The SBJT Forum: Christian Responsibility In The Public Square -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 11:4 (Winter 2007) p. 100
The SBJT Forum: Christian Responsibility In The Public Square
Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. D. A. Carson, Thomas R. Schreiner, Michael A. G. Haykin, and Jonathan Leeman have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.
SBJT: Is there anything distinctive about a Christian—and specifically biblical—understanding of the relationship between church and state?
D. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentaries and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his many books are The Cross and Christian Ministry (Baker,2004), How Long O Lord: Reflections on Suffering and Evil (2nd ed., Baker,2006), and the forthcoming Christ and Culture Revisited (Eerdmans, 2008).
D. A. Carson: Quite a lot of answers might be given to this question. For example, one of the remarkable features of the Bible is the sheer wealth of the perspectives it brings to bear on this subject. It does not content itself to offer nothing more than a reductionistic monochrome ideal, but faces up to the exigencies of a broken world. Consider the following list of portrayals of the relationship between church and state—by no means an exhaustive list: (a) In passages ranging from the beatitudes to the teaching of Jesus before his passion to the instruction of the apostle, the Bible not infrequently speaks in terms of opposition and persecution. Where the persecuting power is not personal or local, but the state, then clearly one kind of church/state relationship is being recognized as the sort of thing with which many Christian have to come to terms. (b) On the other hand, a passage like Romans 13:1–7 tells us, within certain parameters, to respect the state and be obedient to it. Inevitably some have attempted to reinterpret this passage in various creative ways (I have briefly addressed these alternatives in the fifth chapter of my book Christ and Culture Revisited [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008]). On the face of it, however, the straightforward meaning of the text should not be avoided: Christians are duty-bound to obey the state as they obey the Lord, for the Lord himself has ordained the authority of the state. Set within the witness of the New Testament, of course, su...
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