(CCU Faculty) State and Church is the question of the hour in this season of life. It is wrong to believe that the concept of the state is pagan in origin and hence alien to the New Testament. Government is a New Testament idea that does not imply any particular form of state or society. Government is ordained by God.
However, I would reject those bases for government which project the state arising out of the character of man: i.e., Aristotle, medieval Catholicism, Hegelianism; as well as those theories based in man’s sin and need of government for restraint in a chaotic world: i.e., the Reformation tradition.
My view is one that I would maintain is more not less biblical, affirming that government is "from above" rather than organized "from below." I would also affirm Christ as the basis for all government because He is the mediator of creation, the goal of government, its Lord, and its source of authority and power.
Government has a divine character in its being. Think of those that sought freedom in the establishment of America’s government. The very nature of government, its task reflects its divine character in its mission whereby it serves Christ by the sword for punishment and justice and along with education (well-being) for goodness. A further divine implication is the claim of government on conscience, or obedience "for the Lord’s sake" (1 Pet. 2:13). The believer is bound to obedience until the government exceeds its commission, whereupon one must obey God rather than man - and this is happening again today.
This disobedience in a single area must not be generalized to all areas of government. Only an apocalyptic social/political series of events in which all obedience to government involved denial of Christ (see Rev. 13:7) would require total disobedience. But there have been governments in the past that have required the church to be totally disobedient. By some indications, we are moving rapidly to that point in America now.
Government has a relation to the other mandates. It serves to protect and sanction these areas, but in itself government is not creative. Marriage and the church stand independently of government, but always in the presence of government to show the holiness of God. The sanctity of life is also a mandate, both for the unborn and for those that are in need of voice - the aged, sick, those with disabilities. We the church stand with and for them.
Government has a claim on the church in obedience. Obedience to government is obedience to Christ – again IF it isn’t involved in the denial of Christ and obedience to Him. Likewise, the church lays a claim on government. She reminds government of their common Master. She calls all governments to fulfill its "worldly calling," its special task, and at the same time claims protection from the government. The government also has a claim on the church. Government must maintain neutrality with reference to exalting one faith (Christian or non-Christian) over another. It cannot originate new religions either! Similarly, the church has a political responsibility also, the church must warn of sin and call for righteousness which exalts a nation.
We find ourselves serving/living/operating in a constitutional republic form of Government. We are blessed because of how we were founded. But God does not opt for any particular form of government. This means that government must recognize its being from above. It means also that the government’s power will rest on its ability in fulfilling its role as the implementation of justice for all, defense against those that seek to destroy our union, on the rights of the family and of its people to live life and enjoy liberty, and on the ability to freely give the proclamation of the gospel.
If any government seeks to redefine that role (which it has been seeking to do in this country for over 80 years more often than not) and thus to usurp the role of the Church was Jesus’ body, then obedience to that government ends and the Church is required to respond openly in contradiction of the rebellion of the state against God. Today we see the effects of Obama liberation theology which believes Christianity gets in the way of his building his dominion brand of neo-socialism. At present the state is moving quickly to silence and take the role of the church.
"There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it be outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life," wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Ethics. "Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world.” We as the Church need to take responsible action. Responsible action is a highly risky venture, however. It makes no claims to objectivity or certainty. It is a free venture that cannot be justified in advance except to ask and receive wisdom and discernment.
Civil courage grows out of the free responsibility of free people. Only now, thankfully in fact, I am beginning to hear many Christians and others who were "busy", seem to be beginning to discover the meaning of free responsibility. That free responsibility depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith and who promises forgiveness and solace to a people who becomes a sinner in that venture. But, nevertheless, it is how we participate in the reality of Christ, i.e., it is how we act in harmony with the will of God. The demand for responsible action in history is a demand no Christian can ignore.
We are, accordingly, faced with the following dilemma: when assaulted by evil, we must oppose it directly. We have no other option. The failure to act is simply to condone evil. There isn’t such a world of utopian possibilities; it always leads to dystopian evil which has been the way through time and we are no different. The balance between the two is what is the best we can do as humans together who aren't all redeemed in Jesus till we who live in God's reality arrive in heaven.
We have to be Kingdom people and be that salt and light in a darkness that is present and strong. "Greater is He that is in you than he (darkness) that is in the world!” While I have a desire for everyone to know Jesus in faith, I am a realist to see it is a choice for all to make…it is a move of our free will - not destiny – nor determinism.
My hope is that we will through voting remove the rebellion, and that the courts will do their constitutional duty. Final thought: You cannot expect people of faith to leave faith at their door (home or church) otherwise it wouldn’t be faith (life).
(Denver Post, June 3) The Founders wouldn’t believe it. The Colorado Court of Appeals says the governor may not proclaim an official day of prayer because of a clause in the state constitution prohibiting that “any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship.
This novel interpretation would come as a surprise not only to the governors who have issued such proclamations dating back many years, but also to the authors of that very constitution, who declared in its preamble their “profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.”
They couldn’t have intended the religious preference clause to become a barrier to state action encouraging Coloradans to seek that Supreme Ruler’s favor. Good to know that Gov. John Hickenlooper has directed Attorney General John Suthers to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, which should surely overturn it based on logic and precedent.
But wait; did I say “surely”? When it comes to religion and politics, church and state, nothing is sure any more. Also headed for the state Supreme Court is an ACLU challenge to Douglas County parents using their own tax dollars to educate their own children in (horrors) faith-based schools.
Meanwhile at the legislature we’ve seen both political parties consider divorcing the legal definition of marriage from its time-honored theological definition. The rationale for gay civil unions was put this way by Hickenlooper: “We don’t believe we should legislate what happens inside a church or place of worship, but government should treat all people equally.”
Leaving aside the vexed question of how the law recognizes different kinds of couples, look what the governor is saying in that sentence BEFORE the comma. He implies that government’s power over you and me stops only at the church door. This echoes a theme from President Obama, whose speeches always refer to “freedom of worship,” not “freedom of religion.”
What’s the difference? Freedom of religion includes the individual right of conscience in conduct outside of church – exactly what secular theocrats are trampling on with the HHS mandate for Catholic and evangelical institutions to provide drugs for contraception or abortion, in violation of their allegiance to God.
“The Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” you see, is no longer acknowledged as a reality under the dominant liberal consensus. He, or it, is now treated as just an outmoded notion which backward folk are allowed to preach about in their sanctuaries – but to whom they must no longer render homage by public word or deed. That homage is now supposed to be Caesar’s alone.
Where is all this leading? For over a millennium and a half, ever since the Emperor Constantine in 312 A.D., Christians in Europe and eventually America have been accustomed to friendly treatment by civil government. But that is over, over there, and may soon be over with here.
The Church of State, as my Colorado Christian University colleague Kevin Miller calls it in his important book “Freedom Nationally, Virtue Locally,” is setting up as the one and only religious establishment. I won’t say get used to it, because we never should. It must be fought.
But we who honor the God of the Bible had better gird ourselves, for this will get worse before it gets better. We’d better study the persecuted church, thriving in China and Africa; our own time may be coming. We must realize, as the Founders knew, that America is not in the Bible. Americans are, however. It holds vast wisdom and warning for us.
As the Constantinian settlement – itself quite unscriptural – passes away, a good place to start would be Jesus’ own rule: “Render to Caesar, render to God.” That balance, the only safe harbor for faith and freedom, was lost in Christendom centuries ago. It is now ours to rebuild.
If Scripture is authoritative, it should guide not only religion on Sundays, but politics, economics, and academics the other six days of the week. That's the premise of the Saint Louis Statement, a position paper issued by some friends of mine.
They were concerned about the many Christian schools and churches that buy into relativist, collectivist, and leftist ideas in disregard of biblical teachings to the contrary. We can all think of examples. (Colorado Christian University, sponsor of this blog, thankfully is not one of them; not in the least.)
The statement, entitled "The Bible, the Republic, the Economy, and the Academy," is posted here. Those of us already listed as signers welcome comments and discussion, as well as anyone wishing to add his or her signature.
As the confirmation hearings for nominee Elena Kagan begin this week, we again return to the question of how Supreme Court justices should interpret the Constitution. Central to this inquiry is the approach that justices take towards both the text and the fundamental principles which undergird our Constitution. There has been a long-running debate concerning this among varying judicial philosophies, one that in many ways mirrors current tensions among the Christian church. The recent phenomenon of the emergent church movement provides us with a striking similarity to the approach taken by many of our nation’s modern/activist judges.
A very attractive approach in our modern culture comes to the following conclusion: When I no longer like the orthodoxy, I’m in favor of changing it. The temptation to question and challenge orthodoxy is indeed strong; in fact, our nature drives us to it. The history of religion finds numerous cases when those who were dissatisfied sought to overturn longstanding truths in favor of new ideas that “better suited” the circumstances of the day. Typically, what happens is that when we find orthodoxy no longer convenient, we seek to replace it by crafting something new, rather than align ourselves with it. More often, this is done through clever reinterpretations of the original.
In recent years, such a group has been increasing in their influence among the church. This group, commonly referred as the “emergent church” has intentionally remained elusive in declaring their doctrine. Yet among many in the movement, there are significant challenges to the fundamental orthodoxy of Christianity: through faith in Christ alone is the sole means of salvation. These revisionists are denying the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the reality of Hell, and the very nature of the Gospel. The emergent movement comes out of frustration that the 21st Century church doesn’t fit well within a 21st Century mindset. For instance, it is indeed uncomfortable to think about eternal damnation in Hell. What to do? Remove this threat from religion. Or, it does indeed seem arrogant that Christ is the sole route to salvation. What to do? Open it up to other alternatives. Many in the emergent church movement are doing just these things.
Of course, this tendency to contradict the orthodoxy is not limited to religion. There are great similarities in the causes, methods, and desired ends of the “emergent” movement toward a “living Constitution.”
Justice William Brennan, in a 1985 speech at the Georgetown University School of Law, laid out his view of constitutional interpretation. “Like every text worth reading, it is not crystalline. The phrasing is broad and the limitations of its provisions are not clearly marked. It majestic generalities and ennobling pronouncements are both luminous and obscure. This ambiguity of course calls forth interpretation, the interaction of reader and text.”
Brennan concluded that the text of the Constitution was less important than his own desired ends of “justice.” When discussing the issue of capital punishment, Brennan, a longtime opponent, concluded that the Constitution was incompatible with state-sanctioned executions. Where did he find this? He certainly could not have concluded that capital punishment conflicted with the 8th Amendment concerning cruel and unusual punishment, as the authors of the amendment certainly had no such opinion. Looking to other portions of the Constitution, there is clear evidence that execution is permissible. Both the 5th and 14th Amendments permit its usage. The requirement that no person “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” presupposes that when a person has been guaranteed due process, then capital punishment may indeed be used.
Brennan is forced to ignore both the mind of the authors and the clear meaning of the text. Simply to state that the text is ambiguous, Brennan seeks to give himself permission to interpret it however he sees fit.
What Brennan challenged is the very concept of rule of law and the principles of limited government. He does this through the activist and “living constitution” approach to judicial review. The Supreme Court Justice, under our model of constitutionalism, is not entitled to “make the law what they want it to be.” Rather, they are to apply the law as it was intended. It is fine that Justice Brennan disliked the usage of capital punishment. It is absurd to conclude that it violates the text and/or the fundamental precepts of the Constitution.
What we need are justices who recognize the truth and value of the orthodoxy and who have a commitment to uphold it.
('76 Editor) The Manhattan Declaration on sanctity of life, dignity of marriage, and religious liberty was faulted by my colleague Kevin Miller at the Vanguard Forum on Feb. 5 for insufficiently addressing such issues as the divorce culture and the idolatry of the state. I agree with Kevin that those issues must be honestly confronted, especially since Christians have been passively and actively complicit in the worsening of both for at least a century now. But I am proud to be a signer of the Manhattan Declaration, imperfections and all, since on balance it does the Republic and the Church far more good than harm. Believers agree, as former Sen. Bruce Cairns quoted from Prov. 14:34 at Vanguard, that "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." So isn't a proper balance in rendering to God and to Caesar (Matthew 22:21, the explicit aim of the Manhattan Declaration) one condition for strengthening America's righteousness? Again, we can agree that it is -- hardly a sufficient condition, as Kevin correctly warns, but surely a necessary one. Americans in general, Christian and otherwise, grossly over-render to Caesar at present. It's this mistake alone that the manifesto seeks to warn against and begin correcting, as best I can see. For the many other mistakes and omissions of which we believers are guilty, another manifesto may well be needed -- a Vanguard Declaration, perhaps -- but that is no reason to withhold our support from the worthy and urgent aims of the Manhattan Declaration. Are Manhattan's drafters and signers guilty of the hypocrisy and false pretense which Jesus condemns as like "whited sepulchres" (Matt. 23:27), or the inverted priorities which he likens to overlooking the log in one's own eye while criticizing the sawdust in another's (Matt. 7:3)? Not at all. The declaration does express repentance for Christians' complicity with rampant divorce. In giving relatively more attention to the threat of judicially-imposed same-sex marriage, it merely addresses the proximate danger of Caesar's next arrogant overreach. Everyone who values the family as society's core institution for stability and health can only applaud. I agree with Kevin Miller's expanded agenda for Christian self-correction and resulting social betterment -- virtue fostered non-coercively by changing hearts, starting with our own -- but I don't see this as an either/or with the Manhattan agenda. Rather it's a both/and. Jesus again: "These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23:23). Finally, let's apply the Lord's own "By their fruits ye shall know them" test (Matt. 7:20). Will the ever-widening support and discussion of the Manhattan Declaration (now with 420,000 signers ) tend to trouble and cleanse the conscience of Christians, stir us up to repentance and good works and walking the talk -- or will it only serve as an excuse for smugness, complacency, and pharisaical superiority? I'm confident of the former result. Naming the name of Christ, daring to engage with him, starts one on a process of living up to his standard more and more fully. So with Nicodemus, Zaccheus, Matthew, and Peter, the divorced woman at the well and the weeping woman at the feast. "Going public" for the faith, even before we may be fully ready or presentable, takes on a positive logic of its own. And as for the concern voiced at Vanguard by a rigorous Reformation Protestant who asked if the Catholic understanding of the gospel (deficient in his view) may not defeat the whole Manhattan Declaration project, I will go with what Jesus told John: "He that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:50). Even allowing that he seems to have said the opposite in Luke 11:23, we can take the "by their fruits" test as a tiebreaker -- for to repeat, no one has shown me how the Manhattan Declaration is going to do harm. One way or the other, what matters, said Paul, is that "Christ is preached" (Phil. 1:18). Amen say I. Have you signed the Manhattan Declaration? You can do so here. Want to know more about Kevin Miller, his Vanguard Forum once a month in suburban Denver, and his National Freedom Initiative for "freedom nationally, virtue locally"? You sign onto all that as well, as I have done, by clicking here.
What should be the relationship of church and state? The founder of the church, Jesus Christ, proclaimed that we should “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and render unto God the things that are God’s. The reason we could do both was because His “kingdom was not of this world.” We could be good citizens of the Roman Empire and good citizens of God’s kingdom at the same time. Many Jews in Jesus’ day wanted to rebel against Roman authority, but Jesus told his followers to pay their taxes to Rome.
Christ’s followers in the first few centuries of the church also got this perspective correctly. The Roman Empire demanded that everybody worship Caesar as God, or at least burn incense to him as a sign of loyalty to the state. Because the early Christians refused to do this, they were burned at the stake or thrown to the lions. Those on the left wanted to overthrow the state, and those on the right wanted Christians to worship the state, but Christ and his early church had the right perspective.
In Britain 300 years ago there were two political parties, the Whigs and the Tories. The Whigs emphasized personal freedom and the rights of man. The Tories emphasized tradition and divine right monarchy. Radical Whigs on the far left were mostly deists pushing to overturn the monarchy. At the other extreme were radical Tories, who demanded that everybody submit without question to the king, as a sign of their loyalty to the state. My doctoral dissertation was on this struggle between the two extremes, and of those who tried to get church and state in the right perspective. It was John Locke who had that correct perspective, reminding us of the need for personal liberty, freedom of conscience and religious toleration, yet also that we should fulfill our duty to the state, who held power by “the consent of the governed.” Locke encouraged an end to the reign of the tyrant James II, replacing it with that of William and Mary, who agreed to freedom of conscience in religious toleration and to a more limited government in the English Bill of Rights.
Our founding fathers also experienced this tension. On the left was Thomas Paine, a radical deist calling for radical change. On the right were the Tories demanding tradition and insisting that we should not rebel against the king and the established church. The founders proceeded cautiously, entreating the king to respect individual freedom, and rebelling only when it became obvious that there was no other way to end tyranny. They also insured that there would be no established church or official prayers.
Today America is again torn by the extremes of radical change and disbelief on the one hand and a closely entangled church-state relationship on the other. While one side wants rebellion (figuratively speaking) and a rejection of all things sacred, it sometimes seems the other wants to wed church and state again in a new Roman Empire or Tory divine-right monarchy. We should follow Christ, and “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and render unto God the things that are God’s.” We should not allow Caesar to dominate the church, nor allow the church to dominate the state. We should respect personal freedoms, and serve the kingdom of God. While the Romans and the Tories wanted the church to submit to an emperor or king, let us follow the teachings of Christ and the founding fathers by maintaining a separation of church and state.
John Calvin, one of the giants of Christian history, was born 500 years ago this month: July 10, 1509, to be exact. To mark the half-millennium of his enduring influence, Pastor Don Sweeting of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church -- and a trustee of Colorado Christian University -- wrote a three-part tribute on his blog.
Under the overall title of CELEBRATING THE LEGACY OF JOHN CALVIN, you'll find Sweeting's perspective on...
Part 1 Calvin as Pastor, Preacher, Reformer, Church Planter
Part 2 Calvin as Influencer of Culture, Government, Economics, and Education
Part 3 Calvin as Theologian—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
These are wonderful articles. I loved them, and among Don Sweeting's words that jumped off the page was the observation that “no human can be trusted with absolute power.” Human experience has conclusively proven this to be true.
Personally, I would go even further – it is the lesson of history that no person nor any group can safely be trusted with a large degree of power over their fellow human beings, especially for any extended period of time.
Madison, among others, understood this very well. So did almost all of the nation’s early leaders, particularly Washington who said something to the effect that government is not reason nor is it eloquence, rather it is force, and like fire, a dangerous servant and fearful master.
We believe that one of God’s purposes for CCU is to raise up a generation of citizens who share Washington and Madison’s aversion to big government.
(The heart cry of a mother and grandmother) What has happened to America? Where is the church and its influence?
The following headline blared the other day on the front page of Pravda: "American Capitalism Gone With A Whimper. It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American descent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people."
Tragic--the communists spot socialism rooted and out of control in our country quicker than many Americans--including dedicated pew warmers. One Christian Educator & Leader said, "I don't watch the news. It's too depressing."
Well that's one way to escalate the crazy-making decisions in Washington. We all sit by like "helpless sheeple" and allow our country to slide into a socialistic abyss.
For months Neil Cavuto (Fox Business & Your World with Neil Cavuto) has compared the decisions coming out of Washington to zombies drinking poisoned Kool-Aid in the movie Night Of The Living Dead. Glenn Beck & Lou Dobbs are also trying to awaken us. Neil Cavuto sadly commented, "I miss America!"
This breaks my heart--for my Treasures & Heartbeats and yes-- for your Children & Grandchildren too! Recently our precious friend, Kirstin,a Business Major at CO State University & a voice for Christ on campus and over America said, "Many church choruses are so vague. They're dumbing- down our faith."
Resuscitation is defined as "being restored to life or consciousness." Does the church need resuscitating?
Yes, churches are dying and members are lulled and unaware. We need to return to the living faith of our forefathers. Francois Fenelon (France - 1600's), a dedicated Christian worked amidst the wicked court of Louis XIV. Fenelon reflected his living faith in God so strongly, it was said that Louis XIV commented, "I cannot remain an unbeliever in his presence."
Please pray for the Church to awaken--and allow the Lord to resuscitate and renew us--so that we can save America for our Children & Grandchildren!
And on July 4th--let's join the Tea Parties!
Pro Deo et Patria - (For God & Country)