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Church and State

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  • Tip Bones

In this subsequent post, we aim to address three key areas with regards to the separation of Church and State. First, we look at the practicality and effectiveness of change in relations between the church and state by evaluating four factors. Next, we shall examine unique characteristics of the state, government, politics and the church respectively. Then finally, we look to weigh up several arguments for and against the separation of Church and State.

No 1:

Four factors have made significant changes in the practicality and effectiveness of church and state relations. Let’s examine these.

1. Political. Kunhiyop (2004:73) states that once church and politics intertwine you have a tendency where the politician or political party affiliated with a certain religion will use that status to push a religious-political agenda; sincere or for selfish gain. This is by no means a new phenomenon, Ciocan (2013:157) likens this to what he describes as “Constaninism”; advocating that Constantine believed Church and State to be inseparable in its responsibility and functionality for the people. History teaches that politics and church intertwined has a reputation to corrupt even the purest, Constantine and his reign, no matter how significant shows exactly how the two can lead to atrocities.

2. Sociological. Human beings have an undeniable tendency to support or put their weight behind what they can relate with most. Kunhiyop (2004:73-74) notes this tendency by citing both Christian and Muslim individuals supporting either a Christian or Muslim political candidate. 2020 has shown much of the same across the world as various contemporary issues have grouped people based on their sociological conditions, race, gender, religious views and current world events. Once more politicians have been keen to use these events to push certain agendas, both sincere and opportunistic.

3. Economic. As Governments worldwide funnel the vast majority of finances it is quite self-evident that the complete removal of the Christian Church from politics leaves it financially self-dependent and vulnerable. Kunhiyop (2004:74) explains that a better life can be a very real prospect when delving into the world of politics. Witte (2006:16-17) states that this economic involvement will lead to the inevitable corruption of the church and her officials. Citing early Catholic church indiscretions. These indiscretions are not exclusively Catholic, however. Again, history has shown economic advancement will corrupt religious and atheist alike.

4. Religious. Kunhiyop (2004:74-76) describes that the prior belief by the church that politics is a dirty game and should be avoided has most definitely changed as shown in the increasing involvement the church has shown in recent history in the realm of politics. This being an early Protestant view in nature as the Catholic church once more has not felt this desire for exclusion from political affairs. Today we have numerous political parties, for example, the African Christian Democratic Party in South Africa, actively campaigning for Biblical foundations in all Governmental policies. The support they enjoy has decreased in numbers since the last National election where they lost significant amounts of voters to other political parties.

No 2:

Let us examine some key concepts and distinguish the differences between these.

1. State. The corporate institution that exists within the bounds of national borders or territories that comprises of people and the regulation of their practices of rights and activities (Kunhiyop 2004:77). A state will also differ based on the unique political system practised by the respective state in governing the people groups residing within the state.

2. Government. Kunhiyop (2004:77) explains that the terms state and government are often used interchangeably. There is however a difference in that the government comprises of various institutions that exist to govern different areas of the state. The government can accurately be seen as a large machine that has various parts that function independently to serve a collective purpose. Each part must contribute so that the machine may function successfully in its mandate.

3. Politics. Kunhiyop (2004:77-78) starts by describing politics as behaviour that could be considered driven and motivated by power. An accurate statement considering how modern politics are practised by many politicians. The role of politics chiefly deals with questioning, persuading, sometimes using force in certain circumstances. All to exact a kind of change that aligns with the political agenda.

4. Church. In the Christian context the Church can be seen as the collective of various denominations which share one commonality; core beliefs and practices of the Christian faith that find its foundations in the Word of God (Kunhiyop 2004:78). The “church” has however broadened in context with the rise of other schools of thought, belief and religions. One example can be seen in the Church of Scientology which equates itself to the same status as the Christian Church or any other religious institution in function and ‘perks’ so to say.

No 3:

In the final segment, we will consider arguments for and against church involvement in the affairs of the state.

1. Arguments for Separation of Church and State. Ciocan (2013:164) believes it “would be a ruinous wicked thing to unite Church and State” as he advocates that God had ordained the two with intertwining interests but separate functions. One is the governance of the spiritual matters of man, the other involved in the civil and temporary wellbeing of man whilst on this earth. Once united, those mandates would begin to become distorted and lose its original purpose. He maintains that if each can operate in its jurisdiction in cooperation with one another, the best interests of man will be served holistically. Kunhiyop (2004:86-87) ascertains that Jesus made it clear in John 18:36 that he had no interest in establishing political prominence or sought out earthly positions amongst men. In essence, he was unconcerned with starting a political movement but ushering in his Kingdom. A Kingdom he declared was not of this world. Witte (2006:8) argues that the wickedness observed by Martin Luther of the church’s direct involvement with state affairs is an enormous contributing factor to his call for freedom from what he termed as the “tyranny of the pope”. All these points seem to have two main factors, what were God’s design and the wisdom of God that the church would be corrupted if united with the state. It could very well be taken back to God’s initial separation of the Levites from the rest of Israel (Num. 3:12).

2. Arguments for Involvement of Church and State. Kunhiyop (2004:89) believes there are indeed arguments to be made why there is an increasing need for the involvement of the Church in the affairs of the State. He advocates that there is no need to assume that once involved in politics a Christian would lose sight of their mandate of preaching the Gospel message. It could be argued that it would be a prominent platform from which to deliver this powerful message, practising godly influence within structures that may have become significantly compromised by the secular world and its views. Looking at recent happenings in the world, this argument carries much weight. All the more it is evident that governments are requesting increasingly non-Christian morals to be accepted as normative by all its citizens. The line can be drawn at this: if whatever is requested by the government is in direct contrast to what God requires of His people, it is our duty to not only show non-compliance but seek a voice in these policies that are being made that are not founded on Biblical standards. Kunhiyop proceeds to say that the misconception that politics are dirty is only true when considering who it is that practices these politics. Does God’s sovereignty demand of us a very deep involvement? That is the real lingering question which many feels are a very real yes and an urgent one at that.

Considering all that has been examined, I am of the persuasion that not only is the separation of Church and State necessary to the health of the church, it is also Biblical; both in Old and New Testament scripture. If God has therefore ordained it so, let no individual seek to change that which God has willed as such.

Works Cited

Ciocan CT 2013. Church and state working together in favor of people. Research and Science Today 2(6), 152-165. Accessed from 2020-05-29.

Kunhiyop SW 2004. African Christian Ethics. Baraka Press: Kaduna

Witte J 2006. Facts and fictions about the history of separation of church and state. Journal of Church and State 48, 15-46. Accessed from 2020-05-30.