What Is the Separation of Church and State?

Separation of Church and State usually means the State is way up here and the Church. . .

Today, whenever anyone talks about applying God’s law to civil affairs, folks oppose saying there should be “separation of Church and State.” It is true that there should be a separation of Church authority and State authority, which I will address later, however this is not usually what is intended when people say this. Usually what they actually mean is there should be a separation betwixt God and the State. This is utterly false. Not only should God be acknowledged in State affairs, but it is His law which ought to govern the very structure, means for representation, and legislation that the State enforces.

He gave us His model for civil government in the Hebrew Republic, which is contained mostly in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. His word states, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” There is no light in those who do not speak according to the law God gave to the Hebrews. Thus, when we hear civil magistrates speaking things like, “spread the wealth (by taxing the productive to death),” “you can’t legislate morality,” or even “the Constitution is the final authority,” it is an evidence there’s no light in them. How? Because the law of God has something to say, and as a matter of fact, gives us specific rules about taxes, how to administer sanctions, and what system of government we ought to have, but they  ignore it altogether and instead settle for autonomy.

What does God say about taxes? In I Samuel 8:15-17 when Samuel describes the tyranny the Hebrews were going to bring upon themselves by putting a king over them he says,

“And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.” (emphasis added)

This passage, showing how tyrannical Saul was going to be, says he will tax the people 10%, which is the amount God requires from His people. So, if God only requires 10%, what makes the State think they have the right to take more than He?

The Bible gives very clear direction as to how the State should administer sanctions in Exodus 21-23. For example, what ought to be done to thieves? Are they to pay the government for a crime they committed against an individual? Or if

the thief ends up in jail, should the victim be the one paying to keep him fed and jailed? What do the scriptures say?

“If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep… for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.  If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double. ” (Ex. 22:1, 3, 4).

God’s law says how the State should govern. There should be no separation between God and the State. The Civil magistrate is to be learned in the law of God:

“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:  And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: ” (Deut. 17:18-19)

. . . is way down here.

This does not teach a separation between God’s law and the civil magistrate. There should, however, be a separation of Church and State spheres of authority. The Church is not to take upon itself the administration of criminal sanctions; that is the State’s job. The State is not to take upon itself the education of the populace; that is the Church and the Family’s job, nor excommunication, for, that also is the job of the Church. They have their respective spheres of authority, and thus, are “separate” but they are to work together to maintain an equitable society.

-Evan Murch

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7 responses to “What Is the Separation of Church and State?

  • Doug Indeap

    You have presented an interesting, but (in my opinion) unsound, approach to determining the relationship between government and religion. You presume, I gather, that the relationship is defined and determined by scripture and/or other religious teachings.

    The courts, though, do not seek the answer in those places, but rather in the civil law and, particularly, in the U.S. Constitution, which established the government. The principle of separation of church and state is derived from the Constitution (1) establishing a secular government on the power of the people (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office and the First Amendment provisions constraining the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions.

    • Reformed Inquisitor

      I am not necessarily saying this was the position of the Founders, but rather, what biblical separation of Church and State is, and how we ought to adhere to what it says about the subject. I’m not sure what the Founders meant when they put that in the Constitution, but I know they didn’t endorse a separation between God and the State. (And even if they did, it doesn’t make it any more right)

      All affairs of live are to be governed by the Scriptures, the 66 books of the Bible: Civil government, the Church, the family, and the individual; anything that doesn’t adhere to what the Scriptures say on these subjects are false.

      -Evan

  • Joshua D. Boyce

    This is an interesting post. However, if you adhere to a solely Biblical interpretation of the State, would you not support a Kingship rather than a Democratic Republic or Democracy?

    • Reformed Inquisitor

      The Israelites in their rebellion against God put a king over them, (I Sam. 8:19) so I wouldn’t support a kingship, or a democracy, because it puts the will of the people over law. But, I do see how a republic is compatible with a Theonomic system (as it is a government based on law, not the whims of the people, or the whims of a dictator.) so long as the law it’s based on is God’s Law.

      – Evan

  • paul

    I have some questions that plague me with those in the Theonomy camp. I respect and can see your position. But then are we to put to death adulterers, homosexuals and the like? What about those of other faiths? Can they have freedom to exercise their beliefs, though false, without fear of death?

    Since I am new to this, please forgive my ignorance on this next question. Is it not because God ruled directly over Israel, a theocracy, that these types of penalties could be enforced? God doesn’t rule over us like he did to O.T Israel, correct? I would appreciate some clarification.

    Thank you

    • Reformed Inquisitor

      Paul,

      There are some things you need to keep in mind. Fundamental to theonomy is the notion of sphere authority, which can be briefly stated as saying that there is the authority of the family, the authority of the church and the authority of the State. All of these operate under God. So when you ask are “we” to put to death adulterers, homosexuals, etc. the answer is an emphatic “No!”. But this is not to say that a magistrate who is to rule in accord to God’s law shouldn’t. In fact, there is ample reason to believe that he is.

      In biblical law, the private belief of a false god wasn’t a capital offense.The situations where the magistrate is to execute capital punishment is when they are trying to proselytize and subvert the Christian law order. Now, of course, this all assumes that these things are in place.

      In regards to your question concerning the OT system of law and how much of that carries over to the NT, the late Greg Bahnsen wrote this,

      “Critics who aim to disprove the validity of some portion of the law by appealing to some special feature (F) about Old Testament Israel must (1) define clearly what is meant by F, (2) delineate on principle the intended segment of the law, (3) show that F was actually and uniquely the case and especially (4) demonstrate that the validity of this portion of the law rested solely on F.”

      To put it another way, when you asked “Is it not because God ruled directly over Israel, a theocracy, that these types of penalties could be enforced?” you need to clearly explain how this would negate the portion of God’s law that you give an example (penology against adultery, etc.). In general, God’s Older Testament laws still apply to the magistrates, nor is the NT silent on this subject as Paul the Apostle wrote about the duty of magistrates in Romans 13.

      I hope this helps.
      Grace and peace in Christ,
      Jesse

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