Where’s the line between the separation of church and state?
There’s been a lot of talk about Dr. John MacArthur and the Grace Community Church’s rejection of their governmental restrictions which begs a number of questions: “Where’s the line between the church and state?” “When is the government over-reaching into the sphere of the church and her responsibilities in closing meeting places including churches?”
I am joined by Parmesh Venkatasami, Dr. Kevin Roy, Dr. Paul Hartwig and Dr. Bruce Button. Our conversation hinged around six questions (see below)…
I believe their conversation is well worth hearing (video here and audio only below).
Q1. Why is this discussion needed at this time? (12:59)
Q2. What does the Baptist Principle of the separation of church and state actually say? (1:07)
Q3. Briefly, what are the historical origins of this? (12:52)
Q4. Does the principle of separation of church and state imply a complete disjunction between church or state, or is there some overlap between the two? (3:25)
Q5. If there is an overlap, how should we think and operate in this space? (33:12)
Q6. How should we think and operate with respect to elders and churches that see this matter differently to me or us? (17:24)
Some of their responses included the following;
Dr. Kevin Roy; “We want to send a signal to our authorities, to our government, to our rulers, that we are not against you. We are for you. We pray fo you. We obey your laws. We even encourage others to obey your laws. We want to be the very citizens you have…”
Dr. Paul Hartwig; “There is no overlap in terms of the jurisdiction that they have and the rights they have. The church is totally autonomous, self-determining, in terms of its worship and religious activities… I would look at it as an unconditional honouring and respect but a conditional obedience to the state based on our understanding of God’s will and God’s Word on these particular points…”
Parmesh Venkatasami; “So if a church is going to decide that they’re going to do whatever they want to do regarding these things, the onus is on them to provide a biblical basis for this. I think, what is even more crucial is that if they’re going to make that stance based on conscience, if they decide to go that route, they must not and they cannot impose that decision on other local churches and take a stand as though it is the definitive evangelical stance and almost come across as though, if other churches don’t follow, they’re being less evangelical or less Christian than them.”
Dr. Bruce Button; “John Owen makes a valuable point that…no congregation has within it all the gifts necessary to fully discharge its duty to Christ,” and therefore congregations do need one another…. Just because one congregation makes a certain decision that doesn’t make it right and another congregation makes a different decision that doesn’t make it right. Our purpose after all is to understand the mind and heart and will of Christ and to do the will of Christ. So I think it’s very important for us to open ourselves to one another, to influence one another.”