Blog Devotionals

The Separation of Church and State

October 9, 2023 | Sam Rainer

Religious liberty is not just about church gatherings on Sunday morning. It’s all-encompassing of who we are all the time. What about the separation of church and state? The Bible teaches that societies should be ordered and orderly, and people within those societies should follow the law of the land. Consider what Paul writes in his letter to the Romans.

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

– Romans 13:1 (NLT)

Our government was never meant to be a “religion-free” zone. Our Founders never intended for religion to be absent from politics. Religion is the foundation of our morality. But we must distinguish between the church’s mission and the state’s mission. The mission of the church is to be a vehicle for the gospel. The mission of the state is to administrate laws and protect citizens. God never intended governments to be like giant octopuses with tentacles in every area of our lives.

The government’s role is to keep open a free marketplace of ideas. I will use an analogy to explain. Ideas are like grocery store items. The government keeps the store open but doesn’t tell you what to buy. You choose what to believe. This concept goes back to the beginning of
colonial America.  Roger Williams was a separatist who came to Boston in 1631. But the Puritans thought his ideas were dangerous, so they threatened to arrest him and ship him back to England. In 1636, he went to Providence, RI and founded the First Baptist Church in America. Williams advocated for fair dealings with Native Americans and was one of the first abolitionists in America. He was also the originator of the idea of separation of church and state. He believed there should be no “state church,” and that a “wall of separation” should exist to protect the garden of the church from the wilderness of the state. He criticized the Massachusetts Bay system, which mixed state and church.

Williams once said, “Forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God.” We will learn a lot more about the separation of church and state on Sunday. The Bible has an answer! It is no accident that religious liberty is listed first in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .”

This freedom is biblical. Sunday’s sermon will explain why. Onward!