Baptist Distinctives 7
Bible is the only rule of faith and practice
Autonomy of the local church
Priesthood of the believer
Individual Soul Liberty
Saved, Baptized Church Membership
Separation of Church and State
Matthew 22:21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
All the authority of the state was given to it by the Lord Himself John 19:10 Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? 11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
What early American Baptists said
“The [government official] is not by virtue of his office to meddle with religion, or matters of conscience, to force or compel men to this or that form of religion, or doctrine: but to leave Christian religion free, to every man’s conscience . . . for Christ only is the king, and lawgiver of the church and conscience.” John Smyth 1612
“Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men, than it has with the principles of mathematics. . . . Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles that he believes, worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing.” John Leland
“Religious matters are to be separated from the jurisdiction of the state, not because they are beneath the interests of the state but, quite to the contrary, because they are too high and holy and thus are beyond the competence of the state.” Isaac Backus (1773)
“We may regret that all men are not Christians, and wish that they were, and we may wish that they held Christian principles as we hold them, but we have no right to enforce our doctrines by law, and others have no right to force their doctrines upon us by human statute. We hold that if a man chooses to be a Mohammedan, a Jew, a Pagan, a Roman Catholic, a Protestant or an Infidel, he has a right to be that, so far as the civil law is concerned. Therefore, all persecution for the maintenance of this or that religion is radically wrong.” Thomas Armitage (1890)
Historical facts of interest
Most European governments had official ties to a church
Great Britain had the church of England, Anglican, or what we know as Episcopalian church
Germany had the Lutheran church
The early colonies had official religions
Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and New York were of Anglican or Church of England. Captain Argali, who became governor of Virginia, in 1617, decreed “that every person should go to Church, Sundays and Holidays, or lye Neck and Heels that Night, and be a Slave to the Colony the following week; for the second offence he should be a Slave for a month; and for the third, a year and a day”
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut were the Congregational church
Delaware, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Rhode Island had no official state church
What do we mean by separation of church and state
There should be no essential union between organized religion and human government.
Human government should not seek to control the internal affairs of organized religion or of individual religious beliefs or practices.
No denomination or organized religion should control human government.
This does not suggest that governmental leaders cannot express religious views or that religious symbols cannot be displayed in or on state-owned buildings.
Simply put, separation of church and state requires the government to stay out of church affairs and the church to stay out of government affairs.
The government and the church should remain separate.
We recognize that governments are ordained of God Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
We are to obey the law I Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
We obey because we love Jesus and want Him praised for our lifestyles
The government is to punish evildoers
The government therefore is to provide law and order
We honor and pray for government officials I Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
We pray for them and even give thanks for them
We pray God will help them rule well that we might live in peace and quiet as we live for God
We honor them I Peter 2:17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
We pay our taxes Matthew 22:17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Romans 13:6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
We obey unless it is in direct contradiction to the Word of God Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
The church’s responsibility is spiritual not civil (maybe you could confuse the church with Israel and think differently)
We teach the Bible and train believers
We minister in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
We carry the gospel all over the world to give people the good news
As a church we teach our people to be hard working, honest citizens
The state should recognize
That it is the free will choice of every person to worship as they choose without being coerced by the state
The state should not ever interfere with the free proclamation of the gospel or people’s ability to accept or reject it
We recognize the Lord Jesus as the only head over the church
Whenever state and church are together the rights of someone will be trampled
If Baptists support the separation of church and state, why do many of them support issues like returning prayer and Bible reading to public schools? Separation as Baptists think of it is not isolation of religion from government, but preventing the government from controlling churches. Remember the language of the Bill of Rights–“congress shall make no law respecting an establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Some current laws seem to prevent the free exercise of religion. To be consistent, Baptist should not support any official recognition of religion by government.
What problems would be associated with the government dictating policy to churches? Unsaved people over the church, red tape, compromise, the state punishing those who disagree. Return to the Middle Ages.
What problems would be associated with churches trying to dictate policy to the government? Lots of different churches, each with its own philosophy; gov’t would have to choose which group to follow (Christians? Jews? Muslims?); it would set up a union between church and state which would invite the state to control the church.
In what ways do you think the government could take away more rights from churches and other religious institutions? Imposing laws regarding hiring homosexuals, zoning restrictions limiting where a church can locate its building, restricting “hate speech” that criticizes immorality or false doctrine, etc.
Should it matter to Baptists whether or not the government removes references to God from schools and government buildings? Not really. We should fight for an individual’s right to express his religious views, but the government really should not endorse a certain religious viewpoint. The fact that immorality increased in the ‘60s shows how ineffective the church was/is.