Monday, March 21, 2011

Why I Believe in the Separation of Church and State

by Randy Pope

God established three basic institutions in scripture. The family, the church, and the state. For each of these institutions God gave responsibilities. In some instances he overlaps some of the responsibility, but in most cases the God-given role for the three institutions are clearly separated.
When these institutions operate within the parameters that God revealed in scripture you will find the greatest happiness for the most people. There will be no attempt to develop the systematic theology for these institutions, but several responsibilities for each must be cataloged to illustrate how God orders the culture.

The dominion mandate was given to the family. The family as a unit is to multiply, be fruitful and subdue the earth and all that is in the earth (Gen 1:27-31). The husband and wife are to leave their parents and cleave together (Gen. 2:23-25). The husband is to provide for his family (I Tim. 5:8). The family is the institution with the responsibility to teach the children (Deut. 6:6-9).

The church has been given responsibility to administer the sacraments, and church government, among other things in Acts 6:1-7. In Acts 15 and Revelation 2 the church is ordered to guard doctrine. The church is to maintain purity within the church (I Cor. 5:1-13). The church has responsibility to administer judgment amongst her members (I Cor. 6:1-8). Revelation 2:2 gives authority to the church to protect against false teachers, and finally the church has been given the responsibility to provide for the poor (Rev. 2:19, II Cor. 8:1-15, 9:11-15).

Finally, God gave authority to the state to protect the good to do good and punish evil doers (Roms. 13:4). The state has been given the power of the sword to fulfill this responsibility. Paul calls the civil magistrate the minister of God. A minister that attempts to fulfill his duties outside God's prescribed guidelines causes evil to fall upon those in his charge. Proverbs 29:2 states, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people sigh" (1599 Geneva Bible).

God is sovereign; thus His three institutions must necessarily be under His authority. For the best order in a culture they must fulfill their responsibility without encroaching on the authority of either of the other institutions. The greatest good for all people, whether they be numbered among the elect or not, is for each institution to operate under the authority of God Almighty, and within the separate authority given to them by God.

The American system illustrates this marvelously. The more that the state encroaches on the authority of the family and the church the more the people “sigh.” Noah Webster closed his definition of sin, in his 1848 dictionary, as “whatever is contrary to God's commands or law,” listing I John 3, Matt. 15 and James 4 as references to exemplify this statement. When the state takes authority rightfully given to the family and church and when the state abrogates its God given authority it is doing what “is contrary to God's commands or law.” This is why the separation of church and state is necessary: not as understood by secularists, but as delineated by God, in scripture.

This article was originally posted at Christian Worldview of History and Culture 

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