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Elaborate on the relationship between church and state

Pastor Doug: Hi - how are you doing?

Caller: Great! My question has to do with like the separation of church and state. I've heard a lot of Pastors say that this country is founded by Godly men, which is true and it's in the Constitution and everything so we should push for laws that will enhance more morality and things like that. It seems to make since, but at the same time, you think about anything the government tends to get its hands on it's overtaked and run and I don't know if that would be such a good idea either with the churches. So I was just wondering if you could give me some Scripture regarding that concept?

Pastor Doug: Well it's a very important question and let me explain it this way. No government can survive without supporting at least the last six Commandments. It was no accident that God wrote the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone. That's because the first four Commandments are dealing with our relationship to God on the first table of stone - and Jewish tradition tells us that the Lord divided it this way. The second table of stone had the last six Commandments that deal with our relationship with our fellow man.

If, now I'm hearing religious leaders talking about America getting back to God, saying we need to require that people keep the Ten Commandments. That scares me, even though I believe in keeping the Ten Commandments, because if the government dictates that we're suppose to keep the first four, they're going to tell us what god to worship, what day to worship him, how to worship him - because it deals with whether you do icons, images or how - what his name is.... So the government should never be involved in enforcing with civil penalties or laws the first four.

But, on the other hand, if a government does not endorse the last six, you have anarchy. If the government does not support parental authority, if the government does not support the protection of property - don't steal, if the government does not support the marriage institution - don't commit adultery - the reason there are so many lawsuits in America is because everybody is coveting everything from everybody. So the last six Commandments must be supported by the government. And so that's where I draw the line and I'm right in there with Roger Williams who was the champion of religious liberty who founded Providence, Rhode Island because of religious persecution.

Caller: Wow that's interesting.

Pastor Doug: You know one of the first places that you had real bad religious persecution in North America was among the Pilgrims. They told everybody how to worship and they'd put you in the yard in stocks if you didn't cooperate. Roger Williams was the one who helped them to see the light that we were fleeing the religious persecution in Europe. Let's not do the same thing here but I believe we're heading that way Robert.

Caller: So to some degree you believe that there should actually be some kind of mandates, like Constitutional laws that protect our civil rights, but at the same time they shouldn't get involved in the church's activities.

Co-Host: It's difficult to legislate religion. You don't want to legislate religion.

Caller: Right. Right.

Co-Host: And yet the Bible says that we are to obey the laws of the land and that we have nothing to fear by obeying the laws of the land. So there is a responsibility for the individual to live by the laws of the land. Civil liberty is important - and yes it's important that we be able to legislate and help with personal responsibilities and personal relationships. But legislating religion is where you really start to tread on dangerous ground.

Pastor Doug: You know, there is a misconception Robert. People often quote where Thomas Jefferson talked about the wall that separates church and state. He wasn't saying that religion should have no influence on government or Christian principles should have no influence on government. He was saying that the government should never dictate what the denomination of the state should be, which is what happened in Europe and in England. But the morals of Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethic must influence government because they are foundational morals for any society.


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