Church and State Relations

Church and State Relations

The Problem
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This has been used to protect religious liberties in American History. However In recent years some have begun to interpret this stating that religion has no role in politics. Therefore in recent times, controversy has risen regarding religion’s role in politics if any.

I. Views

Theocracy-This view holds that God alone is to run a nation. Controversy arises when determining who determines how God wants to run a nation. This concept has been seen in History regarding the Church of England, The Roman Catholic Church, and Dutch Reformers.

Strict Democracy- This view holds that the desires of the people should always be met. This is “By the People, For the People”. While this seems a wise government, many have criticized Democratic elections that do not result in particular ways, such as the recent Palestinian election supporting Hamas.

Checked Government- This view holds that while the people have a say in the government, there remains some checks and balances that should serve as a guide to the nation. The government can’t be trusted to the masses, because the masses may be ignorant or wicked. Nor can the Nation be trusted to a select few, because the few may be corrupt.

II. Sources of Authority that Influence View

A. Scripture

Isa 9:6-7 NASU
6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Rom 13:1-7 NASU
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Acts 5:27-32 NASU
27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
B. Influential Quotes
Patriarchs

Augustine
This much I have judged it advisable to quote from the fourth book of Cicero’s De Republica; and I have made the quotation word for word, with the exception of some words omitted, and some slightly transposed, for the sake of giving the sense more readily. And certainly the extract is pertinent to the matter I am endeavoring to explain. Cicero makes some further remarks, and concludes the passage by showing that the ancient Romans did not permit any living man to be either praised or blamed on the stage. But the Greeks, as I said, though not so moral, were more logical in allowing this license which the Romans forbade; for they saw that their gods approved and enjoyed the scurrilous language of low comedy when directed not only against men, but even against themselves; and this, whether the infamous actions imputed to them were the fictions of poets, or were their actual iniquities commemorated and acted in the theatres. And would that the spectators had judged them worthy only of laughter, and not of imitation! Manifestly it had been a stretch of pride to spare the good name of the leading men and the common citizens, when the very deities did not grudge that their own reputation should be blemished.( http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120102.htm) Showing even the Romans had guidelines regarding religious liberty.

Reformers

John Owen
There is no outward constitution nor frame of things, in governments or nations, but it is subject to a dissolution, and may receive it, and that in a way of judgment. If any might plead exemption, that, on many accounts, of which the apostle was discoursing in prophetical terms (for it was not yet time to speak it openly to all) might interpose for its share. (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/sermons.iv.xiii.html?highlight=creation#highlight)

Modern

U.S. Patriots
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, (http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/index.htm)

III. My View

While the Government should never govern the church (religion), in a democratic state-if it is the desire of the people then the government should serve religion as the people see fit. Regarding America, this idea of Government serving church (thus God) is seen first in the Declaration of Independence. Since the church is composed of people, People have every right to vote in a democratic state, therefore the church may use the government, and however the government may never legislate the church.

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About matthewstevens

Matt needs more Jesus...just like you. He writes to encourage thinking and the expansion of the Kingdom
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