30 Dec What the Bible Says About Separation of Church and State
The phrase “separation of church and state” is used frequently, especially in today’s society. However, many people either use this phrase incorrectly or have false notions regarding its origins. More important than understanding what the separation of church and state really means, however, is understanding what the Bible says on the topic.
So, what does the Bible say about the separation of church and state? The separation of church and state is one of many topics that the Bible does not directly address. Throughout scripture, however, we find plenty of advice on how Christians should view government. Christians should be thankful for the lack of government oversight in our practice of religion. However, we must not shy away from government involvement ourselves as this can be an incredible way to impact the world in which we live.
As the separation of church and state becomes much more of a hot topic in our world, it is important to educate ourselves on this topic. We must be ready and willing to defend our religious beliefs and freedoms as outlined in the United States Constitution. In this post, we will take a closer look at what separation of church and state really means as we seek to develop a Biblical perspective on the topic.
A Biblical Perspective on the Separation of Church and State
As Christians, every area of our lives must be viewed through the lens of scripture. In our current society, there are more and more topics that are not directly addressed in the Bible. However, this does not mean that we are left to our own devices. By studying the scriptures, we learn to develop a Biblical perspective that guides our thoughts, words, and deeds.
What is the Separation of Church and State?
Many Americans believe that the phrase “separation of church and state” appears in one of our foundational documents. This, however, is not the case. A paraphrase of a letter sent by Thomas Jefferson, the idea behind the separation of church and state is that these two entities should have the freedom to operate without oversight of the other.
The History of the Separation of Church and State
Separation of church and state is not a concept that is new to our country. First mentioned in a letter written to the Danbury Baptist Association by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, the passage reads as follows,
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”
As you can see, the separation of church and state has been a hot topic since the foundation of our country. It continues to be an important issue today and remains one of the foundational beliefs that sets our country apart from others.
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The thought behind the separation of church and state, while not phrased in that way, originates in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment protects many of the rights we continue to experience today and reads as follows,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
As Christians in America, it is incredibly important that we continue to uphold this foundational belief of our country that protects the religious freedoms we hold so dear.
Bible Verses on the Separation of Church and State
While the Bible does not say anything specific regarding the separation of church and state, many verses provide us with insight as to how we should respond to our government leaders. From these verses, we learn that we are called to respect and obey the authorities that God has placed over us.
However, we must remember that our ultimate calling and responsibility is to honor God. If the government calls us to act in a way that contradicts Scripture, we must consider whether it is a situation worthy of civil disobedience.
In Mark 12:17 we read, “Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.”
We find what is perhaps the most detailed scripture regarding how Christians should view the government in Romans 13:1-7. This verse reads as follows, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?
Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
Acts 5:29 reminds us of our greatest allegiance. This verse reads as follows. “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
These are just a few of many verses that outline a Biblical perspective of our response to government. By learning what the Bible says about obeying the government, we can begin to develop our personal perspective on the separation of church and state.
Why Separation of Church and State is Important
Many Christians may roll their eyes when they hear the phrase “separation of church and state”. However, it is something that should be of utmost importance. Many Christians view this ideology as something that prevents Christianity from influencing our government. However, it is the very thing that protects our religious liberties.
Traditionally, countries that do not have a separation of church and state, rather a state-sanctioned church, have turned their churches into puppets of the government at the time. When this happens, the gospel is easily compromised. For this reason, separation of church and state is incredibly important.
As mentioned in Mark 12:17, we are commanded to ”Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Through this, we learn that there is a good reason for this important distinction. However, we are also commanded to obey our government authorities in the areas in which they have jurisdiction.
Should Christians Be Involve Themselves in Government?
Unfortunately, many Christians take the concept of the separation of church and state too far. They believe that separation of church and state means that they should not involve themselves in government in any way. In fact, many of our founding fathers were devout believers.
Not every Christian is called to actively hold a position in government. However, individuals with those callings and giftings can make an incredible impact in this way. Even if you are not called to actively participate in government, Christians are still called to pray for our leaders. We must also support those who uphold Christian values and ideals within our government.
By looking for ways to be involved in government, we can seek to uphold the healthy separation of church and state as it exists in America today. In this way, we can continue to work towards a country that provides equality, liberty, and justice for all.
What are the constitutional rights of Americans? As Americans, we have an incredible amount of rights and freedoms as outlined in the United States Constitution and subsequent amendments. Some of these rights include the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. Our constitutional rights also protect our right to petition the government.
What does freedom of religion mean? Our freedom of religion protects our right to practice the religion of our choosing in whatever form we see fit.