important in Wood's observation. Kant is never able to see the moral outcome of the world without a "theistic solution." Some sort of God is present in Kant's universe, if only to serve his ethical structure. Yet, Kant's God, and Kant's whole universe, must be seen in a rigorously critical framework, true to the basic principles of science and philosophy, but realistic in its confrontation of the freedom of the moral individual with the presence of radical evil. For Kant it is a balancing act, a dance on the tightwire of solidly grounded moral principles suspended over an insecure floor of undeniable evil. Both the evil and the moral principles are real, and the acrobat is the autonomous person, free in choice but not all-powerful.

30. We can summarize the relationship of Kant and Luther as expressed in the idea of dual realms of existence by noting some important general similarities. First, both Luther and Kant thought of two kingdoms, or two spheres in which spiritual or moral renewal takes place. For Luther, there is the kingdom of the Spirit and that of the world. For Kant, they are the rational and physical worlds. The less embodied realm, whether spiritual or that of reason, provides the basis for governing the other realm.

31. Second, both Kant and Luther believed that there is an abstract possibility of people living up to the ethical demands of the Kingdom of God. For Luther, this possibility comes from the power of the Spirit working in the lives of believers. For Kant, the possibility comes from the notion of free will. Both men believed that, due to the power of evil, it will not happen fully in this world, but does take place in some measure.

32. Finally, although the similarity is not as clear, both Luther and Kant shared belief in the dimension of God's activity in the world leading to an eternal resolution of the human journey of salvation. Luther understands God as a person, actively involved in the world, causing faith to awaken and outward lives to change. The rule of Providence is not clearly set out by Kant. Nevertheless, Providence does provide the ultimate ideal for morality, the eternal arena for achieving that morality, and the subtle guidance in history that this requires.

Concluding Remarks

33. The significance of comparing Kant's commonwealths with Luther's two kingdoms does not lie in any direct dependence of Kant upon Luther. There is no evidence at hand to suggest that Kant read any of Luther's works, although we can presume that he was well-versed in Lutheran catechetical material as a boy.

34. The idea that there are two realms, the spiritual or inner realm and the physical world around us, in which imperfect people strive toward some kind of religious or moral ideal, is also not a concern limited to Luther and Kant. Theologians and philosophers have continually sought a balance between these two aspects of life in one sense or another.

35. The real significance of this comparison is that it highlights the remarkable response of Kant, an Enlightenment-era thinker, to the limitations of rationalism, empiricism and optimism, principles which guided the thought of much of his century. Kant, having set out the limits of reason in his earlier philosophy, discussed in Religion the continual presence of human evil, its obstruction of moral autonomy, and the need for the guidance of God. Despite the presence of evil, Kant believed that the morally renewed person would express goodness in society as well. In all this Kant reflected Luther's awareness of the power of evil, as well as Luther's sense of the unity of faith and its effect on daily life.

36. For those acquainted with Kant's reliance on reason alone to provide the possibility of moral autonomy, his recognition in Religion of the continual influence of evil and the necessity of God's guidance can be surprising. But Kant's Religion is not a contradiction of his previous philosophy of moral freedom. Rather, it harmonized the rational ideal of a free human society conforming to moral principles with the reality of a world in which evil continues unabated. Kant's insistence on the moral necessity of God's existence and guidance of humanity joined with his recognition of radical evil in Religion as he searched for a way to depict the struggle of free will against the constant frustration of moral failure. The result was, among other things, his notion of the ethical and political commonwealths.

37. Gordon Michalson, Jr. comments (Fallen Freedom) on the fact that Kant went against his age to promote his theory of radical evil, noting that thinkers of the Enlightenment normally rejected anything resembling original sin. The real tension, according to Michalson, lay in Kant's definition of radical evil as the corruption of the underlying ground of all of our maxims. The only way to deal with radical evil is through the production of good maxims, and this is the vicious circle. "In other words, in order to save ourselves we have to call on precisely the resource that we ourselves have spoiled" (4).

38. Kant's departure from that Enlightenment assumption is remarkable, but in reality he was one of a growing number of thinkers at the end of the eighteenth century who were questioning the Enlightenment's trust in it own presuppositions, and the Romantic movement was being generated as a reaction to years of neglect of certain aspects the human spirit, such as its capacity for finding meaning and hope in religious themes.

39. A comparison can be made, then, between Kant's theological appraisal of humanity's moral progress in Religion and Luther's new direction in regard to the gospel. Just as Luther's emphasis on faith alone marked a fundamental religious change going on in his time, Kant's answer to radical evil was a symptom of the end of the Enlightenment as it transitioned into the age of Romanticism. Weary of exclusive trust in the human capacity for measurable truth, many in the intellectual and literary community of Kant's time went beyond Kant to seek meaning in places other than reason's clarity. Taking this into account along with Luther's inspiration to an age equally responsive to a new way of looking at the gospel after centuries of the (partial) predominance of scholasticism, we can detect a common environment for the emergence of the two-realms concept as expressed by Luther and Kant.

40. It is also significant that they both felt compelled to look for ethical renewal in the notion of two realms, and that they did it by recognizing the limited capacity of human nature to work out its own salvation, because it implies questions for religious moral thought in any era, including our own. For example, can moral optimism be maintained indefinitely on the basis of a notion of human "free will"? Can religions claim an effective moral ethic without recourse to something (whatever one understands to be God) which transcends the human capacity for choice? In light of their recognition of the inevitability of human evil, Luther and Kant responded negatively to both questions, but not without also expressing hope for moral renewal in both realms of the human experience.


1 Tillich described Kant's relationship to Protestantism as a "contrast to the metaphysical arrogance of the Enlightenment which believed in the power of reason." Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought: From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism, ed. Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), 362. It must be noted, however, that Kant based his ideas about religion on what he regarded as the legitimate process and limits of reason. It was partly on this basis that he regarded morality as the essence of religion, a view fundamentally different from that of the reformers, who found Christianity's center in justification by grace through faith.

2 Kant's "maxim" is a governing rule for conduct which has been incorporated by the individual and made a platform for the formation of other rules, determining the ethical character of the person. Maxims can be good or evil in nature. Kant describes the maxim in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals as "the subjective principle of a volition." Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785), Kants gesammelte Schriften, Bd. 4 (Berlin Königliche Preußische Akademie der Wissenshaften, 1902-), 401n. English translation by H. J. Paton, Harper Torchbook ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), 69n.

Kant's notion of the maxim as the ground of moral character is fundamental to his moral philosophy, and therefore to his religious thought. It is based on the freedom of the will to adopt the maxim, contradicting Luther's view that the will is powerless in the things of salvation. However, like Luther's person of faith living under the power of the Spirit, Kant's moral person turns from evil to doing good after a renewal of the self.

3Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft (1794), Kant's gesammelte Schriften, Bd. 6: 20-30. Hereafter referred to as Religion, and cited as RiG. English translation: Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, trans. Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson (LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1960), 16-25. Hereafter cited as R.


4 In referring to God, Kant at times used the term Providence (Vorsehung). During the Enlightenment, Providence was regarded by many Deists as an impersonal force behind creation, not actively involved with humanity's current progress. While Kant carried the flavor of this conception into his work, God was neither impersonal for him nor uninvolved.

5 Luthers Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, 57 vols. Eds. J.F.K. Knaake et al. (Weimar: Böhlau, 1883), 7: 49.22-25. (Hereafter cited as WA.) English translation from Luther's Works, American Edition, 55 vols. Eds. Pelikan and Lehmann (St. Louis: Concordia, and Philadelphia: Fortress, 1955), 31: 344. (Hereafter cited as LW.)

6 A fundamental feature of Kant's moral philosophy, and therefore his religious philosophy, was that the human will is free to make choices for good or evil (moral autonomy). The person is therefore obligated to do the good, because doing the good is possible. However, Kant's concept of radical evil in Religion modified his view of moral autonomy in a way that brought him closer to Luther's recognition of the power of evil in human lives.

7 Carl E. Braaten, Principles of Lutheran Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 133. Eric W. Gritsch and Robert W. Jenson point out that Luther defined government in terms of the Augustinian distinction between the spiritual and temporal dimensions of human existence in which God creates both righteous people and good citizens. The Christian is obliged to serve in both dimensions. Lutheranism: The Theological Movement and Its Confessional Writings (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 17-18.

8 WA 11: 249.24-27, 36-37; 250.1, 10-12 (LW 45: 88-89).

9 WA 11: 250.26-29; 251.12-13 (LW 45: 90-91).

10 Kant's word is Zustand, or "condition," which Greene and Hudson have translated as "state" in the text.

11 Philip Rossi points out that Kant's ethical commonwealth is a state of society that makes it possible for the authority of reason to rule human conduct in the public sphere through non-coercive means. "Public Argument and Social Responsibility: Kantian Reflections on the Moral Dimensions of Citizenship," forthcoming, 8. Although Luther tended to see people as barbaric to the extent that they lack faith and are ruled by evil, he also believed that if all people were transformed by the gospel, there would be no need for the state's power of enforcement.

12 It is worth noting that Kant uses the phrase "Kingdom of God" in his title of Book Three of Religion, which concerns the establishment of the ethical commonwealth. The whole title reads: "The Victory of the Good over the Evil Principle, and the Founding of a Kingdom of God on Earth." RiG 93 (R 85).

13 Allen W. Wood, Kant's Moral Religion (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978), 164: Wood's quotes are from Vorlesungen über die philosophische Religionslehre (1784), Kants gesammelte Schriften, Bd. 28: 15, 16, 96.

Works Cited

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Gritsch, Eric W. and Robert W. Jenson. Lutheranism: The Theological Movement and Its Confessional Writings. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976.

Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Tr. H. J. Paton. Harper Torchbook, New York: Harper and Row, 1964.

---. Kants gesammelte Schriften, 29 vols. Ed. Königliche Preußische Akademie der Wissenshaften, et al. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1902-1997.

---. Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. Tr. Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson. LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1960.

Luther, Martin. Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, 57 vols. Eds. J.F.K. Knaake et al. Weimar: Böhlau, 1883.

---. Luther's Works, 55 vols. Tr. eds. J. Pelikan, P. Lehmann, et al. St. Louis: Concordia Press and Philadelphia: Fortress, 1955-1986.

Michalson, Gordon. FallenFreedom: Kant on Radical Evil and Moral Regeneration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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Tillich, Paul. A History of Christian Thought: From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism. Ed. Carl E.Braaten. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968.

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--- Kant's Rational Theology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press,1978.