Saturday, July 28, 2012

Three Witnesses to Independence

“Civil power is earthly and natural, reaching only the external man; but ecclesiastical power is spiritual, regarding the internal man and the conscience. The latter is not regulated by natural reason, civil laws and human statutes, by which states are governed; but the Word of God alone and the canon of the Scriptures dictated by the Holy Spirit. It is not exercised in a political and worldly, but in a spiritual and mystical manner by the keys of the Kingdom of heaven and by the sword of the Spirit and other similar weapons; not carnal, but the power of God to the pulling down of strongholds and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4,5). It administers the sacraments, which are seals, not of any earthly or civil privilege, but of mystical union with Christ and of His spiritual benefits. Nor does it regard any other end than the edification of the body of Christ, the establishment of His Kingdom and the salvation of sinners” (Francis Turretin [1623-1687], Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 18.29.16).

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, 1789).

“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, XVII).

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