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Separation of Church and State as Proposed by the Anabaptist

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Constantine changed the relationship between the church and the state from seeing the church as a threat to seeing the church as a way to bind a nation together. Over time, the church and the state blended to the point of them becoming seen as one institution instead of two distinct institutions. As the church became more and more politically powerful, it was able to control state affairs to the point of being proclaimed the official religion of the state. This intertwining of the church and state eventually was seen by some radical groups, like the Anabaptist, in need of change during the Reformation period. It has been shown during the reformation that a state sanctioned religion has typically caused corruption in the religion, bloodshed in the name of God, and shows the Anabaptist desire to separate the church and state to be a superior model.
This paper will argue the need of the church to be separate from the state for God’s kingdom to be most effective in the lives of those that proclaim Christ as their savior. This will be done by giving an overview of how the church and state became intertwined, and then move to a brief review of the abuse of power and corruption that resulted from the intertwining. The paper will then change focus to how the church and state relationships started to change during the Reformation period as well as after the Reformation period. The paper will conclude with a discussion of how Christianity was not meant to be forced, and prospers when people are free to worship without interference of the state.
CHURCH AND STATE RELATIONS The church and state has had a changing relationship since the beginning of Christianity. This relationship at times was at odds with each other, but then worked together at different times. It can be related to a marriage in that during the honeymoon phase, each couple can be seen as trying to find out how to live with each other harmoniously. Then as time passes, there comes times when each couple faces struggles that puts them at odds with each other. The results from a long lasting marriage allow for each couple to handle certain tasks and allow the other to prosper.
THE BEGINNING Constantine can be seen as starting the honeymoon phase of the church and state relationship. Before Constantine, the church was under much persecution from the state as it was seen as a threat to the authority of the state. In 312, Constantine is reported to have had a “religious experience” before the battle of Milvian Bridge. Eventually in 313, Constantine persuaded Licinius to sign the “Edict of Malan” which allow the Christians freedom from persecution. The church would grow and the relationship with the state struggled to find balance as problems would soon arise from the combination of the church and state institutions. Klaassen writes of Constantine; “His actions of calling a council to settle religious differences, his patronage of churches, his general care for the affairs of the Christian Church were perceived by him as proper expressions of his position as the chief priest of the empire.” It was only after Theodosius I made Christianity the official state religion by issuing edicts in 380 and 381, did the church find itself with more power than the Roman emperor. This power became a source of corruption, and its abuse grew leading up to the Reformation.
PRE-REFORMATION ABUSE The state religion was Christianity of the Roman Empire and was forced upon all in the empire and on all that the empire conquered. Anyone refusing Christianity and the teachings of the church were severely punished by the state. This can be seen during the Inquisition with Gonzalez saying, “The Inquisition, normally under papal authority and in the later Middle Age used mostly as a tool of papal policy, was placed by the pope under the authority of Ferdinand and Isabella.” Jews were forced to either convert to Christianity or be exiled and lose many of their possessions. The Moors faced greater persecution when their mass exodus caused an edict to be issued, forbidding the Moors from accepting exile. Baptism was forced on them, which they refused, causing bloodshed. The state was overstepping its bounds and was doing the work of the church. During this time, the Roman Catholic Church was the only acceptable religion in the Roman Empire. Being as such, the Roman Catholic Church had great power and authority in the political arena. An example of this can be seen with the results of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. Emperor Maximilian asked Pope Leo to silence Luther. When Pope Leo’s attempt to silence Luther within the church failed, he chose to use the Imperial Diet to do so, which was led by Emperor Maximilian, so intertwining the church and state. Referring back to the marriage relationship, this can be seen as the couple needing to work together to get what they both want.
While the main cause of the Reformation was not because of the churches relationship with the state, the Roman Catholic Church hold as being state sanctioned diminished with the rise of Protestantism. Luther’s teachings became more and more adopted by the territories of Germany and eventually Lutheranism became its official religion. This cannot however be seen as a weakening of the church state relationship, but as a new way in which the relationship changed. Much as when a baby comes into the marriage relationship, it is a time when the couple struggles to find their new places in the relationship, making room for the new addition. The result of this is each state declared their religious affiliation, which usually fell in line with the religious affiliation of the leader of the state. Luther taught about two kingdoms God established:” one under the law, and the other under the gospel.” The state was established to “set limits to human sin and its consequences” and the church was established that “Christians ought not to expect the state to be ruled by the gospel, nor to support orthodoxy by persecuting heretics.” Meaning the state had no authority in church issues; however, Christians are still sinners and are under the authority of civil law. Luther was not the only one during the reformation to teach on the separation of Church and state. Thomas Muntzer also held the view that the Reformation “demanded a sweeping transformation of political and social as well as personal life.” Muntzer saw the Christendom of his time as being “profoundly corrupt, rule by deceiving, hypocritical” leaders. Muntzer viewed the priests as being responsible for the corruption in the church and did not think the secular and spiritual powers should be mixed.

Hubmaier also taught on the separation of church and state and is thought to be an Anabaptist, but this paper will show how some of his views differed from the Anabaptist. Like Luther, Hubmaier taught God established the state to “protect the commonwealth against evildoers, and contended that the church and government should mutually support one another.” This is where he differed with the Anabaptist. The Anabaptist believed the government was “the world”, as spoken about in John 15, and was opposed to it. Hubmaier taught of three realms, the world, the church and civil government, each having its own place in God’s creation. The world is Satan’s kingdom “made up of all that is alien to the will of Christ” and because of salvation the “church and the world are opposing forces.” The civil government was established by God to “protect the church from the evils instigated by the world.” The government was then not to be view as a “necessary evil, but a friend and guardian of the church.” The church was to support the government and pray for its officials because God put them in their position of authority. This is a direct reflection from 1Timothy 2:1-4: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Hubmaier continued to stress the need for each of God’s established institutions to not overstep the boundaries God put in place. The church has no right to intervene in civil duties of punishing evil just as the government should not get involved in church discipline. Again, Hubmaier’s position can be seen as being directly taken from Matthew 18:15-20. This transferred to his teaching that a citizen is “not automatically considered a member of the church, much less ecclesially disciplinable, simply by holding state citizenship.” Hubmaier’s teaching is similar to the Anabaptist, which is why he was considered by some to be Anabaptist, but as will be shown next they differed in several key areas.
The Anabaptist came to be known as a radical group during the Reformation. Oosterbaan concludes they started, what he terms, “the reformation of the Reformation.” The Anabaptist did not think the efforts of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin went deep enough to reform the church. They instead of seeing the church and state working together, they believed in a “total rejection of Constantine Christendom.” Klaassen states the Anabaptist found the “Church and empire had entered into an alliance which had in their time and in their words become an abomination.” This led them to become separatists, which completely removed themselves from society much like the Amish of today have removed themselves and live in somewhat isolation from the rest of society. Because of their views regarding the church, the Anabaptist, were seen as a threat to the unity of the General Synod. Even though Anabaptist desired to separate themselves from the rest of society, they still held the view of the government as a needed institution mandated by God. They held the view, like the other reformers, the government was needed in society but only in distinguishable ways separate from the church. Klaassen writes the Anabaptist view of the government as being established by God “in response to man’s fall to restrain man’s evil, by force if necessary. Its purpose was therefore vengeance, coercion and even, necessarily, killing. Its way was the precise opposite of the way of Christ.” They believed the relationship of God’s people and the government changed when Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
During the post reformation the church and state relationship continued to change. Again returning to the example of a marriage relationship, it changes as over the years as the couple themselves change and work toward a better relationship with each other. The church would expand as the world would become a larger place with the discovery of the Americas. The first North American settlers would come to seek religious freedom but what actually happened was freedom of religion, as long as it was the same as the official settlement religion. There was no religious tolerance in any settlement until Rodger Williams would have settlements in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. Williams would allow religious tolerance in the settlements and wrote extensively on the subject. Over time, the examples set both Rhode Island and Pennsylvania would spread to the other colonies and proved to be a viable option to the bloodshed that was a result of the religious tensions in Europe.
CHURCH AND STATE SEPARATION Many arguments can be made for the separation of church and state to enable Christianity to prosper. The first is the statehood of the church impairs ones freedom to choose the religion they feel led to follow. This is especially true when the state punishes those not following the official religion. Christ wants to be known by His followers and to have a relationship with them. Forcing one to follow the teachings of the Church creates a situation where the following is out of a fear of being punished by the state and is not a true adherent to the teaching of Christ or the Church. Christ freely gave of himself on the cross. He was not forced to be crucified as He could have gone against God’s will and had an army of angels to save Him. He is the example to follow in freely choosing to follow God.
Another reason for the separation of church and state is that when they are too closely connected, they tend to miss God’s mission for the church. Jesus tells of this mission in Matthew 5:13-16. 13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Jesus wanted the church to be the preservers, the salt, of the earth and to point people to God, the light, in order to bring glory to God. The church was reacting defensively to try and protect itself resulting in the church becoming something that was destroying people instead of preserving them. The reaction the church has against those who opposed its views is in direct contradiction to Jesus command to “love one another.” Finally, the separation of church and state is needed because when they are two closely intertwined, it brings out man’s fallen nature. It can be seen as discussed above that many of histories atrocities where the result of religion and politics being in close relationship. Some examples of these are the Inquisition, the Thirty-Years War, the Salem Witch Trials and the Saint Bartholomew’s day massacre. History has shown that a fallen man will abuse power when given enough power and falling to the temptation to impose their will on others.
Constantine’s conversion to Christianity was first seen as a great advantage to Christianity. Over time, the advantage ultimately became a disadvantage because of the corruption and the power that both the church had on the state and on the power the state had on the church. They became so intertwined they essentially became one institution instead of how God established them, as two separate institutions. The forced religion of the states resulted in bloodshed for those opposing the state religion in both the Catholic and Protestant faiths. The Anabaptist saw the abuse and wanted to restore the church to its pure form. While complete separation is being advocated here, their observations on the roles of the church and state should be recognized. This paper will advocate on a blend of the reformers views on the separation of church and state as each has wisdom to glean. The church and Christianity should function as independent institution without interference or influence from the political realm but should have influence on the political realm. The church should rely on the political realm, the government, to protect it from persecution but not to impose the church on anyone. This would result in true converts to Christianity and would allow for the Kingdom of God to strengthen with each new convert.


Baylor, Michael G. “Thomas Muntzer's First Publication.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 17, no. 4 (Winter, 1986), 451-458.

Ferguson, Everett. Church History, From Christ to Pre-Reformation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zonderzan, 2005. 182-183

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity Vol. 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.

Klaassen, Walter. "The Anabaptist critique of Constantinian Christendom." Mennonite Quarterly Review 55, no. 3 (July 1, 1981): 218-230. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 3, 2013).

MacGregor, Kirk R. "Hubmaier's death and the threat of a free state church." Church History And Religious Culture 91, no. 3-4 (January 1, 2011): 321-348. ATLA Religion Database, EBSCOhost (accessed February 3, 2013).
Mayes, David. "Heretics or nonconformists?: state policies toward Anabaptists in sixteenth-century Hesse." Sixteenth Century Journal 32, no. 4 (December 1, 2001): 1003-1026. ATLA Religion Database, EBSCOhost (accessed February 3, 2013).

Oosterbaan, Johannes A. "Reformation of the Reformation : fundamentals of Anabaptist theology." Mennonite Quarterly Review 51, no. 3 (July 1, 1977): 171-195. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed February 3, 2013).

[ 1 ]. Ferguson, Everett. Church History, From Christ to Pre-Reformation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zonderzan, 2005. 182-183
[ 2 ]. Ibid
[ 3 ]. Klaassen, Walter. "The Anabaptist critique of Constantinian Christendom." Mennonite Quarterly Review 55, no. 3 (July 1, 1981): 219.
[ 4 ]. Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity Vol. 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010. 11
[ 5 ]. Ibid, 12
[ 6 ]. Ibid, 12
[ 7 ]. Ibid, 28-29
[ 8 ]. Ibid, 29
[ 9 ]. Ibid, 55
[ 10 ]. Ibid
[ 11 ]. Baylor, Michael G. “Thomas Muntzer's First Publication.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 17, no. 4 (Winter, 1986), 453.
12 Ibid, 454
[ 13 ]. Klaassen, Walter. "The Anabaptist critique of Constantinian Christendom." Mennonite Quarterly Review 55, no. 3 (July 1, 1981): 222
[ 14 ]. MacGregor, Kirk R. "Hubmaier's death and the threat of a free state church." Church History And Religious Culture 91, no. 3-4 (January 1, 2011): 325.
[ 15 ]. Ibid
[ 16 ]. Ibid
[ 17 ]. Ibid
[ 18 ]. Ibid, 326
[ 19 ]. Ibid, 327
[ 20 ]. Ibid
[ 21 ]. Oosterbaan, Johannes A. "Reformation of the Reformation : fundamentals of Anabaptist theology." Mennonite Quarterly Review 51, no. 3 (July 1, 1977): 177.
[ 22 ]. Klaassen, Walter. "The Anabaptist critique of Constantinian Christendom." Mennonite Quarterly Review 55, no. 3 (July 1, 1981): 222.
[ 23 ]. Ibid
[ 24 ]. Mayes, David. "Heretics or nonconformists?: state policies toward Anabaptists in sixteenth-century Hesse." Sixteenth Century Journal 32, no. 4 (December 1, 2001): 1006.
[ 25 ]. Klaassen, Walter. "The Anabaptist critique of Constantinian Christendom." Mennonite Quarterly Review 55, no. 3 (July 1, 1981): 226.
[ 26 ]. Ibid, 225…...

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...that the union of the church and the state is important in our country? Why or why not? Are you in favor of it? No.Those two were in different perspective.This stipulation, way back Spanish Colony, where church and state is united as one resulted to abusive deeds of the friars. Meanwhile, putting down Filipinos in depression and prohibiting them be the figure heads and bodies of the Philippine Politics. So I think, this two is much better be separated like in our present Constitution. Because if that time friars weren’t in control of us and deprived us it will bring us no poverty. And somewhat,somehow we can insist the true essence of morality. If church and state is united, there’s going to be an agency problem where personal goals may place ahead nations goal. That if Papa’s be the leader he will only promote Catholism that may result chaos because we are not of the same religion and it could also lead to refraining the peoples will.We were thought to be Christian but politics is still politics. Meaning, an ideology of one man is of but diverse from one another. Even if it does influence the culture of leadership it still somewhat not helpful just as like the recent situation in our country on issue about reproductive health and sex education where Catholics disagree the teachings and implementing of the provision for it aids teenagers or every being to be involved in what we called pre-marital sex. However, as the matter of fact, reading the proposed bill don’t even......

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...biblical Church Discipline 1 Mark Dever Mark Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Cambridge Universit y, Cambridge, England, he is the author of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and a recent book on Richard Sibbes. He is a contributing editor to The Founders Journal. Emily Sullivan Oakey was born, educated, and then taught in Albany, New York. As with many other women of the mid-nineteenth century, she spent a good bit of time writing down her thoughts—sometimes as part of a journal, other times as part of articles, very often in poetry. She published many of her articles and poems in daily newspapers and in magazines. As a young woman of twenty-one, perhaps inspired by Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, she wrote a poem about sowing and harvesting. Some twenty-five years later, in 1875, the poem was set to music by Philip Bliss and appeared in print for the first time under the title “What Shall the Harvest Be?”2 The little group of Christians who formed what would become Capitol Hill Baptist Church selected that very song as the first song to be sung in their meetings together, in February of 1878: Sowing the seed by the daylight fair, Sowing the seed by the noonday glare, Sowing the seed by the fading light, Sowing the seed in the solemn night. O, what shall the harvest be? O, what shall the harvest be? Very appropriate words to ring off the bare walls and bare floorboards of the building they......

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Separation of Church and State

...By nearly any measure, the U.S. is one of the most religious nations in the world. According to a December 1994 Gallup poll, 96% of Americans believe in God and seven in 10 call religion a very important aspect of their lives. At the same time, the nation's Constitution states that the government may not promote a particular religion over another or impede any person's ability to practice his or her religious beliefs. As interpreted by the Supreme Court, the First Amendment to the Constitution calls for a near total division, or "wall," between church and state at the federal, state and local levels. The question of where exactly to place that wall, however, has formed the basis of one of the nation's most enduring and impassioned debates. Every year, many of the same questions recur in courts, albeit in different contexts. In what ways may religion enter into public life? When does the statement or practice of religious belief in publicly funded institutions constitute an unconstitutional attempt to promote that religion? What types of conditions inhibit peoples' right to act on their own religious beliefs? Many Americans, including a growing number of both Republican and Democratic policy makers, contend that the time has come to expand religion's role in everyday life. The nation has suffered from an overly narrow interpretation of the Constitution in the past 50 years that has effectively removed every iota of religious expression from the public realm, these......

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