Introduction: The Need for a Theology of the State
Evolutionary thought has assumed that primitive cultures are polytheistic and are succeeded by monotheism, however, polytheism marks a culture in decay, not a culture in formation. One contemporary example of polytheism is the post WWII figure Dr. Kerr (chancellor of UC Berkeley in the fifties) who claimed that instead of a universe (and university) there is really a multiverse (and multiversity). Plurality rather than unity is the structure of reality, and this view is a world of polytheism because it rejects any over-all truth and order in favor of "fragments and limited connections in the shambles of time and space" (1). The result of polytheism and its disavowal of universal order and meaning is the requirement of force to accomplish cohesiveness and truth. Religion within polytheism makes no claims of universality, but remains relegated to its own corner of acceptance, occasionally demanding gifts and bribes for appeasement rather than overarching claims of jurisdiction over men and nations.
The Enlightenment saw churches limit their spheres severely. While churches overstepped their boundaries up to this point in history in many ways, what authority is not limited is that of Christianity, specifically the authority of Scripture, which declares every sphere of life to be under the rule of God's word and under the authority of Christ the King. The implication is that EVERY human "must be a Christian in church, home, school, state, vocation, and all of life" (2). Not one sphere of life is not autonomous from the claims of Christ--just as we cannot move from fidelity to Christ to that of Mammon, Ball, or Molech so too we cannot move from fidelity to Christ to that of school, state, or any other order that is not under "the catholic or universal sway of God's rule and law" (2). The limits of the Enlightenment to the "spiritual" realm, which created an untenable distinction that led to more and more being categorized under the command of the "material" realm of the state and economics.
The following paragraph is as good a summary of the first chapter's argument as any:
Polytheism was born thus within the church. The work of Jesus Christ was progressively limited to soul-saving, and, with the steady rise of Arminianism, even here man gave an assist to God.
As a result, the cosmic Christ was traded for a polytheistic Christ, and the Bible was read, not as God's law-word, but as a devotional book for pietists. The state (and most of life) was thus "freed" from God to follow a humanistic course. Humanism, as the new Catholicism, began to claim the school and all other agencies and institutions, until humanism too began to decay within and thus resort to force to gain its will without, i.e., in the physical world of men and nations.
Scripture asserts its authority against such paganism and thus requires a theology of the state to guide our beliefs and actions. Psalm 2 proclaims to the nations a command to submit themselves to God's law or face his wrath and judgment. The state that would claim authority and lordship over any sphere of life must be challenged with the claims of Scripture proclaiming the sole Sovereignty of Christ.
Religion and the State
The so-called problem of church and state is akin to the so-called problem of free will. Both require the problem to be correctly identified and formulated in order to be answered correctly and sufficiently. Unfortunately, "Church and State" is a term that obscures rather than elucidates the discussion of the problem, for the current "state" is no more a unity than the current "church," although the rising assertion of influence over local branches of civil government by the U.S. Supreme Court is approaching something of a unified state authority. Rushdoony quotes from John F. Wilson's book, Church and State in American History, to elucidate the problem more clearly, and he narrows Wilson's six phases of the problem into three:
1. The colonial period's policy of establishment, where a single church (or in some cases more than one denomination) was established and financially supported by the state.
2. The colonial period's policy of disestablishment, where particular denominations were divested of state establishment and support and Christianity was established as a religion over an against any particular ecclesiastical establishment.
3. The post WWI rapid development of the post Civil War trend, which insisted on the neutrality of the state towards religion while maintaining religious liberty for churches.
Despite this historical discussion of the phases, Rushdoony finds it lacking in its attention to the basic issue, which he finds as far back as the medieval period, where the "Church-State" tension is identifiable apart from the traditional formulation expressed by Wilson.
The debate in the medieval period was the papal conflict with the nations under the Christian empire, and resolution was sought in institutionalization. A Christian order was acknowledged by both the popes and rulers, with periodic hostility concerning who would have primary control and maintenance of this Christian social order. This original formulation of the problem of Church and State has become obsolete in the modern era because the state is not concerned with establishing a Christian social order (and is more often hostile to that agenda) and there is less often any single church that seeks to claim establishment in any Western nation. Where establishment does exist, it often receives no support from tax funds and no legal recognition of Christian order in law courts. Also, there is no common consensus (ecclesiastical or civil) in the modern era that a Christian social order is even necessary. Finally, in the modern era religious liberty has been replaced by religious tolerance. Historically, religious liberty meant freedom for the church and its worshipers from state control and jurisdiction. But religious tolerance has meant that the state retains the power to declare which church or religion has a right to exist. The authority to govern that was foreign to the state under religious liberty has been usurped by the state under religious toleration. The original purpose of the First Amendment was to preclude the Federal Government from entering the jurisdiction reserved to the State governments who retained the right to establishment of religion [some of which had established religions during the ratification of the Constitution]. It was not until the 14th Amendment was interpreted by the Supreme Court as applying to all states that a complete denial of state establishment of religion was effected.
All of this history is preparation for the proper formulation of the problem, which must recognize the fundamental nature of the institutions of Church and State:
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 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. (7)
The battles between church and state are thus religious battles, where two rival claims to religious order are being waged against each other. These claims constitute totalizing influence for they wage for the governance of society, the whole of life for a people. Just as the American Puritans held the Bible to be the source of all reason and morality, so too humanists hold autonomous humanity to be the source of true reason and morality. Thus the issue is not between church and state, but between the state as a religious establishment or Christianity as a religious establishment. Neutrality is a myth created to obscure the claims made upon the power to enforce the governance of society. As humanism has increased its theological influence upon Christian belief, so it has increasingly become the established religion over the state, the school, and the church.