Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Church and State

The following article appears in the Abbotsford Times Friday, August 8th. Enjoy.

Three things you should never talk about at Christmas dinner: first, religion – especially because you’d hate to mix Christmas with religion; second, politics, politicians, or how much you loath Toronto; and third, don’t mention anything about last Christmas when you brought up religion and politics with crazy Uncle Leo.

Scripture has much to teach about governments, rulers, leaders, and the people they rule. Ideally, the government is set in place to provide for, protect, manage, and serve its citizens and is responsible to, and constrained by, God (Psalm 2; Daniel 4:34-35; Rom. 13). Additionally, because there are rulers above us, we will be placed in situations were we will be offered lessons in submission situations where we learn to cooperate, are loyal, and have a willingness to obey even when we may disagree. Significantly, we learn to submit to God by the daily practice of submission to those around us. In so doing, we become more like Christ who, in great humility, submitted himself to the will of the Father and to death by painful execution on a Roman cross (Philippians 2).

Keeping submission and humility in mind, let’s scan the four major views of the relationship between Church and State asking yourself where you fit in.

  1. Hostility

Those who take this stand are often accusatory throwing “John 3:16 hand-grenades” seeking to, sometimes violently, overthrow authority. Though we don’t see many churches building arms and ammunition stock houses, we do see church/Christian movements taking active and hostile action towards authority on many issues including abortion, calf roping, slot machines, and Cosmopolitan magazines in the check-out line.

  1. Separation

Some swing in the opposite direction, completely separating themselves from civil affairs claiming that, because the government is so corrupt, they should have as little to do with it as possible. While being good citizens, they should not vote, serve in the army, or work for the government. Additionally, this group would probably take issue with Puff Daddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign.

  1. Distinction

This view holds that the State should rule and govern certain things while the Church should rule and govern other things. The Christian can be loyal to and work for either, but must not, by any means, confuse the two. News stations such as CNN, hold tightly to this view as their ratings go up when they catch Christians mixing faith and politics. It makes for great TV but, for some, horrible politics.

  1. Integration

This view suggests an integration of Church and State for the betterment of all. These people vote, know the issues, know who the Christian politicians are, and serve within the structure of authority/government. They believe that by integrating, they will be able to best share the Gospel and transform society from the inside out. Sadly, those who integrate have been accused, rather than encouraged, by their Christian brothers of being too liberal while everyone else accuses them of being too conservative!

Abbotsford will benefit greatly when its faithful Christians act like responsible citizens, humbly serving in culture and society, to proclaim the Gospel and glorify God.