Thoughts on Church and State

Confusion arises in public discourse because of the failure of Christians to understand the distinction between Church and State. The prevailing view throughout Christian history has been that the two should occupy distinct spheres. This view was maintained by leading Reformers such as John Calvin and Martin Luther. There are two separate realms—one dealing with the supernatural and the other with the natural. The way each goes about its mission is unique. The traditional view is that God ordained differing roles.  The role of the State is to enforce justice by natural law—through the power of the sword. The Church fulfills its mandate by mercy through the power of God’s grace. In Christianity grace and justice are in tension with one another. The State is a manifestation of God’s wrath (Romans 13:3-4).

Government is necessary because man is fallen. We are imperfect beings who need laws and earthly authority to enact them. When we formulate laws of the State we should employ rational thought to determine the best form of government. We need national borders because conflicts inevitably arise between different peoples. If sinful man experiences strife with members of his own family, how much more will it occur with those whom he has little in common? As for style of government, there is no one size fits all. We should adapt various forms to various peoples.

There are those who claim that a “true Christian” can never be a ethnic or racial nationalist. They argue that scripture prohibits division between two members of Christ’s body—be they “Jew or Gentile.” They err by conflating the function of the State with that of the Church. This confusion has seriously damaged the Church and has contributed to the destruction of Western nations. Any sensible philosophy of government must avoid mingling the two spheres.

If man were not fallen there would be no need for politics. Those who project the purpose of the Church onto the State—by advocating liberal social policies or open borders—implicitly deny the doctrine of man as innately sinful. Secular moralists and progressives explicitly make this denial. As a result, they have an apolitical—utopian view of what life on earth can and should be. Consider the following from Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology:

“The fundamental theological dogma of the evilness of the world and man leads, just as does the distinction of friend and enemy, to a categorization of men and makes impossible the undifferentiated optimism of a universal conception of man. In a good world among good people, only peace, security, and harmony prevail. Priests and theologians are here just as superfluous as politicians and statesmen. What the denial of original sin means socially and from the viewpoint of individual psychology has been shown by Ernst Troeltsch in his Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen and Selliere in the examples of numerous sects, heretics, romantics and anarchists. The methodical connection of theological and political presuppositions is clear. But theological interference generally confuses political concepts because it shifts the distinction usually into moral theology. Political thinkers such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, and often Fichte presuppose with their pessimism only the reality or possibility of the distinction of friend and enemy. For Hobbes, truly a powerful and systematic political thinker, the pessimistic conception of man is the elementary presupposition of a specific system of political thought. He also recognizes correctly that the conviction of each side that it possesses the truth, the good, and the just bring about the worst enmities, finally the war of all against all. This fact is not the product of a frightful and disquieting fantasy nor of a philosophy based on free competition by a bourgeois society in its first stage (Toennies), but is the fundamental presupposition of a specific political philosophy.”

Schmitt argues that the friend-enemy distinction is the essence of the political. When a worldview is apolitical, the other becomes evil incarnate. Enmity becomes moral rather than tribal. Conflict is internalized within nations and at the same time externalized with fierce intensity. Anyone who stands in the way of the moralist’s vision and its realization—must be eliminated. This creates the sharpest and most vicious political distinctions. As Schmitt has noted, universal moral outlooks result in increasingly destructive wars. To live in a more harmonious world we must recognize that all men are flawed, no one has absolute truth or right on their side, and that organic divisions are drawn from ethnic distinction—not ideological.

Again, since man is fallen and will continue to be until kingdom come, government will necessarily exist. It’s the State’s job to make divisions. It suppresses wickedness so that good might flourish. It keeps hostile and foreign elements at bay. The Church on the other hand is a place of unity for all peoples and nations. The Presbyterians of the Antebellum South differed from their Northern brethren. They took the sacred unity of the Church seriously and wished to avoid bringing political tensions into their denomination. Just before the War between the States, Southern Presbyterian luminary—James Henley Thornwell wrote an Address to all Churches of Christ. In it he said:

“Two nations, under any circumstances except those of perfect homogeneousness, cannot be united in one Church, without the rigid exclusion of all civil and secular questions from its halls. Where the countries differ in their customs and institutions, and view each other with an eye of jealousy and rivalry, if national feelings are permitted to enter the church-courts, there must be an end of harmony and peace. The prejudices of the man and the citizen will prove stronger than the charity of the Christian. When they have allowed themselves to denounce each other for their national peculiarities, it will be hard to join in cordial fellowship as members of the same spiritual family. Much more must this be the case where the nations are not simply rivals but enemies; when they hate each other with a cruel hatred; when they are engaged in a ferocious and bloody war, and when the worst passions of human nature are stirred to their very depths. An Assembly composed of representatives from two such countries could have no security for peace except in a steady, uncompromising adherence to the scriptural principle, that it would know no man after the flesh; that it would abolish the distinctions of Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, and recognize nothing but the new creature in Christ Jesus. The moment it permits itself to know the Confederate or the United States, the moment its members meet as citizens of these countries, our political differences will be transferred to the house of God, and the passions of the forum will expel the Spirit of holy love and Christian communion.”

Thornwell certainly had his own political and regional biases, but took great care not to carry them into the Church. He continues:

“The only conceivable condition, therefore, upon which the Church of the North and the South could remain together as one body, with any prospect of success, is the rigorous exclusion of the questions and passions of the forum from its halls of debate. This is what ought always to be done. The provinces of the Church and State are perfectly distinct, and the one has no right to usurp the jurisdiction of the other. The State is a natural institute, founded in the constitution of man as moral and social, and designed to realize the idea of justice. It is the society of rights. The Church is a supernatural institute, founded in the facts of redemption, and is designed to realize the idea of grace. It is the society of the redeemed. The State aims at social order; the Church at spiritual holiness. The State looks to the visible and outward; the Church is concerned for the invisible and inward. The badge of the State’s authority is the sword, by which it becomes a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well. The badge of the Church’s authority is the keys, by which it opens and shuts the kingdom of Heaven, according as men are believing or impenitent. The power of the Church is exclusively spiritual; that of the State includes the exercise of force. The Constitution of the Church is a Divine revelation; the Constitution of the State must be determined by human reason and the course of providential events. The Church has no right to construct or modify a government for the State, and the State has no right to frame a creed or polity for the Church. They are as planets moving in different orbits, and unless each is confined to its own track, the consequences may be as disastrous in the moral world as the collision of different spheres in the world of matter.”

Despite his address, there was a North-South split in the Presbyterian Church. Thornwell was right to emphasize the Church-State distinction. There was a spiritual rift that ran between the sections before there was a political one. The formerly Puritan North was busy demonizing and otherizing Southern slaveholders as absolute evil in the manner Schmitt referenced. This same type of fanaticism lead John Brown to murder five slavery supporters in Kansas. His words and actions and those of other fanatical abolitionists put the nation on a razor’s edge. What resulted was one of the bloodiest wars in history. The moralist’s desire to “immanentize the eschaton” and realize utopia here and now is still with us today in the form of SJWs, “wars for democracy,” and the Social Gospel.

While Thornwell believed in separation of Church and State, he did not use the concept as secularists use it today. He understood that such a distinction could never be absolute. He believed that a Christian people create a Christian culture, and that culture and politics are intimately intertwined. He believed in the concept of a Christian nation and that a common religious-moral base is necessary to unite a people. Among Christians there is “little difference of opinion” as to right and wrong. Also, he highlighted the right of the Church to upbraid the State:

“When the State makes wicked laws, contradicting the eternal principles of rectitude, the Church is at liberty to testify against them and humbly to petition that they may be repealed. In like manner, if the Church becomes seditious and a disturber of the peace, the State has a right to abate the nuisance. In ordinary cases, however, there is not likely to be a collision. Among a Christian people, there is little difference of opinion as to the radical distinctions of right and wrong. The only serious danger is where mortal duty is conditioned upon a political question.”

Additionally, he urged the Confederate Congress to amend the Constitution to declare the Confederacy to be in submission to Christ, for “to Jesus Christ all power in heaven and earth is commit­ted.”

Echoing Thornwell, Dutch Calvinist Herman Bavinck was another theologian who had much to say on the subject:

“Just as the individual must seek the kingdom of God not beyond but within his earthly calling, so too the kingdom of God requires of the state not that it surrender its earthly calling or its unique national particularity, but simply that it allow the kingdom of God to penetrate and saturate its people and nation. In this way alone can the kingdom of God come into existence.”

The Church will enrich a people and bring the blessings of Christ to a nation, but the Church is not the nation. The Church works within and across national barriers.

Christians who blend the purposes of the Church with the State make a grave error. This is no light misstep. Their thoughtlessness has resulted in untold damage. Effectually they are the same as liberal humanists to whom the State acts as a religious institution. These people claim Christianity, but implicitly deny man’s imperfection—a fundamental doctrine. So-called conservative Christians who condemn ethnic nationalism—advocate open borders and multi-racialism—are confused at best and insincere at worst. Christians in the Alt Right should feel no shame in calling these people out. We can agree with Schmitt that universal moral ideologies do not mix well with politics. They should be opposed whether they take the form of Communism, Liberal Humanism, or Social Christianity.

We want a world of nations each working out their place in an imperfect world. We wish for each ethnicity to pursue its own destiny within its own borders. When we again draw political distinctions according to natural divisions, we can begin to approach the other with mutual understanding. There will always be conflict, but our aim should be to avoid the blood-letting of the 20th century. We want peace—realistic peace. We want diversity—true diversity.

-Originally published at Identity Dixie and Manly Task.


  1. It’s worth looking at this first interaction of Roman (the state, philosophy, politics,
    ethics and military power) encountering the slippery Jews (their whispering propaganda, sleight of hand and paranoia) as Pilate contemplates what to do with Jesus in this scene. He’s aware that the Jews are playing him but he’s helpless, all he can do is appeal to a democratic choice that provides cover for injustice.

    Jesus is every white middle age guy who woke up to the exploitation and viciousness of hostile elites. Forget all the theology surrounding the church.

  2. I read and enjoyed this piece when it was published at Identity Dixie, and it is a very well written piece from a Reformed Protestant perspective. The interaction of church, state, morality, and culture is an issue that Christians need to be thinking about and discussing.

  3. The Divinity does not concern himself with the petty political affairs of men or nations, he simply wants us to build the wall and deport ’em all.

  4. This isn’t all that complicated in some respects, Christianity has nothing whatever to do with the American government, or the damn military. Last 4th of July there were actually American flags up at some of the churches, now what this brainless patriotism have to do with Christianity? It sounds like some dumb fuck world war 2 song, praise God and pass the ammunition. I’d like to see the church start telling the government to go hell, instead of propping up their wars and their police state and giving them cover.

  5. To set the record straight Gentile means race and must be taken in context. Jew is a person who lived in Jerusalem regardless of race. The jews today were not from the tribe of Judah as was told in the bible by Jesus himself. The jews today are the descendants of one of the tribes of Cain called Edomites. Edomites are mixed breeds which nobody from the tribes of Israel(white people) can be. Known as mamzers, a description they hate, in which they try to scrub from the internet.

  6. Well. Y’all are finally confronting the Elephant in the room. But to come at it from a Protestant p.o.v., and a Presby-tuckian/Reformed p.o.v., at that.

    The first fallacy is the unspoken one- that the Church and State are TWO different entities. Historic Catholic thought (mind you, NOT ROMAN catholic thought) is that, just as Christ is a hypostatized individual, combining in His Person both Divinity and Humanity, so, too, the Body Politic is a Hypostatized Person. The Incarnation, in other words, suffuses all Christian endeavors, INCLUDING the State; precisely because God has ‘sent his spirit into us’ (that is, into our hearts- the emotive side of our being)

    “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7

    The Holy Spirit is sent forth by the word into the hearts of the believers, as here stated, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.” This sending is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel through which the Holy Spirit inspires us with fervor and light, with new judgment, new desires, and new motives. This happy innovation is not a derivative of reason or personal development, but solely the gift and operation of the Holy Spirit.

    We ought to have no doubt about whether the Holy Spirit dwells in us. We are “the temple of the Holy Spirit.”(I Cor. 3:16.) When we have a love for the Word of God, and gladly hear, talk, write, and think of Christ, we are to know that this inclination toward Christ is the gift and work of the Holy Spirit. Where you come across contempt for the Word of God, there is the devil. We meet with such contempt for the Word of God mostly among the common people. They act as though the Word of God does not concern them. Wherever you find a love for the Word, thank God for the Holy Spirit who infuses this love into the hearts of men. We never come by this love naturally, neither can it be enforced by laws. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Martin Luther

    Both Luther and Calvin (because formerly R.C.’s) had skewed perceptions of the concept of Church and State; Luther’s doctrine of the ‘Two Kingdoms’ is a fallacious attempt to give autonomous man some ‘wiggle room.’ There IS no ‘wiggle room’ with God.

    This is why the (more or less) pagans over at the Daily Stormer, with their talk of “White Sharia” are more consistently ‘Christian’ in their worldview, than most of the Baptists in the SBC- who voted (as if God’s Kingdom were open for laymen to vote!) against the ‘Alt-Right,’ as they continue to imbibe the Judaizing heresies of the Dispensationalist/Talmuddied Scofield Reference Bible crap…

    The Orthodox concepts of ‘Symphonia’ and the truly Reformed’s concepts of ‘Theonomy’ is the ONLY way to begin to see how truly Biblical outworking of the concept that Christians should be under a Christian state. The inability of the States to maintain their autonomy, their Christian/Trinitarian charters, and their witness to Jesus Christ, back in 1789, bespeaks volumes as to the FLAWED nature of the Constitution, and how even Talmudics and Mohammedans can claim ‘sanctuary’ under it’s tattered wings, with every bit of legitimacy as the indigenous WASP’s. Yes, Morris’ “Christian Life and Character of the CIVIL INSTITUTIONS of the United States” is a step in the right direction. But it was written in the 1860’s and disappeared from view, after the Jews began to immigrate in the last decades of the 19th Century (and yes, there IS no coincidence- or ‘COHENcidence’- about those two events).

    We need, nay, DEMAND a conscious White, Anglo-Saxon Christian Ethnostate.
    For both ORION, and Deut. 6:4 are our rightful heritage.

  7. On February 27 380 AD the Edict of Thessalonica declared the entire Roman realm, which was divided between three Roman Emperors, Valetinian II, Gratian and Theodosius I, all three emperors signed this document, declared the entire Empire and its subjects to be Christians and stipulated that Christianity would be the State Religion of the Empire. Mass Baptisms followed, Pagan temples were either destroyed or converted into Churches, and orders of pagan priests were destroyed for all time. The Olympics was ended as it was a Pagan celebration as well it had been going from 776 BC all the way until 393 AD when Theodosius, who by this time had become the only Roman Emperor was pushing his depaganization program very harshly.

    Although what became known as the Doctrine of the Two Swords wasn’t a thing until the Middle Ages, the basic concept was understood by Theodosius. The concept was simple, the GOVERNMENT was subject to JESUS CHRIST and his officers upon the earth. The government existed to push for the good of the church and to punish wrongdoing, the Church existed to save men’s souls and to teach them righteous living.


    A medieval doctrine on the relation of Church and State, as explained by Pope Boniface VIII (reigned 1294- 1303): “We are taught by the words of the Gospel that in this Church and under her control there are two swords, the spiritual and the temporal . . . both of these,m i.e., the spritual and the temporal swords, are under the control of the Church. The first is wielded by the Church; the second is wielded on behalf of the church. The first is wielded by the hands of the priest, the second by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the wish and by the permission of the priests. Sword must be subordinate to sword, and it is only fitting that the temporal authority should be subject to the spiritual” (Unam Sanctam, Denzinger 873). this doctrine was not defined by the Pope but reflected the mentality of the age, when both “priests and kings” were members of the same Catholic Church in whose name Pope Boniface was speaking.

    The idea of the SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE was a poisonous idea that came out of the Reformation, because of the many small Protestant Denominations, mostly followers of the Jew Calvin and other smaller groups, were persecuted by the Lutherans, Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Europe. Thus this idea appealed to them. Separation of Church and State in the United States applied solely to our SECULAR FEDERAL CONSTITUTION not to our state constitutions which in 1787 except for Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island Virginia and Georgia, all of the states had official churches. The ones without official Churches still required citizens to state a belief in God or Jesus Christ or both to vote or hold office. All of the New States from Ohio to the west had religious qualifications as well.

Comments are closed.