LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE

REGARDING CHURCH AND STATE

 

 

Some Thoughts By

Gary Ray Branscome

 

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth (Philippians 2:10).

 

          There are those who say that the church should not get involved in politics; that its job is to spread the gospel and call sinners to repentance, not to influence legislation or try to make people righteous through the law. And, that is perfectly true, at least in regard to the “church” as an institution. However, those who think that rank and file Christians should not get involved in government, or that all Christian influence should be separated from government, have missed the big picture and fail to understand the will of God.

What they fail to see is that the “church” does not exist in a vacuum but is a vital part of the community and nation. And, as a part of the nation the role that God intends for the church to carry out (including its relationship to the state) can be seen in His plan for ancient Israel, and in the difference between the role He assigned to Moses and the role He assigned to Aaron. Of course, governments existed before Moses. And, the standard of right and wrong that God originally gave to government was the standard written upon the heart (Romans 2:14). However, all government was instituted by God “for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of those who do right” (1Peter 2:14). And, because the role of government is to condemn and punish criminal behavior, government is a vehicle of God’s wrath while the church, in contrast, is a vehicle of God’s mercy.

 

Furthermore, because works can never make men righteous in the sight of God, it should be obvious that the job of government is not to make men righteous but to amplify the voice of conscience in a way that will both discourage sin and encourage repentance (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Therefore, because the role of the church is to call men to repentance while pointing them to Christ, the role of the church and the role of the state should compliment each other. God never intended for them to be at odds! The job of the state is to condemn and punish criminal behavior. And, the job of the church is to call men to repentance while pointing them to Christ as the one and only source of true righteousness (Romans 10:4). For that reason, governments that condone and promote evil behavior (such as homosexuality) are in rebellion against God and harden the hearts of those who are guilty. And, churches that condone such behavior not only do the same, but by giving the unrepentant a false assurance of salvation they preach a false gospel.

 

Taking a Deeper Look

 

          Looking deeper, I would like to call your attention to the parallel between Israel’s triumph over Egypt, and Christianity’s triumph over Rome. On the surface you might not see that parallel. After all, in one case God brought His people out of a hostile nation, in the other He brought a hostile nation to faith. However, the parallel lies in the fact that in both cases God brought His people victory when they could do nothing to help themselves (Deuteronomy 7:8, Luke 21:12-13, 2Corinthians 10:4). And, in both cases, after God brought them victory church and state were no longer at odds.

In saying that I by no means wish to deny the rivalry that later developed, or  the problems that resulted when the institutionalized church began to take on the role of the state, raise armies, sentence people to death, and persecute Christians. That confusion of church and state was contrary to the will of God. Yet today we have gone to the opposite extreme. Nevertheless, the problems I mentioned were not caused by church and state being in harmony, but by a rivalry which resulted from the state trying to control the church, and the church trying to control the state. Both extremes are a departure from the will of God. God does not want the church trying to raise armies or sentencing people to death, nor does He want the state to deny believers the right to preach, spread the gospel, or choose their own pastors (2Corinthians 10:4, Acts 5:29).

 

          What we have allowed our American government to do is to totally redefine “separation of church and state” in order to exclude Christianity from the public forum, while establishing atheism [i.e. naturalism, secularism, humanism] as the religion of the state. And, that is totally unbiblical. The American secular religion does not have many churches (although there are some), but every tax supported school is a temple of that religion and every tax supported teacher or professor who indoctrinates students in naturalism is a priest or priestess of that religion.

While the priesthood of ancient Israel did not constitute a “church” in the modern sense of the word, it carried out the role of the church by calling God’s people to repentance while pointing them to His mercy. It was mercy, not sacrifice, that God desired (Psalm 51:16, Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13 and 12:7). As it is written, “I have trusted in your mercy; my heart will rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5). Furthermore, in every age Christ and Christ alone has been the source of that mercy (Acts 4:12). It is also worthy of note that the priesthood was not supported by the government, but by the people’s tithe. And, we know that the tithe was not a tax because the law did not prescribe any punishment for those who failed to pay it.

 

Making the Word of God of No Effect

         

One reason that the Pharisees did not accept Christ is that they had made the Law of “no effect” by rationalizing sin and explaining away anything in the Law that condemned them (Mark 7:14, Matthew 9:13 and 23:4, Luke 11:46). However, our government is doing the same thing! As I said before, the church does not exist in a vacuum. When God’s Law condemns fornication, homosexuality, and abortion government authorities who contradict God’s Law make the law of no effect. And, religious leaders who join in contradicting God’s Law are just as much hypocrites as the Pharisees ever were. They are hypocrites because they claim to be teaching the Word of God when they are really teaching rebellion against God (Luke 6:42, Matthew 23:23 and 28, Romans 2:23). Instead of calling those who are guilty of such sins to repentance they harden them in unrepentance by condoning and excusing their sin.

 

In ancient Israel the role of teaching was assigned to parents and to the priests not to the government, and historically teaching has been the job of parents and the church (Leviticus 10:11, Deuteronomy 6:6-7 and 33:10). However, we have allowed the state to use its wealth (wealth taken from us) to usurp that role. If you fail to see that as a problem, let me remind you that every dictator wants to control education. And, any government that indoctrinates children in evolution (contrary to the will of the parents), or uses the classroom to promote immorality, homosexuality or abortion is exercising dictatorship.

 

In 1946 the great evangelist, Dr. Walter A. Maier raised his voice against this attack on our faith, saying: “In your own community speak out bravely against everyone who publicly ridicules the Lord Jesus, against schoolteachers who, violating the constitutionally guaranteed separation of Church and State, misuse their tax-paid positions to inculcate unbelief and contradiction of Scripture. The reason denial of Bible truth has grown so alarmingly in the United States is partially due to the tragedy that too often church members sit by unconcernedly while the disciples of doubt and denial spread their sinister poison.” [From the sermon “Fight for the Faith”.]

 

At the time Dr. Maier spoke those words schools were controlled by the community they served, and parents could have some influence. However, since that time the federal government has usurped control, and even mandates the indoctrination of children in the satanic doctrines of secular religion. An indoctrination, which, as Dr. Maier points out is contrary to the original understanding of separation of church and state. And, that indoctrination serves to make the Word of God of no effect.

By teaching evolution, the message being given to our children is that if we are descended from cats and dogs then we are no more bound by rules of morality than are cats and dogs, and if homosexuality is normal then there is nothing wrong with it. And, that indoctrination makes the Word of God of no effect (Mark 7:13). In my opinion, it is pure hypocrisy for people to talk about the importance of leading children to Christ while allowing an atheist education establishment to lead them away from Christ, harden their hearts to God’s Word, and indoctrinate them with lies. In order to restore freedom, government must be separated from education!  

 

Some Final Thoughts

 

          To a great extent American Christians fail to see the problem because they are blinded to it by cultural paradigms. Let me clarify that by saying that: if a Christian parent sent his child to a Moslem school and that child wound up becoming a Moslem, we might say that it was his own fault for not training up the child “in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). However, when a Christian parent sends his child to an atheist school and that child winds up becoming an atheist, we often do not see the connection. Often we just dismiss it by saying “You can’t ever know how a child will turn out”. And, that is cultural blindness!

          God expects more of Christians than that. And, because He gives us His own promise that if we, “Train a child up in the way he should go… when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6), we need to claim that promise through faith in Christ (2Corinthians 1:20). And, in claiming it we also need to remember that no child has been trained up “in the way he should go” until he understands the way of salvation and has placed his faith in Christ (John 3:16).

 

          Even though the Bible warns us time and again about the danger of false prophets, people seem blind to the false prophets in our tax supported schools and universities. They seem to think that someone has to lead a cult in order to be a false prophet, when nothing could be further from the truth. The false prophets that Jeremiah and Ezekiel warned against were not church leaders. They were teachers, teachers who were leading people away from God’s Word, thus making the Word of God of no effect.

 

Conclusion

 

          We no longer have Biblical separation of church and state in this country. If we did, a Christian congressman could stand up in congress and say, “I am introducing this bill to outlaw abortion because as a Christian I believe that abortion is murder”; and everyone there would say, “Put it to a vote, he has just as much right to his opinion as anyone else”. At the same time, no tax supported teacher or professor would be allowed, as Dr. Walter A. Maier put it, to “misuse their tax-paid positions to inculcate unbelief and contradiction of Scripture”.

          We need to wake up to the fact that the job of the church involves more than just meeting for worship once a week and having potlucks, the job of the church is to nurture Christians and build them up in the faith while calling people to repentance and pointing them to Christ.

          We also need to wake up to the fact that we do not have build huge buildings, or charge high tuitions in order to have a school. Any church that can afford to hire an assistant pastor can afford to hire a teacher, and it only takes one teacher to have a one-room school. Moreover, if we do not need to charge tuition when we hire an assistant pastor, we do not need to charge tuition when we hire a teacher. Let’s stop playing at church and get serious!