There are multiple meanings of the phrase “separation of church and state”. I agree with some meanings, and disagree with others. I believe some meanings are biblical, and some are not. It’s a vague phrase, so we have to be careful when we say, “I do (or do not) believe in the separation of church and state”. We must clarify what exactly we mean. To be frank, my beliefs on this matter have recently changed as I personally have learned more about submitting my own mind and heart to Christ’s lordship and commands. In fact, I am still in the process of learning what exactly the Bible directs us to do in the arena of politics and government. I used to have a standard libertarian view of church and state. Libertarians are generally very much in favor of strict separation of church and state, in the sense that we should not allow any law or coercive executive decision to have as its ONLY justification a theological one derived from a particular religion. This is the standard libertarian position. However, I no longer believe this as exactly phrased. I believe in a modified version of separation of church and state that is closely related. Before I explain what this is, I’ll first show my previous position, which more closely matches standard libertarianism. Below is my old post on this subject which describes my older beliefs:
I think we should strictly separate church and state, as in, we should not allow any law or coercive executive decision to have as its only justification a theological one (although it may coincidentally overlap with some theology, example: theft and murder). I’m not now debating about whether or not some degree of separation of church and state already exists in our own particular government or constitution, I’m saying that such separation SHOULD exist (and our laws SHOULD reflect this, if not already) generally for any non-Israelite political nation (God had a very special purpose for ancient Israel in the Old Testament, and its fusion of church and state was legitimate). Also, I am not speaking of limiting what a politician may say in public discourse via free speech (I’m not talking about a president praying in public), I’m specifically talking about the justification behind government coercion, an actual law or executive decision. God didn’t create a bunch of robots forcefully programmed to love and obey him, He gave us free will to choose whether to love and obey Him. Does it please God if we force others to obey Him, or if we ourselves are forced to obey Him? I highly doubt it. And, coercing someone with only a religious justification is the same as forcing them to obey a religion’s commands. If you disagree and believe in fusion of church and state, how do we choose which religion to make into law?, what if Muslims gained political power and instated Islamic laws?, and, to be consistent, wouldn’t you believe that all of God’s commands should be law, so making it illegal for a person to disrespect their parents or feel hatred in their heart towards someone else?
I still agree with much of the above, but in a modified form. Firstly, I will start out with the understanding that all things in the universe are under Christ’s lordship, including the state, and we ought not carve out certain areas of life that are off limits to His sovereignty. So, technically, this means we should not try to separate out government affairs from God’s jurisdictional area of authority. This means that we must follow God’s will as it pertains to how government operates.To determine God’s will on this subject, we must follow direction revealed in the scriptures. I will eventually write a full essay on this subject that includes detailed scriptural justification, but for now I will simply claim that I believe that it is actually God’s will that we do not use violence and coercion to force other people to obey Him. This then leads to the conclusion that we should not pass laws or use government force at all to force others to obey specific commands in the Bible. For example, I actually believe that it is God’s will that we do not outlaw prostitution, gay marriage, premarital sex, gossiping, or prideful boasting. These things should be legal (some already are). Remember that government laws are nothing more than commands backed by violent force (either police or military).
Standard libertarians who believe in standard “separation of church and state” would also come to these same end conclusions, but with completely different justifications. Oddly enough, I’m actually advocating for a sort of “fusion of state and God’s will” (I say “God’s will” instead of “church” to be more clear that I’m talking about God’s will and lordship, not the actual church institution per se). Oddly enough, I believe that it is actually the “fusion of state and God’s will” that leads us to the practical results of “separation of church and state”. In other words, if you really want to follow God’s will on politics and have a “fusion of state and God’s will”, and if you want to “put God back into our government” (as so many misguided Christians tend to phrase it) then you would actually be lead to the practical results of “separation of church and state”, in which you would abolish many (if not all) of the laws that attempt to outlaw sin and regulate people’s moral behavior.