October 2021 | Service of Love

Church and State

Church and State

Dr. John K. Mathew

The seventeenth century was a century of orthodoxy. 

Both Protestants and Roman Catholics were concerned with dogmatic formulation of their positions for the purpose of catechizing their adherents. Although some of this orthodoxy stressed Christian experience, much of it emphasized right thinking. The drying up of the wellsprings of vitality in religion had started by the end of the seventeenth century. 

If the seventeenth century was an age of orthodoxy the eighteenth was an age of rationalism. In part, rationalism was a reaction to or an outgrowth of cold orthodoxy. The rise of rationalism also resulted from the place given to philosophy in the universities. During the middle ages, philosophy and theology had been wed in the system called 'scholasticism'; but with the decline of scholasticism and the church the two were divorced, with the result that philosophy became an enemy of theology. 

Western philosophy was now free to discover answers to the big questions of life by means of human reason alone. From the same context rose a new social philosophy. John Locke is regarded as the father of this new philosophical thought. Locke taught that just as the universe was governed by natural law, so men as part of nature were guaranteed certain natural rights. His political philosophy was an important facet of the political theory of the eighteenth century and was written in to the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. His religious views were significant too. In An Essay Concerning Toleration, The Reasonableness of Christianity, and in his Four Letters on Toleration he argued that no one could be saved by a religion that was forced upon them. Therefore, he called for religious toleration and the separation of church and state. Thus the concept of church and state separation is the product of Christian intelligence. The unfortunate part is that many other religions in the world have not yet conceived this idea or in other words it is indigestible to their intelligence. 

The secular view of Christian countries guarantees a rapid growth for other religions. In turn, in many countries of the world today, Christians are in the minority who struggle to live under unsympathetic or oppressive governments. Many countries in the world find pleasure in persecuting Christians and other minorities. The question is, is it a problem of religious intolerance or intelligence? But whether or not governments support Christians, scripture exhorts Christians everywhere to pray for the governments under which they live.

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