When trying to understand the concept of separation of Church and State, the secularist begins with our nation’s historical documents.
Some Christians begin there too, but Capitol Ministries believes they are mistaken.
When trying to determine the right course of action or when developing a position on any issue, the Christian should always begin with the Bible. It is the believer’s authority on all things.
And in turning to the Bible on this issue, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that there should be an institutional separation of Church and State, but not an influential separation. This is an important distinction to make; the two are vastly different.
Seminal Scripture that illustrates this biblical distinction is found Matthew 22:21 wherein Jesus is asked a trick question — whether it is lawful for Israelites to pay taxes to Caesar:
And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render to God the things that are God’s.”
At that time, Israel was a Theocracy — a government in which the priests ruled in the name of God. The Bible calls Israel A kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6-7).
Therefore, when Jesus made that statement, He was proclaiming a huge new distinction to his listeners, that something was coming for the approaching Church Age that was quite different from the Theocracy of Old Testament (OT) Israel.
This passage anchors the concept of institutional separation of Civil Government from God’s ordained Institution of the Church. Other prominent NT passages that support this are Romans 13:1-8 and I Peter 2:13-14.
Many Evangelicals are not clear on this point of institutional separation.
For Evangelicals to state, as they often do, that there is no mention of separation of Church and State in the American Constitution gives rise to secular fear that American Evangelicals in office are plotting a Theocracy.
Regardless of what one may or may not think the U.S. Constitution says about this matter, the NT remains and has always been crystal clear: Institutional separation is biblical.
But make no mistake, institutional separation does not mean there should be influential separation, as is postulated by the secularists.
Whereas the believer should hold to institutional separation, he must reject the secular notion of influential separation.
The reason the secularist is wrong on influential separation is because righteousness in the lives of individuals — both in a nation’s citizens and its leaders — is necessary for good governance, and without a strong Church that influences and makes disciples, the State soon goes wayward due to the sinfulness of its leaders.
The Church must influence Civil Government. Consider these biblical reasons:
Proverbs 29:2: When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.
Proverbs 28:12: When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, men hide themselves.
Proverbs 14:34 states summarily, Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs has much to say about the necessity of virtuous governmental leaders for creating a maintaining a civil and just society.
To accommodate that need, the Church must be in the business of manufacturing righteous leaders through evangelism and discipleship at all levels of their career paths. As a matter of primacy, the Church must influence the State, or the State will eventually die.
Conclusively, believers must be clear on this subject: We stand for institutional separation, lest the secularist mistakenly conclude we have some kind of theocratic motives in the back of our heads. But unlike the secularist, the believer is passionate about the necessity of the Church influencing the State.
For additional information on this topic, read:
The Anatomy Of A Hybrid: A Study of Church/State Relationships, Leonard Verduin (The Christian Hymnary Publishers; Sarasota, Florida)
Who Should Influence the Government?
There are many who will not accept arguments based upon Scripture that the Church should influence government, as they do not recognize the Bible as authoritative.
Those individuals may consider that the United States was established so that all citizens have access to their elected leaders and possess opportunities to influence them.
One memorable influencer in recent times is renowned atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair who became famously known for influencing the State to adopt her personal belief system that prayer should be banned in all public schools.
Today, armies of lobbyists flood Capitol Hill representing experts and leaders in business, industry, ranching, banking, nonprofit agencies, farming, media, the environment, animal rights, and minority groups, among many, many others.
These professional influencers bombard elected officials with petitions asking for funding, requesting new laws, pleading for tax relief, begging for fewer regulations and any number of other appeals.
And it is their constitutional right to do so.
It is then the job of elected leaders to use their own reasoning and sound judgment to consider outside influence when they make final decisions.
Why would the Church, which is in a similar sense, lobbyist for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not be accorded the same privilege?