Monday, December 20, 2010

Refuting anti-Theonomy Straw Men: Part 1: Separation of Church and State

A popular argument leveled against theonomy is that it "denies the separation of church and state."

But theonomy does no such thing.  Since theonomy affirms the entire Bible--including the Old Testament--as the standard for biblical civil government, theonomy out of necessity affirms the separation of church and state.

The Older Testament very explicitly holds to the separation of church and state in 2 Chronicles:
“And behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judahin all the king’s matters …” (emphases mine) (2 Chronicles 19:11a).
"Matters of the Lord" are church functions, while "the king's matters" are state functions.  Thus here we clearly see a mandate for church/state separation.  

This of course does not mean that theonomy affirms a separation of God and state, which many confuse with separation of church and state.  The church is not God.  Church and state are to be separate, but they both answer to God; they are two distinct entities under one common authority.  Each answers to the word of God, but not to each other.

Not only does theonomy affirm that God requires a church/state separation, but theonomy affirms that church and state risk God's judgment when their roles are blurred.  Both Kings Saul and Uzziah violated the separation of church and state, and paid the price.  Saul lost his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:8-14), and Uzziah was struck with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).

Ironically, it is theonomy critics who undermine their own opposition to violating the separation of church and state.  For in rejecting theonomy, theonomy critics have rejected the biblical mandate for church/state separation--and thereby the only authority for opposing the church ruling the state, the state ruling the church, or the complete merging of these two institutions.  

Without the Bible, by what standard can they advocate the separation of church and state?  In their subjective framework, perhaps church and state should in fact be merged!  It is this anti-theonomic mindset that opens the door for such calamities as the church ruling over the state--as we have seen in Roman Catholicism--and the state ruling over the church--as we have seen in secular humanism.  

Moreover, many theonomy critics instinctively know that God's law (theonomy) should be the standard of civil government, as we see in their rightful hostility to abortion.  

But here we see a major inconsistency: why are theonomists advocating the merging of church and state when they want the state to acknowledge God's law, while theonomy critics, who want the state to acknowledge God's law--at least in the matter of abortion--are not advocating the merging of church and state?  

Simply put, on this matter theonomy critics are confused and have not thought carefully about the difference between the state obeying God's law and the state obeying the church; nor have they studied carefully about what the Older Testament actually teaches about church and state.

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