An understanding of the Marxist doctrine of the separation of church and state is urgently necessary, because there is a growing confusion between the Marxist view and the earlier American position.
In the Marxist world, as in the Soviet Union, the separation of church and state means that the church must be totally separated from every area of life and thought. It cannot be allowed to educate or to influence education, let alone the state. Because children are seen as the property of the state, the church cannot influence or teach children. In all spheres, the church is isolated from the world and life of its times and is required to be irrelevant and impotent. In the Marxist view, the separation of church and state is a major legal handicap and penalty imposed upon the church. It is in effect a separation from relevance, the power to influence, and the freedom to function.
In the historical American view, the First Amendment places all restrictions upon the federal government, which is barred from establishing, governing, controlling, or regulating the church. The Marxist view handcuffs the church; the American view handcuffs the state.
In recent years, the state, Congress, the courts, and the various presidents have in varying degrees manifested an adherence to the Marxist view. Even as the statist power has encroached on every other sphere of society, so now it is encroaching on the church. It is assured that the state has total jurisdiction over every sphere, and the courts in recent years have ruled on such absurdities as school dress codes, and the length of a boy’s hair. No concern is too trifling to be overlooked by the courts in their zeal for totalitarian jurisdiction. Without being Marxist, they share in the Marxist belief in total state jurisdiction. Predictably, they are moving in the same direction.
This should not surprise us. Given the humanistic belief in man or the state as ultimate, any freedom or power claimed by the church is seen as irrelevant or wrong. The humanist is being faithful to his faith, to his presuppositions.
The sad fact is that too many churchmen share the Marxist view. For them, the separation of church and state means that the church must never involve itself with anything which is of political concern. I am regularly told by readers about pastors and church leaders who will not permit mention of abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, or any like subject from the pulpit or even on church premises. Such matters, they insist, are “political” and “violate” the separation of church and state. They claim the name of orthodoxy for their confusion, cowardice, and heresy.
The prophets, God’s preachers of old, were commanded by the Lord to proclaim God’s law-word concerning all things and to correct and rebuke kings and governors. When our Lord promises His disciples that they shall be brought before governors and kings for his sake, and “for a testimony against them” (Mt. 10:18), He did not mean they were then to foreswear the faith, wink at abortion and homosexuality, and be silent about the sins of the state!
There are no limits to the area of God’s government, law, and sovereign sway. There can be no limits to the areas of the church’s witness, its preaching, and its commanded concern.
Reprinted from Christianity and the State [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1986], 191-192.
- 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.