Should the church and state be one?

Thoughts on the church by Timothy G. Gombis

Evangelical culture, at least in the United States, is almost completely beholden to triumphalism—the notion that God is magnified through human power, prestige, political influence and outward success.

We love it when we see our leaders sitting with presidential candidates talking earnestly over policy and international relations. We do not recognize, however, that often we are being played: candidates are merely looking to gather support from a potentially huge pool of votes. If it takes mentioning God here and there and talking about family values, then candidates will do that while posing for pictures with the evangelical leader of the moment.

Is this too cynical? In my view, it may not be cynical enough! I would have thought that we had learned our lesson by now. Billy Graham realized decades ago that he was being used as a prop to earn favor with evangelicals and vowed not to be used in such a way again. It seems that every year or so we are embarrassed by another evangelical leader, ambitious to gain political powers, compromised in the process. The temptation is great to matter in a wider culture that seems out of control. But if we pay attention to how Paul plays his role in God’s triumph, we would not be hunting for political power or social prestige.

The Drama of Ephesians, p.119

His thoughts tend to add to my growing belief that the Reformation led by Luther and Zwingli and others was incomplete. They were too enamored and fearful of the state and collaborated with them, supported them, and used its power for their own use and safety. Can’t blame them too much, considering the times, but certainly in retrospect, one can see how much more biblical and wise were many of the Anabaptists who practiced separation of church and state.

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