13 August 2008

God and caesar

Robert Kraynak celebrates the life of a great man: Solzhenitsyn and the Battle for the Human Soul. However, in the course of his eulogy, he manages to misinterpret a key gospel teaching (Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:20-26) concerning the place of government in God's world:

If we listen carefully to [Solzhenitsyn's] statements, they are based on the Gospel’s distinction between God’s realm and Caesar’s realm and the insistence that each realm has its proper role. Surprisingly, Solzhenitsyn uses the distinction of two realms in order to lower people’s expectations about the role of the state (Caesar’s realm) in people’s lives and to allow the higher, spiritual realm of God and the soul to flourish in conditions of political freedom.

Although there is no doubt that the commands of God and the demands of human beings come into conflict in the real world (Acts 4:19; 5:29), Jesus could hardly have intended to imply that God and caesar possess two distinct and parallel realms, each with its proper role, since that would contradict the universal sovereignty of God. In fact, the realm of government also belongs to God, as affirmed dramatically in Psalm 82. Leon Morris has it right: "The obligation to God covers all of life; we must serve Caesar in a way that is honoring to God."

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