If any man hears my words, and believes not, I judge him not.1 Our Master's declaration almost two thousand years ago established for all time how those who believe in Him should treat those who don't believe. He made it clear that the judgment for unbelievers who rejected Him and His words would come "at the last day." 2 He also established a limit to the church's authority by confirming that belief in and obedience to the gospel were confined to individual choice. They were never to be imposed upon someone else by any means of force or coercion whatsoever.
When our Master taught and put into practice beliefs that were contrary to the traditions of the elders of Israel, He was brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Israel. The chief priests and scribes charged Him with proclaiming allegiance to a king other than Caesar. When Pilate found no fault with Him, they demanded His crucifixion with venomous rage. This pattern of violence and bloodshed has been the result every time a religious establishment has sought the power of the state to enforce adherence to its beliefs and practices.
The merger of church and state was made official during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 321 A.D. when he "established" Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. This set in motion an unholy alliance between the church and the state, an adulterous relationship which has continued on through history and marches prophetically toward the consummation of the age.3 Once Rome declared Christianity to be its state religion, the Roman church was instantly clothed with civil power and began to wage war against all those who disagreed in matters of conscience and belief.
The Error of Reform
For over a thousand years the corruption and atrocities of the Roman Catholic church continued uninterrupted. Many in the clergy were notoriously immoral, maintaining mistresses or young boys, lived in luxury, and delved into political intrigue and treachery; papal authority was used to coerce kings and princes; church positions were sold to the highest bidder; forgiveness of sins and release of relatives in purgatory were granted to those who contributed large sums to the church; supposed relics of the cross, Jesus' clothes, and beard were bought and sold; heretics were tortured and executed, including the mass slaughter of dissenting religious groups.
Even though Martin Luther and others like him eventually rose up in protest, their hoped-for reforms were unable to purify the church, much less disentangle her from the political machine. By compromise and accommodation to the state, Martin Luther deftly maintained his political influence for the sake of establishing his brand of Christianity. His example paved the way for other religious movements to become established state churches, continuing in the Constantinian pattern. Thus the Reformers all ironically committed the same error as the Catholics had before them. As history so tragically reveals, the leaders of the Reformation quickly joined blood-stained hands with their Catholic opponents in persecuting anyone who differed with their doctrines.
The Reformation may have begun as a struggle of men's souls for the freedom to worship God as each saw fit (guided, in Martin Luther's words, by "the Bible, and the Bible only"), but the Reformers soon proved that they desired freedom for their way of thinking only, which is no freedom at all. In fact, they added new bonds and chains to mankind, instead of breaking asunder the ones that already existed.
Few Reformers, however, realized that they were imitating the behavior of the Roman Catholic Church in their bloody persecution of religious dissidents. John Calvin, for example, showed that his roots were sunk deep in Roman Catholic soil by employing the same means as they had to persuade the reluctant: torture and death. By having Michael Servetus burned at the stake for his beliefs, Calvin indelibly etched on history his contempt for the conscience of others. In support of his practices, he wrote, "Godly princes may lawfully issue edicts for compelling obstinate and rebellious persons to worship the true God and to maintain the unity of the faith."4
Martin Luther, in his younger days, urged that the Christian law of love be applied to the Jews in an effort to win them (see The Legacy of Martin Luther, page 30). He also scorned the use of force to change anyone's beliefs. His own words stated clearly why persecution should be repugnant to any man of good conscience, no matter how sure he was of the rightness of his beliefs:
The mass is a bad thing; God is opposed to it; it ought to be abolished; ... But let no one be torn from it by force. We must leave the matter in God's hands ... And why so? Because I do not hold men's hearts in my hand as the potter holds the clay. We have the right to speak; but have not the right to act ... Were I to employ force, what should I gain? -- Grimace, formality, aping, human ordinances, and hypocrisy ... But there would be no sincerity of heart, nor faith, nor charity. Where these three are wanting, all is wanting, and I would not give a straw for such a result.5
Turning radically from this gracious "soul liberty" he once championed, Luther wrote of the Anabaptists in 1530, just as He would later write of the Jews, "Since they are not only blasphemous, but also seditious men, let the sword exercise its rights over them, for this is the will of God."6 Other great Reformers like Zwingli in Switzerland and Melanchthon in Germany also supported this view in their words and writings, calling for the death sentence for Anabaptists. The Reformation was drenched in blood, a fact well attested to in history, but curiously unacknowledged by Christians today.
In England, in the days of the Pilgrims and Puritans, such persecution was so commonplace that men who desired freedom were compelled to risk everything, even life itself, to come to America in the hopes of finding liberty.7 Although many fled from persecution, few renounced their ties with the churches of Europe and their vision of a church-dominated society. Believing themselves to be God's government on earth, they assumed the right to tell men how, and even when, to seek God. Fines, whippings, banishment, and even death awaited those who would not bow to their oppressive rule. Unknowingly, they were guilty of fastening the same chains on men's souls as they had escaped from.
But the God of Heaven did have men and women of conscience on the earth, and foremost among them in the early days of the colonies was Roger Williams, a man to whom the whole world is indebted. His uncompromising stand against the oppressive Puritan government in Massachusetts, and his later work in establishing Rhode Island,8 laid the foundation for the kind of government we have in America -- one that protects the freedoms which are so necessary in order for God to establish what He desires in these last days.
Williams saw that there must be a restoration of apostolic authority and the life of the early church apart from the control of the state in order for God to have a people for whom His Son could return.9 He knew he was not the man to bring it about, and that it would be left to another generation in the future.10 Still, he devoted his life to establishing in Rhode Island a form of government which would protect religious freedom. Little did he know that the principles which he gave his whole life for would emerge in the hearts of men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison a century later, thereby finding their way into the Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Williams saw that the religious persecution in Massachusetts differed little from what he had witnessed growing up in England, and he spoke out against it. The pattern was clear. In many colonies one denomination would gain recognition, obtaining a charter through the civil government, and begin to persecute other denominations that were not the recognized religion of the day.
Thomas Jefferson, like Williams, used the term "wall of separation"11 to make his very famous declaration in 1802, acknowledging that, through the First Amendment, ... the whole American people ... declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.12
Historian C. Leonard Allen helps us understand the position that Roger Williams held concerning the separation of church and state. It came from his sense of the New Testament as the pattern for the church and the overwhelming data of history and experience of the union of church and state since Constantine.
For Roger Williams, the corrupting forces unleashed by Constantine [the merger of church and state] had a much more disastrous and permanent effect [on the church]. They did not just extinguish the gospel, but also the apostolic messengers who alone possess the authority to preach and to gather churches. When the line of apostolic authority was broken in the fourth century, Christians had been left with no means of forming themselves into legitimate congregations. Any attempt to do so would result simply in "great mistakes and wanderings from the first Patternes and Institutions of Christ Jesus."13
Roger Williams believed that the day would come when Christ would once again commission new apostolic messengers to proclaim the gospel with power and to gather churches according to the original pattern of the early church. One of the most profound things Roger Williams saw was that the newly-formed colonies needed a form of government that would secure and protect the rights of this pure church (or Stone Kingdom) whenever it might be raised up, so it would be able to exist and grow and mature, completely free from the civil government's control and free from the imposition of any denomination as a state church. Those who talk about "the light and the glory" and angelic intervention in the establishment of this country must understand this: Roger Williams had the true angelic light. He alone in his day understood that God's holy people would be raised up in another generation and that their future security needed to be ensured.
Angelic intervention is clearly evident in the way the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution came to be written, in the midst of great struggle and turmoil. One of the main controversies concerned the degree of control the state should exercise over the practice of religion and the degree to which any particular denomination could be established as a state religion. These conflicts were fierce, and revealed to Madison that the real issue was greater than mere "toleration of religion" espoused by John Locke. He saw the issue as "free exercise" of religion, or "full and equal rights of conscience" for the individual.14 He understood that government should protect every man's freedom of conscience; this was the limit of the government's role in religious matters. What James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, saw from the perspective of civil government, Williams understood spiritually, 100 years before him.15
Miraculously, the spirit of religious liberty established in Rhode Island's charter, drafted and engineered by Roger Williams, was incorporated into the Declaration of Independence and the Federal Constitution.16The First Amendment protects the right to worship God according to the dictates of one's own conscience, unhindered by the state or any religious group.
The Stone Kingdom
For more than two hundred years men have debated how to maintain a proper separation between the state's sphere of authority and that of the church. Whenever these spheres of authority collide, conflicts arise. Moral and social issues today, like abortion, homosexuality, and children's rights, cause violent reactions and counter-reactions from both sides. This continuing climate of tension between church and state will trigger the events necessary to bring about the end of the age.
The evil prince of this world17 would like nothing better than to destroy the protections of religious freedom, especially in this country, in order to eliminate the possibility of the Stone Kingdom being raised up in these days -- the beginning of "the days of the ten kings."18 Before the end of this age can come, and before the harlot can have the political ties she needs to ride in on the beast,19 the God of heaven must have civil governments on the earth that will allow the Stone Kingdom to develop.
Such civil governments must consist of rulers who are guided by natural law,20 the law that is in their conscience. If these rulers have religious beliefs, be they Christians, Jews, or Muslims, then wherever their religious principles agree with natural law, it will help them rule according to their conscience.21 In addition to this natural law, rulers ought to be guided not by legislated Christian principles, but by the "light to the nations."22 This light is a life of love and unity that demonstrates the kingdom of God, a foretaste of life in the age to come.23 This life is to be separate from the nations, but at the same time a light to them. It is clear that there can be no light demonstrated to the nations apart from a life of love that is being perfected in unity.24 This life must be raised up free of any compromise or connection with the government if it is going to be the Stone Kingdom.25
In sharp contrast to this life of love, Christianity today has no light to offer the rulers of the nations except Biblical principles. Using Christian principles to bring moral stability to the governments of the nations is not the same thing as the holy nation that brings light and glory to the world.26 The polity of the Kingdom of God in this age is the twelve-tribed nation of spiritual Israel, a body of believers who life by the highest standard of love27 and not merely the standard of natural law or Christian principles. Christians' lives are integrally tied up in the world system, in all its political, social and economic aspects. They want to make the world a better place to live, for they are not a people set apart and cannot be a demonstration to the world that they are one with. Since they have no authority from God, they try to gain power in the same way as political parties. They actively campaign to elect Christians to political office, lobby for certain legislation like any other interest group, and make deals in order to gain power for their own survival.
This is precisely why governments are skeptical of religion. They have maintained the wall of separation to prevent any group from imposing its religious principles on the nation.
Christianity poses a certain kind of threat to government. That's why there is tension between the two. Many Christians believe that this "tension" comes from the conflict of two spiritual kingdoms at war with one another -- Christianity (light) versus the world (darkness). In reality, the tension comes from Christianity trying to usurp the authority of the state. When the beast eventually destroys the harlot, it will be because she has gained too much power and influence in the government.28
On the Back of the Beast
The current movement to "Reclaim America for Christ" is the latest, most sophisticated attempt to rewrite American history in order to unite Christianity with the government of this nation. Religious leaders Dr. James Kennedy and Dr. James Dobson, Christian activists Gary Bauer and Beverley LaHaye, and politicians Daniel Quayle and Pat Robertson are but a few of a growing number on the bandwagon. Using all the glitter of slick advertising and media attention, such influential men and women are launching a broad-based campaign to make the world a better place to live by cleaning up Hollywood, TV, magazines, and through moral reforms in schools, colleges, sports, businesses and government. This new "Reformation" movement will some day place Christianity on the back of the Beast, a government that will one day enslave the whole world.29
The "Myth" of Separation
The spokesmen of this movement claim that America was established as a Christian nation and that therefore the "separation of church and state" is a myth. They intend to make America the theocracy30 which they claim the early colonists were seeking. These Christians go to great lengths to prove the "myth of separation:"
They credit Roger Williams as the source from which Jefferson got this concept of a one-way wall. Williams, in his treatise of 1644, Mr. Cotton's Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered, made it clear that the wall of separation must go both ways:
The faithful labors of many witnesses of Jesus Christ, extant to the world, abundantly prove that the church of the Jews under the Old Testament in the type, and the church of the Christians in the New Testament in the antitype, were both separate from the world, and that when they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God has ever removed the candlestick, et cetera, and made his garden a wilderness, as at this day [italics added].33
By calling for a return to no separation, these Christian activists cite numerous examples of leaders in the colonial era "never separating the struggle for freedom from Biblical principles ... For Samuel Adams there was no separation between political service and spiritual activities."34 But what these Christian activists fail to see is that, if virtue and knowledge are the chief protection against loss of liberties, these principles must be diffused among the people by individuals choosing to extol them in their personal lives, and in teaching them to their children. Individuals can, in the words of Adams, "lead [their children] in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system,"35 but must never force the virtues of the Christian system on anyone through the authority of civil government. It is the current application of "the doctrine of separation" that is at issue, but taking away the wall of separation that does exist in the spirit and application of the First Amendment can never be seen as a solution to the breakdown of moral standards in society. The church must be a light, and not a political entity that legislates or forces compliance to Biblical principles.
The Declaration of Independence establishes "the laws of nature and of nature's God" as the standard by which civil government should function. Natural law is instinctive in every man's conscience regardless of his religious beliefs. The language of the First Amendment is clearly written from the perspective of natural law and not from any particular religious belief.
Though many of the framers of the Constitution adhered to the Christian religion in their personal lives, and believed Christian principles to be the correct way in which to lead future generations, they in no way intended to "establish Christianity." They never intended any religious principle to be forced on any individual's conscience, much less on an entire nation as was done by the Emperor Constantine. To illustrate this, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were worlds apart in their religious beliefs, but in terms of understanding the principles of American government, they were of the same general mind.
Conflict occurs when the church tries to get the government to cross the line and begin to legislate Christian doctrine to all the people. This principle is embodied in John Locke's view that religious strife stems from the tendency of both religious and governmental leaders to overstep their bounds and intermeddle in the others' affairs:
I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion, and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other.36
Grappling with the Wall
The last two hundred years of American history illustrates this tension as those on both sides of the wall grapple with where to draw the line between the legitimate sphere of authority of the state and the legitimate sphere of authority of the church. Where would we be as a nation without the foundation of the First Amendment that gives civil government the freedom to rule according to conscience (whether based on Christian principle or natural law apart from any religion) for the good of all its citizens and gives individuals the freedom to believe and practice whatever their conscience dictates to them? Although the tension will continue until the end of the age, the wall is established in the foundation of the Constitution, as an example for other nations, so that what the Bible predicts concerning the end times can happen.
In view of what the Scriptures prophesy about the last days, we can see the movement to "Reclaim America for Christ" is misguided and that Roger Williams was right after all. He had the "angelic light and glory" to see the need for civil government patterned after the Rhode Island Charter of 1663. A hundred years later, James Madison, out of his deep respect for religious liberty, spoke for the need for separation between church and state. His sentiments, as well as those of the other Founding Fathers, emerged in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and in state constitutions as well.37 That Madison's views prevailed further establishes the value of Roger Williams' understanding and example. The real reason this country was established on the broad foundation of religious freedom, not just mere toleration by the state, was for the sake of the Stone Kingdom. Williams foresaw that it would emerge outside the institutions of Christianity and would need the protection of the civil government in order to be established and grow.
When the Wall Comes Tumbling Down
Since the days of Constantine, the state and the Christian religion have been together, thereby disqualifying Christianity from being the people who will represent the kingdom of God in the last days.38 To this day she continues to assert herself in the affairs of government, even into this latest venture -- "Reclaiming America for Christ." Christians are involved in every level of American life, in the guise of combating the liberal tendencies in society that try to remove from government any moral standards whatsoever. But by doing so, these Christians are seeking not merely to bring this country's rulers back to a standard of conscience, but to establish a broad-based and intimate merger of the interests of the state and the doctrines of Christianity in general. They are attempting to do this through legislating the doctrines and principles of the Bible. It is a subtle introduction of a long-standing theology called Reconstructionism or "Dominion Theology."
This is not the "light of the world" influencing the nations with the salt of the earth, because it has no life -- only principles from the Bible. It is deadly. The establishment of Christianity will root out all possibilities of un-Christian leadership in government. They will eventually define "Christian" in a way that eliminates all who are on the fringes, classifying them as "cults." It is the breakdown of morality in society at large that is forcing Christians with seemingly good motivations, to actively seek the establishment of Christianity to bring this nation back to the moral standards of days gone by. This is the danger. It poses the greatest threat to religious liberty for us in this day.
The stage is set for the final drama of human history. As civil governments slip further from the restraints of conscience and natural law, and begin to evidence a beastly nature, the fragmented segments of Christian religion are evolving into a kind of superficial unity. This unity will be just strong enough to allow Christianity to mount the state once more and ride into secular power.
True to her nature, she will once again seek to suppress or exterminate all threats to her supposedly eternal security. But in these last days the age-old story of religious oppression will have a new twist. For in the ranks of the ostracized and persecuted will be a people, a kingdom which the God of heaven will set up. Despite all obstacles, it will never be destroyed. It will instead maintain a righteous standard which will allow God to execute judgment, bringing to an end both the political and ecclesiastical powers of wickedness, and ushering in a new age of freedom with Messiah, Yahshua's return.