Church & State Intro

I mentioned my Church and State paper the other day. The outline is a couple posts down. Here is the introduction. I’ll post some excerpts in the coming days.

The Church’s relationship to the State has been, and currently is, a matter of deep contention. Standing apart from, being one with, and living in co-existence with, (to greater and lesser degrees) are three of the major ways Christians have chosen to interact with the State. In contrast, I will offer three ways in which the Church can witness to the State: Directly, Indirectly, and as a separatist alternative. In this paper, we will examine both contemporary and historical ways the Church has chosen to relate to the State. I would like to give us a path to follow, as we consider how we in this country might properly exercise our citizenship in this nation and the Kingdom to come.

The Church is at its best when it serves as a witness to the State, living and being a missional community that reflects the Kingdom of God. An integral part of this mandate is helping our neighbors, our community, and our culture, to reflect the Kingdom of God. Doing this requires both a personal commitment to moral excellence, and a commitment to systemic justice. The latter part in particular requires special attention from Evangelicals, as it has historically been the part of our call most likely to be neglected.

In the contemporary setting, we error when we go too far in one of two directions, relating too closely to the state, baptizing most or all that it does, or standing too far from it, in no way influencing it for the better.


Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov said...

Which is superior ontologically, the State or the Church? If the Church is ontologically superior, then why can't the Church function in the role of the State or at least have power greater than the State in civil and political matters and not simply in "personal" religous matters?

In other words, if God's will is the wisest direction for humans and if the church has a fuller understanding of God's will than the state, then shouldn't the church, when possible, function in a greater role than simply as a community who witnesses to the state? Would it be wrong for a Catholic president to make the worship of idols and false gods illegal? (It is interesting that there were three things that the prophets were always upset about in the OT: injustice, religious nominalism, and false worship. It is also interesting that we only seem to care about injustice and seem to think that the promotion of false worship in the name of religious liberty is a good thing...just something to ponder.)

David Best said...

I don't think most Christians promote false worship in the name of religious liberty. They are open to allowing it.

The harder questions have to do with the implications of your statment. What do we do with our ultimate truth claims? If one's conviction is that woman must wear burka's, or that faith alone saves, or that reincarnation makes euthansia perfectly permisable, or whatever, what are we going to do with that in the real United States we live in. If what your saying is true, how can we avoid the ultimate solution/coercive tactic, capital punishment.

David Baxley said...

Although I would like to see the church leaders leading our country I feel the strength comes in them leading as citizens who hold a strong faith then as a church leader running a country. I value my faith values in my state but I know that I don't have the same as even my Senior Pastor. Then what? By the church not leading we have a consistent platform to work from that is not driven by each leaders own religious or political preferences.