“Guys, I have been very excited about this book. . . .” —Dr. Joel McDurmon
Is a Christian ever obligated to disobey the state? And what is the nature of this “holy disobedience” and its consequences?
Despite the injunction in Romans 13 for every person “to be subject unto the higher powers,” there is a long and honorable history of Christians in trouble with the “powers that be.” Throughout Western history, there has been a biblically-oriented segment of the Christian community which has been at odds with established governments.
“I found a copy of the original buried in our library at American Vision. It looked like it was printed on old typewriter, and it had long been forgotten since its publication in 1971. But when I saw Dr. Robert Linder’s name as editor, I knew it would be worth looking at. And boy was it! I immediately decided I would reprint this gem.
Not only that, but the original title made it a sleeper! God and Caesar: Case Studies in the Relationship between Christianity and the State. Not only was that title *yawn*, it really did not capture the essence of the book, which is really about faithful Christianity proving subversive to tyrannical states. So, I re-titled our edition,
See below how this is played out in each chapter, in ancient Rome, the Reformation, WWII, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and more. Some of these chapters have eye-opening data and information in them, and show how theological views determined whether the Christians would become subversives of tyranny or compromised accomplices of the tyrannical states.
Along those lines, it was Dr. Linder’s editorial sections that really captured my heart. The preceding and following comments are only lightly edited versions of the conclusions he drew (if the quotation from Moltmann does get you, I’m not sure what could).”—JM
These essays make clear that radically biblical Christians who take the commands of Christ with utmost seriousness often have become subversive in the eyes of the state for one main reason: a Christian’s highest loyalty is always to God rather than to a mere secular order and he lives by values often at odds with those of the state.
In many ways, the crux of the evangelical political dilemma today is the unwillingness of many professing Christians to live up to the full claims of the Gospel and all that this implies. Professor Moltmann nailed it when he compared contemporary Western Christianity with the failure of the Christian churches under Hitler’s Reich: “We also have no right to speak of God and with God if we do not do it in the midst of the conflicts of our political world.”
If this is true, then the greatest task before the evangelical community today is that of developing a responsible political ethic. Such an ethic would consider seriously the obligation of Christians to bring to bear on the crisis confronting the social and political institutions of the present age the truth of God as revealed to mankind in Jesus Christ and the Scriptures.
Dr. Robert D. Linder recently retired from his position as the Distinguished Professor of History at Kansas State University, after five decades of service. He has authored and edited numerous books on Christian history, civil religion, and other topics. The prescient insight and prophetic warnings provided in this little book came in 1971. How well have we listened?
Thankfully, we now have a second chance. . . .