J. Gresham Machen on the Relationship of Church and State

05 Mar

Posted by on March 5, 2015 in religion, spirituality, Theology


26 responses to “J. Gresham Machen on the Relationship of Church and State

  1. Will S.

    March 5, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Oh no you don’t, would-be commenter. This is a Doug-Wilson-free zone!

    No ‘Credenda-Agenda’ bullshit for me.

    And despite some misgivings with some of my fellow 2Kers, I am one, too.

  2. infowarrior1

    March 5, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Darn I missed the fun.

  3. Will S.

    March 5, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Oh, some Wilsonite would-be-first-time-commenter came here, and tried to post a link to a Credenda Agenda piece, whether by Doug Wilson himself or one of his acolytes, I have no idea; didn’t bother to read it. I have no time for Doug Wilson and his ilk, and those who think like them.

  4. Will S.

    March 5, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    I’ve now added another rule, since evidently not everyone is familiar with what I think of Doug Wilson, Doug Phillips, Mark Driscoll, the late Harold Camping, etc. (Anyone new here can search for old posts of mine either through the search function or Google, related to any of the foregoing, and similar.) Any of those little empire-builders who encourage personality cults instead of belonging to established Reformed churches, I have no time for.

  5. Will S.

    March 5, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    ‘Old strong religion’, it says right under our name.

    Not newfangled reinterpretations promulgated by cults of personality, even if culturally conservative.

  6. Will S.

    March 5, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Hey dude, still apparently hanging around: this isn’t a specifically Reformed blog; it’s a pan-traditionalist Christian blog, and we don’t collectively care about such matters here – BUT since I am Reformed, and I am convinced that the 2K view of contemporaries is generally in line with that of the original Reformers, and since it also has much in common with the traditional understandings of all Augustinian traditions – as per our pan-trad take here, I’m not interested in any attempts to delve into minutiae about the matter. Not here.

  7. Will S.

    March 5, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    So, lurker, you attempt to show, in your would-be comments, that the Magisterial Reformers held to your interpretation of 2k, while at your own, non-linked website, which I found through your email address, you admit that you’re latitudinarian and proto-Protestant, rather than specifically Reformed. ‘No creed but Christ’, but try to get me on board by appealing to the ostensibly different position of the Magisterial Reformers?

    And I should listen to what you have to say, when you’re so inconsistent?

    Yeah, right.

    I’m done interacting with you.

  8. Eric

    March 6, 2015 at 12:03 am

    The military used to prohibit chaplins from serving in combat. I don’t know if police forces have chaplins anymore, but the same more or less. That’s an example of what the author was talking about: the State (at least used to) recognize such a degree of separation that ministers and priests were excluded from enforcing State policies.

  9. Will S.

    March 6, 2015 at 12:12 am

    Indeed, they did. I think, though, that Machen was more focused on the fact that churches saw their calling as higher than that of temporal politics, and that it wasn’t their role to make pronouncements on such matters, generally, other than perhaps in broad terms, rather than specifics.

  10. Will S.

    March 6, 2015 at 12:28 am

    As for chaplains (and some police forces do have them still), I’ve long wondered whether it’s a good idea for churches to have them, as it seems to mean an uncomfortable degree of cooperation with the state, appearing to endorse the state’s ends, and being willing to submit to the state’s rules, rather than upholding God’s ways. I’ve discussed my misgivings with them previously:

    OTOH, I also wonder why governments should fund chaplaincies:

    I’m increasingly inclined to disfavour the existence of chaplaincies altogether, frankly.

  11. Eric

    March 6, 2015 at 12:41 am

    I see where you’re coming from—and I doubt military chaplains are unbiased. When I was in Church Camp as a kid, there was a retired Italian priest who’d been a chaplain in the Africa Corps and his heroes were Marshal Rommel first and Marshal Graziani second. Apparently, in the Italian Army, chaplains also served as medics.

    But at the same time, men in professions like the military and police often need the services of chaplains.

  12. Will S.

    March 6, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Rommel was an honourable man, and I can well see why that priest would admire him.

    However, I doubt a chaplain from an Allied country would see him in quite the same way, which shows a difficulty.

    As for men in the military and police needing the services of chaplains, I find that more tricky, esp. today, over and against yesteryear, for the simple reason that I wonder whether Christians ought to be serving in the military or police of today.

    The militaries of today in the U.S. and Canada seem to be less about defending their country and more about promoting the interests of the empire.

    The police of today are all too often tyrannical, bullying, bumbling jackbooted thugs.

    As such, I can’t imagine how a Christian could feel comfortable in either role…

  13. ArkansasReactionary

    March 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    This seems to be the sort of secularist nonsense which helped cause the modern problems.

    While priests can’t use violence personally, the state and Church have always supported one another in Christian lands.

  14. Will S.

    March 6, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    So they did.

    Of course, our lands today are far from Christian, and the state is quite antagonistic towards the Faith; I think we have to factor that into consideration.

  15. ArkansasReactionary

    March 6, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Certainly our lands are far from Christian, but that can never change if the Church were to not take stances for fear of being political.

  16. infowarrior1

    March 6, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    @Will S.

    Looked at the rules. I am surprised to find the son of RC sproul Sr in your shill list?

    Could you tell what your reasons are for listing him as a shill?

  17. Mark Citadel

    March 6, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    ArkansasReactionary: It is important to make certain distinctions whenever one discusses appropriate interaction between the Church and the State.

    When talking about Modern society, I am of the mind that this assessment is correct. The State is fundamentally anti-Christian. It is not merely host to anti-Christian actors, but is itself as a secular structure, antithetical to the Faith and indeed any other religion. Because of this, it seems inappropriate for true churches to engage in any activity supporting the State, and this would include helping house illegal immigrants being brought in by the State, hosting dinners for its leaders, contributing to the function of secular public schools, and so on.
    To engage in this activity, even participating in election processes ancillary to the secular state, is a betrayal of the Traditional ideal. The Church may minister to people, but NOT to the State that is aligned against it.

    When we talk about a Traditional society, or what we might call our ‘prospective society’ we enter a whole different ball game. In such a state, the Church regains its ceremonial status as the societal medium by which the material world and the immaterial world come into contact, and as such would assume the duties and authorities befitting that station

  18. Eric

    March 7, 2015 at 12:20 am

    On a related note, check out UC-Irvine:

    To make the University ‘more inclusive’ according to the report. Bet they’d have no objection to a Rainbow Flag, though.

  19. Eric

    March 7, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Will, Mark, and Infowarrior:
    I think it’s all a moot point.

    The US government has gone out of its way to EXCLUDE any real Christian from holding such positions. The question today isn’t even whether a Christian should serve the State—it’s more like a question of whether or not he could if he wanted to.

  20. ArkansasReactionary

    March 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Mark Citadel:

    That the state is immoral in many respects does not remove our duty to obey it in other respects. Moreover, how could a traditional society be reestablished if the Church neglected her social duties in the mean time?

    Also consider, the Church has traditionally encouraged obedience even to non-Catholic sovereigns.

  21. Will S.

    March 7, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    @ infowarrior1: Jr. got himself kicked out of a Presbyterian denomination for some or other shenanigans, and basically went and started his own, St. Peter’s Presbyterian. It’s too long ago for me to remember the details, but all I could think, when I read about his church, was how much like Doug Wilson R.C. Jr is.

    He’s nothing like his father, though I’m also disappointed somewhat in Sr. for the whole cruise thing.

  22. Will S.

    March 7, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    @ Eric: Yikes! That’s as crazy as the anti-flag sentiments in the U.K., where flying the British flag is now seen as ‘racist’.

    @ Eric: True enough. Perhaps it’s just as well, too, all things considered; a blessing in disguise…

  23. will

    March 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    @Will S.

    I think RC sproul senior forgot that he is in the world and that the adversary will use any means to smear his enemy. Wise as serpent he is not even though he is innocent like a dove.

  24. Will S.

    March 7, 2015 at 7:54 pm


    He oughta have known, though.


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