The Need for Separation of Church and State


What is the proper role of government? Well, one thing we know is that government is not the Holy Spirit.

To answer the question of the role of government, we must also look at the role of the family and the role of the Church. God set these three institutions like the three legs of a stool that form the basis of a just society.  Society becomes unstable when one institution gets too long by overstepping its bounds. The government ought not do what the church is intended to do and the church ought not due what the family is best suited for.

To be more specific, The government ought not be the conscience of the people and the church should not go to war. God does not look favorably on an institution that oversteps its bounds. Just look at King Uzziah. He was a righteous King and he thought he was honoring God by burning incense in the Temple. It seemed like a good idea at the time but God struck him with leprosy because of it. His son learned that the king ought not serve as priest.

Morality is crucial in government. But this means we should elect people who are moral. Not that we elect people to make others moral. Many an immoral politician has tried to obscure his own moral failings by promising to fix the moral failings of others.

You cannot make someone else moral through force. Force is the only power of government. So therefore the government cannot make people moral. To try is to fail and we see this failure throughout the American government. Many evangelicals support Rudy Gulliani, an immoral man, because they do not understand this principle. Making others moral is the role of the Holy Spirit not the government.

Only Christ can change the heart. The role of government is simply to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense. Justice is an end in and of itself. Justice gets clouded when it becomes a means to the end of sin prevention. Abortion is unjust because it involves to the killing of innocent life. We outlaw abortion because it is unjust, not because it is sin. The church should preach against sin. The government should simply establish justice. Our problem is that we are trying to fix church problems through government action. This is like treating the arm for a heart ailment.

For example, the church in America is forsaking the Biblical Gospel. We have used the "sinners prayer" to immunize a whole generation of people from true repentance. Statistics show that those in our churches have become immoral. The church, an institution intended to promote the Gospel and thus righteousness, now mostly perpetuates mediocrity. The solution to the growing immorality in our nation is fixing the church and preaching the true Gospel of total repentance from sin and total faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot fix this problem through governmental action or through stronger families.

Abortion is not only a failing of government to establish justice, it is also a failing of the church to preach against the sins of lust, fornication and murder. The Church must take care of women who are in distress. Abortion is also a failing of the family to promote and maintain a working system of courtship in accountability. The cure for abortion lies through action in all three institutions.

Now these three legs do effect one another. The government can change the definition of marriage from a permanent relationship to a semi permanent relationship through no fault divorce laws. This has hurt the family as we have seen. In that same way the church can manipulate the government to advance church ends through force as we have seen throughout history. Also the government can limit religious speech as it is beginning to do today. But I would contend that many of these problems can be avoided by keeping the institutions within their God given bounds as well as we can understand them to exist.

In short, we need true followers of Christ in government, in church and in the family. We don’t need counterfeits and false converts.

Thomas Umstattd Jr. is the author of Courtship in Crisis, the former head of, and co-founder of the Austin Rhetoric Club, a homeschool speech and debate club in Austin, Texas. He is a professional speaker and CEO of Author Media. He sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits, including the Texas Alliance for Life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “The Need for Separation of Church and State

  1. I agree, Thomas. I believe that there are rather five categories. Government, Churches, Businesses, Families, and the Individual. My current philosophical question is if the family is an individual. Obviously, when people are married, they become "one flesh," so does that make them an individual?

    You sure sound libertarian. lol. I've considered libertarianism, but decided that I couldn't find any libertarian I completely agreed with, so I'm enjoying my independence. 🙂

    Still searching for answers…


  2. The first Israelite government in the Old Testament was a Theocracy. One might be able to say that government was the Holy Spirit (leading Samuel, etc.), until the Israelites decided that they'd rather have a king instead. God didn't set up the bounds between church and government, people did, and he allowed it just like he has allowed other sin to temporarily exist. Granted, nobody should attempt to be God, therefore our government run by people should not attempt to be the Holy Spirit.

    Kind of an off-shoot from the point I think you're trying to make, but the reason why the government isn't the Holy Spirit is because we'd rather follow other people than God. I agree in that the reason why our government can't be the Holy Spirit is because it's led by people, many of which are more interested in trying to be the Holy Spirit than being led by the Holy Spirit.

    Maybe the right question is, "What is the proper government?" Maybe not, since it should be obvious that a government led by our perfect God would also be perfect, when it happens as promised (sorry for lack of reference, I'm hoping that everyone that reads this understands basic eschatology) we'll probably be asking much different and more fulfilling questions, and we don't really have much control as to when it does happen. I bring it up because people are broken, therefore a government formed and led by people will be broken (no matter how smart our founding fathers were). Our government that is "of the people, by the people, for the people" (Gettysburg Address) will indeed "perish from the earth" (still Gettysburg Address… but opposite) because our people are flagrantly disobedient to God, are unrepentant and even prideful about it, and people like that perish. A government for our people is going to be chaotic, because the vast majority of those people are very lost.

    Anyway, you're absolutely right in that the role of the Church under this government is to boldly stand up for Truth in love (voting would be a good start) and evangelize the lost to make them disciples of Jesus that seek to please God in all things, because God has commanded us to do that under any government. The Church is only a tiny minority of our population, however (and I don't mean people who go to church, I mean Christians, who are a small subset of that). If our government constructed policy according to our values and mission, it could not possibly call itself democratic because it would not be serving the majority (in their own eyes, which is what counts in democracy). Then again, in our time of special interest groups and their inflated level of influence in our policy-making today, I guess that happens all the time. Hopefully, we Christians won't be distracted by having an inflated level of influence in policy-making, but will be focused on making disciples of Jesus. What if they take away our right to free speech? We'll continue in our efforts to make disciples of Jesus just as we've been commanded, then we'll be persecuted and thrown in jail, and then we'll praise God that we have the opportunity to suffer so that He could be glorified, just like Jesus, Paul, and all of the other apostles did. Taking away free speech won't inhibit the Gospel in America, because it won't stop those who preach the true Gospel, and it will take it to the others in jail. What it will hopefully stop is the preaching of the false Gospel you were describing above.

    After all, maybe some persecution is just what our comfortable, watered-down American church needs. Taking away free speech is hardly persecution, though.

  3. Ok, some quotes:

    “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God, the people of the State of Texas, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”
    (Preamble of the Texas Constitution.

    “The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shalt not covet,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.”
    (John Adams. “Property” Chapter 16, Document 15. (University of Chicago, 2000) Warren-Adams Letters. The Works of John Adams. Edited by Charles Francis Adams. 10 vols. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1850–56.

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