Church and State

I wrote earlier that I wanted the State to bow to Christ. I have taken a little flack for that from an anonymous commenter as well as another.

I agree with Kuyper that there is not a square inch of the universe that Christ does not look at and say ?This is Mine!? And that extends to Washington DC. I believe He is the King of the universe, and that all powers and principalities will bow before Him, including the government. I want to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In the spirit of writing about what I _do_ believe instead of what I _don’t_ believe, here are some things I do believe in as well as questions for anyone who cares to respond. I’m going to start with a few things I do _not_ believe in.

* I do not want to ?impose? Christianity by force of any kind.
* I do not want taxes going to support churches.
* I do not want other denominations or religions outlawed.
* I do not want any religious organization to have any official influence over governmental affairs, or vice versa.
* I do not want any special treatment, good or bad, accorded to anyone due to his religious convictions.

Here?s what I do believe in:

* I believe that the state should openly acknowledge that it rules as a servant of Christ. *What source of authority do you think the state should assert?*
* I believe the State should kiss the Son lest He be angry. *What stance do you think the State should take towards Christ?*
* I believe the State should respect the law of God to limit the areas of life it rules. *What measure do you believe the State should use to determine the limits of its rule?*
* When the state is governing the parts of life that it is supposed to govern, I believe the State should make laws and judgments openly based on the law of God. *What basis do you believe the State should use for making decisions?*

Before you answer, you might take a look at the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 23, as well as Shaw’s Exposition of this chapter.

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11 Responses to Church and State

  1. In other words, you merely want the state to acknowledge reality, i.e., that it is already under God’s authority. He ordained it, it is His tool, it ultimately cannot not do His will. We see it in Exodus when Yahweh hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and we see it in the Gospels as Jesus tells Pilate that he has no authority but at God’s will.

    Christians should want the state to bow to Christ just as we want all of God’s creatures to bow to Him. That doesn’t in the least mean that we are to use the power of the state to effect that submission in the populace. Quite the contrary — to desire the state to bow to Christ is to desire it to stay in its place.

  2. Robert says:

    And by “acknowledge reality” of course not only do we want the state to acknowledge reality with its lips, but to act accordingly. The only alternative to godly laws and government is _ungodly_ laws and government! There is no neutrality.

    You are right that a state that truly bows to Christ is one that stays in its place. It recognizes its Master. The state that recognizes _no_ master is the one to be feared.

  3. Chris P. says:

    Robert, I really appreciate these posts. You have a good grasp of this. Dittos to Valerie.

  4. Kyle says:

    Hm. I just want Christians to do their duty and get heavily involved in the political process. The reason these things don’t happen is that Christians get this weird idea that they can exercise their duty to influence their own democracy by voting for a pagan and expecting him to enact Christian government.

  5. Anonymous says:

    (Arg. Just wiped out my post. That’ll teach me to type anything in a browser window. Let’s try again.)

    I suspect that our disagreement here is deeper than government – it probably extends to free will vs. determinism – but I’ll go ahead and answer Robert’s question and see where it leads me.

    *What source of authority should the state assert?*
    The state should assert that it “derives its just powers from the consent of the governed”, to quote the Declaration of Independence. Paul’s comments about government in Romans should be taken in context – the preservation of the church in Rome – and should not be extended to a blanket approval of every tyrant and dictator who has ever ruled. God has given people the authority to act, even in ways that he may disapprove of, and in a representative democracy, the people grant this authority to the government.

    *What stance should the state take toward Christ?*
    The state should be totally ambivalent toward Christ. It should not approve or disapprove of his teachings, or claim to know anything about his divinity. This means that the state won’t bow to Christ, but it also means that the state won’t bow to Ishkabibble.

    *How should the state determine the limits of its rule?*
    Heh. I asked this question in a previous post, now I have to answer it. The state should be limited in the ways the people say it should be limited. Ideally, the federal government would be limited to preserving the liberties of its citizens.

    *How should the state make decisions?*
    The legislators, judges and executives that comprise the state should make decisions by considering the evidence about a problem, and then evaluating how various courses of action might uphold or degrade the things that its citizens value. If the citizens’ values align with Christian values, then the state’s laws will uphold Christian principles. And if the civil servants don’t observe the values of the citizens, then the citizens will vote their butts out of office.

    To conclude, I think you set up a false dilemma when you insist that the choice between a secular and Christian government is between godliness and ungodliness. Legislators will make godly decisions if their constituents are really concerned about godly values.

  6. Robert says:

    I believe that God is the source of all human authority (Col 1:16-17). He makes the rules and sets the limits. Civil government is His servant (Daniel 4:17, 4:26, 4:37, Romans 13:1-7). Elders rule a church only by divine decree (1 Peter 5:1-5). Men rule their families under delegated authority (Eph 5:23-24, Eph 6:1-3). Masters rule under God’s authority (Eph 6:9).

    You apparently believe that man is the source of all human authority. Some folks would call that idolatry.

  7. Matthew says:

    Hm. I think that in my previous post, I said “God has given people the authority to act, even in ways that he may disapprove of, and in a representative democracy, the people grant this authority to the government.”

    That means that any human authority derives from God’s authority, right? Yes, I think it does.

    But I don’t think the state should claim to know anything about God. So the highest authority that *the state* can claim is that of the people.

  8. Kerry says:

    Excuse me, but are you nuts? What is this ‘state’you refer to but all of us, We the People? The ‘state’ has no individual heart to be affected by conversion. No individual official of the state, no official organization representative of the state is empowered to speak for or take a position towards Christ on behalf of the state. Which member of the USDA has the authority to speak for the USDA for Christ? There is none. That lack of authority comes both from the governing documents of the Republic and from Christ. Christ did not say, I stand at the door of Soil Conservation Service and knock… Furthermore man’s laws, not God’s govern the state. Do you wish to cut those down in the service of God? Hew a great path through them in a drive to replace them with God’s laws? You cut down the very protection we have from an overriding state. The Kingdom is “not of this world”. The state as a collective can not arrive at that understanding, only each individual heart has that capacity. Your singleminded devotion is admirable; please refrain from wishing to use it as a basis of governance.

  9. Richard Hightower says:

    All very good and I agree with almost every part of what has been said…

    But (you knew that was coming) we do not live in anything like the system our Founding Fathers invented. What they created was a form of government based upon a Lockian / Naturalist interpretation of Christian scripture.

    It was proper and successful until the middle of the 19th century. That was about the time people we would refer to as Neo-pagans, New Agers, and Social Activits began to crop up and we lost our way. The result was the War of Northern Agression (a.k.a The US Civil War) and our form of government fell in 1865 to be replaced by a highly socialist federal oligarcy. What you are talking about no longer exist.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news but ruminating over what our government should or could be in our country is a pointless excersize. Start thinking about what it is and how we can get back to the original system so these correct and true ideas of goverment based upon Devine principle can be realized.

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