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The Death Penalty Debate

"The Separation of Church and State"

Clarifying Our Thinking on Capital Punishment

This discussion of Capital Punishment is the step-by-step examination of this question:

Is it Now God's Prescriptive Will
for One or more Men
to Shed Another Man's Blood
for Capital Crimes?

In the Previous Paper, we began to ask, Who has the duty to stone or burn those convicted of capital crimes? It was suggested that our reluctance to allow the "Church" to do so, and our dogmatic insistence that only the "State" can carry out executions, was not based on Scripture.

The idea that the "church" could execute criminals or engage in other such "civil" functions is usually met with the question, "Don't you believe in the 'Separation of Church and State?'"

We run into error when we try to read modern concepts like "Church" and "State" back into the time before Christ. It is often these very errors that form the foundation for our concrete political policies.

In our day the task of executing capital criminals is in the hands of a secular, God-denying State. Reconstructionists believe that our society is cursed because the State refuses to execute serial rapists and murderers, homosexuals, and others who commit crimes worthy of death.

But why should this task be left to a Humanistic State. Why may not the Church execute God's commands?

Q.7: Was Elijah an officer of the "Church" or of the "State?" It is important to decide especially when considering his execution of the prophets of Baal (I Kings 19).

There is far too much confusion among Christians concerning the relationship between "Church"12 and "State."13 Most of this confusion comes because instead of rigorously applying the Law of God, the theological "leaders" of the seminaries and the churches study non-Christian political theory and then try to fit the Bible into the secular mold. Only this way, they believe, can they maintain "respectability" in the eyes of the Marxists, Keynesians, Darwinists, and other "respectable" University Humanists.

Q.8: If the "State" were Biblical, i.e., all offices were held by Christians submitting to the Word, would not these Christians be the "elders" of the Church?

Q.9: What is it that the "State" does that should not be done by the "elders" of the Church?

a. Run a post office?
b. Pay farmers not to grow grain?
c. Print Federal Reserve Notes?
d. Send wheat and computers to the Soviet Socialists?
e. Buy strategic metals from right-wing dictatorships?

The only popular option is

f. Administer Capital Punishment.

But why is this? Why do the theologians hold that churchmen should not dirty their hands with Capital Punishment? Why is it the "elders" of the Church are not best qualified to administer Capital Punishment? Some might respond that the most mature Christians (the elders) would in fact be heads of state, and would administer capital punishment, but they would do it as the "State" and not as officers of the "church." They would take off their clerical garments and put on the robes of the State. But why this distinction? And where is it demanded in Scripture? As long as the distinction persists, the tendency is for justice to be relegated to non-Christians.

Q. 10: What are the legitimate powers of a royal priesthood? Do they include the execution of "civil" penalties?

We must remember that in the New Covenant Jesus Christ is our High Priest and there is no elite priesthood. Rather, all believers are members of a "royal priesthood" (I Peter 2:9). They consider it an honor to carry the sword; to execute God's vengeance upon the heathen and punishments upon the people; in short, to execute the judgments written in God's Law. Psalm 149:4-9 makes clear that "this honor have all His saints." The full Christ-centered meaning of this passage, of course, is understood completely only in the light of the New Testament, but however we apply these texts, we cannot restrict them to those who call themselves "the State."

The Administration of God's Law: The Church or the State?

When we think of the "elders" in the Old Testament, we think "civil" -- "the State."
When we think of the "elders" in the New Testament, we think "ecclesiastical" -- the "church."

We need to ask where in Scripture the Church is forbidden to fulfill those parts of the Law we have (arbitrarily? with Scriptural warrant?) labeled "civil." Let's rejoin the dialogue I had with some other "Reconstructionist" students over this issue:

A "Berean": In Exodus 22:9 who are the judges?
KC: In the New Testament I would say that parallels the church, not the State.
GLB: In this context who are the judges?
KC: I would say they are the church.
Another Reconstructionist: Isn't that a civil matter?
KC: What's a "civil matter"? Paul says in I Corinthians 6 we're not supposed to be involved with the State in "civil matters." We're supposed to handle it in the church.
GLB: It's a civil matter.
I don't think I Corinthians 6 is properly used to say that if a person professing to be a Christian who rapes somebody that you don't take them to the State, you take them to the elders; in fact I think that would be sinful to do that. If you have two Christians who have a dispute with each other they oughtn't to go to court for litigation to settle their dispute. That's an embarrassment to the Kingdom of God that the elders can't do that. But if I have some professing Christian who rapes a woman out here I don't take him to the elders. I take him to the avenger of God's wrath and ask that he be executed.
KC: But in the Old Testament they took him to the elders.
GLB: The elders were civil authorities in the Old Testament.
KC: Why do you say they were "civil" and not churchly?
GLB: Because they executed people.

Slogan-busters: Three thieves are reported to have gathered together to divide their loot, some stolen pearls.

Thief #1: "One for you, one for you, two for me; one for you, one for you, two for me -
Thief #2: Wait a minute! Why do you get two and we get only one?
Thief #1: 'Cuz I'm de leader.
Thief #3: What makes you the leader?
Thief #1: 'Cuz I got more poils den youse guys.

Can you spot the mistake? It's called "begging the question." Instead of proving the point, the point is merely re-asserted in another form. The point is presupposed by one party, disputed by the other. We see the same thing in the church-state dialogue above. Here's the argument:

A: Only the State can shed a man's blood.
B: What about the "Elders" in the Old Testament?
A: They were the State.
B: Prove it.
A: They shed men's blood!

I contend, for purposes of clarifying our thinking, that the "Elders" in the Old Testament were the "church," as they are in the New, not "the State."

KC: All right, let me do the desert island illustration. We have a Christian Community on a desert island and someone commits murder. Does that mean that the normal elders who are normally adjudicating all [civil] disputes [I Corinthians 6:1-11][have to change their title to "sheriff" before they can carry out God's Law?] -
GLB: I could answer your question, it's just that I don't think it's a point; it doesn't establish anything.
KC: I think it makes the point that your [distinction between "church" and "state" is] arbitrary. You're just saying that it's -
GLB: If it were a Christian community on a desert island you would distinguish between those who had rule in spiritual matters and those who had rule in terms of taking people's lives and taxing them.  ["spiritual matters?"]
KC: Why? [Suppose your church were isolated from all other societies. Who would be the "civil" elders if not the church session? Would they have to put on a different colored robe when they changed from "civil" to "criminal" or from "ecclesiastical" to "criminal"? Is blasphemy a State or church issue? Could the church session not adjudicate "civil" matters? Why make this distinction between elders? An elder is an elder.]
GLB: Because God does.
KC: Where?
GLB: Well, in all the passages that are up for grabs.
Romans 13.
KC: ?
GLB: Romans 13 gives "the sword" to a magistrate, and "the sword" has been prohibited to hands of elders in the church.
KC: [Romans 13 talks about war, and I grant that Christians shouldn't declare war. But elders in the Old Testament did shed men's blood in response to capital crimes.]
GLB: No I think in the Old Testament too. The priests could not go out and execute people in the Old Testament. But the elders could.
KC: Where does it say the priests couldn't?

Slogan-busters: This is the critical point. Can you find any verses which prohibited priests from participating in the shedding of blood?

KC: What about Elijah?
GLB: Elijah wasn't a priest, he was a prophet.
KC: Still, I would consider him a "churchly" officer rather than a State or "civil" officer.
GLB: Well, we could argue about how you want to categorize things; I don't think that's going to settle our argument.
KC: [That is our argument. If there is nothing prohibited to "churchly" officials, then there is no legitimate duty for the "State."]
GLB: The standing policy of God doesn't allow the church to execute people.
KC: ? [Again, why are Old Testament elders the "State" and New Testament elders the "church"?] . . . .
GLB: Excommunication is the highest censure of the church
KC: Where does it say that?
GLB: Well, Paul says in I Corinthians, What do I have to do with judging those who are outside?
KC: All right, but what does that have to do with judging those who are inside?
GLB: Well, people who are inside who commit murder or rape are excommunicated and therefore they are outside. And at that point we don't have anything to judge them; we don't have anything to say about them.

Slogan-busters: On another page we will will look for Scriptural proof that "cutting off" in the Old Testament meant excommunication, exile, or anything less than death. If excommunication is the New Testament equivalent to being "cut off," and if repentance results in re-admission to the church, then under Old Testament laws requiring a "cutting off" repentance would result in a suspended sentence even in capital crimes. Otherwise in the New Testament there would be no former adulterers in the church, because they would have been excommunicated - permanently.

I maintain that the Old Testament does not teach our modern conception of "Separation of Church and State." This is an American myth. (And not even an original American myth, but one conceived of by the ACLU and liberal Supreme Court Justices who have re-written our conceptions of American history and philosophy.)

In our dialogue, Bahnsen was so intent upon finding the "Separation of Church and State" that he was finding it within the priesthood itself:

KC: I don't see that in the Old Testament. I see where the establishment of the [provisional] Old Testament government in Exodus, for example, [did not provide for] the distinction between "civil" and "ecclesiastical" crimes.
GLB: So it's all right for anyone to enter into the temple and offer sacrifice?
KC: No, because you did have an elite priesthood. [They were not all priests in the Old Testament (cp. I Peter 2:9).]
GLB: Oh, so there was a distinction, wasn't there?
KC: Only between those who were [Aaronic] priests and those who were not.
GLB: Well, if that's where it has to begin to get you to see a distinction, I'll begin with that, that's fine. So that there was a distinction between the strictly cultic and extra-cultic affairs. The cultic affairs could only be done by priests. And only by one family of priests, by the way, too: the Aaronic family. And anybody else who entered in was struck down. Uzziah, the king, tried to go preach a sermon, if I can use the New Testament counterpart, and he got struck with leprosy. Reagan wouldn't -
KC: That's because he was a non-Aaronic priest, not because he was part of the State.
GLB: So that shows you that there was a difference between the State and the church in those days.
KC: No, that's not a difference between the State and the church, that's a difference between the [Aaronic priests and the rest of the Levitical priests. If a non-Aaronic priest entered the temple he would have been struck down, and yet we wouldn't say this Levitical priest was therefore part of the "State." If an Aaronic priest entered the Holy of Holies he would have been struck down, but no one would seriously argue that the high priest alone is the "church" and all other priests are the "state." There were levels of holiness, and there were specific regulations which had to be followed by specific people, but there was no "separation of church and state." It seems we have these categories which are brought in from secular Humanism. Conservative, Burkean Humanism, but Humanism nevertheless.]

Bahnsen is a brilliant theologian with an incredibly sharp mind. I have learned much from him and respect his abilities. But when he commits himself to finding the concept of "Church-State Separation" in the Mosaic Law, he reduces himself to babbling and confusion.

The "Separation of Church and State" did not exist in the Old Testament, because there was no "State" in Israel until after I Samuel 8. Those who defend "church-state separation" are either Humanists who want the "church" (i.e., Christianity) stifled, or misguided Christians who (rightly) want the State's power reduced.

Where Do You Draw the Line?

Is there a "Separation of Church and State"? Should there be? Was there in the Old Testament? Were there separate "political" and "religious" orders in Israel? Were the "Elders" of the Old Testament "churchly" or or were they "civil" officers? Is the shedding of blood in response to capital crimes a task of the "church" or "the State?"

It is our contention that there was no such separation. While the "State" existed in nations outside of God's people in Israel, it did not exist in Israel, and thus both "civil" and "ecclesiastical" functions were carried out by family heads.[15] When Moses had to give direction to family heads at Sinai, we might speak of the formation of the institutional "church," but not a "State." The "State" was not brought into the household of faith until the time of Saul (I Samuel 8). We elaborate on this view of the State in our Study on Patriarchy.

That civil and ecclesiastical functions were carried out by the same institution (the household) does not by any means imply that God's Law cannot be applied in our day. Additionally, we may speak of a "separation of church and state" by which we mean a non-Christian State has no right to prohibit the carrying out of God's law by Christian ecclesiastical associations. But this phrase is only confusing.

In his book Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Bahnsen has attempted to defend the Bible against the charge that there was a union of church and state under the Mosaic Law, as though this were somehow bad. We shall examine his remarks.

First he says, "There was a distinction between the work of Moses and that of Aaron (cf. Ex. 16:33-34; 29:1ff.). . . ."

Look these verses up. Do you see "the separation of church and state" in them? Perhaps there has been a typographical error and these were not the passages Bahnsen wanted to cite. In Exodus 16, if there were a "separation" between Moses and Aaron, then Aaron (the "church") is clearly subordinate to "the State" (Moses), a most undesirable state of affairs. In chapter 29, Moses is directed to "hallow" the priests. Do we look for the day when President Mario Cuomo shall "hallow" church officers? Moses ("the State") is everywhere involved in the process of ceremonial offerings.

Keep in mind that the appointment of Aaron was due only to Moses' faithlessness. What would have happened had Moses gone ahead and confronted Pharaoh alone, as he was originally directed?

Look also at Exodus 24. Moses goes up the Mountain with Aaron and the elders (said to be the State by Bahnsen) and Nadab and Abihu (vv. 9ff.). Did they go up separately? On different sides of the Mountain? It does not appear so. When Moses goes up alone (the "priority of the State over the church"?) he tells the elders (the "State") that if they have any questions, they should ask Aaron (the "church")! (v. 14) Is this the "establishment of religion"?

Bahnsen elsewhere concludes, "the priests seem to be completely taken up with religious service and not leaders in the political order." It is our contention that the "political order" was thoroughly religious. We also contend that there was no "State" in Israel until it was rebelliously imported from Babylonians and Canaanites (and their ilk - I Samuel 8). Let us, then, see if the priests had anything to do with "politics," or if they were just into "religion."

Priests in the Capitol

Senators in the Temple

We can do more than show that priests did judicial or civil service. The Elders, traditionally equated with the "State," performed ceremonial, "religious" functions.

We have already looked at Deut. 21:2-9.

Look also at Exodus 12:21. It was the Elders who killed the Passover lamb and placed the blood on the legs of the house. (The Familial character of the Elders is clearly seen here.) Shall we invite the Mayor or City Councilperson to administer the New Testament Passover? Shall we deny the privilege to Family heads?

When the congregation commits a sin of ignorance it is the Elders who lay their hands on the head of the ceremonial bullock. What is the New Testament counterpart to this ritual? Do we invite Alan Cranston into our churches to perform it?

It just happens too frequently that the priests and the Elders are involved together in the administration of the laws of the Old Testament for us to assert with any believability a "separation of church and state" (e.g., Lev. 9:1).

How does Bahnsen then react to these passages? Citing a number of examples of non-separation (which we have not even covered!) he claims that "The only times that the priests were involved in political matters were exceptional cases." How many "exceptions" are necessary to change the "rule"?

Law and Liturgy

One of the issues in this debate on the Death Penalty is the possibility that the shedding of a criminal's blood was a ceremonial picture of Christ's work, no longer literally performed in our day. Bahnsen would disagree:

Another separation of church from state had to be observed with respect to the penalties imposed for violations of God's Law. While the magistrate had the power of the sword to execute appropriate criminals, the most extreme punishment imposed for the breaking of ecclesiastical law (i.e., ceremonial commandments) was excommunication.

Abominable crimes are met with the "cutting off" of the criminal from the people, i.e., death (Lev. 20:2-3; 18:29). The following warrant such an action:

Are these acts "civil"? Are "ceremonial" commandments punishable only by "excommunication"? Has Bahnsen wasted his intellectual gifts trying to find a "separation of church and State" in the Old Testament?

These abominable sins were committed by the nations in the Promised Land (Lev. 18:24f.) and for this reason they were "cut off" (Deut 12:29). Undoubtedly they wished for a "separation of church and state" which would have allowed them to be only "excommunicated."

Why Religion got Separated from Politics

It may be profitable to consider the concept of "Church/State Separation" outside of the Scriptures, in the Empires of the ancient Mideast.

The "Separation of Church and State" is best understood as an invention of Enlightenment Humanism[16] as a device to protect the "divine right of kings" from any intervention or interference from Theonomists.

The "State" did not even exist in Israel until the rebellion of I Samuel 8. Prior to that, the State was the possession of unGodly nations like Babylon, who could trace their origin to the first statist, Nimrod (Gen. 10:6-12). No ancient empire had a "separation of church and state," for the emperor was the divine link between civilians and divinity. His officers were priests of his administration, even as the sinful kings of Israel used priests for the administration of their statism (Theonomy, pp. 404, 406, 408, 410). "Temple" has always been supplemented with and synonymous with "palace" in the reigns of emperors who have departed from God's Law (I Kings 21:1 + 2 Chron. 36:7; cf. I Sam 1:9).

Egypt is a compelling example of an ancient society without a "separation of church and state" -- because nothing was separated from the State. Rushdoony notes that

The Egyptian language had no word for "state." [And note the absence of the word in the Bible - kc] For them, the state was not one institution among many but rather the essence of the divine order for life. . . . Life therefore was totally and inescapably statist."
The One & The Many, p. 44

This was the nature of all States in the ancient world. They were the highest focus of all life; to use Tillich's phrase, they were the "ultimate concern" in society. Because the State was the comprehensive and highest unifying idea in society, the ancient State was overtly religious. The State claimed a continuity of being, a metaphysical link, or a communication between the underworld, the earth, and the heavens. The State was the divine mediator. Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, all claimed to be what in fact only Israel could be called - the locus of God's communication with man. Ancient empires - the "State" - claimed to be truly religious. It is necessary to recognize, with Rushdoony, that

throughout most of history, the state has been the religious order of man and the central vehicle of his religious life, and this is no less true today than in ancient Greece. We are accustomed to thinking of the church as the religious institution, and the state as simply the political ordering of man's life, but such thinking is at the very least erroneous and certainly guilty of accepting the framework of the myth [of the state]. The ancient polis, city-state, or kingdom was at all times a religious body, and, more than that, the religious organization of life. The ruler's office was holy: he was a royal or civil priest, and religion was the life of the state. The very word liturgy is derived from the Greek leitourgia, the original meaning of which was (1) a public office undertaken by a citizen at his own expense, as his service to the body politic and (2) any service, as military service, of workmen, or of that service done to nature [the cosmos] in the cohabitation of man and wife. The word was clearly religious: a liturgy was a public work done to promote the social and natural order. The leitourgos was a public minister, a servant of the state, or of the king.
The state was thus the religious ordering of society, and, as a result, each state was one church, holding a common faith, and no religious cults could flourish in a state without the permission of the state and without recognizing the state or its ruler as the mediator and divine lord. To have other gods meant to be in conspiracy for the overthrow of the body politic, of the visible god of that area, the state and its ruler.
(The Christian Idea of the State, pp. vii-viii)

In the ancient world, the one true religion
was service [leitourgia] to the one true doctrine
that the one true State
was the one true church.

Here is an excerpt from an important analysis in the Journal of Church and State, a respected and generally pro-separationist law journal ("Public Religion vis vis the Prophetic Role of Religion," James E. Wood, Jr., 41 Journal of Church and State, (Winter 1998), pp. 51ff.)

      In addressing the subject of "public religion," it is well to recall that the notion of private religion is a relatively modern concept an done primarily identified intellectually with the rise of modernity and historically with the American tradition of church and state. To the ancient world, and for many centuries, all of life and all of culture were viewed as sacred or religious. Conventions, customs, traditions, and taboos were all rooted in the sacred, i.e., rooted in religious sanctions or prohibitions. Every important event, from birth to death, was solemnized by religious ceremonies (a pattern by no means unfamiliar in the public and state ceremonies of societies in the modern world). It is no exaggeration to say that the concept of public religion, not private religion, still prevails throughout most of the world today outside of communist countries.
      From earliest history religion was a public matter -- for the community as a whole and not the individual. Religion and culture were inextricably intertwined and, as religion developed from a tribal to a national stage, religious history was inseparable from what today would be called social and political history. This interdependence of all of life was expressed in the intimate and intricate relationship between kinship and priesthood.1 Generally speaking, the religious and political head of the community were one; the priest was a magistrate and the magistrate was a priest. Religion was so thoroughly integrated into the nation-state as to constitute a religio-political system by which society was stabilized and governed. To be a king or chieftain meant that his was a sacred office, not merely one of civil or political authority, and that the office of priest was a political as well as a religious office. Consequently, distinctions between religious and civil institutions were non-existent. The religious and political were fused in such a way as to be virtually inseparable. Within the structure of the nation or state was an integrated system in which ruler, clergy, political decree, tenets of faith, law, ethics, religious rites, and state rituals were all conjoined. There was no place for any distinction between the sacred and the secular, between public and private religion.

      1. See, for example, Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978); originally published in 1948, but subsequently supplemented by a preface by Noah Kramer.

Wood goes on to suggest that in Israel kings were never deified -- a significant difference between that nation and the nations around them, if true. But the fundamental point still remains: politics in Israel was not "secular." There was no "separation" between religion and state. Religion was not a "private" matter which the State ignored, or which ignored the State.

The fact that all of life was religious is precisely that which prompted the invention and rise of  "the State."

When Cain, and following him, Nimrod, apostatized, they left the religious-patriarchal order of the household of faith to form a new social organization under a new religious perspective. Life under Adam, or under Noah, was under God and His Word. Life under Cain and under Nimrod has been widely seen to be life away from Biblical patriarchy and under a new form of order, which has been called the "State."

The implications of this early Biblical record of social and religious apostasy are staggering. A decentralized Patriarchal social order under God's Law must be contrasted with a centralized polis-based order. This is in fact the contrast between God's people (the Church) and apostates (the State).

Traditional defenses of the State, seeking Biblical support, have alleged the institution of the State in the laws concerning the shedding of the blood of capital criminals. But this was a Family-based power, not restricted to "the State."

Political powers are certainly not outside of God's sovereign control, and we may agree with the Apostle that the powers are "ordered" or "ordained" by God (Romans 13:1). But we must not confuse God's predestination with His prescriptive Law. James Benjamin Green, in his Harmony of the Westminster Standards, has rightly noted that in Romans 13

It is not meant that God directly ordained the state by saying to man, Thou shalt set up a government or organize a commonwealth.

In fact, as we have seen in our Study on Patriarchy, God's Law forbids setting up such a socio-religious system as the State. God is sovereign, and He orders the actions of evil empires and rebellious institutions, though they think they are autonomous.

There was no "State" in Israel until I Samuel 8. It could also be said there was no institutional "church." Israel's social order was Family-centered. Israel itself was considered to be a Family, the "Household" of God. All Israelites looked upon themselves as sons of Abraham; the Gospel was a Gospel of "Adoption." When the people rebelled and rejected God, asking for a king (I Sam. 8), they were importing the trappings and humanistic power of the State from the nations around them, nations which claimed to be truly religious. This concept of a State was brought alongside a Patriarchal social order. This generated[17] conflict between God (Family) and Satan (State - or as Rushdoony calls it, "The Society of Satan").

Without the powerful working of the Spirit, as could only be expected in the Age of the Messiah and the New Covenant, it was not possible to expect the elimination of the Babylonian State. Family and State would have to live together until the Advent of the true King. The goal was obviously the continual reduction of the Welfare State and the nurturing of Family-centered Christian self-government (Rushdoony calls it "autarchy" [Institutes II, pp. 707ff.]). This move toward evangelical Patriarchy and away from an apostate social order (the State) could easily be mistaken for a move for the "separation of Family and State" or the "separation of the Church (the ecclesia) and the State" (Mark 10:42-45). But it is not a move for a separation of two orders which should continue to exist side by side; it is simply the move away from statism and the State entirely, and toward the defeat of all humanistic "archists," or statists (I Cor. 15:24).

In the pre-Christian world, concentric circles of holiness radiated from Israel: in the center was the Holiest of Holies, then the tabernacle, the camp, outside the camp, until finally you were in the realm of the unclean, the Gentiles. Yet all ancient empire-states denied the exclusivity and uniqueness of Israel and the Presence of God within her, and claimed that they were holy, in direct contact with the Source of cosmic power. Thus, to be unaccredited or outside their Empire was to be an unclean anarchist.

Now in Christian times, King Jesus, through His life and work on the Cross, has definitively cleansed the world, and all is in principle sanctified and consecrated to the service of His Kingdom. Again denying God's Truth, now all Empire-States claim to be "secular," "neutral," "non-religious," "scientific," or "pluralistic." Whereas before, in the age of limited holiness, all empires were self-consciously religious at root, claiming comprehensive holiness and complete sanctification, now, in the face of Christ's total, world-wide victory and sanctification of the world as God's Garden-Temple, the empires claim non-religious "scientific" neutrality.

Can the Church of Christ execute the commands of the Law as they are written in our Bibles, without the Law being modified to fit the theories of "respectable" Humanist political scientists? Some say no, advocating the "separation of church and state" doctrine of Deist Thomas Jefferson and the atheistic U.S. Supreme Court. In other papers we have expressed our desire to separate the State from everything, and for Christians to come out from the old structures of the Polis-centered world and "be ye separate." But if an apostate socio-religious order (the "state") is legitimized, the "separation of church and state" accomplishes, I believe, the separation of Christianity and politics, which is neither desirable nor Biblical.

The Godly have always desired the Church to come out and be separate from the State. The State has similarly but perversely wanted to be free from the influence of the Church. We must not grant their wish. The Christian Family must separate every area of life from Babylonian statism and consecrate it to the life-liturgy of King Jesus.

As kings and priests under Christ, we must destroy the myth of the State, and the separation of religion from politics.

[Next Page]

Preliminary Conclusions 1. The "State" was not formed when the command to shed the blood of criminals was given, for this ceremonial command was given to men before Genesis 9.

2. Even at Genesis 9, many Theonomists and other scholars admit that the command was given to Noah and his sons (i.e., the Family), not restricted to the "State," and that this Patriarchal power of shedding the blood of criminals lasted at least until the time of Moses.

3. It cannot be shown that at the time of the Exodus the command to shed the blood of capital criminals was given to the "State."

4. We refer the reader to our Study on Patriarchy. There we traced the origin of the State to Cain and (after the Flood) Nimrod. Other evangelical commentators have agreed that with Nimrod we have a shift from Patriarchal to Political (polis-centered) government.

5. The "Separation of Church and State," therefore, is a misunderstanding of the conflict between the Church of God (His people) who seek to put every area of life under His Law, and those who rebel against Patriarchal communities and a network of decentralized service, preferring instead centralized power and rule (Mark 10:42-45).

6. The conflict between Christ and Caesar was thus one of rival religions. The conflict between "Church" and "State" is likewise a conflict between two rival religions: Christianity and Statism.

Perhaps the best way to determine the character of the Mosaic government (whether Ecclesiastical or Civil) is to determine the character of Capital Punishment (whether "ceremonial" or "moral"). This is the third issue confronted in the question posed in the opening pages.


12. i.e., Christians who seek to obey the Bible.  [Back to Text]

13. i.e., (a) non-Christians; (b) Christians who aren't very interested in studying the Bible; or (c) Christians who say they wish they could obey the Bible but who, because of their involvement in politics, must engage in "practical compromise."  [Back to Text]

14. pearls  [Back to Text]

15. The confusion comes when we forget that Israel (indeed, mankind) was created to exist patriarchally. In a Patriarchal society, there is no separation of "civil" and "ecclesiastical" functions, and thus no "Separation of Church and State" (technically speaking, no "Church" or "State" at all!).  [Back to Text]

16. Although most ideas of the Enlightenment were a reincarnation of "classical" paganism, "the separation of church and state" is not. The government of Rome was pervasively religious. The myth of "separation" is a uniquely post-Christian phenomenon. As we will see below, James Wood has shown that in all ancient empires there was no separation of religion and politics.He goes on to note that Israel never deified their kings, nor was religion a servant of the nation-state, but rather stood over the State and told the truth about the nation's kings. Christians followed this prophetic tradition, and for telling the truth about the Caesars, came to be called a religio illicita, an unlicensed religion.

The early Christians were faced with an increasingly hostile state. With their resistance to the demands of the state, Christians were repeatedly the victims of intense persecutions for the unwillingness to give the state their supreme allegiance and obedience.
James E. Wood, Jr., "Public Religion vis vis the Prophetic Role of Religion," Journal of Church and State,  Month/Year, p. 53.

This analysis is not unrelated to Rushdoony's discussion of the Foundations of Social Order, in which the uniqueness of Christ's divinity warred against claims of a divine state or deified emperor.

Wood concludes that the separation of Christianity and the State is normative. His error is a product of an amillennial presupposition. The Christians believed that the State had an ethical obligation to repent and subject its every action to the Law of Christ. They believed this would happen in history. Thus Christians also denied a private religion and a "separation" of religion and state, but they were more sensitive to the State's tendency to be the oppressor of religious minorities. This sensitivity -- but not the concept of private/politically-irrelevant religion -- was operative in the framing of the U.S. Constitution.    [Back to Text]

17. or, rather, moved toward "epistemological self-consciousness."  [Back to Text]

[Back to dialogue]
This is amazing. Here is Bahnsen, noted leader in the Reconstructionist movement, defending a split between "spiritual" matters and "taking people's lives and taxing them." I tend to agree, taxing people is a very unspiritual act! But the dichotomy really goes to the heart of the whole reconstructionist agenda: that politics is left to the Humanists, while Christians, meek and pious, tend to more "spiritual" things. Unbelievable.
But I suggest we all have this kind of humanistic nature-grace split in our thinking.

[Back to Text]
The thinking which justifies Capital Punishment justifies more than the thousands who are executed each year in gas chambers, electric chairs, or firing squads. The idea which buttresses State killing has justified the killing of over 10,000 people per day, every day of the year, throughout the 20th century (on average). This paper is motivated by a desire to end the concrete political policies which result in the deaths of millions. Our acceptance of this killing renders us less able to love our neighbor, our spouse, our children. Clarification of thinking has as its goal the elimination of State-sponsored murder, as well as the murder in our own hearts.

Christmas Conspiracy


Vine & Fig Tree

Paradigm Shift


End The Wall of Separation
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