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Separation Between Church and State

QUESTION: Was Jesus for the separation between church and state?


That is a relevant question today because of the widespread affirmation of that concept. Actually, the phrase "separation between church and state" is normally phrased as "separation of church and state." Let's examine that question and see what Jesus stated regarding the separation of church and state.

To answer that question, it is necessary to know what the phrase implies in its current usage. Although the basic meaning of separation of church and state is a "two way" proposition, its current implied meaning and normal usage only concerns the church staying out of the state's business not the state staying out of the church's business. So, to answer the question, we need to know if Jesus stated anything that would be consistent with the currently understood meaning.

The only reference that Jesus made that directly relates to the separation of church and state issue is found in Matthew 22:15: "Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?' But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?' 'Caesar's,' they replied. Then he said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.' When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away."

What did Jesus mean by His statements? Did He mean that the church should stay out of the state's business? When Jesus stated, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's," was He admonishing the people of His Kingdom to stay out of Caesar's business? No! He simply recognized that Caesar and his government had a right to be in power and that God and His Kingdom, although separate, also had a right to be in power. This is analogous to Christians paying taxes to their government. The separation of church and state debate has nothing to do with the willingness or unwillingness of Christians to pay taxes to the government. It is about not allowing Christian Theists to display any expressions of their faith, Theistic writings, or symbols in the public square. Jesus' entire ministry was about doing God's will. Jesus' whole ministry was done in the public arena. He held up the truth of the Old Testament scriptures on many occasions. He certainly was not for expunging Christian Theistic expressions, writings, and symbols from the public arena!

The Pharisees were trying to exploit an apparent inconsistency between Jesus not being a respecter of persons and recognizing Caesar's kingship. This is not much different than the current assertion that Christian Theism should be expunged from the public arena based upon the "separation of church and state" argument because both are based upon hypocrisy and clever lies.

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