God and Caesar, Then and Now

Festschrift for Dr Wesley Carr, 2003
by Dr N. T. Wright, Canon Theologian, Westminster Abbey
(from June 30 2003: Bishop of Durham)

‘Render unto Caesar,’ declared Jesus, ‘the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.’ That famously cryptic comment serves not only as a title for this article but as a reminder of the question-mark that hangs over life in an established church, not least in that most established of churches, Westminster Abbey. Having served under Wesley Carr and experienced the joys and puzzles, the stresses and opportunities which the intermingling of Church and State produce, I am delighted to offer these reflections in gratitude for his brave leadership and wise collegiality. How, today, should we approach the question of God and Caesar – of Christ, church, crown and state? To answer, I shall first outline some current assumptions, and suggest that they are currently challenged from within contemporary culture itself. Then I shall suggest that the biblical basis for the topic is more solid and multi-faceted than normally imagined. Finally, I shall argue for a way of understanding church, state and crown in our own day…

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