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‘There’s no one I trust more than Mark Dever to teach what the Bible tells us about Christianity and government. I commend this book to you.’ ~ Collin Hansen, The Gospel Coalition
In a society where religion is increasingly private, and faith is OK as long as it’s not shared, many would seek to keep God out of their politics. But is that right, and is it biblical?
This is an important topic to consider, not just for those working in government, but for all of us as we seek to be responsible citizens in a fallen world.
Mark Dever unpacks what the Bible has to say on this topic, and teaches how we can ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ without compromising on what we believe. We’ll see that our duty to God is comprehensive and that there isn’t an area of life that we can separate from His influence. This little book won’t take long to read, but its impact could last a lifetime.
‘This is a little book full of big surprises. There are many books about God and politics but few that are all about Jesus and very few that are about one verse in the bible. Mark Dever superbly unpacks Jesus’ surprising response to his opponents question, which Jeremy Paxman would have been proud of – is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? He has become every politicians favourite author by daring to thank us for ‘doing God’s work’. But Mark does not let you or me get away with just giving ‘that coin back to Caesar’ given his clarion call to ‘give yourself to God’. He sets out Jesus’ wonderful vision which goes deeper and higher than politics. It leads us to grow in our respect for politics and our hope for better to come.’
~ David Burrowes, Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate
Mark Dever has provided an insightful exposition of what it means for us to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” casting a positive vision for Christian engagement in politics. Highly recommended.
This book is a little gem. I don’t think there are many people in the world more qualified to write this book than Mark Dever. Ministering on Capital Hill in the shadow of the Capital Building in DC means that Mark has his finger on the pulse when it comes to the frontier of politics and the gospel. In this book Mark uses the account of the attempted entrapment of Jesus in Mark 12 as the backbone of all that he lays out regarding the Christian attitude to politics, the interaction between God and government. This book is not only incredibly clear in its arguments but is also wonderfully concise on a topic about which gallons of ink have been spilt over the years. It is a wonderful example of something being simple without being simplistic. Mark’s conclusions are Biblical, inspiring and God glorifying. The book is both informative and challenging. It is a cleverly crafted, orthodox and slim–lined insight into a much neglected topic in the minds of the average church member, and therefore its accessibility will serve a great tool for the church to utilise. In a year that is littered with political intrigue; Scottish elections, a probable European in/out referendum and the race for the Whitehouse, this book is incredibly timely as a pithy resource to equip congregations to think deeply about their responsibility to be good citizens and to act positively in the reals of government and politics. I enjoyed this book immensely and as well gained some thrilling expositional insights into the passage in Mark 13.
In a presidential election year, it is good for us as Christians to think and rethink our relationship to governmental authority and its temporal role in the plan of God. To this end, I recommend to you Mark Dever’s little book, God and Politics: Jesus’ Vision for Society, State and Government. This 55–page easy read is based upon a sermon and, therefore, reads more like a pastoral letter than a book, which I see as a positive. Since it is published by 10 of Those, which intentionally prints small, inexpensive books that are biblical and accessible, church leaders may easily consider gifting it to their congregations. Let me summarize this little book for you. A Pagan State is a Legitimate State and Christians Are Good for a Nation The book is both an exposition of Mark 12:13–17, in which context Jesus makes the statement, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The exposition includes a brief biblical theology of human government and the relationship of God’s people to it. In Jesus’ statement, Dever says, Jesus “establishes a biblical theology of government, and He applies it to the new phase in history of God’s people that He was beginning. While it is going too far to say that Jesus’ statement here established a wall of separation between church and state, or made the state secular; I think Jesus’ affirmation of paying taxes to the Roman government does show that even a pagan state is a legitimate state. That was an amazing thing for Him to say.” Recognizing that God is sovereign over all human government leads Christians to trust Him enough to “usually obey it. Authority by its very nature reflects God….The purpose of all government should be to bless those within the scope of its authority….It is in our nature as Christians to be good citizens, but no earthly kingdom is to be identified as uniquely God’s people.” Christians Are International The emphasis on this truth is the greatest strength of this little book. By reminding us of God’s worldwide vision for redemption, and the temporal usefulness of national governments, Dever repeatedly draws us back to the centrality of the gospel. In our trust in God to deal with human governments that do not reflect His character, “Christians are freed from supporting any one particular nation. We are freed to support whatever government there is for whatever land God has called us to live in….Christians are like cockroaches. We can survive anything by the grace of God. We are not dependent on just governments for the gospel going forward….Now, we are an international people, not fundamentally a people of one ethnic group with promises running in one ethnic line.” It is through the church preaching the gospel to all nations that God will accomplish His international purpose to call a people for Himself out of every nation, tongue, tribe, and people (Read Revelation 4–5). Earthly Authority and Christian Obedience are Both Limited The authority of human governments is not absolute; God’s authority is. He alone is sovereign. Therefore, when the commands of human authority conflict with the commands God’s Word has placed upon us as believers, we must obey the higher authority. To make this point, Dever shares a bit of history from his own local church. “Our congregation in Washington DC was begun in 1878 with 18 articles about what we believe to be true. Article 16 says, this, ‘We believe that Civil Government is of Divine Appointment, for the interests and good order of human society; that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored and obeyed.’ And you think, good, that is a good biblical statement, but that’s not all. There is one last phrase, ‘Except only in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of the conscience and the Prince of the kings of the earth.’” I recommend God and Politics to you because one of the troubling patterns we see every time there is a presidential election is the confidence and hope that Christians put in human government and leaders. Yes, we should pray and vote and proclaim God’s righteousness. But, in the end, let our daily joy not be dependent upon the wins or defeats of our “favorite candidate.” Let us worship and serve God and hope only in Him. There is a day coming—when the Lord Jesus returns—that earthly government will work the way God intended. Until then, our calling is to live as good citizens, to recognize that our heavenly citizenship is infinitely more important and valuable than that of this earth, and submit every area of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This 55 page booklet is an excellent exposition of Mark 12:13–17. The Pharisees and Herodians ask Jesus the entrapping question, ‘Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?’ Mark Dever affirms that Jesus’ reply, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’, was not just a clever side–step to avoid a trap, but a revolutionary mandate for the Christian community, then and now, in a hostile world. We can be constantly bemoaning our government’s anti–Christian legislation, but Jesus’ words, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’, while holding in his hand the Roman denarius, show that we should, as Peter exhorts, ‘submit to every authority instituted among men’ (1 Peter 2:13), even if it comes from a hostile Roman government. God is sovereign over all and the state is his servant, providing a framework for order and peace in society, so we must ‘pray for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper’ (Jeremiah 29:7). Mark Dever affirms that those working in government reflect God’s own authority as they work for justice in society. No wonder the MP David Burrowes is enthusiastic in his praise of the book, saying the author ‘has become every politician’s favourite by daring to thank us for “doing God’s work”’. But the most searching section of the book concerns the second part of Jesus’ reply: ‘[Give] to God what is God’s’. We obey the state, but do not worship it. So our duty to earthly authority is limited, and civil disobedience may be right when an authority commands something which is contrary to God’s law. All governments fall short of God’s standard and our primary loyalty is to God. The denarius bore Caesar’s image, so we give the coin back to Caesar. But we bear God’s image, so we give ourselves to God. We all owe God everything we have, and are bound to give all our energy to him, as we seek to obey him moment by moment in every area of life, as employee, spouse, friend, etc. This is a small booklet with a big message. Read it at least twice!
This is a great little booklet. But if you are hoping it is going to tell you which way to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, it won’t. What Mark Dever has given us here is a very worthwhile exposition of Mark 12.13–17 in which, in answer to the trick question from the Pharisees and Herodians, Jesus utters the famous sentence ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’. We are rightly encouraged to value the blessings of civil authority and the law and order which it represents and to avoid revolutionary action, even against ungodly governments, knowing that it is God who is the ultimate judge. We are to be thankful for those who work in government and to pray for them. The international composition of the church is defended over against unhelpful nationalistic tendencies. And, just as the denarius bore Caesar’s image, we bear God’s image and should give ourselves wholly to the Lord’s service. Some might say the booklet skirts around the real issues of 21st–century politics and its subtitle rather oversells its contents. But, on the other hand, it could be said that the book gives us a wonderful vision which goes deeper and higher than this world and causes us to look for the world put to rights which Jesus will bring.
This short book is an exposition of Jesus' statement in Marh 12.17: "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s". Even a pagan state is ordained by God, and should be obeyed, unless its commands contradict God's Word. There is also a call for us to give God his due, that is our hearts and lives.
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