There’s No Such Thing as the Separation of Church and State

There’s no such thing as the “separation of church and state,” at least not in the way that phrase is usually used today.

Every government that has ever been conceived by man is based on a theological premise of some kind in that it will structure its approach to legislation according to the way it defines a human being.

For example a monarchy defines you according to your family crest – are you noble or are you common? Socialism defines you based on your bank account – do you own the means of production or are you merely the worker who suffers beneath the weight of an oppressive Capitalist system?

A Dictatorship defines you according to the extent to which you’re willing to submit to their authority.

You don’t define a human being like that without dictating:

  • how you are to behave (laws [Matt 7:24-25; Acts 5:29])
  • what you’re capable of (economic paradigm [Matt 5:14-28; 2 Thess 3:10])
  • who you ultimately answer to (who defines your rights [Gen 1:27])
There Are Only Two Religions

Every religion save Christianity provides a way in which you can merit the favor of your preferred deity. With Islam you’ve got Jihad, as a Buddhist you’ve got Nirvana. Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to be among the 144,000 referenced in Revelation 7:4 , Hindus pursue Moksha in order to be liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth. Mormons believe that they can attain the status of gods in the afterlife through their works here on earth. The atheist evaluates his need to be redeemed as well as the source of his redemption according to what he sees in the mirror every morning. In each scenario, you have the ability as a human being to improve your spiritual status.

Christianity, on the other hand, says that you are a spiritual corpse (Eph 2:1). You are dead in your sin and you have no option available to you that can offset your default status as a sinner that is permanently and irretrievably separated from God (Ps 14:3; Is 64:6). That’s what makes Christianity distinct from every other religious school of thought – you are completely destitute apart from some kind of miracle that can somehow transform you in the eyes of God from being sinful to sinless.

In that regard, Christianity is not only a standout, it’s the only authentic religion in the way it positions humanity as being utterly subordinate to God as opposed to being somehow comparable to Him.

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These are questions that are inevitably answered by an individual’s faith. So, from that standpoint, every government inevitably has as its philosophical starting point a spiritual foundation.

You cannot separate the two. Religion has, and always will, shape and inform every governmental framework. This is why Marx was determined to destroy the church. However he wanted to try and characterize it as a pointless substitute for real change, his real purpose was not to eliminate the role that church played in politics, but to replace the church with the absolute of the state.1

That is what some are trying to do today.

While they use words that are engineered to imply a sense of fairness, they’re not interested in being “fair” any more than Marx was trying to help.

In both instances, you have to invoke a standard that justifies both the way you think and the way you act. Religion is that standard and you’re either worshipping the idea that you can facilitate your own salvation or you’re defining yourself according to the Truth of the empty tomb. It’s one or the other and it is the foundation upon which you build the way you process yourself and the world around you as well as what determines how a government defines its role and creates its laws.

Back in the eighteenth century, the First Amendment was being discussed in the context of how to limit government’s influence on Christianity, not the other way around.

The Anglican Church, headed up by King George, was dictating how you were to pray, how you were to conduct your worship services and how you were to set up your church government.2 Leading up to 1776, you had several instances where the government had attempted to enforce its will by setting itself up as a spiritual authority (see “The King’s Supremacy” sidebar) The end result was a corrupted doctrine and a tyrannical legislature.4

The King’s Supremancy

Part of the Anglican Common Book of Prayer included acknowledging the king’s supremacy in all matters, both political and spiritual:

And before the Gospel, the Bishop, sitting in his Chair, shall cause the oath of the Kings supremacy, and against the power and authoritie of all forreign Potentates, to be ministred unto every of them that are to be ordered,

The Oath of the Kings Soveraigntie.

I A. B. do utterly testifie, and declare in my conscience, That the Kings Highnes is the only Supreme Govemour of this Realm and of all other his Highnesses Dominions, and countries, as well in all spirituall or ecclesiasticall things, or causes, as temporall: And that no forraign Prince, Person, Prelate, State, or Potentate hath, or ought to have any Jurisdiction, power, Superiority preeminence or authority ecclesiastical, or spiritual within this Realm. And therefore I do utterly renounce, and forsake all forraign Jurisdictions, Powers, superiorities, and Authorities; and do promise that from henceforth I shall bear faith and true Allegiance to the Kings Highnes, his heirs, and lawfull successors; and to my power shall assist, and defend all Jurisdictions, Priviledges, Preeminences, and Authorities, granted, or belonging to the Kings Highness his heirs, and successors; . or united, and annexed to the Imperial Crown of this Realm. So help me God, and the Contents of this Book.3

This was the problem that those who ratified the Constitution were trying to solve and they did so by stating that you have the right to choose what church you would like to attend…

…but you don’t have the right to change the spiritual foundation that we are based on.

It’s not about your feelings or someone else’s beliefs. It’s the collective mindset of the Second Continental Congress and the people they represented as expressed in the Declaration of Independence which served, not only as a referendum to King George, but also as a foundational statement that qualified our quest as a legitimate cause and not just a complaint. And that same statement would then go on to ensure our system of government was founded on a trust in God and not just a political ideal.

Those that want to contest the idea that our Founding Fathers were primarily a group of secular humanists that acknowledged God in only a very casual way that, more often that not, amounted to a deistic approach to God as opposed to a confident commitment to the Truth of the empty tomb.5.

Those kinds of people often speak in a way that implies our nation’s spiritual heritage is so obviously secular that to doubt or question their perspective is to admit a fundamental ignorance of American history.

And yet…

Dr. James Hutson received his Ph.D. in History from Yale University in 1964. He was a member of the History Departments at Yale and William and Mary and served for several years as Chief of the Library of Congress’ Manuscript Division. He elaborates on the pious nature of America’s original lawmakers:

Perhaps only Cromwell’s parliaments can compare to Congress in the number of deeply religious men in positions of national legislative leadership. Charles Thomson (1729-1804), the soul of Congress and the source of its institutional continuity as its permanent secretary from 1774-1789, retired from public life to translate the Scriptures from Greek to English; the four-volume Bible that Thomson published in 1808 is admired by modern scholars for its accuracy and learning. John Dickinson (1732-1808), who, as the “Pennsylvania Farmer,” was the colonies’ premier political pamphleteer, and who, as a member of Congress in 1776, wrote the first draft off the Articles Confederation, also retired from public life to devote himself to religious scholarship, writing commentaries on the gospel of Matthew. So did Elias Boudinot (1740-1821), president of Congress, 1782-83, who tuned out “warm” debates on the floor to write his daughter long letters, praying that, through the blood of God’s “too greatly despised Son,” she would be “born again to newness of Life.” Resigning as director of the U.S. Mint in 1805, Boudinot wrote religious tracts such as The Second Advent (1815) and the next year became the first president of the American Bible Society. Henry Laurens (1724-1792), president of Congress, 1777-78, was “strict and exemplary” in the performance of his religious duties. He “read the scriptures diligently to his family” and “made all his children read them also. His family Bible contained in his own handwriting several of his remarks on passing providences.” John Jay (1745-1829), Laurens successor as president of Congress, 1778-79, and later first chief justice of the Supreme Court, was extolled for “the firmness, even fervor, of his religious conviction.” When he retired from public life, he also became president of the American Bible Society (1821). Even the two congressmen who defected to the British were distinguished by their religious, if not patriotic, ardor: John Joachim Zubly of Georgia (1724-1781) was a Presbyterian minister and Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania, a major figure at the First Continental Congress, later published commentaries on Revelations, which he prescribed as a “pill for the infidel and atheist.”6

The Separation of Church and State – a legal provision to ensure one’s relationship with Christ is based on something voluntary and not a state sanctioned prayer? Absolutely!

The Separation of Church and State – a distorted view of history that can be used to declare yourself as your own moral bottom line? There’s no such thing.

 

 

1. Christian theology with its idea of a fixed human nature infuriated Marx, who was not just an atheist but a God-hater who denounced religion as “the opium of the people.” His disciples, led by Lenin, always targeted the churches when they came to power. They initiated without apology a campaign of terror, shutting down churches, executing priests and bishops and violating nuns. The horrors were justified as part of the class-cleansing Marx envisioned.

The Founders of the American Revolution rejected those who believed that man was born without any imprint and sided with those who accepted that man was born in the image of God. As the Declaration of Independence states, all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” The Founders disagreed with those who thought man was perfectible and instead took the Christian position that man’s nature was fallen. (“What Americans Must Know About Socialism”, Lee Edwards, Ph.D, December 3, 2018, “The Heritage Foundation”, https://www.heritage.org/progressivism/commentary/what-americans-must-know-about-socialism, accessed November 15, 2023

2. Church Government, according to the Anglican format, was defined according to a priest who answered to a Bishopa. It was similar to a Catholic hierarchy, although they rejected the authority of the Pope. The result was a state supported enterprise that was centrally controlled by a network of bishops who ultimately answered to an Archbishopb. This is inconsistent with the Bible that sets up church government using individuals that were selected from within the congregation according to their spiritual maturity (Titus 1:5-9).

The Church of England used its authority to arrest ministers for preaching without a license.c. The Great Awakening directed people to the Bible as that which defined and established an individual’s relationship with Christ, as opposed to a sacrament or relying on a minister.d Even one’s prayerlife was being reevaluated as something that was deeply personal and based on The Lord’s Prayer as opposed to something dictated by the “Common Book of Prayer,” which included having to swear allegiance to the reigning monarch as the Supreme Governor of the Church.e. (a. “Enclycopedia.com” “Anglicanism and Revolution”, https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/anglicanism-and-revolution, accessed May 14, 2024 | b. “The Episcopal Church”, “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church”, https://www.episcopalchurch.org/glossary/archbishop/, accessed May 14, 2024 | c. “The Presbyterian Historical Society”, “Presbyterians and the American Revolution”, https://www.history.pcusa.org/history-online/exhibits/asserting-right-religious-freedom-page-2, accessed May 14, 2024 | d. “Great Awakening”, https://www.history.com/topics/european-history/great-awakening, accessed April 5, 2023 | e. “The Book of Common Prayer”, “The 1662 Book of Common Prayer:
The Original Manuscript”, http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1662/Orig_manuscript/ordinal.htm, accessed May 14, 2024)

3. “The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: The Original Manuscript”, “The Book of Common Prayer“, http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1662/Orig_manuscript/ordinal.htm, accessed June 2, 2024

4. To impose religious uniformity, seventeenth-century Europeans tortured, maimed, and murdered individuals, fought wars, and displaced populations.

England did not escape these plagues. After Elizabeth I (1533-1601) imposed a religious settlement in in 1559, Catholics were considered potential traitors. Protestants, on whose behalf the Queen acted, began quarreling with each other. Those who wanted to continue cleansing the Church of England of residues of Roman Catholicism were called Puritans. There was no consensus among the PUritans about how far reforms should go. A small inoirty behleived that the Anglican Church was so currupt that they must withdraw immediately to seek the Lord while He might still be found. Taking as their motto a pamphlet, Reformation with Tarrying for Any, they hastened to Holland. From there they sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. (“Religion and the Founding of the American Republic”, James H. Hutson, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., distributed by University Press of New England, Hanover and London, 1998, p3)

5. From an article entitled, “The Founding Fathers’ Religious Wisdom: This notion—that our country’s roots are explicitly Christian—is both foolish and wrong,” author Nicholas Rathod says, “Many of the founding fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and Monroe—practiced a faith called Deism. Deism is a philosophical belief in human reason as a reliable means of solving social and political problems. Deists believe in a supreme being who created the universe to operate solely by natural laws—and after creation, is absent from the world. This belief in reason over dogma helped guide the founders toward a system of government that respected faiths like Christianity, while purposely isolating both from encroaching on one another so as not to dilute the overall purpose and objectives of either.” (“The Founding Fathers’ Religious Wisdom: This notion—that our country’s roots are explicitly Christian—is both foolish and wrong.”, “The Center for American Progress”, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/the-founding-fathers-religious-wisdom/, accessed June 2, 2024)

6. “Religion and the Founding of the American Republic”, James H. Hutson, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., distributed by University Press of New England, Hanover and London, 1998, p76

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