Caesar's Coin Revisited: Christians and the Limits of Government

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Michael Cromartie
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996 - Religion - 197 pages
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"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," said Jesus, "and to God the things that are God's." What does this mean in a time and place drastically different from first-century Palestine? As more and more Christians from differing traditions exercise power in the political arena, what theological principles should shape their views of the role of government?
Protestant and Catholic scholars of diverse views debate these questions in Caesar's Coin Revisited. From his provocative analysis of the "Caesar's coin" biblical passage (Mark 12:13-17), Luis E. Lugo concludes that while Christians should fulfill appropriate demands of citizenship, they must always remember that governmental authority lies within the all-encompassing sphere of God's authority. Jean Bethke Elshtain argues that because the very nature of "Caesar" has changed in our modern world, we must rethink the "things" that are his. She enhances her insights with an engaging examination of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer's resistance to the Nazis. Kenneth L. Grasso demonstrates that Catholic social thought views the state as having a moral function: to establish social conditions conducive to the common good. He also explores the implications of this social teaching in the economic sphere. Doug Bandow, speaking from a libertarian perspective, points out that Scripture and tradition offer only guidelines, not a blueprint, for godly government. In his view, "social, moral, and economic matters more properly fall to the Church and other private institutions than to the state."
Four other scholars - James V. Schall, S.J., Wilfred M. McClay, Max L. Stackhouse, and Glenn Tinder respectively - challenge and affirm these insights in responding essays. Each of the four chapters then ends with a lively discussion in which the eight contributors and a dozen other informed scholars and practitioners exchange views.

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Caesar Sovereignty and Bonhoeffer

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About the author (1996)

Michael Lewis Cromartie was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on July 13, 1950. A onetime agnostic, he embraced Christianity as a teenage conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. He moved to a liberal Christian commune and received a bachelor's degree in psychology from Covenant College in 1976. He met Charles W. Colson at a book signing and joined his Prison Fellowship ministry as a research assistant. Cromartie veered toward evangelicalism and conservatism after he was the victim of a violent hotel room robbery. He received a master's degree in justice from American University. In 1985, he went to work for the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. He edited more than a dozen books and wrote Religion and Politics in America: A Conversation, which was published in 2005. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and was elected its chairman twice. He died from glandular cancer on August 28, 2017 at the age of 67.

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