Render Unto Caesar … and Unto God
A Lutheran View of Church and State
A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR)
of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
In 1983 the Synod, in Convention, asked the CTCR to carry out a basic study of the various aspects of the relationship between church and state, giving special attention to issues such as “who speaks for the church,” “when,” and “on what basis.” In 1995 the CTCR issued the report Render Unto Caesar … and Unto God in response.
“Who speaks for the church” may seem like a simple question, until you ask a couple of questions of your own like, what is meant by the word “church?” Do we mean the universal church? Do we mean the institutional church? Do we mean local churches? Then we might ask, “Speaking to whom?” Is the speaking directed to the institutional church itself? To the government? To non-Christians? To other denominations? Then we might ask, speaking about what? Theological issues? Social issues? Political issues? All of a sudden, the question isn’t so simple.
Because of the wording of the resolution that came to the CTCR, the speaking is in reference to the church in the public arena. The church has a 2,000 year history of grappling with this question and has developed five different models, according to H. Richard Niebuhr (Christ and Culture (New York: Harper and Row, 1951)). Lutheranism’s Two Kingdoms Theology falls into the category of “Christ and Culture in Paradox.” The other options are “Christ against Culture,” “The Christ of Culture,” “Christ above Culture,” and “Christ the Transformer of Culture.”
This report surveys each of the ways Christians have related to their culture, but focuses primarily on Lutheranism and especially on the LC-MS. After all, the report is for our consideration.
If you have ever wondered why some denominations seem to be issuing politically charged statements all the time while the LC-MS seems so reluctant to issue such mandates to the culture and government, then you will find this a fascinating read. If you wonder why your LC-MS pastor doesn’t tell you who to vote for, even when he gives a strong sermon accenting how we should live, this report is for you. As will all CTCR reports, it is well researched, well documented, well written, Biblical and confessional.