Sunday, March 4, 2012

Separation of State and Church - Using The Bible in Biblical Ways

The discussion about the separation of church and state is at least as old as the United States itself. Here is a fresh look at an old pie.

The Bible is not meant to be a constitution!

The beauty of the Bible is that it is not meant to be implemented in nations or states (neither on national nor regional/local levels), but it was written to BELIEVERS.
The Bible is not a handbook on how to run a nation, but it is a guide for people who want to lead a life that pleases God, and on how to organize and lead the people of God.
Any use beyond that was never intended, and has caused more harm than good throughout history, as it mostly causes rebellion - rebellion against Christians, and, way worse, against God. 


If we understand that, the Bible can be applied from Christians individually as well as from churches corporately, completely independent from what kind of social, political, economical, cultural, legal system it finds itself in - throughout all time, and beyond all geographical borders. That's actually the only way the Bible makes sense, and there is really no reason why a Bible like this should be opposed by any government, while - from a viewpoint of mere common sense and pure logic - it is completely understandable that a Bible that is perceived as calling for an overthrow of established governments and social structures is seen as a threat and thus banned and/or its distribution hindered.  

The dangers

I hope that we all see the danger of forcing our values on the entire society we happen to live in. Some Muslims are trying to do exactly that by applying "Sharia" law, according to the Quran (or "Koran", the holy book of Islam). Most Reformers (and surely the Roman Catholic Church) did the same mistake with the Bible in the 16th century: Calvin, the Anabaptists, and Luther himself, too. The results are, unfortunately, history: millions of people burned on the stake (by Catholics), and thousands drowned or killed in other, seemingly more humane ways (by Protestants).

History and reason ignored

Some speakers and/or movements seem to consider it to be a good thing that e.g. the Quran tells Muslims what to do in every aspect of their lives, and want the church in similar fashion to influence all sectors of society. The Jesuits (an order of the Roman Catholic Church) have been doing this for centuries and have pretty much immunized most nations for the true gospel by doing so. Modern day "Dominionism" and concepts like YWAMs "7 Mind Molders" aren't that new a deal after all, it's just a new coat of paint on the stale old diversion the enemy wants the true church of Christ to embark on, namely trying to make non-believers behave like believers. There has never been a "Biblical" or a "Christian" constitution anywhere, neither will there ever be, just as there has never been nor ever will be a "Biblical" or a "Christian" car/phone/camera/etc. Constitutions, cars and cameras are not unbiblical, and certainly some constitutions and some (especially German) cars are better than others, but let's not try to use our PC's manual to run our country, and yes, please keep the constitution out of our kitchens, too.

Good example, anyone?

If we are looking for a good example for the separation of Church and State, I suggest that we don't really have to look any farther than the very country I reside in: Thailand. The debate is a non-issue here. Christians aren't trying to have Creationism (nor a sadly chickened-down version called "Intelligent Design") being taught in public schools, but they teach their children in their homes and Sunday Schools that God created the earth in 6 days. Not 6 wishy-washy "periods" or "eras", but yes, 6 DAYS.
Christians aren't trying to stop their neighbors or governors from sacrificing to or bowing before idols, but they teach their children and everybody who wants to listen not to do so.
Christians aren't trying to outlaw homosexual marriages or people becoming Buddhist monks, but they are teaching their children and everybody who wants to listen not to do so.
The state, on the other hand, does not try to convince Christians that the concept of the trinity is weird and therefore a council of church leaders would have to get together to come up with a better idea. Granted, no president, prime minister or chancellor of any western nation that I am aware of tries to influence the church in this way nowadays. So, what is currently muddying the waters, in my opinion, is not really a state trying to interfere with the affairs of the church, but a church that is trying to interfere in the affairs of the state! And, while the goal of missions certainly can not be to make other countries more "American", maybe it would do good to the American church (and consequently to other nations in which American missionaries and American-dominated mission organizations remain very influential on the respective body of believers) if the American church becomes a little bit more "Thai" - at least as far as the here dealt-with topic is concerned. Because and please don't get me wrong: there are still many areas in which the American church remains a shining light and a great blessing to the church all over the world, e.g. in regards to giving, sending, providing vision and setting strategic goals.
By the way: I have preached the gospel in public schools in Thailand, and I don't know of anybody who has been arrested for doing likewise.
So, what are we waiting/looking/praying for?

Book vs. Relationship

I, for my part though, am glad that the Bible does not dictate my every move, but rather helps me to develop a closer relationship with the creator of all things. And it's Him whom we missionaries should try to bring into the lives of people, not a book of rules. Again, much more is left to be said, but just so much for now...