The Family Is the Basic Unit of Society

The family is definitely a divine institution. But rather than viewing the family as a “kingdom” parallel to the church and the state, Luther saw the family as an organizational unit between the church and the state. This does not mean the family is an institution inferior to the state. Quite the opposite. The family is the basic unit of society. Political power does not flow downward from God to the emperor and downward further to the princes/electors and from them to the family. Rather, political power flows from God to the family, from the family to the princes, and from the princes to the emperor. In opposition to medieval Catholic theology, Luther taught that the state’s authority comes not from the church but rather from the home, for the commandment “Honor your father and your mother” is the basis for state authority as well as family authority.

John Eidsmoe, “A Look at Law through Lutheran Lenses,” in Here We Stand: A Confessional Christian Study of Worldviews, edited by Curtis A. Jahn (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2010), 79-125, at 86.

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