Adapted from Christianity and the State
The original constitutional settlement did not propose a "separation of Church and State," although that phrase is increasingly used by the courts to sum up the constitutional position. Because all the states had their own religious settlements or establishments, the First Amendment simply barred Congress or the Federal Government from entering into an area where jurisdiction was reserved to the states. The states had the right to make such establishments or settlements as they or their subordinate bodies, the counties and cities, chose to make. Only after the Fourteenth Amendment was interpreted by the Supreme Court to apply to all states was there a denial of the power of the states to make such establishments. To return to the so-called problem of "Church and State," there is no possibility of any resolution of the basic issue until the question is properly formulated. To speak of a church and state problem is to foreclose any solution.
What then is the basic problem? Not only is every church a religious institution, but every state or social order is a religious establishment. Every state is a law order, and every law order represents an enacted morality, with procedures for the enforcement of that morality. Every morality represents a form of theological order, i.e., is an aspect and expression of a religion. The church thus is not the only religious institution; the state also is a religious institution. More often than the church, the state has been the central religious institution of most civilizations through the centuries. The war between the Roman Empire and the early church was a religious warfare, a struggle between two claimants who represented rival religions and wanted to order society in terms of their faith. The claims of each faith were total claims, as all religious claims are. Thus, American Puritans held that the Bible is "the revealed truth and the source of all reason and morality." Similarly, humanists today believe that the affirmation of the autonomy of man and his mind constitutes the source of all true reason and morality.
To return to the basic problem today, the real issue is not between church and state, but is simply this: the state as a religious establishment has progressively disestablished Christianity as its law foundation, and, while professing neutrality, has in fact established humanism as the religion of the state. When the religion of a people changes, its laws inevitably reflect that change and conform themselves to the new faith and the new morality. There has been deception on the part of the courts, by their profession of religious neutrality, as they have substituted one religion for another, humanism for Christianity. The basic reason, however, has been the theological collapse of the churches, and this has been true of all of them. In the dominant evangelical circles, this collapse came first. Hudson has referred to this as "the deeper malady,...the theological erosion which had taken place during the nineteenth century." In evangelicalism, "Doctrinal definitions tended to be neglected in the stress that was placed upon ‘heart religion' and the ‘conversion experience'." This theological collapse led to the untenable belief in religious neutralism and to the surrender of Christian schools for statist education. As a result, humanism became the established religion of state and school, and, by infiltration, of the churches as well.
As a result, in most countries today, and no less in the United States, humanism is the established religion of the state and is progressively the source of legal revisionism. Humanism is also the established religion of schools and most churches, and most of society. Christianity is quite logically progressively excluded from state, school and church and has a weak and scarcely tenable position in modern life. It probably lacks extensive and organized persecution in most countries because orthodox Christianity has become progressively weaker and less and less relevant.
Any revival of Christian strength will thus precipitate major conflict, in that it will constitute a threat to the humanistic establishment. In recent years, few have feared the church, because the church has been impotent and itself an ally of humanism. There are evidences now that this may change.
Unless the state is under the triune God, there is no hope for freedom for either the church or men. If the state is its own god and its own source of morality, then the state can do no wrong, and no man has then the right or freedom to differ from or to challenge the state.
Again, if the state is equated with government, there is then no freedom for man, because freedom is inseparable from self-government under God. Thus, the Christian community must assert the priority of God’s law-word as binding on all of life, including church, state, and school. Christians must once again take over government in education, welfare, health, and other spheres. Basic to this take-over is tithing.
At times in the past, the conflict between church and state has been an institutional conflict, sometimes for power, and often for very principled reasons of jurisdiction. It is more than a jurisdictional dispute now: it is religious conflict, and a war unto death. The modern humanistic state is history’s most jealous god, and it will tolerate no rivals. Hence, its war against Christianity. In this struggle, however, the state has taken on a power far greater than itself. As the humanistic world powers take “counsel together against the LORD, and against His anointed,” planning to overthrow His law and government, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision” (Ps. 2:4). He shall break His enemies with a rod of iron.
- R. J. Rushdoony
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.