Luther’s doctrine of the state: This certainly is not an easy thing, because many people believe that Luther’s interpretation of the state is the real cause of Nazism. Now first of all a few hundred years means something in history, and Luther is a little bit older than the Nazis! But this is not the decisive point. The decisive point is that the doctrine of the state was a doctrine of positivism, of a Providence which was positivistical1y interpreted.
Positivism means that the things are taken as they are. The positive law is decisive, and this is connected by Luther with the doctrine of Providence. Providence brought this power and that power into existence, and therefore it is impossible to revolt against this power. You have no rational criteria by which to judge the princes. You have, of course, the right to judge them from the point of view whether they are good Christians or not. But whether or not they are, they are God-given, and so you have to be obedient to them. Historical destiny has brought in the tyrant, the Neros, , the Hitlers. And since this is historical destiny, we have to subject ourselves to it.
Now this means that the Stoic doctrine of natural law, which can be used as criticism of the positive law, has disappeared. There is only the positive law. The natural law does not really exist for Luther. The Stoic doctrines of equality and freedom of the citizen in the state, are not used by Luther at all. So he is non- revolutionary, theoretically as well as practically. Practically, he says that every Christian must stand every bad government because it comes from God providentially.
The state, for Luther, is not a reality, in itself, and it is always misleading to speak of the “state theory” of the Reformers. The word “state” is not older than the 17th or .l8th centuries, but instead of that they had the concept of Obrigkeit , i. e. ,authority, superiors. The government is the authority, the superiors, but not the structure called the “state.” This means there is no democratic implication in Luther’s doctrine of the state. The situation is such that the state must be accepted as it is.